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I suppose it can be said of Radley Metzger's "The Image", that it is the film that "Story of O" should have been. It is quite impossible to not be reminded of that film while watching this one, as the subject matter is the same: the world of sadomasochistic sex relationships. Both are gorgeously filmed, and both play somewhat like sexually charged fairy-tales. Both films were based on classic French erotic books, helmed by women. However the approach here is somewhat different, as "The Image" goes much further than "O" dared to go. In this unforgettable film, a young model by the name of Anne is 'owned' by a somewhat older, ice queen of a woman named Claire. When Jean, a handsome stud meets up with this bizarre couple, so begins an intense sexual game, as Claire gives Jean a guided tour through the world of S&M. The young Anne becomes the object of an endless series of kinky tortures/pleasures. Whippings, bondage, bizarre humiliations concerning urination, and oral sex, all filmed in breathtaking detail by the legendary Radley Metzger. Here is a man with a fascination for sex, nudity, and beautiful women. Fortunately, this man is equally concerned with more important things as well, such as character development, coherent and interesting story lines, symbolism, even the 'psychology' of sexual behavior. Important, for without these things, films like 'Image' would be not much more than a meaningless collection of beautifully filmed erotic set pieces. On the surface, Anne is the slave here, and Claire and Jean are in total control. but by the time it all ends, the viewer has to wonder, just who in that 3 way relationship actually had the power. I must give fair warning here: 'The Image' can be a somewhat harrowing experience for the average viewer. Not only is the sex graphic, some of it actual "hardcore", but much of it is surprisingly brutal, and mean-spirited as well. By the end of the film, I found myself feeling somewhat uncomfortable, even depressed at witnessing Annes merciless degradation and suffering, even though it was all 'consensual'. As in 'Story of O', it is made fairly clear that the heroine of the story was free to leave, whenever things got to be too much. And the ending is what you could call a happy one, as each of the three characters discovers something within themselves, and is therefore 'set free' of their respective chains. For someone such as myself, who is not involved in the S&M lifestyle, it can be hard to see Anne's terror and pain as something enjoyable. Is she doing this because she enjoys hard sex, and being dominated, or is it because she is psychologically unhealthy, which would mean that these two 'masters' are preying upon a girl by exploiting her sickness? If it wasn't a good film, i believe these questions would not be asked. Therefore "The Image" succeeds, in my opinion, at being a bizarre, but remarkable work of art, unlike the inferior 'Story of O', which made me feel nothing, and taught me nothing about the S&M scene. Recommended, but be prepared to see things not seen in mainstream cinema!
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