Wertmüller's signature style of playfully distorted caricature and sharp political satire found its first full expression in this delightful and wickedly funny skewering of Italian class and labor relations. Fleeing from the mob, Sicilian laborer Mimi (Giannini) abandons his family to escape to Milan where he promptly falls in love with a hippie radical and is pulled into the far left of a political struggle he little understands. Refracted through the cracked prism of Giannini's feckless Southerner, Italy's troubled North-South relations and the never-ending battle of the sexes are woven into an operatic comedy about the alienation of labor in the 20th century.
The Lizards (I Basilischi)Directed by Lina Wertmüller.
With Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores.
Italy, 1963, 35mm, black & white, 85 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
After apprenticing with Fellini as assistant director on 8-1/2, Wertmüller wrote and directed her little known feature debut, a heartfelt and intimate portrait of listless youth and the lonely poetry of everyday life in small town Italy. While The Lizards often closely approaches the themes of Fellini's I Vitelloni, Wertmüller's film is distinguished by her wonderfully eccentric visual touches – unexpected camera flourishes and formally exquisite mise-en-scene – and by an early and gentler questioning of Italian machismo than would be voiced in her later films.