"Seduced and Abandoned", Dir: Pietro Germi, 1964
Updated: Feb 9
I'd been meaning to avoid watching "Seduced and Abandoned", directed by Pietro Germi, the subject of two preceding reviews, until a suitable time, mainly because it's one of only two films available on ANY streaming service that I know of by the director ("Un Maledetto Imbroglio" is available to view in its' entirety on YouTube) and the more I watch Germi's work, the more I want to see, but a Sunday afternoon with little else to offer in terms of choices, (Steve McQueen's "Le Mans" was also on but I'm alone in my fascination for films about motor racing, as was John Frankenheimer's "The Train", also worth watching) it seemed like a good idea.
The title might suggest something heavy duty but in fact the film is another example of "Comedia All"Italiana", a genre that, according to an accompanying documentary, was invented by Germi. Comedy films in Italian cinema had existed before Germi of course, but his innovation was to use comedy to frame serious and difficult subjects, in this case the abandonment of women and family honour within the rural communities of Sicily.
In tone it's very reminiscent of the work of contemporary directors like Gurinder Chadha, in particular her early groundbreaking films like "Bhaji On the Beach", and it is possible to detect the same motivations of family honour and attitudes to women in rural societies that are common to people from the Indian Subcontinent, in that film.
The film opens with what feels like a folk song about the misfortunes of the Ascalone family following the seduction of one of their daughters, Agnese, and the shame that may befall the family in the tight knit rural Sicilian community of which they are respected members - the device of a folk song is clever because it lends a universality to the story, something as old as time to be repeated in folk songs.
Vincenzo Ascalone, Agnese's father, is outraged that his 16 year old daughter (Stefania Sandrelli) has been violated and the plot concerns his attempts to find the perpetrator - his other daughter's fiancé - and make him pay by marrying her, thus restoring the family honour.
On the face of it this could simply be a depiction of the ways of devout Italian country folk but Germi uses the plot to highlight the hypocrisy of a macho culture and attitudes towards women - Agnese is locked in her room by her father and for the most part her feelings aren't taken into account as Vincenzo storms through the small community like a mad bull.
I could describe the hilarious episodes in the film but that would just invite spoilers, you really have to watch it and it's yet another example of Germi's genius as a director working with a great script and cast, and further proof of the talent of the then relatively young Stefania Sandrelli.
I really hope that more of Pietro Germi's films, and those featuring Stefania Sandrelli for that matter, become available on streaming services, since like Antonio Pietrangeli, his work is not widely known outside of Italy and as far as I am concerned they are a real discovery worthy of more attention.