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Richard T. Heffron
Klaus Maria Brandauer,
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If you follow European films at all (especially those from the 60's, 70's, and 80's), you know that a recurring theme across genres is what might be called "the Lolita complex" where an older man falls in love with a much younger, and often underaged, girl usually with tragic consequences. (Sometimes the gender roles are reversed with an adolescent and older woman, but these are usually quite different films). These films are often considered pretty politically-incorrect by today's standards, but they really should not all be tarred with one brush. The most disturbing and offensive of these films (for me, anyway) are, ironically, some of the more arty French films (including the French-American co-production "Pretty Baby") that used actual underage actresses (not just "underage" characters) and contain a lot of "artful" nudity, if usually not graphic sex. The more graphic and more "exploitative" films, on the other hand, may be guilty of indulging in potentially unhealthy fantasies, but since they usually used mature actresses to do so, they are really no more guilty of pedophilia than slasher movies are of mass murder.
This ridiculous British/Swedish production definitely falls into this latter category. It is about a married, middle-aged Swedish lawyer who has a love affair with a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl after she offers herself to him for 300 crowns while turning tricks on her lunchbreak! The lawyer is played by Franco Nero, a very charismatic and likable actor, who is about as far from the male scumbags on the modern-day American "To Catch a Predator" reality TV/police stings as you can get. The "girl" meanwhile is played by previously-unknown British actress Claire Pawney. Pawney kind of had a slight, vaguely adolescent body, but her emerging "crow's feet" and "laugh-lines" quickly give away her real age which was closer to twenty five.
The plot is also very melodramatic and pretty unbelievable; it kind of reminded me of one my favorite American movies of this kind, "Pretty Poison" with Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins. After the illicit couple are followed to a deserted Italian villa by a scandal-sheet reporter, the young girl reveals herself to be a murderous psychopath. (While there are MANY good reasons, grown men should not have 14-year-old paramours, this is probably a not a very major one). As you might guess, this affair ends pretty badly. Christopher Lee shows up at the end as a police detective, and Bernice Steger has a role as Nero's adulterous wife (for those who prefer more mature women). This movie actually turns out to be pretty fun and pretty damn hard to take too seriously.
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