Seduced and Abandoned: The Criterion Collection
While everyone else in the house is asleep during a siesta, Peppino (Aldo Puglisi) catches the eye of his fiancé's sister Agnese (Stefania Sandrelli). The two are attracted, and after some coy refusals they end up on a balcony making love. Unfortunately, Agnese gets pregnant and is only 16. At first, Agnese keeps it quiet and only confesses to the local priest. But her father Vincenzo (Saro Urzi) finds out, beats her, and tries to make things right with his other daughter Matilde (Paola Biggio) by getting her a new beau in a penniless, and near-toothless, baron Rizieri (Leopoldo Trieste). Vincenzo wants his son Antonio (Lando Braccini) to kill Peppino, but after a failed attempt everyone ends up in court. It turns out that the law states rape is not a crime if the man and woman marry, so the only way for Peppino to make good and avoid jail time is marry Agnese. But he doesn't want to because "The man has a right to ask, the woman has a duty to refuse." Pietro Germi's 1964's Sedotta e abandonata ("Seduced and Abandoned") is a scathing comedy on the politics of sex in 1960s Italy, in line with his earlier Divorce Italian Style (1961). In fact the film was part of a trilogy on provincial Italy, along with Divorce and 1965's The Birds, The Bees and the Italians. Shot in gorgeous black and white by Aiace Parolin, Germi's target is the absurd concerns about reputation and old-world habits, which now plays as a critique of a bygone era. As such, the bite the film once had is diminished. The story holds most of the characters in contempt outside of Agnese, and such points out that the film's strongest asset is Stefania Sandrelli's performance. Often quiet, her character is in the center of a push-pull between the families, and she finds herself thought of as an object by everyone around her after a momentary lapse into lust. Also strong is Urzi as the patriarch who is constantly flustered and put through the ringer. The Criterion Collection presents the film in an excellent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with its original Italian monaural soundtrack and optional English subtitles. Extras include "Commedia All'Italiana: Germi Style" with screenwriters Luciano Vincenzoni and Furio Scarpelli and film scholar Mario Sesti (25 min.), an interview with Stefania Sandrelli (6 min.) and her screen test (2 min.), and an interview with Lando Buzzcano (7 min.). Theatrical trailer, keep-case.