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Koch Lorber presents
Swept Away (1974)

"Don’t you understand that you have to pay for everything?"
- Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: May 15, 2006

Stars: Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato
Director: Lina Wertmüller

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:54m:06s
Release Date: April 04, 2006
UPC: 741952306399
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Start with Robinson Crusoe, and a healthy dollop of Das Kapital and a splash of The Blue Lagoon, and you've got Swept Away, Lina Wertmüller's oddly transfixing film. It's naked in its politics, and sometimes its principal characters are just plain naked—it can be an unsettling movie to watch, and sometimes a little too on the nose with the crudeness of its politics, but it's frequently peculiar and occasionally fascinating. (If you're interested in this story, I would strongly suggest that you watch this version, and not the unfortunate remake, starring Madonna.)

The action begins on the Mediterranean, with an insufferable pack of bourgeois couples who have rented a yacht. They holler at one another about politics as they sun themselves on the deck, all the while treating the crew of the boat like dirt, as if they were subhuman. The most egregious of the passengers is Raffaella (Mariangela Melato), who bitches about her coffee, about her food, about the appearance and hygiene of the crew, while seeming to want to provoke them by oiling up her exposed, lithe body in her barely-there string bikini. Most stung by her is Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini), a gruff sailor and avowed Communist—he's ready to begin the revolution right here and now, by throwing overboard this horrible woman who cannot abide any evidence of genuine labor.

Raffaella is sleeping one off when some of the other passengers go for a swim; when she awakes, she unwisely insists that Gennarino take her out in a dinghy to join in, a fatefully bad choice. They lose the current, and sight of the ship; soon they wash up on a deserted island, and will have to make do with what they can wring out of nature, and with one another's company, which neither can abide. Raffaella's petulance and her tens of millions of lira are worthless here—she can holler at Gennarino if she wants to, but she's hopeless at providing herself with food and water, and is sure to perish if she cannot find some way to get along with this man, whom she regards as a brute, unworthy of her attention. He of course is repulsed by the principessa with whom he has been stranded—she's beyond worthless, she's the very embodiment of everything he hates.

Wertmüller's setup allows all sorts of dichotomies to play out: man versus woman, labor versus management, bourgeois versus proletariat, northern versus southern Italy. (Her contempt for him has much to do with the fact that he's Sicilian.) Gennarino spews forth political rhetoric that would make the Party proud, and here's where the movie is a bit too heavy handed; similarly, there's a necessary sexual tension between them, and his relentless anger toward her seems to move the story inevitably and horribly toward rape. But what's kind of wonderful is how our perspective on these two change—she remains a princess, but he becomes more of a horror, Cro-Magnon in his approach to courtship. ("Don't you see how much more beautiful you are when I beat you?", he asks.) As their relationship changes, you start to think that she's got some sort of sexualized, class-based Stockholm syndrome; and their uneasy re-introduction to society fuels the last portion of the picture.

Wertmüller's camera frequently lingers on Giannini's spectacularly expressive face; Melato isn't always as captivating, but she makes for a pretty fair partner. And the movie is gorgeously shot, as well, searing Mediterranean vistas, impossibly blue water providing the backdrop for this Hobbesian new Eden. It's an odd movie, and not for all tastes, but there's plenty here to admire.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Generally a clean transfer, though some of the colors have faded, and you'll notice some scratches.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Italianyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Some ambient noise on both tracks, but they both sound fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Lina Wertmüller Collection, Touts les matins du monde, The Girl From Paris
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only some trailers and a link to the Koch Lorber website.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Nastier than a fairy tale and more romantic than Lord of the Flies, Swept Away can be a little crude and didactic, but it provides intellectual nourishment and a fair amount of eye candy.


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