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Ninfas Diabólicas (1978)
Black Magical Mystery Tour
Two girls, Ursula (Aldine Muller) and Circe (Patricia Scalvi), are hitchhiking on the road. They seem to be going somewhere, but somewhere is nowhere. They are connected by a strange link and they've got a weird smile and laughter. A car stops and the driver says, I'm going to
and the girls answer, that's the place we're heading to, but soon enough the driver takes another road. He's taken the first step into the road of pleasure, and death is waiting at the end of the road.
"Ninfas Diabólicas" is a supernatural pornochanchada; very little is explained in what concerns who, where, why, how etc., but there's a story, a simple story, sensual, subversive, and an invitation to dream
Beat Girl (1960)
A sexy rebel girl in pre-Beatles England
"Beat Girl" is a very entertaining exploitation film, but it also has a sociological value - it shows the growing rock scene in pre-Beatles England, as well as the growing youth rebellion. There are many rock songs inspired in the sounds that came across the Atlantic that serve to spice the film up, but above all "Beat Girl" tells the story of Jennifer and her gang and the way she tries to get what she wants. She dares and dares (Jennifer's no chicken), till one day she goes too far...
Jennifer has an understanding father whom she despises, a stepmother that she hates - excepting her gang, her rebellion is against all. Jennifer is sexy, charismatic and cynical, and the camera loves her, it's her film, and Gillian Hills is really something! "Beat Girl" is above all a good exploitation film. It shows scenes that were very daring for the time - Jennifer, the night clubs...
For those that like exploitation films and rock, "Beat Girl" is a real treat.
Penetration Angst (2003)
some sex and no gore
"Penetration Angst" is a very low-budget film directed by Wolfgang Büld. It has a promising story – there's a beautiful girl with a carnivorous vagina. She lives in London, her name is Helen (Fiona Horsey), and her good looks transform her into a lethal weapon – her way is strewn with corpses and blood. Some people will think that "Penetration Angst" is a carnival of sleaze and gore, but nothing of the sort. Fiona Horsey is very easy on the eyes, all along the film she's seen wearing scanty clothes, and some bits of nudity (body parts) are shown and that's that. As to gore, no, no, nothing - we see just the remaining clothes, the owner has disappeared. There was not enough money for the special effects. Anyway, in what concerns sex, one can't say the film is not erotic – Fiona Horsey and, sometimes other girls, take care of that.
I think that "Penetration Angst" was inspired by "Baby Blood"(France, 1990), only "Baby Blood" is a much better film. It tells the story of a pretty woman that works in a circus – one night when she's sleeping she's penetrated by a weird snake. From then on, she carries within her an alien being that will demand blood and more blood. So she will attract men to their doom – she seduces them with her beauty and she kills them. She needs blood to keep her creature alive. This is not done of her free will – her alien baby has a hold on her.
Wolfgang Büld adapted the story and transformed the "alien baby" into a carnivorous vagina – not a bad idea at all! If he had developed more his ideas and there had been more freedom (the film was made in the UK and had to be approved by the BBFC), then maybe he could have given us a genre masterpiece. As it is, the film is entertaining, with some touches of comedy, the girls are pretty and the story is ridiculous as it should be.
Agulha no Palheiro (1953)
looking for a needle in Rio
'Agulha no Palheiro' (translated into English it means 'A Needle in a Haystack') is the first film directed by Alex Viany. His films are quite forgotten now, but 'Agulha no Palheiro' was a forerunner of the 'Cinema Novo', a movement that would change radically the Brazilian cinema. Most of the Brazilians films (with some notable exceptions) that played in the Brazilian movie theaters at the time were light comedies (mostly musical) or melodramas.
'Agulha no Palheiro' was one of the forerunners of the 'Cinema Novo'. The 'Cinema Novo' proposed to make films that were a reflection on reality – films should make people think about their life and the ways to change it. The 'Cinema Novo' was deeply influenced by the Italian neorealism.
In 'Agulha no Palheiro' we can feel the neorealist influence. The story may be traditional, mixing comedy, a bit of drama and musical numbers, but it is skillfully told and the outdoor scenes are filmed in the streets, so we see glimpses of Rio's downtown, Copacabana etc.. 'Agulha no Palheiro' shows the simple people, their lives, joys and worries and does it in an entertaining way. Here goes a sketch of the story (without spoilers).
