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For better or worse, this is an 80's Brazilian version of "Lolita" that
does cast an actual "Lolita" in it. The story (I think--my Portugese is
even more questionable than the content of this movie)is about a
married journalist who falls for a 15-year-old nymphet living next door
with her goofy aunt and uncle. While this is a very common story, the
actress involved in these kind of movies is usually a few years older
than her character, but I don't believe this particular actress was at
the time. Still, this movie is a long way from porno, or even a
Brazilian "pornochachada" (a 80's softcore sex genre that I've become a
big fan of). It's more of a straight drama--although, for better or
worse, it is a little more liberal than a film of its kind would be in
I don't want to drool over the girl in this like some kind of pervert (and I genuinely would have preferred an older actress), but it's just an honest fact that heterosexual males of all ages would feel SOME attraction to a girl like this, even if most wouldn't cross the line as the main character here does. So I think moral indignation would be pretty disingenuous, and this movie is really not deserving of it anyway. More shocking than any of the sexual content actually is the casual teen smoking and an abortion clinic scene. Surprisingly, they actually still show this movie on cable TV in Brazil these days. I watched it and I squirmed a little as an uptight Protestant, but it didn't send me down to the local high school frothing at the mouth either.. .
This movie is kind of a throw-back to the Italian Gothic horror films
of the 1960's. A man inherits a family castle. He has a dubbed Italian
version of a "meet cute" with a female painter (Lara Wendel), after his
dog trees her, and he marries her after a whirlwind romance. However,
he has something going on in his cellar with a strange order of monks
dressed in red (thus, the title), who warn him that his new bride must
remain a virgin, so after their wedding night is reduced to some
gratuitous breast-suckling, the husband instead takes up with his
severe, but sexy housekeeper. The wife meanwhile discovers that her new
husband is up to something in the cellar and discovers a family curse
involving an ancestor who killed the head of the order of monks after
he was "seduced" by a Gypsy girl (actually it looks more like he just
rapes her). The ending will surprise or confuse you--maybe both.
This movie has SOME of the gratuitous material you would expect from an Italian film of this era, mostly the scene where the monk chases and has his way (for several minutes) with a skinny-dipping Gypsy girl, and another memorable scene where a minor character's head ends up in a picnic basket (perhaps she was attacked by Yogi and Boo Boo?). But actually at times this movie is more atmospheric, more like a 60's Italian horror film, even if the plot doesn't really make a lick of sense (actually, not unlike a 60's Italian horror film). The goofy English dubbing doesn't help though, and is pretty suspect at times like when characters talk about a ritual that will occur at the "next opening of Uranus" (They may not have been taking their jobs entirely seriously).
Lara Wendel is a pretty interesting actress. She is known mostly for a small role in Dario Argento's "Tenebrae" and for appearances in more low-rent 80's Italian horror flicks like "Midnight Killer", "Ghost House" and Killer Birds". She also was a pretty decent actress though who had a more high-brow career with a major role as male and female twins in Salvatore Samperi's "Ernesto" and with small roles in "Identification of a Woman" and even an obscure Fellini movie. But ALL of these came out of her questionable early career as a kind of "Euro-Lolita" (along with actresses like Eve Ionesco, Katja Beirnert, Katya Berger, Susan Hemingway, and a young Nastassia Kinski). Suffice it to say, that while this isn't an especially sexy role, it's ironically the only sexy role she did AFTER she turned 18.
This movie is at times confusing and general pretty dumb, but it does have a few things going for it.
This is the story of a teenage French girl (Sandrine Bonnaire) with a
difficult home life. Both her father (who abandons the family) and her
older brother (who regularly physically assaults her) seem to have an
unnatural interest in her sexuality, while her mother (who may the
worst of them all) is a raving hysteric who eggs everyone else on. Not
surprisingly, the girl is quite promiscuous, availing herself of any
number of boys and men. In an American movie like this, her male
paramours would at best be panting dogs and at worst villainous cads
taking advantage of a vulnerable girl, but here they're probably the
most sympathetic people in the movie!
The young girl is not unsympathetic by any means, but she simply refuses to be a victim and remains firmly in control, and no family member or lover ultimately seems to have much chance against her. She is similar to the kind of "feminist lolitas" that often appear in Catherine Breillat movies like "A Real Young Girl" and "36 Fillete"-- teen girls that are very desirable, but also wise beyond their years and in perfect control of their own sexuality, and thus never simply mere sex objects. It's surprising Bonnaire never worked directly with Breillat because she is a much more self-assured and commanding actress than any of the ones Breillat did work with. I don't know if I believe the IMDb dates regarding Bonnaire's age as her assured acting (and her nude body) suggest that she was somewhat older than the character she's playing here, but she's very impressive regardless. Interestingly, while she became a very formidable actress in her later years (especially in films like Claude Chabrol's "Initiation"), she would not really be one of your more glamorous and sexy French actress. She certainly compares well to her contemporaries at the time like Emmanuelle Beart and Sophie Marceau, but while they would become leading ladies, she stayed more of a character actress.
