Monday, February 2, 2015

Swept Away (by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August) - Lina Wertmüller 1974 

A classic tale of tables turned, Swept Away begins in the same sun drenched Mediterranean seascape as L’Aventura. But where Antonioni focused on taciturn yet stylish loners paradigmatically doomed to search the unbound space of cinematic modernism, Wertmüller populates her tale of a summer holiday gone wrong with self-consciously outspoken intellectuals more concerned about the effect of garbage on the environment and the overpopulation that will turn paradise into a sewer— (”a shit hole full of starving people”)--than the vicissitudes of anomic individualism. We are far away from the high seriousness of Antonioni’s stylish existential futility; no negative spaces trace the movements of enfeebled but earnest fugitives in an inhuman universe. Instead, privileged hedonists on holiday, determined to enjoy the world so long as it withstands their cynical assault, make a sport of spewing invective and disparaging the hypocrisy of their competing political allegiances. 

It's apparent from the start that Wertmüller has satirical intentions and an appetite for controversy. Such fearlessness is rather thrilling in the context of present day political correctness. She is less concerned about challenging our preparedness to include behavior by expanding the horizon of tolerance--as so much of what passes as 'subversive' tends to do these days--than in rubbing our noses in the fact that we have contrived to embrace human spontaneity as the wellspring of cultural self-redemption. Against this tendency she shows that jungle rules, for all their naturalness, are not corrective of civilization's disenchantment. Return to Eden entails repristinating hell-on-earth--the rule of necessity and the degradations of brute force. 

Whatever her actual ideological motivation, Wertmüller winds up producing one of the most controversial and profound explorations of pair formation ever put on film. Sexual bonding as ethologist Konrad Lorentz--who famously found the erotic drive sprouting from the "spiny shoot of intra-special aggression"--envisioned it. Swept Away fully merits the 'iconoclastic' moniker, demolishing as it does the prohibition against violence between the sexes, sundry sacrosanct idols of gender-feminisim and, not least of all, common-sense notions of civility and good taste. 

The decks of Wertmüller's farce are stacked, or rather crowded, with polarities. Beside male-female, there's rich-poor, North-South, Fascist-Communist, bourgeois-proletarian, high-brow-low-brow, etc. Such multi-layered over-determination makes the humor a bit facile. But given that it's a basically a tale of transformation--the high made low and vice versa--the goal-posts needed to be secured as firmly as possible. At the end of the day what matters is that Wertmüller has fashioned an enormously entertaining and intellectually engaging film—a furious face-off bordering on pure, unadulterated anarchy.

Stock-characters are the stuff of comedy, and the obvious polarities of the ideological commitments this modern-day Tracy-Hepburn duo embodies, make the brutal spectacle of the mating game genuinely riveting and side-splittingly funny, even as it's vulgarity furnishes endless occasion for shocked incredulity. 

Members of the monied intelligentsia, the Lanzetti’s
 quarrel vociferously about Communists, the Vatican, Stalin, and Hiroshima in rapid successionGesticulating, shouting, and threatening one another in what feels like a send up of the cliché about the impassioned, child-like Italian. 

The spirited repartee establishes both the intellectual bone fides and woefully haughty personality of our heroin--brash and exacting queen bee Raffaella (Mariangela Melato). Meanwhile her antagonist- and lover-to-be, hired-hand Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini), is relegated to the background going about his servant duties, seen but not heard. He makes his official entrance when his tousle-haired head pops up meekly from below deck to see what all the commotion is about. A Sicilian communist by have-not instinct, he's the hard-up “sloppy Southerner” desperate to make ends meet.  It doesn’t take long for him to figure out he’s working for a “fascist bitch.” Or, as he will later call her in one of the funnier insults of the film, an “industrial whore,” a compound that beautifully encapsulates the affective contagion of ideological valences.

As the Lanzetti's squabble the generally dopey Gennarino, taking umbrage, fixes an ireful gaze on Raffaella. "Damn Commie," she exclaims to her husband, who defends him as an activist and "top dog in his neck of the woods." "He thinks we steal from the poor," she retorts contemptuously. 