A girl from a little town, Mariana (Fada Santoro) goes to Rio de Janeiro looking for her 'fiancee'. He had said that his name was Jose da Silva (a very common name in Brazil) and gave her an address (that doesn't exist). Mariana starts a desperate search to find her missing fiancée, and she's helped on this by a friendly family
'Agulha no Palheiro' was made in 1953, the story and the acting may reflect the time, but the film feels real, and it offers us a slice of life in Rio de Janeiro in the early 50s.
Meu Nome é Tonho (1969)
A Rough World
"Meu nome é Tonho" (My name is Tonho) is a Brazilian western with a strong personality. It was not influenced neither by the American westerns nor by the Italian westerns (even if the Italians deconstructed and demythologized the traditional western). Anyway "Meu nome é Tonho" hasn't got the cynicism or humor existent in many Italian westerns.
"Meu nome é Tonho" - the land is raw and primitive, the women are attractive and sensual (they are treated like cattle – the land is dominated by a ruthless gang), and the men are violent – no pity for the weak. We see the strength of the faces, and the land is there, but the function of the landscape is to shelter the people. And Tonho is, so to say, the hero of the film, or maybe just the main character. Anyway he's not a hero in the traditional sense – He's not an idealist or cynical, Tonho is just a common man. He will fight against a gang (the same gang that spreads terror through the land), but he is not fighting for justice - this gang gave a raw deal to the wrong man, a man called Tonho.
Tonho's story runs like this. His family was killed when he was just a boy. After roaming around, Tonho is taken in by the gypsies. When he is grown up Tonho leaves the gypsies and goes out into the world (This is just the beginning of the film).
"Meu nome é Tonho" is a black and white film. It has a perceptive camera moving around focusing on faces, the cart's wheels, the belfries of the church, the small rustic village, the land, and following the riders storming through the dirt road etc.. It's a very realistic film in what concerns land and people. It's today labeled as a marginal film, but it definitely tells a story, and the storytelling is far from traditional.
"Meu nome é Tonho" is an interesting film and recently it was re-released in Brazil in a new, restored copy with English subtitles. Recommended for those looking for something different, original.
Anjos e Demônios (1970)
We want the world and we want it NOW!
"Anjos e Demonios" (Angels and Demons) – there are many films with this title, but the film that I'm reviewing was made in 1970 in Brazil.
"Anjos e Demonios" starts as a youth film. In 1970, the earthquake of the youth revolution was shaking the whole world - Politics (May 1968 in France and then in the whole world), Morals . everything was being turned upside down. The late 60s to the early 70s a heavy rain was falling on the old world – and this was felt even in countries that were ruled by repressive dictatorships and now I'm talking about Brazil. In 1970 the military government was tightening its grip on the country, but the youth rebellion made itself felt. It's truth that this "rebellion" was confined mostly to the upper reaches of the middle class, and it generally took the form of partying, but even so there were new ideas about sex, sexual life etc beginning to spread around.
"Anjos e Demonios" – a brief sketching (without any spoilers) to give you a taste of the story:
A teenage girl, Virginia (Eva Christian) during a party gets to know a small-time thief, Paulo (Luiz Fernando Ianelli). There is mutual attraction and understanding between them. She is from the Zona Sul (South Zone - the richer part of the city) and he is from the Zona Norte (North Zone - the poorer part of the city), but both are good looking, intelligent and also ambitious. Both like discos, parties, good food and they spend a lot. In the beginning they go to parties with their gang, take part in car races and so on One night after lots of drinking and a bit of pot, Virginia, Paulo and another couple go to a beach, get naked and go for a swim, there's an orgy and swinging. Eventually a scandal breaks out and the police intervene. Virginia's uncle, Marcos (Fregolente) is very angry and begins to cut down on Virginia's money allowance. Virginia is not satisfied. What is to do? And the film slowly veers into a crime thriller full of twists - everything will be crowned by a surprising ending.
