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Sorta Sorta

At the Movies

By Thomas M. Doyle

Sotto Sotto

Directed by Lina Wertmuller

At the Orson Welles

"ALL WOMEN are whores," proclaims Oscar the Italian carpenter (Enrico Montsano). This is rather suprising coming from Oscar. He's very left wing, and has always treated his wife (Veronica Lario) like the Madonna. But when Oscar suspects that his wife has been cheating on him, he becomes enraged with her and with womankind in general.

Oscar should have left well enough alone. For, true to his convictions, his wife is in love, but with another woman (Luisa de Santis). The comic and sexual implications of this bizarre menage-a-trois are the subject of Lina Wertmuller's Sotto Sotto (Softly, Softly).

Wertmuller is, of course, attempting to stage another attack on the male macho principle in this, her newest film The audience gets several tedious verbal and visual lectures on the beauty of female sexuality. Large sculptures of ancient fertility deities serve as a backdrop as Oscar's wife discusses the oppression of women through the ages. Most of the male characters are portrayed with the same comic flatness that marked and marred Steven Speilberg's The Color Purple. Men fight ridiculous fights, and say ridiculous things in bed, while they garner physical pleasures from Wertmuller's beautiful bisexual females.

BUT OSCAR, FOR all his comic machismo, is not a flat character. He engages the audience so successfully in his plight as the cuckolded husband that he contradicts Wertmuller's purpose. The audience ends up liking Oscar more than the two women, whose romantic efforts and speeches are completely silly. Heck, Oscar's point of view even seems to make sense by the end of the film.

There is no satisfactory resolution to the comically sexual conflicts in this film. Oscar's wife throws around vague Casablanca-inspired lines about impossible love, then does her best to make her new found love impossible. The one real tension in the film is whether anything carnal is going to happen between the two lovers. This tension is dragged out and then off-handedly dismissed. Does she really go back to Oscar in the end? Can an Italian housewife find happiness with an Italian husband? Who knows and, at least in this film's case, who cares?

When Oscar says "All women are whores," in his drunken stupor, Wertmuller would have the audience believe that this is the comic entirety of the male anthem. Actually, Wertmuller is in error. The complete macho male anthem is that all women are whores, lesbians, or frigid. By merely introducing lesbianism or bisexuality in the women characters, this pretentious film does nothing to change men's stereotypical views of female sexuality it merely confirms one aspect of a nasty but common world view. To effectively make a feminist statement, one would have to introduce issues beyond the mundane comic plane and tie in sexual preference to the larger social context more clearly. Instead, Wertmuller tried to make a statement "softly, softly," and ends up not being heard.

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