As she lies tanning on deck with the other women, Gennarino peeps sheepishly out of a hatch window and the two briefly exchange less supercharged, almost inquisitive glances, moving forward the tale of their rapprochement by one small, subliminal increment. Gennarino may simply be leering at the unattainable. If so, Wertmüller has opted to underplay the element of desire and suggest discretion--an almost deferential shyness precluding manly self-declaration. The sequence subtly undermines the dynamic heretofore established by suggesting that beyond her vexation at his incompetence, Raffaella--dimly and confusingly--is aware of Gennarino as something other than a servant, which further irritates and mildly intrigues her. This would support the interpretation of Gennarino, heretofore a disposable object, as lusting 'subject of desire.' Whatever their respective intents, any expectation of a crumbling dominance hierarchy proves premature when the dynamic between them continues to head south in the next scene, with Raffaella refusing the rewarmed coffee Gennarionio attempts to serve her. "He's already getting sloppy," she kvetches. Gennarino complains to his mate, threatening to slap her the next time she crosses the line, only to be told to grin and bear it for the sake of the generous wages. "That fucking fascist bitch had better watch out," he muses with a certain weary resolve. But when she next complains about over-cooked spaghetti, he meekly shrugs and apologizes."While we're waiting for the revolution," she quips, "just for once cook the spaghetti as it should be!" 

When her party absconds the next day, Raffaella requests Gennarino take her out in a dinghy to catch up. They depart, only to break down in the middle of nowhere, therewith beginning their misadventure proper--basically a series of humiliations for Raffaella--as mismatched castaways. The whole thing may be interpreted as the story of modern Woman--that product of industrial revolution, emancipation, and the pill--getting her long-overdue comeuppance. Except that Raffaella carries the equally important ideological valence of the wealthy, socially dominant anti-communist.

Having come ashore on a tiny island things deteriorate when Gennarino balks at following orders. What had simmered as long as they occupied roles dictated by the social dominance hierarchy, turns into all-out warfare in the wilderness of post-conventional Nature. In a funny little montage sequence they go their separate ways, obscenities flying fast and furious. "Now we'll have some fun...we'll suck some bitter dicks!" he chuckles. "This shit thinks he's Spartacus!" she rages: "sub-proletarian!" 

Driven by hunger Raffaella attempts to bite into a spikey sea urchin scavaged from a tide pool as Gennarino, lithe and bronzed, dives into the ocean and hauls a huge lobster-like crab ashore. It's readily apparent who is more resourceful in the state of nature. 

"You eat and let others starve to death," she accuses, disheveled and dirty from following him through a lagoon. The irony of her reproach--the standard left-wing inditement of capitalist exploitation--seems lost on Gennarino. "If there was a law against it, all the rich would be in jail...But since there is no law, only the poor are locked up," Gennarino retorts superciliously. Raffaella leaves in a huff to look for eggs. "I hate nature!" she exclaims petulantly. Then reflects on the treachery of proletarians ("worse than Hitler"). She returns soon enough to barter: "I'll pay you whatever you want." Gennarino, stuffing his face with fish, blithely ignores her. 

Raffaella resolves to try a different tack, informing Gennarino she's not feeling well and has hurt her foot. Her wounded appeal for mercy has no effect on the resolutely indifferent Gennarino. Reverting to abusiveness, she asks "How about a hundred dollars, swine?" "Keep the insults coming," he muses menacingly, relishing the reversal of power. 

What makes these two base is that each exploits the other at different times by means of the rank circumstance invests them with rather than any genuine authority. The vengeful Gennarino, motivated by pique, has every intention of exacting the ultimate punishment. "Lesson number one!--: if you want food to eat, you have to earn it. Wash my underpants!" he bellows, throwing his drawers in her face. "Never!" she shrieks. Abrupt cut to Raffaella slaving away at her washerwoman chores.

Gennarino is just getting started. Raffaella has a lot to learn and his unsubtle program of servitude and deference training is designed for maximum impact. 

The claim that Wertmüller, who had communist sympathies, was on the side of Gennarino seems implausible. An ideological slob bent on vengeance who unwittingly arrives at the truce of romantic infatuation, Gennarino is the instrument of a proud woman's downfall rather than a hero to be emulated. Heroes are out-of-place in comedies, anyway. Though his abusiveness must afford anyone who has suffered at the hands of a degrading authority some degree of vicarious vindictive pleasure. 

