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Friday, July 25, 2014

Seduced and Abandoned (1964) d. Pietro Germi

Stefania Sandrelli plays Agnese Ascalone in Seduced and Abandoned,directed by Pietro Germi

Movie Review
Seduced and Abandoned (1964)
d. Pietro Germi
Criterion Collection #350

  Italian film maker Pietro Germi is best known state-side for Divorce Italian Style (1961), which actually won an Academy Award in 1962 for best original screen play.  Both Divorce Italian Style and Seduced and Abandoned are scathing satires of the male chauvinism of Sicily circa early 1960.  This is a world where marrying the 16 year old you rape and impregnated is a get out of jail free card.  The satire is mean and pointed, the characters almost universally unsympathetic.

   Like Luis Bunuel, Germi is not portraying his particular social milieu with affection. A major plot point of Seduced and Abandoned is that Peppino Califano, the seducer, doesn't want to marry Agnese, the 16 year old he seduced and impregnated because he has a right to marry a virgin.  After the initial discovery that Agnese is not only NOT a virgin but also pregnant, family patriarch Vincenzo (Don Vincenzo) swings into action, taking a number of comical steps to ensure the honor of his family.

   Over the two hours of the film, Vincenzo slaps his pregnant teenage daughter around, repeatedly, calls her a whore, locks her in a spare bedroom and refuses to let her out of the house, etc. etc. etc.  After initially bullying Peppino's family into agreeing to marry Agnese, there are a serious of set-backs largely centered around Peppino's unwillingness to marry "that whore."  He is abetted by his parents.  One critical scene features Peppino asking his Dad whether he would have married his mother if she had fucked him before marriage.  His response is the summary of the attitude of the characters of the film, "A man has a right to ask, a woman has a duty to refuse."

  It's clear that Germi despises the attitudes on display as much as a film maker like Bunuel, or for someone closer to home, John Waters.  The idea of this film as a comedy may sound strange to those more comfortable with the American comedy-industrial complex, but if you enjoy Noah Baumbach or Woody Allen you should be basically on comfortable ground.


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