By John H. Foote
91-year old Lina Wertmuller, the first woman ever nominated for an Academy Award as Best Director, will receive an Honorary Oscar next month as well as be awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Wertmuller, an Italian filmmaker dominated her country’s cinema in the seventies, especially Swept Away (1975) and her masterpiece Seven Beauties (1976). She and Bernardo Bertolucci created some of the greatest Italian film ever made during the seventies
Famous for her white framed glasses, she was a gifted visionary as well as a fine screenwriter.
It was Seven Beauties that drew the director-writer her greatest acclaim, with rave reviews and four Academy Award nominations including Best Director, Best Actor (Giancarlo Giannini), Best Original Screenplay (Wertmuller) and Best Foreign Language Film. Never before had a woman been a Best Director nominee, and since only Jane Campion (The Piano-1993), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation-2003), and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird-2017) have been nominated. Kathryn Bigelow made history winning the Academy Award and DGA Awards for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (2009).
Wertmuller is without question a pioneer for women in the film business.
Despite great acclaim through the seventies, she would never again soar to those heights. Swept Away (1975) a brilliant film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and remade, dreadfully, with Madonna and Gianinni’s own son in 2003, directed by Guy Ritchie. Mercifully, no one has tried to remake her biting film Seven Beauties, her masterpiece, the film for which she will be best remembered.
If her health permits, she will appear at the Academy Awards in February 2020.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.