Taking a break from directing after his EXHIBITION trilogy, documenting the rise and fall of French fornication film superstars Claudine Beccarie and Sylvia Bourdon, Jean-François Davy focused on production and distribution instead, both theatrically and in the early days of video. As an illustration of the dichotomy that characterized his entire career, he would both fund and subsequently handle lofty art-house titles like Jean-Pierre Rawson's Comedy D'AMOUR and straightforward porn like longtime buddy Michel Caputo's PERVERSIONS TRES COCHONNES. His only time at the helm (officially at least, as he would shoot several skin flicks under pseudonym) during this period was for a failed farce rather prophetically called CA VA FAIRE MAL! starring popular second stringers Daniel Ceccaldi, Bernard Menez and Henri Guybet. Perhaps a bit out of touch with the times, Davy nonetheless yearned to return to the non-explicit erotic drama so dear to his heart, a genre he had previously attempted with considerable success with 1970's LA DEBAUCHE yet had undeservedly faced box office indifference with as his INFIDELITES bombed half a decade later. Ready to accept a female point of view, other than that of an interviewee, he collaborated with actress Elisabeth Huppert (elder sister of the better-known Isabelle) on a reportedly detailed script about a reluctant woman director of pornography. Planned as a major project, he failed to secure funding. Refusing to back down, he chucked out anything that was too expensive, bowdlerizing a complex narrative down to its bare bones structure, employed a largely porno cast in straight acting roles with additional soft-core clips from skin flicks he had previously put out on VHS under his Fil à Film banner. A surefire recipe for disaster ? Quite the contrary in fact, as this lively and unpredictable concoction proved Davy's most assured work in a long time.
Porn producer Simon (an effortlessly ingratiating turn by stalwart stud Alban Ceray, billed as "Alain Raybaud") is driven to distraction with the ineptitude of his in-house director, wittily portrayed by Davy himself. Sacking him, Simon aspires to fill the vacancy with a female filmmaker who could really bring something new and genuinely erotic to the task at hand. Enter Charlotte ("Barbara Peyrat", more commonly known as dirty movie diva Helen Shirley a/k/a Nicole Segaud or Ginoux, a stunning actress regardless of moniker), who has earned industry kudos for her sensuous pantyhose commercials and surely seems the girl least likely. The offer tickles her curiosity however as she gradually immerses herself in a cinematic netherworld she barely knew existed, interviewing various women tangentially connected to erotic commerce such as prostitutes, porn performers and renowned naughty novelist Pascale Miller (porno prima donna Olinka Hardiman a/k/a "Olivia Link", finally showing some acting chops) whom she would love to entrust with the starring role. Tracking down the elusive Miller, who has seemingly vanished off the face of the earth in the wake of a particularly intriguing screen test, provides the narrative thread through Charlotte's evolution from haughty and judgmental outsider towards open-minded and liberated self-knowledge. Two major relationships in her life make for standout scenes : with her cheerfully non-conformist boyfriend (beautifully played by the ever endearing Piotr Stanislas, who had a mainstream acting background in his native Poland before embarking on an international bisexual porn career) and with her aging mother, portrayed by veteran character actress Rita Maiden who has worked with directors as diverse as Godard (UNE FEMME MARIEE), Tati (PLAYTIME) and Cathérine Breillat (UNE VRAIE JEUNE FILLE). The confrontation between mother and daughter, the latter quizzing the increasingly embarrassed former on camera about her sex life, is nothing short of brilliant with both talented thespians locking horns for an intense duel.
Thrifty production values don't hurt one bit since Davy smartly surrounded himself with a porn production crew accustomed to performing under pressure. Philippe Théaudière, a regular camera man for Michel Lemoine, favors clean compositions with a punched up color scheme perfectly rendered by the current French DVD release as part of a six disc Davy box set. The bouncy soundtrack is by Daniel Longuein who penned the annoyingly catchy novelty theme for EXHIBITION '79. As for Davy's continued effort to incorporate extensive erotic footage into conventional narrative, the plot provides plenty of excuses for prolonged exposure of mostly female flesh – though Stanislas lets it all hang out as well on occasion – with Charlotte's private and therefore more realistic sex scenes contrasting effectively with the professional performances on set. Barely screened at the time of its lightning flash brief release and virtually unseen since, LA FEMME EN SPIRALE (its title derives from Charlotte's remark how a woman's love expands in a spiraling motion) stands as an unheralded little gem in dire need of rediscovery.
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