Wertmüller doesn't emasculate the men in her film--in itself something of an affront to reformist gender-manderers--declining to turn them into so many sociopathic killers, hapless autists, and spineless conciliators. Instead, she grants them equal dignity as thinking and volitional agents, therewith preserving the playing field on which social equalization projects have always been transacted; the pitch on which women took-on the hegemony of males, and eventually redrew the coordinates to better suit their needs

Raffaella, as the spokesperson of "fascistic" capitalism, comes away as the party most beholden to the interests of bourgeois status and security. To confer on either a representative capacity vis-a-vis the director remains pure conjecture. To say Wertmüller was a communist isn't saying much as a left-wing political persuasion (or rather stance) was legion among the Italian intelligentsia of 20th century--witness the famous example of Count Visconti, the Marxist blue-blood. As "opium of the intellectuals" (Raymond Aron), communism amounted to little more than the belief that capitalism, in and of itself, wasn't enough to create the good society. It was in practice the perfect ideology for idealists, dependent as it was upon the revolution's permanent non-occurrence.  

†The ultimate implication of gender-feminism is the lesbian's nullification of the male as redundant (an inferior version of the female). In her capacity as making him obsolete she represents the identity-in-opposition of the gender polarity). At the level of the master-slave conflict--the life-or-death struggle for recognition qua hegemonic supremacy--the moment of elimination pertains to the self-consciousness of the rival that must be made subservient. Sociologically, the hierarchy of rank determined by who is instrumentalized as servant (and therewith exploited), effects this subordination. Raffaella occupies her position of superiority by the fortuity of socio-economic circumstance. She has not earned it, yet she may look down on her hired hand as inferior because of her place in the hierarchy. 

A relationship between unequals can never satisfy a self seeking recognitive mutuality. Recognition from an inferior affords no satisfaction. The hierarchy of subjectivity (of him who judges and disposes) establishes whose perception counts, and whose recognition is null and void. Dramatically manifest in the case of actual slavery, this devaluation is present at all levels of inequality. The old habit of addressing subordinates in the third person exemplifies such asymmetry. This illuminates why marginalization continues to mobilize such deep indignation.

A form of mundane-social revolution is the precondition for the inversion in Swept Away. Gennarino's ruthless aggression stands in direct proportion to his previous degradation. His vengeance is fueled by a need to vindicate the disregard of his dignity and autonomy as an individual. Wertmüller's film is a commentary on the virulence of the resentment informing all revolutionary redistributions of power. 

Swept Away's power-sharing is less a recreation of the gender-battles previously waged by Tracy and Hepburn, than their continuation. Except that in the ensuing thirty odd years female protagonists of the battle, once nobly beleaguered frontierspersons, have themselves become fair game for satirists. Having attained its main political objectives, feminism's contest has issued in a new status quo--the latest installment of the age-old face-off between gender-factions. 

Yet the spectacle of evolving power dynamics need not be seen as a parable of male-female relationships or even a comment on their politicization as a result of the real leveling of difference. What feminism there is in Wertmüller's vision emerges by way of the antagonism between two discrete individuals who, being male and female and out of options, resolve their conflict in the age-old way, viz., the erotic merger of mind and body. Whether this makes her vision post-feminist or just a slap in the face of female pride, is open to debate. It may simply be the repudiation of a certain feminist mind-set supervenient upon political and economic developments it did not create and enabling a willful oblivion towards what once was biological exigence. In this broadest perspective Wertmüller's film reveals itself as a show-down between history and culture's repressed biological underpinnings. 

Swept Away emplots a master-slave dynamic up-ended by happenstance; a dialectic of recognition, initially withheld then forcibly compelled, and intimately related to the evolution of love out of hatred. In this way too the film is over-determined, not just in the sense of over-ripeness but of allegorical super-abundance.

What is so controversial about this perennial yet insufficiently appreciated dynamic is the primitive way in which Wertmüller has her pair of marooned morons enact it. The conceit of the film is to stage an experiment whereby a modern-day couple is transplanted Crusoe-style into the primordial jungle, with all its ideological commitments and culturally transmitted neuroses intact. What Wertmüller demonstrates is that under circumstances of deprivation and forced hunter-gatherer mode, a balance of power re-emerges based on physical inequality. Due to the loaded nature of her ciphers, the conflict transacts itself on several levels: master becomes servant, servant master; the emancipated woman is reduced to a quivering supplicant of the inferior she once commanded; the proud intellectual unmasked as the clueless dependent of a simple if dogmatic "peasant," etc. 

