This pitch-black comedy set during the Second World War follows the exploits of Pasqualino Settebelleze (Giannini), a petty thief in Naples who disingenuously labors to protect the honor of his seven ugly, overweight sisters. When a pimp turns out his older sibling Concettina (Fiore), Pasqualino dismembers the man. Eventually, after a ghastly stint at an asylum, he lands on the front, where the horrors of the fascist war are even more bizarre and grotesque than the prison madhouse.
A wildly chaotic farce by Europe's pioneering female director, Wertmüller's Oscar-nominated "Beauties" begins with a montage of war footage sarcastically narrated by an unseen observer. Then we meet Giannini's macho Italian crook, a not-so-wholesome Everyman who deserts Mussolini's army only to wind up in a nightmarish concentration camp. Wertmüller's acid commentary on Italian politics and society takes us from the whorehouse to the funny farm, the penitentiary to a prisoner-of-war camp, depicting the lengths Pasqualino will go to stay alive-such as becoming the sex slave of an obese, crop-wielding Nazi commander (Shirley Stoler). Memorably perverse, "Beauties" is a surreal, sardonic look at the absurdity and immorality of war.