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|8 reviews in total|
Even though the gig on the ill-fated "Caligula" was a catastrophe
waiting to happen, at least in the end Il Maestro Tinto Brass acquired
the funding for his dream project, a cinematic adaptation of Junichiro
Tanizaki's "The Key." Now, I've read the book after seeing the film,
which really made me appreciate the hard work Brass put into the
script, since the novel was virtually impossible to turn into a movie.
After all, let's face it. There is no plot. Tanizaki's "The Key" is a
clever, satirical insight on what it is like to be stuck in an awkward,
fading marriage and divorce is impossible due to tradition. The book
takes two different points of view, from the husband and the wife in
form of several diary entries. It basically reveals their thoughts as
the marriage slowly disintegrates with the husband's declining health
and the wife's growing repulsion of having sexual relations with him.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Now, don't get me wrong, the material is perfect for a satirical novella, but as far as movie material goes, it's rather dull and there's not much to adapt, but this is where Brass' genius comes in.
First, the story is shifted from fifties Tokyo to a pre-war Venice, which turns the story in to a sort of a mirror of current event, where the characters are slowly overwhelmed with decadence, just as their country and government. It should also be worthy of note if this film was done by any other director, the pre-war Italian politics would eventually overshadow the main plot, but Brass keeps it skillfully in the background. The political agenda is ever present, but does not disrupt the general storyline.
Another great change Brass did with the script is slightly altering the characters. In the book, the husband is dirty old man with a foot fetish, while the wife is a whiny hypochondriac. It was fun to read the "diaries" of such characters, but I'd rather not watch them bicker on the screen for two hours. Here, the husband is a somewhat eccentric gentlemen, filled with joie de vivre and with only one fetish; his wife's gorgeous body, which he hardly ever seen throughout their lengthy marriage. The wife is now a strong, intelligent woman, somewhat confused and caught off guard when her repressed sexuality begins to break free of its confines.
All these changes make the story great for a cinematic treatment, yet it retains the general storyline of Tanizaki's novella quite faithfully.
After many years of a typical, old fashioned marriage, Professor Nino Rolfe tries to break his wife Teresa free of her sexual modesty by writing his intimate desires in diary, which he then secretly plants in various locations for her to "accidently" stumble upon. She does the same, and a sexual game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
Once again, Tinto Brass out-does himself with the erotic content. All the sex scenes are touching, affectionate and somewhat melancholy, perfectly capturing the mood and tone of the film. They never feel forced, on the contrary, most of the time they drive the story foreword and reveal many details about the characters.
Not much can be said about the acting, all of the actors give a superb job. Stefania Sandrelli's cynical, subtle portrayal of Teresa might seem as "wooden" to some people, but they are just not looking too deeply. Frank Finlay gives an awesome over-the-top performance as an older man, still desiring the carnal pleasures of life, but is is unable to due to his declining health, therefore he is stuck living out his fantasies by constructing his wife's sexual odyssey with their fanatical Fascist sympathizing daughter's naive fiancée, played with great wit by Brass regular, Franco Branciarolli.
With "The Key," Tinto Brass directs with such restrained skill and precision that was missing from most of his previous films. The "free flow" and improvisation of his previous works is all but vanished. Now we have a carefully constructed film filled with exhaustively planned out camera work, editing techniques and color palettes. Speaking of which, this film's brownish tint has to be seen to be believed, no other film has ever achieved such a great effect. Silvano Ippoliti is truly one of the best cinematographers of our times, he will be sorely missed.
"The Key" is a masterpiece of eroticism and should go down in history as one of the best novel-to-film adaptations ever made.
After the wild and unexpected success of the film many deemed
"Cameron's folly," I was fully expecting an onslaught of romance films
that take place during a historical tragedy.
Thankfully, only one came to realization and after it tanked miserably, no one ever attempted to try to duplicate "Titanic's" success again.
"Pearl Harbor's" first failure is that when asked "why Pearl Harbor?", it replies with a "I dunno..." James Cameron's "Titanic" was a product of years of fascination with the great lost liner. He expressed his true love to the magnificent ship and the tragedy that occurred on that faithful April night. Yes, he added a love story, but that was for the people who treated the whole event as one big joke, he wanted us to get attached to the passengers, to feel the loss and horror when the ship sank.
But Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay seemed to have simply glued a bunch of disasters onto a wall and started throwing darts at them, eventually landing on the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. That is why the film feels so cold and impersonal. There is no personal affiliation, no affection to all those who died and the love story was very forced and had no point. Pearl Harbor didn't happen that long ago, we are still quite aware of its scope. There are plenty of survivors left alive, there was no need adding a fictional love story that would help us relate to the event. "Pearl Harbor's" only point, only motivation was a hellbent goal to be the next "Titanic," which was ultimately its downfall.
Now, I am all for tales of a tragic romance, but the one in "Pearl Harbor" was a pain to watch, mostly because it was such a shameless imitation of "Titanic's" subplot. We have a love triangle, leads from different ends of the spectrum, the classic "I'm flying!" sequence, a sex scene in an unexpected location (a parachute sewing room?!?!?!), a fight scene during the most inappropriate of times and a "promise me that..." speech during a weepy death scene. Did Bay and Bruckheimer think that no one would notice? Now, I know there are only so many ways one can go with fictional love story subplots in historical dramas, but one must admit, what we witnessed in "Pearl Harbor" was just ridiculous.
Then, there's the acting. It's obvious that they were going for the same chemistry as Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and, to a lesser extent, Billy Zane, but failed miserably even at that. True, Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett have their DiCaprio-esquire charm, but the former, unlike Mr. DiCaprio, can't act and the latter just feels lost in a period drama. Kate Beckinsale is a superb British actress, in the same class as Kate Winslet, and tried her best with an awful, cliché ridden part she was given. But it seems that half-way through the movie she realized she basically playing Rose from "Titanic" and went on auto-pilot. The role didn't deserve anything special, so why should she give it? Then there is the fact that "Pearl Harbor" tries to hard to be politically correct, it absolutely kills what should have been an interesting subplot with the Japanese and their reason to bomb the harbor. We hear absolutely nothing about their passions, beliefs and motivations behind the attack. All we hear is some inane mumbling about a blocked off oil supply, followed by endless scenes of them moping around, claiming that they seriously don't want to attack Pearl Harbor, but have no choice. Is that what we really want from a historical film? A sugar coating and extreme diluting of actual historical events?
But the film's biggest mistake was going where even Cameron didn't dare to go. In "Pearl Harbor," the fictional heroes got ALL THE PRAISE! It was *THEM*, who organized the makeshift emergency room, it was them who lead the others to the airplanes and organized the first attack. And when Doolittle pointed to Hartnett & Affleck and said "we will win the war because of THEM," I nearly fainted. What was that? Did Cameron have Rose organize the evacuation of the Titanic? Did he have Jack try to steer the ship away from the iceberg? The answer is an obvious no, and for a very good reasons. It's no wonder that so many World War II veterans got offended and they had every right to.
As for the attack itself, it is very short and anti-climatic. Ideally, the bombing should have taken place at the last half of the second act and for the majority of the third act. But as it currently stands, the attack on Pearl Harbor is a tiny subplot in the film's massive second act. Bruckheimer obviously didn't have the nerve to end the film on a melancholy, sad note like Cameron did with his "Titanic," so the audience were forced to watch the pointless re-enactment of the Doolittle raid, which took place MONTHS after the onslaught and conveniently features our heroes, where they, you guessed it, once again save the day making valiant sacrifices in the process. Yet another slap in the face to the brave men who actually went through that hell.
Of course, there are some good points within "Pearl Harbor." The special effects, sets & costumes are gorgeous and the splendid cinematography is second to none. All that warrants it at least four stars out of ten. However, in the end, it's still a failure, albeit a beautiful one. At the end of the day, "Pearl Harbor" is still "Titanic's" ugly step-sister and will go down in cinema history as a footnote proving that you can't step in the same water twice.
"Pearl Harbor": 4 out 10. An expensive, beautifully shot pale imitation of James Cameron's "Titanic" with none of the latter's soul and affection.
