She comes off the plane with that car-wreck hair and those Woolworth glasses, somehow looking tough and sexy and sweetly maternal all at once. A mail pouch of a purse is slung over one shoulder. Frye boots propel her forward. The jewelry, big glinting clunks of it, is everywhere -- around her neck, on her wrists, on every finger. Right off, there's lots of grabbing and good-hearted greeting. Everybody is talking at the same time.
"Did you have a good trip?"
"Oh, my ears. Up and down. Up and down."
"There's a car waiting . . ."
"We have seven bags."
"Maybe we should get a porter."
"Aye-yi-yi, this bumpy weather."
Lina the Divine, plus a stunning female interpreter-companion, have just hit town.The day before they were in Cleveland where the most celebrated woman filmmaker in the world spoke to would-be Wertmullers at Case Western Reserve. The day before that, it was Bloomington, Ind. (She flew by plane from Chicago and thought sure the little "bebe" was going to kill her.) And before that was Mexico, where the sun was good and strong and made her homesick for Roma . "Ah, Roma ," she sighs.
Today, Tuesday, St. Valentine's Day, there will be a television talk show, a radio interview, and a panel discussion at American University (which has just inaugurated a master's program in cinema studies and is responsible for getting the 46-year-old Wertmuller to Washington).
"It's crazy, my life, you know," she says, waiting for luggage and rooting in her bag for a smoke. "I'm just a gypsy." Big grin. Shrug. roll of her eyes. "I love it."
So far, everybody's getting along famously here.
The furry mink wrap has come off now. Next, the sleeves of the cardigan get showed up. There, that's better. So, what's to talk about? Well, now about 'The End of the World in our Ustral Bed in a Night Full of Rain"?This is the signora's latest (it hasn't opened yet in Washington) and her first English. Thoughtfully, the title has been shortened -- by Warner Brother's or somebody -- to "Night Full of rain." ("Swept Away" was fully tifled as "Swept Away by a Very Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August.")
The film has been getting pizza thrown as it, which is a startling first for the woman whom John Simon -- America's critic terrible -- only a while ago called "the most important film director since Bergman." But that's okay: Wertmuller seems genuinely to understand about fickle fate.
"John Simon, he hates this one. He feels so sorry. He brings me candy. He sends flowers. We are good friends and so I say, 'John, that's okay. You have your opinion, I have mine. Why cannot we be friends?'"
She pauses, just the right millisecond. "You must remember, I am a democrat." To Lina Wertmuller, the anarchist filmmaker, policies are important.
Later, she adds: "It is the destiny of a European director to do a film in English and have it be hated." Suddenly she is counting on her fingertips. "Bergmen. Antonioni. Fellini.Truffaut. Betrolucci. And now, Wertmuller." She recites the names like a literary litany. There is comfort in numbers; also, apparently, in the predictability of backlash.
Somewhere in her the 5-foot-2 amteur director starts to get restless. We are in a limo heading toward a Holiday Inn in Chevy Chase. She's been pulling at her hair, lighting cigarettes, fooling with the gaudy gold chains around her neck - all in a nonstop blur. Suddenly, one can imagine what her energy on the set is like.
Which suggests a question about Candice Bergen. Bergen, along with Giancario Giannini, Wertmuller's perennial leading man, is the star of "Night Full of Rain." The actress and the director ended up affectionately despising one another, people say. Bergen herself wrote a piece in New York magazine last fall that more than hinted at this. One morning in the post-dubbing process Wermuller made her repeat a complex paragraph in Italian 156 times, Bergen claims.
"Oh, Candy," she says, rolling the word - as if it were candy - on her tongue. "No, it is not true we are feuding. We love. Of course, work is always like love - there has to be some fighting to make it successful. Now that that it's done, there is a different tension between us. I wish I could see her."
She says she chose Bergen for the role of Lizzy, a talented photographer who is breaking down, because of her quintessential American qualities. "She's from California. She's a blond. She looks very American, you know."
An afterthought: "She's a little wasp." She says it grinning, with her thumb and forefinger pressed tightly together.
It continues like this all day. Her lines are quick and punchy, if sometimes garbled. "Anarchy is utopia," she says at one point, apropos of nothing. Of her mother and father, both of whom are still alive, she allows, with a kind of Latin oy vey: "They're crazy. They got divorced when they were 70." Her father was a Roman Socialist who became a lawyer, she says. "I am very Roman," she insists.
She also talks fondly of her artist-husband, Enrico Job, who turns out to be the designerof all that heavy metal on her body. "Only one so sensitive could understand someone else so sensitive." Children "No. I used to say 'Unfortunately, no.' Now I just say, 'No.' It's hard to live in the world now. Society is a gray line."
Which inspires: "You know, when I was a little bambino growing up, I had this book about America.It had pictures of Broadway and Times Square and I used to look at it every day. I thought America was paradise - you know, a South Sea island. Now sensitive." Children? "No. I used to aly . . . Italy is the paradise."
Yes, but do they have Valentine's Day over there in answer to that, she pulls out a crumpled cocktail napkin covered with red hearts. "I got it on the plane," she says, exhibiting it like an Oscar. "Of course, we have it in Italy. But we don't need. Over there, we love all the time."