Ferdinando and Carolina

Lina Wertmüller’s comic biopic (1999) about King Ferdinando I of Naples is characteristically overstylized, with plenty of effects (zooms, colored lighting, circular camera movements) that catch the eye but add little to one’s understanding of the story. The movie is also characteristically vulgar, focusing on the king’s naughty pranks, sexual escapades, and gastrointestinal problems at the expense of the political and historical contexts in which he lived. Like many of Wertmüller’s films, this depicts most interpersonal relationships as struggles for sex and emotional control. Her Ferdinando is a horny, pampered brat who abuses his privilege to get what he wants, and Wertmüller presents this smug caricature as if she were revealing some shocking truth about monarchical power. As in many of her films, the saving grace is Enrico Job’s exquisite production design, which conveys a sense of nuance and a historical curiosity lacking in the script and direction. In Italian with subtitles.