After years of shooting wacky erotic comedies, Tinto Brass has finally
made a "serious" film, seemingly ending his hiatus with the mainstream
film genre, or so it seems. (Read my review of 2003's appalling
"Fallo!" for more information.) Aside from a very explicit sequence at
a cocaine orgy, "Senso '45" is Brass' most mainstream film to date. The
camera-work and acting are all heavily rehearsed and stylized, there's
no "free flowing" feel of Il Maestro's earlier films, but I wouldn't
say it is a bad thing. The script is masterfully written to give a
disorienting feel with numerous flashbacks and flash forwards. It is
also worthy of note how the it is the present that is shot in black &
white, while the sequences taking place in the past are in color. The
actors, especially Anna Galiena, are all giving 200% of their talents
and Brass' regular cast members (be it a major supporting role or a
short cameo) don't disappoint either. I also must disagree with the
previous reviewer. Gabriel Garko is cast perfectly as the conniving
Nazi Officer and gave me shivers each time he opened his mouth.
Even though te story has been relocated to 1945, the film is more faithful to Boito's original novella than one might think and I also saw some shades of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina." What I really loved about Brass' script is that it keeps its ambiguity until the end. Like Livia, we can't be sure whether Helmut really loves loves or her financial status until the very end and by then it is far too late to change anything and we understand Livia's final decision and even root for her.
How can anyone not like this film? The music, the direction, the acting, the script... Everything is perfect. We see betrayal after betrayal. The lies build up on one another throughout the film and in the end it all comes crashing down in an unforgettable finale. I found the story truly mesmerizing. A woman willfully abandons safety of her estate, travels through ruins and piles of corpses to visit the man she loves, the only true love of her life, to whom she has given everything she had, but in the end is slapped across the face with harsh reality. In Visconti's 1954 version, that scene was disturbing. Here, it is heart breaking.
Do yourself a huge favour and see this wonderful masterpiece. It will haunt you for days and the ending will make ponder your own values and beliefs for months to come.
And this is coming from a dedicated Tinto Brass fan! I don't know why,
but after the gorgeous, atmospheric and tragic "Senso '45," Il Maestro
managed to put together this idiotic anthology of six eye rolling short
stories, consisting of bitchy couples, who like to bitch about their
relationship and have wild sex while making bitchy comments.
The first story is like a lampoon of Brass' 1983 "La Chiave." A young couple goes to Morocco for their wedding anniversary and the husband wants to resurrect their dying love by having the wife screw around with some guy.
The second story deals with a pair husbands and wives who trade their spouses and pretend not to be aware that one is cheating with the other. Don't worry, it's less confusing than it sounds.
The third story story deals with a bimbo chambermaid, who prostitutes herself to a kinky German couple in order raise enough money for her boyfriend's "bed & breakfast."
The fourth story is the weakest of the six. A wife tells her husband about her sexual escapades (with flashbacks) while they're on a beach. He gets a boner and performs oral sex on her. THE END.
The fifth story is remotely entertaining. It's about a goofy couple, engaged to be married. He wants anal sex, she doesn't. So, they take naughty pictures, get invited to the house of a couple that does the same and things get... Well... Goofy.
The sixth story is about a husband who only *thinks* his wife doesn't know they're being watched while copulating. This short includes a pointless, but mildly chuckle inducing bit at a lingerie store.
And yes, the butt fetish is ever present and the sex scenes are beyond explicit. However, they are not "sexy" or "erotic" in any way. They are just a way for the characters to act like mildly retarded idiots. Let's just hope Brass' upcoming "MONAmour" (get it?) will be better.
Still, "Fallo!" gets three stars from me for its kitschy musical score, crisp direction & editing and Tinto Brass' amusing cameo in the last scene.
Tinto Brass writes & directs this grim comedy, loosely based on John
Cleland's novel "Fanny Hill." It is a story about Peepa, a young girl,
who, in a naive attempt to help out her fiancée with money problems,
ends up being dragged head over heels into a world of prostitution and
Now, my expectations for this film were very low. Numerous sources clearly stated that it was Tinto Brass' worst film and I was expecting something in vain of last year's appalling "Fallo!," but I was pleasantly surprised! It was amazing because how underrated this film is. Really.