En route to her transformation into re-natured Woman Raffaella withdraws to ponder her demotion. With one short shot of her being pensive Wertmüller subtly tips our emotional investment in her favor. In the ensuing scene Raffaella silently prostrates herself before Gennarino, indelicately impaling a freshly skinned rabbit on a stick. "I feel like that rabbit," she reflects--"you are really cruel." Blasé Gennarino doesn't bat an eye. In a trance-like state the kneeling Raffaella bends over, grabs his ankle, and reverently plants her lips on his foot. Gennarino is taken-aback but gratified. When she rises they look at one another for what feels like the first time. 

Placing his hand on her head in a sort of benediction, Raffaella wordlessly declares: 'I accept your authority and place myself under it--be well-pleased with me!' Wertmüller cuts to an impossibly blue ocean after sundown, then back to the couple kissing passionately. Stroking her, Gennarino extols her sweet femininity as she murmurs, "You kill me, my love." 

Having entered the inner sanctum of sexual transport he demands she call him "Sire." She gladly complies. "Sire, master, beat me, kill me. Do what you will with me. Only hold me tight." Even after her capitulation Gennarino can't help asking whether people of her class ("filthy rich...pigs on drugs") make love in such a passionate, animalistic fashion. "How many times have you cheated on your husband?" 

"Who says a rich woman's automatically a whore? the Communist party?" she retorts, only to be answered with a slap. Even in the throes of erotic passion ideological commitments prevail: "The party is sacred--wash your mouth out!" 

Desire makes Raffaella delirious. Deranged by his lust for unconditional lordship, Gennarino disdains to satisfy it. "No--when I say so." He won't be satisfied until she "writhes like a worm." His need to control her is not just a retributive assertion of power but a direct reflection of his past sense of helplessness. Gennarino demands Raffaella confess her indiscretions, but eventually his own growing passion displaces his inquisition and he turns to the business of fucking his "well-heeled slut-cum-slave."

Wertmüller cuts to the couple frolicking in the dunes, a plaintiff lullaby adding depressive depth to the bucolic mood. In this idyllic pastoral interlude reciprocated erotic love seems finally to have vanquished ego, if not inequality. But the harmony is more a momentary cessation of hostilities than a permanent modality of the relationship. The contrast afforded by its exceptional valence is what invests it with such power, attenuating the mood of ribaldry in the watery depths of a cosmic implication.

The next morning Gennarino wakes to find his crotch decorated with pink blossoms. Raffaella appears, proudly announcing a seagull egg omelet garnished with rabbit fat "prepared to nourish my adored lover." It is her first. "My lord," she asks, " it disgusting?" "Mildly disgusting," he replies. 

Oblivious to her station, she waxes lyrical about her bliss, but he's unimpressed. No working-class woman would act like such a "feather-brain." They laugh, and, kissing his forehead, she affectionately calls him a silly idiot. Out of the blue he slaps her and she winces in pain. "Are we back to being familiar?" he asks. "Woman is a love-thing, an object of pleasure for the working man," he explains. A boor for whom "whore" is a term of endearment, Gennarino remains contemptuous of the affectations of the wealthy. Raffaella, too enamoured to be put off, smiles deliriously and kisses him. She has finally found her place--at his beck and call, her once proud independence replaced by the grateful submissiveness of erotic servitude. One would think such an affront to the emancipated modern female's pride, even absent all explicit sexuality, would to have merited an NC-17 rating in the US. Were the censors asleep at the controls?

At this point the infamous "female masochism" concept feminists found politically inconvenient and relegated to the junk heap of theoretical history, suggests itself. Its banishment is reason enough to consider what merit it may have. No one with any understanding of human psychology will fail to appreciate its pertinence to Raffaella's transformation, a process involving not just the birth of love out of hatred, but the defeat of pride and the loss of dignity through her literal subjugation. The stumbling stone for audiences is precisely the coincidence of those changes. But only because it seems to go without saying that any female figure--in art and life--represents the female gender tout court. If there is any remaining circumstance feminists should address it is this exemplification function of individuals who, through no fault of their own, happens to be both human and female.    

Feminist protectors of Woman's honor recoiled at what they perceived as Wermüller's betrayal. While their disapprobation is understandable given the indelicacy of her farce, such indignation forgets that comedies are by nature about inferior types rather than role-models. Swept Away may not be a pure comedy of manners, but there is more than enough humor in it to warrant the label. More importantly, such criticism confuses the perspective of characters with authorial intent. It assumes that a female director will automatically champion emancipation from old stereotypes. It could be argued that Wertmüller has in fact made a comedy only a radically emancipated gender-feminist would dare to, with the assaults Raffaella endures at the hands of her tormenter constituting proof positive of the literal equality of male and female. To find such violence objectionable, on the other hand, suggests the belief that women are in need of special protection. It was, of course, in the name of just such chivalric protectiveness that women were patronized for centuries. Statistics of sexual violence suggest why.