Carlos Hugo Christensen made many interesting films in Argentina and Brazil. I know some films of his later output and among them I recommend "Caingangue" (1973), a western film, "Enigma para Demonios" (Enigma for Demons – 1975), a horror film and also a psychological and crime thriller, "A Mulher do Desejo - a Casa das Sombras" (The Woman of Desire - The House of the Shadows" - 1975, a horror film, and "A Morte Transparente" (The Transparent Death) - 1978, a crime thriller.
"Anjos e Demonios" is a pleasant time capsule with an interesting story, attractive people on the screen and a good soundtrack (featuring rock songs from important and not so important bands/singers).
Recommended especially if you love the 60s and 70s.
Wild (trying to be) and Sad
Two or three couples go to a cabin in the beach to spend their weekend. They are looking for something new - trying to break out from the straitjacket of their personalities and reach an enhanced pleasure. Swinging partners, sexual games
a restless attempt
ecstasy, where are you?
And eventually a new day dawns, the weekend is over, and they must leave - early morning, the sea and the sky look gray. They need to return to their occupations – sadness, melancholy .
"Weekend" is a very interesting film. I watched it a long time ago, so I don't remember very much the story, but some images of the film remained in my memory. "Weekend" is a Danish film that was released in Brazil in the early 70s, and later on it was shown once in a while in film clubs. If you are expecting sleaze, "Weekend" will disappoint you, but those of you that like deep but simple films should check out this one. In my opinion it's a little gem.
La marge (1976)
Voyage to the end of the night
LA MARGE by Borowski is a dreamy and trippy film – it is anchored in the reality, but it shows a hidden, subconscious reality. Poetic, dramatic and cool, it features also a good, evocative soundtrack of the 70s.
Sigimond (Joe Dallesandro) is married to Sergine. Sergine is pretty and she lives with Sigimond a fulfilled life, sexually and otherwise. One day Sigimond (Joe Dallesandro) goes to Paris, and by night, in a brothel, he knows a prostitute, Diana (Sylvia Kristel). She will personify the mystery of pleasure – beautiful, delicate and elusive. Diana (Sylvia Krystel) will be his obsession.
LA MARGE has mobile and sensitive cameras, a good portrayal of the milieu (environment and characters) and a wonderful soundtrack (for example, the almost forgotten 10cc among others)
LA MARGE is a very personal film – if you like cinema as an audiovisual art, you should try this film, but those that want a film with a very straightforward story should look elsewhere.
Melodrama-exploitation in the high seas
"La Nave delle Donne Maledette" (the ship of the damned women) is one of the strangest films that I've ever seen. The only point of comparison that I can find are the wonderful Mexican melodramas of the 50s – films like "Aventurera" and "Victimas del Pecado".
"La nave delle donne maledette" mixes melodrama, WIP, exploitation, sea adventure, love, rage, violence, tears and death. Some scenes look like a wild party - the ship and its human cargo(female prisoners, sailors, captain and several different characters) could very well be a circus tent with clowns and acrobats.
The story takes place in 18th century. In a noble but nearly-ruined family, a girl (Isabella) gets rid of her new-born baby. This is made in secrecy, but the facts become known and the police want to arrest the woman responsible for the crime. The family is anxious to avoid a scandal that would soon be followed by financial ruin. So they manage to convince Consuelo, a poor relation, to take on her shoulders the responsibility for the baby's death. In the judgment she is condemned to 10 years of forced labor in a colony. The sentence is harsh and Consuelo is embarked with other "damned" women, in a ship destined for a distant colony. What now? Consuelo is innocent. She will probably never return – hard work, unhealthy sanitary conditions, poor nutrition, and in the end a shallow grave - there seems to be no hope for Consuelo. Her rich family (in spite of their promises) seems to have forgotten her. Something must happen, but what will happen? I won't tell. Anyway, the voyage is long and things could change in between.
This is a strange film, it's intense and over-the-top, in short, it's like a tornado, and it will leave you staring in disbelief. I would like to see this film in a restored, remastered copy. I don't understand why "La nave delle donne maledette" wasn't given the DVD treatment in Italy. It really deserves it!
Verdes Anos (1984)
The Green Years
"Verdes Anos" (The Green Years) takes place in a small provincial town in Rio Grande do Sul (the far south of Brazil) in the early 70s (namely around 1972). The military dictatorship is tightening its grip – political repression and economic growth (the political stability attracted many foreign investments). The old morals still rule the life in the town but the times are changing.
