Aug 20, 2013

One Woman's Lover

Only a film directed by an innately iconoclastic Italian auteur could manage to include such a cinematically chaotic combination of lapsed Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro (Flesh for Frankenstein, Black Moon), slightly chubby French arthouse diva Andréa Ferréol (Fassbinder’s Despair, The Tin Drum), a sadistically sardonic satire of both communist and fascist extremism, and a curious cocktail of politically incorrect humor, including obese Italian men with Down syndrome studying pornography and the needlessly nonsensical bodily dismemberment of cute bunny rabbits, along with unhealthy sexual perversion, including obese blueblood fascists and proletarian housewives screwing young hunk terrorists, as such is the case with the unfortunately barely ever acknowledged and long forgotten Italian-French-West German co-production Donna è bello (1974) AKA One Woman's Lover AKA Woman and Lover. While I could only manage to track down the heavily edited British release (although I managed to view the cut scenes in the official Italian VHS release of the film) of One Woman's Lover, the film left me laughing hysterically at, among other things, a rather rotund aristocrat with a flatulence problem, a mentally retarded man of the odiously overweight variety who has a rather hard time telling the difference between a penis and a vagina, a woman whose first encounter with her future lover involves said woman unwittingly urinating on his face, a fascist terrorist sexually defiling a Marxist MILF housewife, and much more. Created around the middle of the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ (which name may have been inspired by the film Marianne and Juliane (1981) by Margarethe von Trotta, of which the Italian title is Anni di piombo aka ‘Years of Lead’) in Italy when both fascists and communists were trying to take over the government via terrorism and which ultimately led to almost 2,000 deaths between 1969 and 1981 as a result of assorted bombings, assassinations, and street warfare between rival militant factions from all political persuasions (anarchists/nihilists included!), One Woman's Lover is a rare sort of anti-fascist/anti-communist farce of the flagrantly fucked sort that, although leaning more to the left, is mostly a nefariously nihilistic radical celluloid romp that gives a greatly grim prediction of Italy's future where virtually every single male character is left dead, including the female protagonist’s great love. Like The Climber (1975) aka L'ambizioso, La Marge (1976) aka The Streetwalker, and Born Winner (1976) aka L'ultima volta, One Woman's Lover is one of the many rare and criminally forgotten Joe Dallesandro European era flicks that has fallen in the celluloid garbage heap of history that, in terms of acting talent, proved the Warhol Superstar was capable of more than simply laying around naked with a flaccid member in a drug-addled stupor as he mostly did in the “Paul Morrissey Trilogy” (Flesh, Trash, Heat). Sort of like the younger and more sensitive brother of the psychopathic killer he played in Fernando Di Leo’s exploitation-thriller Madness (1980) aka Vacanze per un massacre, Dallesandro demonstrates in One Woman's Lover that mass-murdering right-wing terrorists can have style and sex appeal long before Anders Behring Breivik made media headlines. 

 Poor proletarian servant Ottavia (Andréa Ferréol) leads a rather banal and exceedingly uneventful life as a sexually repressed married woman with a cold and committed communist husband who cares more about realizing the revolutionary doctrines of Lenin (whose portrait symbolically hangs in their bedroom) than making love to his erotically-deprived wife, on top of having to take care of her morbidly obese and porn-addicted retarded adult son named Pierre with a drastically debilitating case of Down syndrome who she spends much of her free time taking care of. On top of that, Ottavia is the servant of a beyond chunky and exceedingly effeminate Count who is the father of a perverted preteen boy who gives pornography to the sad servant's mentally retarded son and attempts to bribe her into showing off her naughty bits in return for an elegant pair of high heels (where this young man got these shoes or knew the woman's size is anyone's guess). On one beautiful and sunny day while in a discernibly depressed mood, Ottavia decides to discretely urinate on some hay inside a barn, unwittingly drenching a right-wing terrorist bomber named Walter (Joe Dallesandro), who is hiding from the law after his latest terrorist attack. Both sexually repressed and markedly miserable, Ottavia decides to give sexy stranger Walter, who is, tired, sick and hungry, shelter at her dilapidated home. Hoping to impress Walter, Ottavia decides to flash her puss to her boss’ little boy so as to acquire the sparkling high heels the boy had previously offered, but the seemingly impenetrable terrorist does not even notice, so she let's him know that he must leave the next day. After thinking to himself “bitch kicks me out…and I’m fucked,” Walter decides to fondle Ottavia’s genitals from behind, thus ushering in their unhinged romantic relationship. A lovelorn man who has never gotten over the fact that his 57-year-old ‘great love’ committed suicide after swallowing sleeping pills and laying down on a train track (her head was apparently never found), Walter seems rather disinterested in love, but at least he knows how to give Ottavia a wild and wanton time like she has never felt before.