Of course, it did feel that some of the gags in the film (the pervy Aristocrat, a Madam who is obsessed with baths, butt fetishizing admiral, an old businessman, who has a peculiar taste in "coffee," etc.) were slightly out of place, but in my opinion, the film managed to create a dark, cynical mood and kept it throughout. Some scenes are truly chilling, like in the very beginning where a physician warns the naive Peepa that her "two week plan" will stretch to forever, but she doesn't listen. The girl delves into the world of smut peddling, coins the nickname "Paprika" and gradually degrades herself to the lowliest level she can get herself in the world of the brothels. But the bit that really sent chills down my spine was when Paprika ended up in the sleaziest of whore houses and is confronted by a veteran prostitute, a mere shadow of a woman, nicknamed "The Urinal," who screams at her "YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT!!!!" Once again, Tinto Brass perfectly captures the personality of his female lead. At first, Paprika is happy and naive, then she gradually becomes disillusioned with her new "job." She still giggles and makes raunchy jokes, but the harsh reality keeps rearing its ugly head. All the men that seem to love her turn into her pimps, she gets brutally attacked by anal fetishist, her "co-workers" keep taking advantage of her, there is just no end to the humiliations that she goes through. There is one particularly disturbing scene in a train, where we are not sure whether Paprika is being brutally raped or sensually pleasured. But the scariest factor is that the girl never learns her lesson. She continues on the rocky path, with no remorse or consciousness, slowly becoming a skilled and powerful woman of pleasure.
And sure, Paprika does go through some flings, but this no "Pretty Woman" and there will be no Richard Gere. The men take Paprika for what she is, a mere whore, unworthy of a long term relationship. Even the film's "happy ending," if you can call it that, manages to become extremely dark, but I will not spoil it for you.
If you are in a mood for a realistic take on a life of a prostitute, laced with some interesting black humour, then you simply MUST check out Tinto Brass' "Paprika." No matter what the bad reviews say, it is a great film and should be given far more credit than it receives.
P.S. - Watch out for Tinto Brass' cameo as a sleazy, low-rent abortionist.
To be honest, I was more than a a bit skeptical when I found that
Russia was doing a remake of the cult American sitcom "The Nanny." My
skepticism turned for the worse when I discovered that Russia was just
one of **3** (!) countries (the other two being Greece and Argentina)
that were remaking the show! I just didn't realize how a distinctly
American humor could translate into other countries and what actress
could possibly have the gull to re-create the role Fran Drescher
practically owned? But when I was at my local Russian video store, I
saw that they had the entire first season of this Russian version, so I
thought "what the heck" and rented it, only to be pleasantly surprised!
"My Wonderful Nanny" (a rough translation of the title) turned out to
be quite a treat! Anastasya Zavorotnyuk did a bang up job filling in
Fran Drescher's shoes and proved to be a worthy successor to the
wonderfully comic actress, along with bearing an uncanny resemblance to
her American counterpart. One other actor worthy of mention is Boris
Smolkin, who is absolutely amazing as the Butler and gives Daniel Davis
a real run for his money. That's right. Smolkin turned out to be much
better than Davis and it's no use arguing. Anyone who has seen both
will agree. The rest of the cast are pretty good, giving their own
little zest to the familiar characters. For example, the Maggie
character is much more sympathetic than the bitchy character Nicole Tom
portrayed and the Maxwell character is not as idiotically loud-mouthed
as the American version's. Same can be said for the Sylvia character,
played by the Russian superstar Lyubov Polishchuk and Olga Prokofieva
is having a field day with the obnoxious character of Dzhanna, much
like Lauren Lane did with her C.C.
All in all, an amazingly well crafted remake and highly recommended to "The Nanny" fanatics everywhere, as well as for a casual Russian viewer.
What started out as a massive, haunting and disturbing look at the
corruption of bureaucracy ended up as a mere flesh flick, consisting
mainly of outtakes and only two types of opinions from the viewers;
"this movie is crap" and the infamous "I love the sex in that movie! It
gives an erection every time I see it." All of these travesties, and
more, are a major insult to the many talents involved in this
production of "Caligula."