On the best reading the concept of a masochism specific to the female gender refers to the moment of resignation at the heart of the crucible borne by the bearer of life. The locution 'bearer of life' suggests at once the bearing of new life and the endurance of all who instrumentalize her body in pursuit of their developmental and erotic ends. Woman bears the brunt of life. 

Masochism is female by virtue of the biological division of labor and anatomical destiny.Woman is more matrix and medium than individual. If for no other reason than that we all, male and female, come from Her, or 'us.' That the holders of the office of mother are in fact separate and autonomous beings always appears as an after-thought. In this confusion of selves lies the common origin of adulation and protest. From the very beginning a woman's life is claimed and formed by the collective to host the lives intersecting 'in' her. 

The answer to the question Woman poses is an other being: first a man, then a child, each exposing her to risk and requiring courage. Courage is not normally contained in the pejorative concept of masochism, which denotes an ignoble attachment to suffering. Given that it's easy to understand why feminists reject the whole notion, suggestive as it is of a typical female pathology, as the pathological by definition constitutes the exception rather than the rule. 

Emotional attachment to suffering is thus not typically female, even if it is demonstrable that, statistically, such attachment preponderates among women. Such statistical truths individually applied are more often than not false. 

Defined as a feature of sexual desire, attachment to pain is characteristic of a subgroup of women and ignores what female suffering is actually and legitimately about. To be attached to suffering is to be attached to love and sacrifice. And with that we seem to be squarely back in the pre-modern ambient of damsels in distress, mother-worship, and double-standards, including the biblical one of culpability for man's original transgression, viz. questioning divine authority. A victory by defeat for

More pertinent to Swept Away is attachment to suffering in abusive sexual relationships--the fact that some women become serially attached to violent males. That this sub-group prefers such arrangements seems an inescapable conclusion. The alternative is the half-truth of female victimization, which absolves self-destructive and perverted women of responsibility for their desires. It's hard to see any patronization going further than that. That such masochistic women are inconvenient for feminists does not refute their existence. The question here is: does Raffaella become attached to Gennarino's brutality? or is her endurance purely situational and strategic? To these queries the answer must be, thrice-over--yes. What, after all, would it mean to answer the question of attachment in abstraction from life as it happens to be under given circumstances? Choosing and having-to-chose fit together like hand and glove. 

Dignity is the inviolate state of autonomous persons while to be free is to be unsubjugated. No one who is attached to suffering is free in this sense. Willful subjugation is therefore problematic to say the least, and this is what makes it inconvenient, regardless which gender is involved. Even as exception to the rule, the female masochist must invalidate all generalizations about what women want. 

In emploting her degradation and abuse Wertmüller shows Raffaella not simply as resigning herself to her new status, but as embracing it as the state "nature" intended, albeit under the constraint of extraordinary circumstances. The attachment to suffering itself must be at least an expression of making a virtue of necessity and finding the "rose in the cross." In this regard so-called "female" masochism is indistinguishable from resignation to fate, that is to say, a form of wisdom.

It is undeniable that Raffaella has undergone a transformation from power to weakness and that she develops a taste for the abuse meted out to her my Gennarino. It is also true that certain women gravitate towards abusive imbalances of power--whether out of a sense of worthlessness, lust, courage, or a foolhardy yet irresistible need to face the crucible of male aggression. 

I suspect both Wertmüller's upper-class origins and her predilection for over-the-top drama predisposed her to a more playful, even mischievous, approach to gender dynamics than your average feminist. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, prudery is more typical of the petit-bourgeois.

In the ensuing years a cinema of gender-narcissism that flatters the (ostensibly) fragile female ego has become the rule. Such therapeutic revisionism--most conspicuous in period dramas, where the concerns (and fixations) of modern women are projected onto the past--is the product of the confluence of two developments: the victory of feminist egalitarianism, and the youth-fixation of  marketing savvy of media moguls. Thankfully Wertmüller doesn't serve either agenda. 

