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EXPLOITS OF A DON JUAN (Gianfranco Mingozzi - France/Italy 1987).
Based on the novel attributed to free-minded Guillaume Appollinaire, probably written around 1910 (he never acknowledged writing it). He became most famous for his recognition of the works of Marquis de Sade in early twentieth-century French literary circles. Just as De Sade's work, most of his own work was banned (and totally obscure) until the late sixties.
Sultrous Italian bombshell Serena Grandi is the main female attraction in this French-Italian sex comedy set during WW I about a 15-year old young man who impregnates three women, including his aunt, while all the men are away in the trenches. Don't look for particularly stunning French beauties here, it's mostly well-rounded, somewhat older, women who awake young Roger's sexual interest, like maids, aunts and farm girls. Delivering this kind of erotic cinema remains largely the exclusive domain of the French. Although directed by Italian Gianfranco Mingozzi, this largely follows this pattern, but at times it's a bit of an odd mix of the more typically French high-brow erotic finesse and more low-brow, perhaps more typically Italian farce or slapstick, but altogether a surprisingly good film. It's well made, shot with relatively large means and good production values and period design, it's actually a very handsome production.
Camera Obscura --- 7/10
In setting and story, this film is fairly similar to David Hamilton's
Tendres Cousines. In both films, we have the sexual awakening of a male
teenager during the outbreak of WWI as the centre piece of the story. In
both films, the viewer largely experiences the story through this boy. In
both films, the outbreak of war is used to make women more 'available' to
him, since the adult males are conscripted or volunteer for the army. In
both films, he makes use of that - first cautiously, then with increased
confidence and vigour.
But while Mingozzi must have seen Tendres Cousines, his film is not a carbon-copy by any means. Hamilton's film closes with a romantic happy ending that just does not ring true and Mingozzi avoids this fault. Our Roger may be hormonally oversupplied, but the find-a-girl-to-settle-down hormone is nowhere to be seen. Keeping the plot bubbling along was also not one of Hamilton's strengths - he focuses on scenes and lighting, while 'Exploits...' is overall a more rounded picture.
Perhaps the most striking difference between both films are the objects of sexual interest. In Hamilton's case the word "nymphettes" inevitably springs to mind, while Mingozzi's objects of desire are less obscure - quite simply "women", of different ages and shapes. In particular, Hamilton lets his older women (meaning: older than 22!) hint at expressing their sexual desires, but cruelly these desires always remain unsatisfied - Mingozzi is much more merciful in that respect.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Exploits of A Young Don Juan" is very unique, in that it's a softcore erotic film where the main character is a boy instead of a girl/woman. When the men must leave the picturesque Italian countryside to fight in WW1, 16 year old Roger is left behind, with a house full of lonely women! The film takes place in a beautiful old mansion, and the sets and period costumes are all top notch. Truly this is a gorgeous looking production. The character Roger is cute and likable enough, and there are many silly, light moments. Especially towards the films conclusion, when it is discovered that he has unwittingly impregnated all the women in the house, including some servants! Don Juan, (AKA The Initiation) could have used a bit more serious, dramatic moments, but it seems like the director was going for something light and sweet. The film is a success, and I'm surprised it isn't well-known. As it stands this is an extremely rare title, almost impossible to find. While not as graphic as films like "Emmanuelle" there is a bit of nudity and a lot of sexual innuendo. But never for a moment does it become sleazy, or low-brow entertainment. This reminded me of an American film, "A Night In the Life of Jimmy Reardon," starring River Phoenix, also from 1987. It is worth tracking down.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was released on NTSC VHS videotape in North America by Acteurs Auteurs Associés (AAA) Films Distribution in 1987 with the French title..... LES EXPLOITS D'UN JEUNE DON JUAN....It had a small distribution in Quebec and the French speaking areas of Eastern Canada and the northeastern USA....There is no DVD version......It was released in French Language with no English Subtitles.....It is no longer In Print and is rarely seen in French Canadian video stores.....the Ex-Rentals are generally poor quality and and the original tape has often been replaced.....Best to find one with "Good" Picture Quality........It was released with a French language jacket with a picture of the young boy and five beautiful women on the cover......Directed by Gianfranco Mingozzi and stars Fabrice Josso, Virginie Ledoyen (as a child) , Claudine Auger, Serena Grandi, Marina Vlady....the run time of the North American release is 1 hour 38 minutes............Contains extensive female nudity......."Serena Grandi and most of the beautiful females in this film are alone during the War in France and they are all lusting after 16 year old Roger in this very sexy French comedy........He soon impregnates the maid (Serena Grandi), his aunt (Bérangère Bonvoisin), and others in quick succession. Roger desperately tries to marry off the women to other men to avoid a lurid scandal.....Wonderful fun.....Beautiful women....and a very cute Virginie Ledoyen in her first film role."
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