"Verdes Anos" talks about a group of teenagers on the road to adulthood that study in a school. It's completely different from the usual youth films. The characters in "Verdes Anos" have a face; they are not mannequins with plastic smiles and empty minds – they look like real people. We will follow the lives of these teenagers (their stories, joy, jokes,the search for love... pleasure, disappointments) for 3 days. There's no happy ending and easy solutions, as it happens in many conventional youth films. The film gives us also brief glimpses of the growing political repression in Brazil - some characters will suffer the consequences of their political involvement: hopelessness, flight .
"Verdes Anos" is funny, moving and sometimes a bit sad. It's a beautiful film. If you find it (yes, you can!), go for it.
Caingangue, the mysterious rider
"Caingangue" is a Brazilian western ("feijoada" western) that takes place in Mato Grosso (deep into the Brazilian hinterland), in modern times.
The story is a staple of the classic western. A big landowner with the aid of hired gunmen is terrorizing and killing the small landowners. He wants all the land for himself. Out of nowhere comes a mysterious rider – he keeps himself to himself but he'll end up fighting for the small landowners. He's called Caingangue.
Something that enhances the film is the gorgeous landscape of Mato Grosso (sunsets, blue skies, wide plains, forest, river...) and the beautiful soundtrack featuring music from the borderland of Brazil and Paraguay. In short, the landscape and the musical score give the film an almost epic scope. The landscape is so breathtaking that it seems to swallow the men in its beauty.
I think that "Caingangue" suffered some influence from the American westerns (most of the Brazilian westerns were influenced by the Italian westerns), but it has its own personality and it features some scenes that the classic American westerns would never show.
As Filhas do Fogo (1978)
Can you hear them calling you?
Ana (Rosina Malbouisson) goes to visit her friend Diana (Paola Morra), that is in her farm near Gramado, south of Brazil. Diana's mother died mysteriously a long time ago and her father is always travelling. Mariana (Maria Rosa), a young maid who works in the farm, takes care of Diana.
The farm is big – spacious green grass clearings delimited by big pine trees. There's a fence encircling everything, and outside, the forest, and deep inside it, a small peaceful river. There's something strange in the area – sometimes a very thin layer of fog is in the air, and one may get the feeling of something watching, maybe lurking.
The girls walk around the farm, Diana (Paola Morra) showing everything to Ana (Rosina Malbouisson) and they will meet on their way a strange woman (whom Diana had known as a child), Dagmar (Karin Rodrigues). Dagmar will be the linking bridge between the girls and the world beyond life. Diana and Ana will start , without knowing it, a dangerous journey to a world no longer in existence. The only links to reality seem to be Mariana, the maid, that likes Diana and is worried about her, and a mysterious drifter (Serafim Gonzalez) – no one knows where he's come from, his name and what he's doing there. Maybe he's a guardian. Who knows?
There's an invisible web being woven around Diana and Ana. Will they notice it before it's too late?
"As Filhas do Fogo" (The Daughters of Fire) could be labeled as a horror film, but only people that still have some imagination left may enjoy the film. The horror is in the atmosphere - there are the two girls and there's the approaching darkness...
"As Filhas do Fogo" is an interesting film, rich in images and sounds, with an interesting story. It was the second (and last) horror film made by Walter Hugo Khouri, and it could be better classified as an 'existentialist horror".
Baby Love (1969)
Luci in the earth without diamonds
Most of the films about "Swinging London' celebrated the joys and colors of the time. "Baby Love", while it was made during the heyday of "Swinging London", deals with the story of an adolescent girl called Luci, and London serves just a background for Luci and the other characters around her. The characters and their environment are portrayed with a documentary feel - they are shown in a realistic way.
Luci, one day, on returning home, finds her mother dead. A great shock! For Luci there are not many choices. Her future looms black. But her mother, before killing herself, had sent a letter to a doctor who in the past had been her lover, and where she asks him to take care of her daughter Luci. The doctor is now a married man with wife, son and maid - in short, a well-off family.
The doctor brings Luci (Linda Hayden, who was only 15 at the time) to his home. At first she seems just a bewildered, shy girl, but it won't take long till they discover other sides of Luci's personality.