If Wermüller is guilty of anything it is caricature. Yet the abusiveness of the antics she stages are off-set by moments of genuine tenderness. Her film is brutal, but it has heart with a capital H. 

Adjusting fishing lines at the beach, Raffaella catches a glimpse of a vessel. After briefly signaling to it, she runs breathlessly to her lord like some star-struck school-girl. "Mr. Carunchio!" she cries, using the form of address she's been instructed to employ. She explains that she didn't hail the yacht because she's been "swept away by an unusual destiny, a dream..." He slaps her for lying, just in case that she is lying. Or, on the off chance she isn't lying, for telling the truth but failing to inform him before initiating a course of action. Raffaella forces herself to smile through the indignity of it all, nodding her approval in abject yet sincere submissiveness. She's so deranged by love she's taken to assuming Gennarino's perspective without thinking. Talk about love as the basis of credulity! 

An implicit criticism of the plight of women "brain-washed" by the patriarchy may be discerned in this grotesque situation. Except that Raffaella has been cowed into submission by fear and love. To enforce social mores, including the command hierarchy in families, moral authority must be rooted as much in love as in fear. Only as such does it become effectively internalized ('authoritative'). This is only "brain-washing" if all character-forming internalizations are. It might be better to call it 'coping from a position of inferiority.' Or simply--the human condition. 

Raffaella's obedience illustrates the conformist modus operandi of what in the post-war era was called, somewhat misguidedly, the "authoritarian" personality. Wertmüller's real point may just be to highlight capitalistic Raffaella's susceptibility to fascistic enthrallment to power, rather than to expose some state-of-nature predisposing women to grovel

The feminist critique is too narrow as framework for the film's critical reception. The psychology of power per se, rather than the subjugation of women, is being emploted. It is only as love-stricken and childishly deferential that Raffaella becomes genuinely human. The proud joy she manifests as devoted servant demands protection. That Genarino further degrades her indicates just how wounded his pride was. Having attained to power, he could easily dispense with brute force. His vindictiveness marks him as distinctly inferior, which further casts doubt on the likelihood of Wertmüller's preference for his character.   

"You are the original man who nature meant for us women, before everything changed," she muses in ecstatic communion. Just when we think we've hit bottom in the humiliation of Raffaella, she pleads: "My love, I beg you. Sodomize me." Gennarino is taken a back. Or perhaps simply confused. "You're...using long words to make me feel small...Call a spade a spade." "The language of love does not permit it. It would become vulgar," she tells him. "There is no vulgarity in love," he replies. 

At long last Raffaella and Gennarino attain a genuinely tender reciprocity--living and loving as a marooned Adam and Eve. So it's with heavy hearts and much apprehension that they observe the approach of another boat. Raffaella wants to hide: "Why go back and become part of that monstrous scenario again?" But Gennarino needs proof her devotion won't change back in civilization. He sends smoke signals to draw in the sailboat, and they are rescued. 

Gennarino is asked how he managed to preserve his manhood having been shipwrecked with the biggest "ball breaker" sailing the Mediterranean. "The fight for survival took the ginger out of her," Gennarino replies, reluctant to elaborate.  

Raffaella's husband formally thanks him for his troubles. Gennarino reunites with his frumpy wife, who's received a million Lire for his troubles, much to his indignation. He goes and buys Raffaella a "divorce ring."  Then calls to tell her he's chartered a boat to take them back to the island. She professes her unabating love, anguished by the decision facing her. After hanging up Gennarino, in extreme close-up, muses with deep sadness: "Now do you understand, Lady Raffaella, who Gennarino Carunchio is?" a query expressing what has been his motivation all along--a desire for recognition--only this time as the pensive wish of a an enfeebled man with something to prove. 

During its final act the comedy turns bittersweet. As Gennarino sits on the pier waiting for Raffaella, a little messenger boy returns with a note telling him of her decision to return to the life she had known before. Gennarino, eyes full of tears, races towards her helicopter as it takes off. "Lousy slut!" he shouts, "you leave me all alone." When his wife returns and assaults him for betraying her, Gennarino swears off the whole "female race." "One whore above me, one whore below me. And the sea has turned traitor."

The next morning he sits in the pale light, his face bearing the scratches of his wife's attack. He takes off Raffaella's earring and tosses it into the water. In the final scene he and his wife walk along the dock with a suitcase to the plaintive stains of a guitar and a humming female voice. A rueful ending to a blissful if bruising odyssey.

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