Ironically, the one problem I had with the movie is that Bonnaire and her character is perhaps TOO self-assured and as an actress Bonnaire tends to dominate the rest of the cast too much. It might be a feminist statement to have young female protagonist who is this self-confident, but I don't know that it's necessarily very realistic.
This is an example of film I would never claim is great, but is
certainly off the usual beaten (to death) path and therefore at is
interesting at least.
The story is about a self-absorbed yuppie mother (Katherine Hahn) who tries to spice up her marriage by going to a strip club and then bringing home a lap dancer (Juno Temple) to be her nanny. I can imagine two movies immediately: it could be some late-night cable sexploitation thing where a hot woman discovers her inner stripper and lives happily (and sexily) ever after, OR it could be some half-assed feminist diatribe where two women from different social classes learn to relate to each other as they come to terms with the commodification of women by the patriarchy, yada, yada. Fortunately, this movie is neither. Instead it's kind of satirical black comedy about a not particularly sympathetic female character who in quest of some kind of sexual liberation makes a complete mess of her life, her new "friend's" life, and generally the lives of everyone around her.
It's also nice to find a movie about strippers that strikes a balance between pure exploitation and the kind "female empowerment" claptrap where Hollywood actresses take on "brave" role as strippers and sex workers, but strictly observe their iron-clad "no-nudity clauses" because that would somehow be giving in to "sexism". Both actresses bravely shed both their clothes and their need to ALWAYS maintain audience sympathy. Juno Temple's character is a proud "sex worker" who does what she does, not because she is either "exploited" or "empowered", but simply because it is a valid career choice. She's totally amoral--kind of like a sexy shark. Hahn's character is a self-loathing Jewish feminist who thinks she has less "hang-ups" than everyone around her when she probably has a lot more.
Hahn at times risks being completely unsympathetic, which may explain a lot of the negative reaction to this movie. It's really hard to dislike Juno Temple, but I think the fact that she's such a desirable little cutie who takes her clothes off in every other role sometimes overshadows what a talented actress she is. Yeah, she gets all the "nudie" roles her prudish American peers won't touch, but if you compare this to "Magic, Magic" to "Cracks" to the British "St. Trinian's" comedies she first appeared in, it's evident she has a lot more range and talent than she's given credit for. This movie is not a comedy masterpiece by any means, but it is certainly worth a look.
This is another one of the French movies, perhaps inspired by early
Claude Chabrol movies like "Betty" or "Les Biches", that feature two
women of different ages and backgrounds who become obsessed and
enmeshed with each other. Other films in this vein include "See the
Sea", "Swimming Pool", "Nathalie", and perhaps in some respects even
the gory horror film "Inside". Of course, this particular film is more
hallucinatory and confusing than most and told from the perspective of
unreliable protagonist. And it's only available in French with no
subtitles (which really doesn't help either in my case). Yael Abacassis
is a recently divorced mother who hires a nanny (Clemence Poesy). Only
in France would a prospective nanny chain smoke at a job interview, but
the neurotic mother does too (amazingly the children don't die of lung
cancer during the movie). The older woman becomes obsessed with the sex
life of the younger woman, especially after she finds out that they
seem to be dating the same man. She even follows her to a sex club one
night (If you're busy stalking your babysitter, who's watching your
children?). The movie only gets stranger, more hallucinatory, and more
confusingly ambiguous from there.
It probably sounds like I didn't like this, but I kind of did (not that it couldn't have done with some English subs). Dense ambiguity is still better than being mercilessly beaten over the head with every plot point, which is too often the Hollywood style. I have never seen Abacissis before, but Poesy will be familiar to many for her role as "Fleur Delacourt" in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" where she made the hearts (and perhaps other parts of the anatomy) of male "Harry Potter" fans throb. I've seen a couple of her foreign films now and while she's much less famous, she's already clocked more nude scenes than Emma Watson probably ever will.
Not that I'd recommend THIS movie to "Harry Potter" fans, but if you're familiar with the neurotic female "doppleganger" theme in French films, you'll probably appreciate a film like this, even if it isn't in the class of Claude Chabrol or Francois ("See the Sea", "Swimming Pool") Ozon.