 Eventually, Walter reveals to Ottavia, whose husband is a commie away participating in political activism in Russia, that he is a neo-fascist terrorist by blowing up a little bunny after attaching it to a tractor battery. Of course, Walter’s career path does not sit well with Ottavia, especially after seeing an ostensible victim of a terrorist bombing hanging out at a hair salon with no legs, but she is hopelessly in love with the terrorist and she sticks by him. Unfortunately, Ottavia’s retarded son attempts to kill Walter, symbolically using a hammer and sickle (☭), which foreshadows the two lovers' tragic fate. Walter works for Ottavia’s blueblood boss and wants out of the terrorism business, telling his homo Hitlerite employer over the phone that, “I’m tired of placing bombs for $150 a month. What do I give a damn about fascism in Italy. Nothing,” and demanding that he pay him 50 million lire or he will go to the police about the rich fascists' funding of the bombings and conspiracy to throw over the Italian government. Unfortunately, Walter does not realize that the fascist Count's henchmen are standing right behind him during the phone call and hear everything. Naturally, Walter is bound and covered in explosives by his ex-comrades, but rather absurdly, it is Ottavia who accidentally detonates the bomb. When Ottavia’s husband finally gets him, he brings his Russian Marxist friend and she decides to poison the two after realizing their political activity is no different from Walter’s, especially after her hubby absurdly states regarding the family rooster, “Hey, he’s one of a kind. The only one…Like our party. The only one that makes revolutions,” thus demonstrating the man's mundane one-track Marxist mind and his incapacity for seeing blatant parallels between his own political persuasion and that of neo-fascists. Of course, in terms of using terrorist tactics that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in Italy and expounding an intrinsically idealistic collectivist philosophy, the Italian commies and fascists are one in the same, albeit the retarded Reds (indeed, it is no coincidence that Ottavia's son Pierre is retarded) believe they are somehow morally superior and ultra-modern in their tinking. Ottavia also pays a visit to her glutton of a boss, who mocks her retard son's Pierre's death by joking, “Come can have another child..with a nigger! Ha Ha Ha!” and who proudly proclaims regarding his relationship with Walter, “Did he also tell you that I was partial to that cute little ass of his my dear…lovely isn’t it?!” Of course, Ottavia poisons the fat, fat cat fascist as well by putting something less than kosher in his tea, but not before passionately calling him a “murdering fascist pig.” In the end, Ottavia, who has been totally transformed by the events and seems totally emotionally impenetrable, leaves her home and travels to the city assumedly to start a new life without a militant man. Like the female protagonist played by Hanna Schygulla in Marco Ferreri's The Future Is Woman (1984) aka Il futuro è donna, the violent anachronism of Marxist politics and politically-obsessed self-destructive men has turned Ottavia into a postmodern woman and a 'metaphysical feminist' by default.

 An acutely anarchic attack on both the militant left and right that takes no prisoners, One Woman's Lover belongs in the company of incendiary and iconoclastic Italian cinema of the 1970s like the films of Alberto Cavallone (Blue Movie, Zelda) and Salvatore Samperi (Mother’s Heart aka Cuore di mamma, Ernesto) by combining seedy sex, sickening social aberration, and a pre-apocalyptic atmosphere that reflected the fragile and dubious future of Italy during the ‘Years of Lead’ (late 1960s – early 1980s). Of course, what makes One Woman’s Lover stick out alongside Cavallone and Samperi’s films is the inclusion of Joe Dallesandro, as well as the use of ‘stupidly’ scatological material, thus it a work that is quite accessible to the layman filmgoer. While One Woman’s Lover is worthy seeing simply to see Little Joe portray a jaded neo-fascist mass murderer with a super sensual side, the film also makes for one of the most charmingly trashy absurdist political allegories to have ever been distinctively defecated out by the Italian film industry. As a depiction of a woman whose son is impotent and retarded, whose Count boss is a wealthy (sexual) exploiter, whose husband is a cold and patronizing communist pig, and whose 'great love' is a murderous neo-fascist, One Woman's Lover—a work certainly following in the Marco Ferreri's “Cinema of the Absurd” school of supremely scathing and scatological satire à la La Grande Bouffe (1973) aka The Grande Bouffe—manages to depict through a rather risque rural microcosm the capitulation of a country via very real political absurdity of the terrorist sort.  Notably, Dallesandro's right-wing character is resentful of an elder lover from his past who taught him everything he knew about sex and life, which is undoubtedly a reference to Russian-Jewish-Italian communist activist Angelica Balabanoff, who was the older lover/teacher of Benito Mussolini before his socialist pre-fascist days and rise to power, thus making One Woman's Lover a rare work in that it dares to quasi-esoterically expose the common link/root between communism and fascism. While the marvelously mundane TV miniseries Benito (1993) aka Il Giovane Mussolini starring Antonio Banderas, which depicts the affair between Mussolini and Balabanoff, also exposes the mutual root of the radical left and right, I personally prefer Little Joe and raunchy retard and fart jokes of the sardonic scat sort when it comes to learning history via celluloid, which One Woman's Lover certainly accomplishes.

-Ty E

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