From what one can tell, it would have been an excellent film. Malcolm McDowell gives a performance of a lifetime, portraying an Emperor whose dedication to exposing the senate for what they are, a corrupt bunch of spineless bastards, ultimately leads to his descend into madness. Helen Mirren gives an interesting performance as Caligula's seductive wife, Caesonia and Teresa Ann Savoy is great as the cute and sweet Drusilla, the only voice of reason in the time of madness. The supporting cast is also top notch. Sire John Gielgud gives an awesome portrayal a stoic Roman aristocrat Nerva and Peter O'Toole is a true jaw dropper as Tiberius, the old emperor, a completely mad sex addict, plagued with syphilitic lesions. The rest of the supporting cast are unknown Italian actors, except for the B-movie god John Steiner, who plays the two faced Longinus, Caligula's treasurer.
The much talked about sex in the film was never meant to be in any way arousing. If one looks closely, he can see that most of the nudity and sex is handled in a very clinical, unappealing fashion. Tinto Brass did an awesome job showing how the Ancient Rome was so used to perversity, that a few people romping in a corner was just not a big deal in those days. Same can be said about the gore and violence in the film.
From the small hints remaining in the film, "Caligula" was well on its way to become a moody piece of paranoia, corruption and deep character study. There are some truly chilling and atmospheric moments. For example, when Caligula puts on the royal ring, you can actually see him losing soul, thanks to Malcolm McDowell's awesome facial expressions. Also, there is a haunting scene of Caligula asking the dying Nerva, who lies in a bath tub filled with blood, about the afterlife. And the humorous scenes of Caligula "judging" a land dispute between two whiny senators and one where a Senator says he would give up his life to cure Caligula's to fever, only to realize that Caligula has excepted his proposition.
But sadly, none of the points I made can be seen to a naked eye. When Tinto Brass got fired, the film's producer, Bob Guccione (yes, *that* Bob Guccione), tried to splice the film together himself, although he had no idea what he was doing. What ended up was a pathetic mishmash of truncated and misplaced scenes, out takes, rehearsal footage and some dull extra sex inserts with the Penthouse Pets, shot by Bob himself after the filming has wrapped, designed simply to promote the magazine. All the important subplots and story lines were deleted, making the film lose most of its plot and meaning, the pace is ruined due to endless pauses and there are maddening zooms that are obviously just raw footage of camera operators adjusting the lens. The movie is simply unwatchable because it is mostly cut together from the blurry, shaky outtakes. In other words, Bob Guccione stole a masterpiece and turned it into his own little wet dream.
Everyone who dealt with this film disowned it after seeing the finished result and rightfully so.
So, next time you watch the film and notice how bad it is, don't blame the actors, Tinto Brass or Gore Vidal. Blame Bob Guccione and the botched editing.
For what it could have been, I give the film a 10/10. For what it ended up, it receives a 2/10.
Il Maestro Tinto Brass brings us another erotic gem, a hilarious slap
stick comedy "Monella."
I was rather shocked that so many reviewers called this erotic film "disgusting" and "repulsive," and yet they have no problem watching American comedies, that shall be left un-named, that depict apple pie rapes, excrement eating, and anal fisting.
Brass directs in a light, fluffy style. He perfectly captures the beautiful, lush greenery of Italian country side and directs the erotic scenes with such skill and precision, it would make Paul Verhoeven get a stroke from envy and unlike most filmmaker, Tinto treats all the actors with great respects and no one gets exploited. His films are a great symbolic hymn to the human body.
Pino Donaggio's lively score proves to be a great companion to the simple, but hilariously sweet story Lola and Masetto, an engaged couple whose view on pre-marital sex differs drastically.
There is a usual Tinto Brass trademark humor; a priest making lover boy eyes at the buxom housewife, butt related poetry, a highly philosophical hooker, a spontaneous dancing number, and etc. Also, if you are familiar with Tinto's work and have an obvious question on your mind, the answer is yes. There are numerous close-ups of women's back sides, but Tinto has a strange talent of weaving those shots into the story perfectly.
All in all, "Monella" is a wonderful film from Tinto Brass, one of the most underrated directors of our time. And let's just hope that the soon to be released U.S. DVD is uncut, preserving the director's true vision.