Two suburban couples experiment with sex, drugs and bohemia in early 1970's Los Angeles.Two suburban couples experiment with sex, drugs and bohemia in early 1970's Los Angeles.Two suburban couples experiment with sex, drugs and bohemia in early 1970's Los Angeles.
If that weren't enough, Biller did the art direction and costumes. Funky wood paneling, avocado macramé, blue eye shadow, shag carpeting, rust Dacron leisure suits, Lee Majors/ Evil Knievel styled jumpsuits, orgies and shady photo studiosit's all here, but don't let all of the period accuracy fool you. Andrei Tarkovsky noted there are two kinds of filmmakers those who try and (re)create reality and those who create their own worlds; Biller is clearly in the latter camp, and she has to create a world because that is the only way she can get at the truths about relations between men and women, desire, identity, and the ravages of history on individual life.
VIVA concerns the journey of a young married woman as she explores and in turn is tried by the sexual revolution. In the opening of the film the brunette Biller and her blonde sidekick cavort with each other and their respective husbands by a suburban swimming pool. While looking at Playboy, they pose for each other as much as for their husbands. I have never seen such natural eroticism in an American film. I have never seen such healthy erotic appetite between men and women on the screen. The wives enjoy pornowith their husbands in a group context without any hang-ups or condescension. There is no sense of dirtiness or shame, as if the figures in Biller's film occupy a libidinal utopia where repression had never been invented. The erotic energy bursts from the screen: for a moment anything seems possible with Eros unbound.
But Biller has much more than sex on her brainit's all a setup with us in the audience as bait. Of course the pleasure can't last, as the heroine does go on a journey after all. Biller's strength is in the tonal shifts; one moment she can be playful and fun, and the next moment deathly serious.
It is to Biller's credit that her treatment of the sexual revolution is so evenhanded. Even as she celebrates the pleasures of that thorny shift in consciousness that we call a revolution she never lets us forget that it came at women's expense; that men often dictated the revolution's terms. And at a more ontological level, VIVA explores the problem of the contradictions between men's and women's innermost desires. In the end, VIVA is a shining paradox: artificial distillation of sexploitation and realistic portrayal of gender conflict, a traditional dramatic structure with closure that raises many questions, a fun, almost farcical sex film that hides an intellectual seriousness about history. The effect becomes something for everyone. --Mitch Hampton
- Jun 2, 2007