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 ...
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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When producer Robert Evans was trying to coax Roman Polanski to direct Chinatown (1974), 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 parallel between the story of "What?" and "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Caroll is very interesting, and maybe this film is the most precise adaptation of Caroll's crazy story, precisely because it really shows all the sexual content of Alice's dream trip. The movie construction reminds the "passage" of Alice "behind the mirror": she escapes the cruel world (the rapists) when she goes down to the "loonies house". Mastroianni's pimp character reminds of the Mad Hatter, because he keeps asking Sydne Rome if she wants to have tea with him around five o'clock. Polanski's character can also be seen as the Mad Hatter sidekick in the book: he keeps fighting with Mastroianni all day long, as if it was some kind of game between them. Polanski is very funny as a nervous "little guy" with a splendid mustache! At the same time he was shooting "What?" in Italy, Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey shot "Flesh for Dracula" nearby, and that explains Polanski's apparition with mustache in a scene of this film. Of course, the "sexual innocence" of Sydne Rome put the film on the rank of "erotic fantasy". The tribute to "Alice" is clear, but it seems that the film may have influenced a great Italian erotic illustrator, Milo Manara, whose sexy heroins really look like Sydne Rome, and are often place in similarly "unvolontary" sexual situations (oooh, the pooor girl lost her clothes, what a shame!). Anyway, this is a crazy absurd funny and sexy film, that never takes itself seriously (at the end, Rome yells to Mastroianni: "Don't worry, this is only a film!")with a very colorful and "sunny" atmosphere.
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