Derik Badman's Journal

2020-02-27 08:38

Watched Lina Wertmuller's Love and Anarchy over the past few days. I vaguely recall watching it for the Italian neorealist film class I took in college one summer, but I didn't actually remember anything about the movie. A young farmer's friend is murdered by the police while on his way to murder Mussolini (this takes place... sometime during his reign). The farmer decides to take on the mission, despite not previously having any real political engagement. His contact is a prostitute in a high class house in the city. As they scout out the setting for the deed, he falls in love with one of the other prostitutes. But, though he is determined to follow through, she doesn't wake him up that morning and convinces his contact to do the same. When he wakes he is angry, then convinced to not follow through, then, when police show up at the house, he goes wild, shoots them all (the police, I mean), runs into the street, ends up captured, tortured, and murdered by the fascists.

It's a melodramatic movie, filmed in bright colors, with a lot of the over-the-top performances and scenes. There's a lot of singing and shouting and emoting. It's hard to easily evaluate it's message. It is clearly anti-fascist, not the least of which is the macho, obnoxious security chief who the one prostitute seduces to get information about the event Mussolini is scheduled to appear at. He is portrayed by a large, wide jawed man who is all bluster and that kind of menacing friendliness that only comes from people who know they can at any moment decide they don't like you anymore and have you seriously hurt, a veneer of civility over violence.

But on the actual action of the deed (the farmer and his friend identify as anarchists, thus it is "propaganda by deed" that is their goal), the film is rather less clear. None of the primaries seem to question the morality of it, though the reasons for it are a bit varied. But the farmer's motivation is unclear at first and only muddied as the movie goes on. At times he seems to just be following through for his murdered friend, or following through because his friend was murdered (revenge), but in a long scene where he and the fascist security chief are drinking and alone in a plaza, he tells a story about a dog that is beaten everyday until he finally bites back. Here we sense a history to the character, that shows more of a political conscious than before. By the end, though, he seems more determined to continue his actions as a kind of macho pride. One of the woman tells him "not everyone has to be a hero", and that seems to set him off.

In the end, the story is perhaps more about the woman (not unexpected from Wertmuller) and how the men treat them or leave them. The contact prostitute had another lover who she saw beaten to death, which motivates her desire to help with the assassination. The lover prostitute wants to escape her life and run off with this young man, yet in the end, he also ends up beaten in front of her and later killed. The security chief treats them both awfully, hidden behind his macho friendliness. Even the farmer, when he finds out they didn't wake him on the morning of the assassination, shouts and pushes them around. The women sell themselves, watch the men they love die, and are generally left worse off because of the men's actions.


I read two music adjacent books lately too: Cometbus #59 Post-Mortem and Sam McPheeter's Mutations: The Many Strange Faces of Hardcore Punk. Cometbus, as he has often in recent issues, presents the issue as a single unified work, titled, numbered chapters. He travels around talking to people involved with different "underground" institutions, from record labels (Epitaph) and publishers (Thrasher, Fantagraphics) to stores, collectives, and other different sorts of spaces. His ostensive goal is to find out what went wrong, to learn from the past (hence the title), yet, even in the book, he admits that his goals are not very clear and the results unconclusive or non-existent. It's a strange issue, occasionally interesting, occasionlly not, but ending up feeling like a failed project, less successful than other recent issues like the one about bookstores or his tour with Green Day.

I somehow missed that McPheeter's book is billed as a collection in the description on Amazon (and maybe the back cover, I read it as an ebook so I didn't get one of those). I was expecting a whole work, and the cover nor any other material make it clear that these are collected works (only after finishing it did I notice in the indicia notes about how "parts were published in..."). It makes an odd read, as they do not appear to have been edited to account for this juxtaposition. So one essay is about Youth of Today, and then two essays later he takes the time when mentioning their singer to explain who he is.

In the end, much of the book was quite underwhelming to me. McPheeters in many of them is coy about his personal involvement in the scene and then later there are more personal essays. I guess that is the result of a collection over what assumes (but it's hard to say without specific publication notes) was written over many years. Early chapters about specific people or bands I found pretty boring. Later chapters that are more personal essay are more successful, though that might be colored than I am certainly more a fan and interesting in his band (Born Against) than in the bands/people he was writing about. One of the essays I liked the best was about going to the record pressing plant he used for his label. It was closing down, so he and other indie label owners went to get their masters and stored records. McPheeters is also more interesting when reflecting on his own past actions, particularly the often extreme provocation of his band.