5.8/10
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Belle salope de 30 ans (1996)

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Anastasia
Hervé P. Gustave
Sidony Lamour
François Phalet
Steve Lawson
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Twilight of the ABC Theater
20 January 2008 | by See all my reviews

Last night, I once again visited the good old - read : borderline decrepit - ABC adult cinema in my country's capital of Brussels, centrally located on the Boulevard Adolphe Max 147-149 in case you happen to pass and would care to visit. This once flourishing fornication film house has weathered every single technological evolution the adult industry has gone through since the '80s, still screening increasingly battered copies of American and European movies from the Golden Age and beyond. Its steadily deteriorating sound system renders intricacies of dialog unintelligible unless the print happens to be subtitled, another rarity these days as most spools have been acquired from Germany's former Sovereign of Commercial Sex Beate Uhse and various now defunct Parisian porno palaces. Having stubbornly clung to porn's past, I realized that this creaky old cinema must be treasured more for being a lone remnant of sexual and cinematic history rather than for any intrinsic qualities it may still possess. Most regulars are drawn in by the hourly strip shows anyway, featuring every few weeks the formidable Léa whose indescribably lewd gyrations could get a rise out of a dead man, let alone a gay one like myself !

On to this week's Lost Picture Show then. A German dub of Gary Graver's endearing PRIVATE TEACHER with this ultra-obscure oddity as a peculiarly matched companion piece, "The Beautiful 30-year Old Bitch" as the title's literal translation would have it. Director "Youri Berko" was vaguely known to me as a specialist in fetish-oriented fare like the notorious ORGIES EN CUIR NOIR and TRAITEMENT SPECIALE POUR BOURGEOISE INSATISFAITE with Continental mega-star Marilyn Jess. I have recently learned that this is the same guy as Michel Berkowitch, a relatively generic perpetrator of innocuous little numbers remarkable mostly for their unwieldy titles like TAMARA OU COMMENT J'AI ENTERRE MA VIE DE JEUNE FILLE with Claudine Beccarie or the amusingly labeled CHRISTA, FOLLE DE SON SEXE (lit. "Christa, Crazy About Her Genitals" ?) ! Needless to point out, I did not expect too much...

But lo and behold, this actually turned out to be a beautifully photographed and hauntingly scored - unfortunately, credits are maddeningly sparse - hardcore variation on STORY OF O, not so much the once scandalous "Pauline Réage" novel as Just Jaeckin's glossy cinematic adaptation thereof. A beautiful woman is blindfolded by her lover and taken to a château where her "education" will be completed. The plot starts and stops, regularly interrupted as it is by imaginative sex scenes involving characters that seemingly appear out of nowhere. While this may make little sense on a purely narrative level, it merely adds to the convincingly dreamlike atmosphere Berko strives for. Cast identification proves tricky as I have found absolutely no additional information on the listed actresses with alluring names like "Anastasia" and "Irina Bulova". There are several stunning brunettes (just check out the goddesses in the very beautiful bathroom Sapphic) but I haven't got a clue as to who's who. The only female performer I recognized was pouting blond Sidonie L'Amour - from Alain Payet's VISITEUSES and Rocco Siffredi's SANDY INSATIABLE - who's in the opening domination bit with HPG a/k/a Hervé-Pierre Gustave with frizzy curls prior to his more familiar shaved skull look. Stalwart Christophe Clark appears as the cane-carrying "Sir Stephen" character as the scene progresses to a full boil. The subsequent threesome in the back seat of a luxurious vintage car with one of the aforementioned raven-tressed creatures is pure pornographic perfection, erotic and explicit in equal measure. An unusually recent production to be screened at the ABC, a mere 12 years old when most of their fare tends to be well over two decades, this may actually have been a video to film transfer. If this was indeed the case : well done !

For me, it all began in the early Spring of 1982. At the tender age of 14, I managed to sneak into the Paris cinema in the coastal town of Ostend, showing a double bill of Ron Sullivan's excellent BUDDING OF BRIE and Wes Emerson's supremely silly STARSHIP EROS. While my home town of Bruges possessed two similar pervert palaces at the time, I had decided to "play away" as I harbored the - as it turned out, unfounded - fear of public scorn and retribution in case anyone had actually bothered to card me ! Now 26 years on, it's impossible not to feel the tinge of sentimentality with regards to my dear dirty movie house even though naysayers have long declared her officially dead. If so, may she rest in well-deserved peace. I have no idea how much longer she can still hang in there and dread the day the lights will be turned on in the auditorium for the very last time. In any case, I will still be there to see her off, closing the door behind me with a head and heart full of fond memories of cruising for cock and crooked cinematic delights.


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