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This movie is called "Venial Sins" which are, of course, small sins
that can be easily forgiven. This is a kind of sequel to Salvatore
Samperi and Laura Antonelli's more famous film "Malizia". But whereas
that was about a teenage boy who is in love with his
maid-cum-stepmother (Laura Antonelli) and sexually blackmails her
before she turns the tables, this is a more gentle film about a teenage
boy (Allesandro Momo) in love the with his blow-hard brother's wife
(Antonelli again). But he doesn't sexually blackmail her, nor is there
the kind of class exploitation that puts the "malice" in "Malizia".
This is a much more gentle comedy that has the boy confessing that he's
in love with a married woman to his brother, only to have the oblivious
buffoon actually encourage his younger sibling to cuckold "the lady's
husband". Meanwhile, the elderly patriarch of the family ogles his
young maid and is trying to kill his wife's annoying dog, but he too
does not really step over the line like the characters in "Malizia" or
other Salvatore Samperi movies.
The same way Russ Meyer is cinematically obsessed with large breasts, Tinto Brass with voluptuous asses, and David Hamiliton with nubile, post-adolescent females, Italian filmmaker Salvatore Samperi is obsessed with incest. It is a theme in every one of his movies. "Malizia" and "Kill the Fatted Lamb" are about sons and stepmothers. "Grazie Zia" is about a nephew and aunt. "The Smell of Flesh" is about an uncle and niece. "Nene" is about underage cousins. "Scandalo" is about a mother giving her teenage daughter to her male lover. "Ernesto" involves a bisexual three-way with male and female fraternal twins. And "The Dark Side of Love" is about the blood taboo of brother and sister. Compared to these, teenage boy and sister-in-law is indeed a pretty venial sin. Also, I don't know if it was just the version I saw, but this particular movie has NO sex or nudity in it, even with both Antonelli and a teenage Monica Guerritori in the cast (two actresses never renown for leaving their clothes on). It could have just been a TV-friendly cut, but this also fits with the lighter tone of this particular movie.
One thing's for sure Salvatore Samperi desperately needs an English-friendly DVD box set devoted to him. His movies are almost all only available in horrible-looking bootlegs with truly atrocious dubbing or no English subtitles whatsoever. Cut or not, the version I saw of this looked very good and had English subs, but while I'm a long, long way from fluent in Italian, I think I speak it better than the guy who "fan-subbed" this thing evidently speaks English. I had to totally ignore the subtitles at some points because they were so baffling. Still, like all Samperi films, this one is definitely worth seeing.
The sensational success of Malizia" obviously called for a sequel of
some kind. So one year later, in 1974, most of the Malizia" production
staff including the main actors, Laura Antonelli and Alessandro Momo,
came back together to shoot Peccato veniale".
Somewhere on the beaches of Tuscany, in the 1950ies, a well-off family spends their vacation. The old parents, constantly quarreling, are the least of the problems of their son Sandro. Sixteen years old, pubescent, rebelling, spending the days with his friends playing pranks and starting to get interested in women. However the only woman he is seriously interested in, is the beautiful Laura (guess the actress?), the wife of his older brother Renzo. And while Renzo is usually out for business" reasons, Sandro and Laura get to spend a lot of time together on the beach...
Well, that's the obvious and constructed vehicle to replicate the success of Malizia", bringing the same two actors back together in a romantic situation. But apart from that goal, the two films are not really comparable. This is because Malizia" has a strong dark side to it, the sexual tensions there are not mutual, but forced. The characters are credible and you can sympathize with them. In addition, although usually categorized as comedy, the humor is subtle, clever and discreet, and you could easily call it a drama film with social comment as well.
Peccato veniale" is quite different in all of these respects. The gags come with a wooden mallet and are usually not very good. Slapstick-style sequences on the beach you would expect of some cheap Insegnante" flicks, but not of a production like this. The family mechanics are not much better, though, and it's only good old Lino Banfi who made me smile a couple of times. These comedic" elements are predominant in the first half of the movie. The script is trying hard to be more funny than Malizia", but can achieve that only by making basically a fool out of all the characters, except for Laura and Sandro of course.
Their relationship is developed rather lacklustre until it gets momentum after the first half. It's not too badly written from then (most of the earlier beach nonsense ceases) and felt convincing to me, albeit not surprising at any point. Initially Laura doesn't even notice Sandro's interest in her, then she does, but smiles about it, until she develops feelings of her own. This is actually inevitable in view of her husband Renzo who is so completely stupid and unbearable you wonder what made her marry him in the first place. Once you consider this, you can see the problem that somewhat limits the characterization of Laura. On the part of Sandro, it's mostly the same as with Malizia"'s Nino, but without the dark, cruel elements. Missing those, it's doesn't take too long to imagine how Peccato veniale" will turn out.
For Laura Antonelli, this is probably the last time she took the role of a youthful, naive love interest. It barely works out here, and she did well to choose more mature and better roles after 1974. Nevertheless, she is absolutely radiant throughout the film in her implausible beauty. Apart from very sexy beachwear and a couple of shots in semi-transparent lingerie, there is no nudity at all rather surprising that they didn't want to beat Malizia" in this regard.
So overall, this is the more shallow, comedic and forgettable follow-up to Malizia", and in spite of the many similarities, there are even more differences. If you liked Malizia", it's not necessarily the case you'll like Peccato veniale" as well. While it's okay to watch, the rather low level comedy of the first half dragged it down for me and it took long until it could grasp me a little. Overall it's a slight disappointment, and it totally fails to top Malizia" in any way.
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