Reviews

Vogliamo Anche le Rose

Alina Marazzi

Italy / Switzerland, 2007

Credits

Review by Tom Huddleston

Posted on 16 October 2007

Source 35mm print

Categories The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival

The prospect of a feature length documentary celebrating 40 years of Italian feminism isn’t liable to set the average moviegoer’s heart racing. But when the film in question is as impressionistic, experimental, playful and vibrant as We Want Roses Too, expectations are quickly shattered. Utilising interviews and television footage, advertisements and animation, diary entries and photo stories, director Marazzi creates a kaleidoscopic, funny and absorbing story of sexual liberation and revolutionary struggle.

The real joy in We Want Roses Too is the judiciously chosen and manipulated archive footage. The opening image is hilarious: an immaculately dressed postwar fashion bombshell looks into her crystal ball and is horrified by the sexualised, unglamorous future of Italian womanhood. As the film progresses we are shown moments both witty and sad, nostalgic and celebratory. A group of women working on a tarot card telephone hotline discuss the nature of marriage. A young Sicilian bride agrees with the feminists and their issues, but lives in seemingly contented servitude because such things haven’t reached her part of the world yet. A gang of students discuss the empowerment of women, and when an overconfident hipster tries to argue that ‘theoretically, men and women are equal,’ an enraged voice pipes up from the back—‘theoretically, underlined five times!’ There is footage of angry marches and brutal arrests, news reports and family discussions, glamorous advertising campaigns and filthy mudflinging music festivals.

The film is constructed around spoken extracts from the diaries of three women struggling for personal definition in the face of unfolding events. Anita is 18 in 1967, the product of a repressive family who views sex with deep-seated apprehension and dread. Her thoughts are contrasted with images from Italy’s burgeoning sexual awakening—educational films screening for the first time, a raging debate on the legality of divorce. By 1973 the revolution is at its peak, and extracts from full-fledged feminist Teresa’s diary tell of a woman thriving in the midst of a vibrant, exploding subculture. Battles are being fought and won: for divorce and abortion rights, for equal pay structures and acceptance, in the law if not in society at large. Wild, Woodstock-era images tell of feminism’s links to the Italian communist movement, amid gradual realisation among many women that the concept of free love was just an excuse for the Marxists to get laid. By 1979, the movement is in conflict: like any revolution, relative success has led to apathy and infighting. The third diarist, Valentina, tells a darker tale of abortion and mistreatment, while the images relate the struggle to delineate the illegality of rape and to redefine family roles, with only gradual success.

We Want Roses Too is clearly a very personal project for Marazzi and her collaborators (ironic, given that one of the wryly placed quotes in the film contends that creative women fall short of genius because they’re ‘too subjective’). It tells a heartfelt but universal story, and reminds us how far we’ve come in a relatively short time, thanks to a group of dedicated and brave people who tried to drag the world, kicking and screaming, into the light. Marazzi accepts the limitations of the movement, particularly in a country where centuries of masculine and religious oppression have left unhealable scars. But she achieves her aim—to relate and celebrate a key moment in modern history, in a daring, entertaining and ultimately affecting way.

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