Seven Beauties (Italian: Pasqualino Settebellezze) is a 1975 Italian language film written and directed by Lina Wertmüller and starring Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, and Shirley Stoler. Written by Wertmüller, the film is about an Italian everyman who deserts the army during World War II and is captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp, where he does anything to survive. Through flashbacks, we learn about his family of seven unattractive sisters, his accidental murder of one sister's lover, his imprisonment in an insane asylum, his rape of a patient, and his volunteering to be a soldier to escape confinement. The production design and costume design were by the director's husband, Enrico Job.
For her work on the film, Wertmüller became the first woman nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, a feat not matched again until 1993, when New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion was nominated for The Piano. The film received three other Academy Award nominations, including for Best Foreign Language Film, and one Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Foreign Film.
The picaresque story follows its protagonist, Pasqualino (Giannini) who, as a dandy and small-time hood in Naples, to save the family honour, is sent to prison for killing a pimp (and then dismembering the victim and placing the body in suitcases) who had turned Pasqualino's sister into a prostitute. Convicted and sent to prison, Pasqualino succeeds in being transferred to a psychiatric ward. Desperate to get out, he volunteers for the Italian Army, but then somewhere in Germany he deserts with a comrade. They are captured and sent to a concentration camp. There, in a bid to save his own life, Pasqualino decides to survive by providing sexual favors to the obese and ugly female commandant (Stoler). His plan succeeds, except for the fact that he is then put in charge of the barracks as a kapo, and is obliged to select six men to be killed under the threat that if he doesn't do so, they will all be killed. Pasqualino ends up executing the soldier with whom he was captured and being responsible for the death of another fellow prisoner, a Spanish anarchist. At the war's end, upon his return to Naples, Pasqualino discovers that his seven sisters, his fiancée and even his mother have all survived through prostitution.Giancarlo Giannini as Pasqualino Frafuso aka Settebellezze
Fernando Rey as Pedro (the anarchist prisoner)
Shirley Stoler as The Prison Camp Commandant
Elena Fiore as Concettina (a sister)
Piero Di Iorio as Francesco (Pasqualino's comrade)
Enzo Vitale as Don Raffaele
Roberto Herlitzka as Socialist
Lucio Amelio as Lawyer
Ermelinda De Felice as Pasqualino's Mother
Bianca D'Origlia as The Psychiatrist
Francesca Marciano as Carolina
Mario Conti as Totonno "18 Carati" (Concettina's pimp)
Barbara Valmorin as The Prison Camp Commandant's Secretary
Giancarlo Giannini starred in three other films Wertmüller made during this period: The Seduction of Mimi (1972), Love and Anarchy (1973), and Swept Away (1974).Seven Beauties was filmed on location in Naples, Campania, Italy.
In the opening sequence of Seven Beauties, spoken over World War II archival footage showing the destruction of cities and men, Wertmüller defines the object of her critique—a "particular petty bourgeois social type".
The ones who don't enjoy themselves even when they laugh. Oh yeah.
The ones who worship the corporate image not knowing that they work for someone else. Oh yeah.
The ones who should have been shot in the cradle. Pow! Oh yeah.
The ones who say, "Follow me to success, but kill me if I fail," so to speak. Oh yeah.
The ones who say, "We Italians are the greatest he-men on earth." Oh yeah.
The ones who are from Rome.
The ones who say, "That's for me."
The ones who say, "You know what I mean?" Oh yeah.
The ones who vote for the right because they're fed up with strikes. Oh yeah.
The ones who vote blank ballot in order not to get dirty. Oh yeah.
The ones who never get involved with politics. Oh yeah.
The ones who say, "Be calm ... calm."
The ones who still support the king.
The ones who say, "Yes, sir." Oh yeah.
The ones who make love standing in their boots and imagine they're in a luxurious bed.
The ones who believe Christ is Santa Claus as a young man. Oh yeah.
The ones who say, "Oh what the hell."
The ones who were there.
The ones who believe in everything ... even in God.
The ones who listen to the national anthem. Oh yeah.
The ones who love their country.
The ones who keep going, just to see how it will end. Oh yeah.
The ones who are in garbage up to here. Oh yeah.
The ones who sleep soundly, even with cancer. Oh, yeah.
The ones who even now don't believe the world is round. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
The ones who are afraid of flying. Oh yeah.
The ones who've never had a fatal accident. Oh yeah. The ones who've had one.
The ones who at a certain point in their lives create a secret weapon: Christ. Oh yeah.
The ones who are always standing at the bar.
The ones who are always in Switzerland.
The ones who started early, haven't arrived, and don't know they're not going to. Oh yeah.
The ones who lose wars by the skin of their teeth.
The ones who say, "Everything is wrong here."
The ones who say, "Now let's all have a good laugh." Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
The subject of the film is survival. It was controversial at the time for its graphic depiction of Nazi concentration camps. In his 1976 essay "Surviving", Bruno Bettelheim, while admiring the film's artistry, severely criticizes the impression it makes of the experience of concentration camp survivors.
On the aggregate reviewer web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 91% positive rating from top film critics based on 11 reviews, and an 88% positive audience rating based on 1,940 reviews.