Italian comedian and unlikely stud Renzo Montagnini plays a fairly
typical comedic role as some kind of professor who has organized a
vacation retreat for his colleagues and manages to get embroiled in
various sex-related shenanigans involving a sexy colleague (Lili
Carati), an unfaithful wife (Cinzia di Ponti) and a saucy maid
I like Renzo Montagnini better than his Italian funny-man contemporaries like Lino Banfi or Alvaro Vitali if not nearly as much as the great Lando Buzzanca. Still, I saw this in Italian without even the benefit of Italian subtitles for the deaf and the humor here relies more on dialogue than the more slapstick vehicles associated with Banfi and Vitali (some of those are absolutely insufferable when dubbed into English). I think I missed a lot of the more subtle humor here and no doubt several plot points. It IS pretty funny that Lili Carati apparently plays a female professor since she was barely out of her teens and reportedly a very provincial and naïve girl in real-life, who somehow managed to go from a Miss Italy runner-up to a hardcore porn star in the 80's. She had a body though that would put any woman of any age to shame (and certainly any surgically enhanced porn star). Since she spends half this movie taking showers and the other half driving all the men around her to distraction, she doesn't actually have to believably deliver any scholarly lectures anyway.
Cinzia DiPonti is another former Miss Italy, who might actually be most famous actress in this today because of her minor roles in Lucio Fulci movies like "New York Ripper" and "Manhattan Baby". In Italian sex comedies, however, she was always second banana to someone like Carati, Barbara Bouchet, Carmen Russo, or even the very sexy but completely untalented Sabrina Siani. She is actually a decent actress though. Marcella Petrilli is strictly a third-rate actress who headlined crap like "The Erotic Dreams of Cleopatra", but she is fine in rather third-rate role here. The rest of the male and female cast didn't make much of an impression because they're not particularly funny and I didn't get to see their boobs like I did Carati's, DiPonzi's, Petrilli's and (unfortunately) Montagnini's.
I don't know why I watch things, but if you do too, all I can say of this one is it is pretty typical.
This the story of a middle-aged woman (Stefania Sandrelli) who is
trying to regain the attention of her long-time husband (whose
apparently unaware he's married to an Italian sex bomb, middle-aged or
not). When she finds out he is going with younger women and
prostitutes, she concocts a hare-brained scheme to shock him to his
senses by setting up an assignation with the couple's own teenage
daughter (Amanda Sandrelli)! This definitely seems like a bad
idea--apparently, the mother character hasn't seen many Italian films
of this era where it wasn't uncommon for mother's boyfriends,
stepfathers, and even fathers to wind up sleeping with their
girlfriend's daughter, their step-daughter, or even their own daughter!
Without spoiling it, this isn't as perverse as it could be (the younger
Sandrelli doesn't even have nude scenes), but is an odd vehicle for a
real-life mother and daughter to say the least.
Stefania Sandrelli is the obviously more famous of the two actresses. She first drew attention in the early 1960's when SHE was a beautiful teenager in films like "Seduced and Abandoned". In the 1980's she had a lot of roles as sexy middle-age mothers in films like this, "Desideria", and. Most famously, she played the mother of 17-year-old Penelope Cruz in "Jamon, Jamon" where the two of them should have won some kind of award for literally being the sexiest mother-daughter combo (who could have REALLY been mother and daughter) ever. Amanda Sandrelli can't really compete with Penelope Cruz or even her own middle-age mother here, but she's definitely pretty and not a bad actress. Unfortunately, she came of age just as the once vaunted Italian film industry began its slow implosion, She is good in this and the excellent 80's giallo "La Casa di Buon Ritorno", but she hasn't had anywhere near the career of her mother.
I wouldn't recommend this to your more committed perverts who harbor mother-daughter fantasies (I'm more of an uncommitted pervert). For everyone else though, it is very well acted and a lot more classy than its sleazy plot might suggest. Check it out.
This is one of the best of the 1980's Italian gialli and one of the
best of later films in this genre not directed by a "name" director
like Dario Argento (OK, that might not be saying much, but still. . .).
The film has intrigued me every since I first read about it in Adrian
Luther-Smith's seminal English-language book on the genre, "Blood in
Black Lace", where it is listed under the Italian title "La Casa di
Buon Retorno". And it actually lived up to my expectations.
The plot involves a boy who accidentally causes the death of a girl (his sister?) in his childhood countryside villa after she frightens him with an Onibaba mask. Fifteen years later he returns with his new girlfriend (Amanda Sandrelli) to the abandoned villa where some of his childhood friends have remained and become creepy locals. He starts to see the dead girl, suggesting either that he is going mad or that someone is trying to drive him mad. It isn't long before a mysterious figure in an Onibaba mask starts killing people.
