A young American woman (Sydne Rome) traveling through Italy finds herself in a strange Mediterranean villa where nothing seems right. Her visit becomes an absurd, decadent, oversexed ... See full summary »
Seven segments related to one another only in that they all purport to be based on sections of the book by David Reuben. The segments range from "Do Aphrodisiacs Work?" in which a court ... See full summary »
Necchi (a bar owner), Perozzi (a journalist), Melandri (an architect) and Mascetti (a broken nobleman) live in Florence. They have been friends since their youngest years and spend every ... See full summary »
A young American woman (Sydne Rome) traveling through Italy finds herself in a strange Mediterranean villa where nothing seems right. Her visit becomes an absurd, decadent, oversexed version of "Alice in Wonderland", with Marcello Mastroianni as the maddest of mad hatters and Roman Polanski a kinky March hare. Written by
Dan Navarro <email@example.com>
When producer Robert Evans was trying to coax Roman Polanski to direct Chinatown, he found Polanski thoroughly absorbed with this film, to the extent that he had bought a 50% share in it. Evans eventually lured Polanski by saying that whatever "What" made in its opening week, he would pay him as his salary for directing "Chinatown". Polanski readily agreed to this, expecting "What" to do well as he considered it the best thing he had done up to that point. Unluckily for Polanski, "What" only grossed $64 on its first week. See more »
Nancy's hands are well manicured throughout the movie, but quite ordinary during close-ups, when she's supposedly playing the piano. See more »
The early 70s were the stage for many experiments. Barriers were being broken and the boundaries were expanded. In the cinema, taboos were challenged and defeated. It was a time for change, a time for improvisation. It was in the spirit of those times that Polanski made "What?" "What?" could be defined as a surrealistic modern "Alice in Erotic Land".
An innocent young and beautiful American woman, Nancy (Sydne Rome) - She is hitchhiking in Italy. The three men that gave her a lift try to rape her, but they are in such a hurry and are so clumsy, that one of them, having lost his glasses, begins to sodomize the other. A verbal fight ensues among them and in the confusion, Nancy runs away. One of them runs after her. In her flight she sees a funicular waiting there for her as on purpose. The funicular takes her to a white villa.
This villa is peopled by very bizarre characters. Nancy, running away from the cruelty of the world, has landed in the house of dreams. Is this her dream, is she a dream dreamed by other people, or both? This luxurious white villa located by the beautiful tyrrhenian sea seems very remote from everyday life. Among the characters there is a former pimp, Alex (Marcello Mastroianni), two french lesbians, a priest that watches everything with disapproving eyes, the paraplegic patriarch of the house with his serious-looking Nietzsche-reading German nurse, and even Polanski is present, as Mosquito, that has no love left for Alex, the pimp, with whom he's always arguing.
Nancy, interpreted by the gorgeously beautiful Sydne Rome, will be the object of desire of every male (excepting maybe the priest) inhabiting the villa. Even the growling dog falls under her charm, and the same happened to me.
Sydne Rome, in an interview in the DVD (released in Italy), defined "What?" as an erotic dream. This is exactly what I think.
Alex, the pimp (Marcello Mastroianni), will persuade her to engage in kinky sexual games. But don't you expect the sleaze displayed by other Italian films of the time - by these standards "What?" can be considered tamer than its Italian brothers. Still in some scenes Sydne Rome is shown in the nude, and in many others she's wandering around the house semi-naked. In the strange sexual games that happen between her and Alex, Sydne Rome has her clothes on. But believe me, these scenes are very sensual. The beautiful Sydne Rome, with her angel face and her large innocent eyes, and Marcello Mastroianni, wearing either a leopard skin or a Napoleon costume... well, it's something to be seen and enjoyed!
As Polanki has worked with a tight script and hasn't given much way to improvisation, "What?" seems sometimes more a theater play than a film. The characters are like dream figures and the conversations are surrealistic/symbolic. "What?" is a surrealistic comedy which is based mainly on the actions and words of the characters, as it happens in any good theater play. But don't get me wrong, "What?" is a film and feels like a film. It's just that the words in "What?" seem to weigh more than necessary and stifle somewhat the spontaneity of the acting. Apparently the actors in the film were not given the freedom to improvise and this spoils the fluency and the dreamy atmosphere of the film.
Take another Italian film made at the time - "L'Occhio nel labirinto" (Blood) by Mario Caiano. The script was probably hastily written. The characters are somewhat poorly developed, the film is a giallo that has psychoanalytical motives - a labyrinth, a killing, loss of memory, a white villa by the sea (yes!). It has flashbacks, fast hand-held cameras following the characters and unveiling the landscape. The story may seem to some a patch-up work - sex, crimes, psychoanalysis, the beach and the sun mixed together - but the film is entertaining and intriguing, even if it was made to earn a fast buck. The same cannot be said for "What?".
Polanski with "What?" wanted to make a sunny, dreamy and sexy film, and, in a way, he almost got there, but if he had let himself really go and had given the actors more freedom .... "What?" could have been something! As it is, "What?" is a half-successful psychedelic film, intellectual and slightly theatrical.
In spite of all, I think that "What?" is an interesting film - theatrically dreamy and psychedelic, and very, very sexy.
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