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An almost absurdly stylish piece of arty erotica, this Giuseppe Patroni Griffi film shows us glamorous people indulging in kinky sexual games, wearing hip 60s clothes and lounging about in chic Italian villas. What more could one ask out of life? As if to assure us, the callow public, that such wanton goings-on can lead only to a bad end, the script has one character intone solemnly into the camera: "I am obscenely and disgustingly happy. I am deformed and destroyed by my happiness." There are worse problems to be had.
The plot centres on a famous writer (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who fantasises an affair between his wife (Florinda Bolkan) and his best friend, a bisexual actor (Tony Musante). Unbeknown to him, the pair have in fact been lovers for years. Not only that, they have drawn a third player into their bedroom games - an anarchist/poet/actor/gigolo (Lino Capolicchio) who squats in a dankly luxurious basement and makes love to Bolkan under a Nazi swastika flag.
Their menage a trois scene - mild enough by today's standards - made the film a scandalous success on its release. In fact, Patroni Griffi gets more erotic mileage from a shot of three clasped hands than Zalman King could get from a sea of naked, thrashing bodies. While his wife is thus engaged, Trintignant drifts into an affair with a rich but lonely single woman (Annie Girardot).
It's Trintignant and Girardot (unsurprisingly) who walk away with the acting honours. Musante and Capolicchio flare their nostrils and bat their eyes to signal their sexual ambiguity. The lovely Bolkan may not be able to act, but with those tiger eyes and Modigliani cheekbones, she hardly needs to. Her wardrobe alone - including a silver chain mail gown with matching helmet - makes it worth sitting through the occasional longueurs. And it's all offset to perfection by Ennio Morricone's coolly sensual jazz score.
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