This is a great old-fashioned giallo with above-par music and creepy visuals like the Japanese Onibaba mask, the old photographs of the dead girl, and the creepy mannequins dressed in masques and old clothes that fill the abandoned country mansion. As per the rest of the genre, the acting performances are all suitably unhinged (particularly the actor that plays the protagonist), but this doesn't have the frenetic, delirious pacing of some of the gialli. It is much more slow-burning and atmospheric (which is befitting its sleepy country setting). The identity of the killer in the Onibaba mask is pretty predictable, but the end is surprisingly nihilistic, even for a giallo, and I don't quite to make of the very final reveal. Still, the only thing it's lacking compared to the earlier 70's giallo classics is female nudity. Amanda Sandrelli stays clothed, which is strange considering she is the daughter of Stefania ("Is it time for my full-frontal nude scene, Mr. Italian director?") Sandrelli. But that and the generally lousy available prints are the only minor quibbles I have with this very entertaining 80's giallo.
I actually didn't think much of the previous Polanski documentary by
this director, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired", with its premise
that Polanski was a "victim" of American justice (at least, anywhere
near on par with the 13-year-old girl he sexually assaulted), or that
he was justified in fleeing American prosecution. Still the events
chronicled in this follow-up documentary make me not so proud to be an
American. It says something the ignorant self-righteousness of the
American public and the utter venality of the people who work in our
justice system that we would waste taxpayer money trying to extradite a
foreign national to face charges on forty-year-old misdemeanor sexual
assault case that even the victim and her mother are clearly no longer
interested in pursuing.
Everybody agrees what Polanski did in 1978 was wrong, but it's kind of disgusting to hear Americans (and one Brit) say he should be shot or hanged or thrown in prison with Charles Manson (the man who slaughtered his wife and unborn child). Lust is not the only one of the Seven Deadly Sins; many Americans in particular would do well to remember that WRATH is just as bad. Ironically, as both documentaries have made clear, while the average American on the street froths at the mouth at the mention of Polanski's name, his actual VICTIMS, mother and daughter, have long since forgiven him. The problem might be that Americans throw the word "pedophile" around like a red flag and mindlessly charge at it like a bull. But there is a distinction to be made between an unrepentant serial pedophile and someone who seriously crossed the line once with an underage girl, but has lived a seemingly exemplary life for nearly forty years since. Not everyone who commits murder is a remorseless serial killer who deserves the gas chamber, and the same is true of sex offenders.
I certainly don't buy everything that Polanski's various friends interviewed in this documentary say in his defense, but I didn't hear anyone claim that he should be excused because he's "an artist"--that is a straw-man argument that everyone is refuting, but no one is actually making. Yes, he won an Academy Award for "The Pianist", but might that not be because it is a great film about the Holocaust, a much greater crime than the one Polanski committed in 1978, and that the largely Jewish Academy in particular was simply willing to overlook--not excuse--the moral failings of its director? But really, "artist" or not, should ANY man's life be reduced to the most terrible thing he ever did and everything else he does be dismissed because of it?
This is an interesting documentary that collects a lot of viewpoints, but doesn't necessarily go into the deeper philosophy here. I'd encourage people to see "Roman Polanski, A Life in Movies", which is better than either of these two, more polemic docs and really shows what an incredibly tragic and fascinating life Polanski has had, which doesn't excuse his serious moral failings, but does at least put them in perspective. It's so much better than mindless apologies of his friends or the "he's a pedophile--sic him!" attitude of too of the many people interviewed in these two interesting but inferior documentaries.
This definitely isn't the most exciting movie about law enforcement (it
took me three tries to finish it because I kept falling asleep).
Instead of car chases and shoot-outs it contains a lot of dialogue
(some obviously improvised) and focuses mostly on the relationships
between the various interesting characters. It is a kind of a police
procedural, but even there it focuses on the more mundane aspects of
police work that the much more famous Hollywood(and slightly more
famous Italian) cop movies tend to skip over.
The whole thing wouldn't work though if it weren't for the acting. Gerard Depardieu plays one of his sympathetic anti-heroes, the kind of guy you really shouldn't like, but eventually really do. Even though she was only about 18 at the time, Sophie Marceau manages to hold her own against the great Depardieu as a potential femme fatale who is mixed up with the Tunisian drug dealers he is trying to bust. It's well known that Marceau is a "Bond girl", but it's not often mentioned that (with the possible exception of Eva Green) she's also the most TALENTED of all the "Bond girls". I was impressed with Sandrine Bonnaire for another reason. I knew she was a formidable actress from Claude Chabrol's "L'Initiation", but I had no idea how cute and sexy she was in her younger years. She has a much smaller role as a 19-year-old prostitute Depardieu's character picks up, but she handles the requisite French-movie full-frontal nude scenes both Depardieu and Marceau uncharacteristically fore-go.
The crime story here is interesting too in that both the Tunisian criminals and the cops are obviously flawed, but not unsympathetic characters. (You kind of don't want anybody to win or lose).This is kind of a slow-going flick, but ultimately it is worth it.
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