Luci needs love and protection, and for her, love and sex are not very apart. She is manipulative (but not consciously so), yet she acts by instinct - she's a bundle of contradictions, a very complex character. She'll use her powers of seduction on all members of the family, everything is turned upside down and masks fall.
In some ways, "Baby Love" reminded me of "Teorema" by Pasolini, but while "Teorema" is a mystical-political parable, "Baby Love" has her feet on the ground.
The creativity linked to reality, the freedom of the camera, Luci's sensuality/sexuality (there are even some bits of nudity), the nonjudgemental way of showing the characters, make "Baby Love" a very interesting film. It's a pity though that (as far as I know) the only available copies have soft (a bit washed out) colors. Anyway the film is very watchable. Well worth checking out.
La dérobade (1979)
Life and anger of a Parisian prostitute
A girl, Marie (Miou-Miou) is led into prostitution by her pimp boyfriend, Gerard (Daniel Duval). She must not only give money to him but to the gangsters that explore him as well. Marie, together with a friend, Maloup (Maria Schneider), will try to become independent. They start to work the streets on their own but they will meet physical and sexual violence. They return to the brothels, and Marie goes back to her pimp, but Gerard has his caprices and wants more and more – he's in a spiral downwards and he's leading Marie with him. There's seems to be no escape.
"La Derobade" is a grim film – it shows the streets, the city scum and the violence that is an ever-constant threat to the girls who work the streets. It's a sad life.
The film is based on the memoirs written by Jeanne Cordelier. Miou-Miou is Marie - her acting is nothing short of luminous. And the musical score gives the film a reflexive, melancholic tone.
"La Derobade" is unique in the genre – it is at the same time poetic and realistic. A neglected gem that deserves more recognition.
La ragazzina (1974)
Monica and the Desire
"La Ragazzina" (recently released on DVD in the USA as "Monika") begins with a pretty teenage girl, Monica (Gloria Guida), running on the beach. The musical score of Nico Fidenco lovingly follows her – Gloria Guida is not only beautiful but she manages to convey sensuality, joy and innocence. It's no wonder that she was (together with Ornella Muti), one of the most popular teenage starlets of the 70s Italy.
Monica (Gloria Guida) lives with her parents, their relationship is good but Monica is left much to herself. In spite of apparently having a good social life, deep down herself Monica feels alone. One of her few friends is the wife (Colette Descombes) of her father's business partner.
Monica is looking for herself, she needs love (and this includes of course sex) - she's happy and perplexed.
"La Ragazzina" is more a vehicle for Gloria Guida. The camera is in love with her, any occasion is good to show her body, and as for Colette Descombes, she's also easy on the eyes and there are some nice shots of her.
Several men are circling around Monica and she's trying to find out her way, but she's a bit confused – what does she really want?
"La Ragazzina" is a sexy comedy with a little bit of drama, but above all it's a summer movie - it may not be very deep, but it's a pleasant film and there's Gloria Guida.
Night School (1981)
Night School of Death
The girls that study in a night school are being killed and decapitated. A police lieutenant and his partner (comic relief?) start to investigate the murders.
"Night School" takes place in Boston. The film begins with a brief view of the night skyline of Boston. We hear a melancholic and beautiful soundtrack that serves to enhance the poetry of city (and its people) and night. Soon after the camera becomes more intimate and we see old lamp posts, dark streets and small houses. The beautiful soundtrack goes on... and Boston looks quite pretty.
"Night School" is in some ways almost a giallo. There are some connection points:
1) Leonard Mann, an Italo-American actor that worked mainly in Italian films, including gialli like "Death Steps in the Dark" and "The Monster of Florence". In "Night School" he's the police lieutenant that investigates the murders but he's different from those policemen that we usually find in many thrillers. He's not trigger-happy and he hasn't trembling fists dying to punch a bad guy's nose. He's intelligent, sensitive and ready to follow his intuition.
2) The killing scenes are stylish and imaginative. The killer dresses all in black, black helmet and black gloves. But "Night School" is very discreet in what concerns nudity. In one scene Rachel Ward takes a shower. Not much is shown, but many Italian gialli would not shy away from FFN. Anyway "Night School" is quite engaging, charming and different from the normal fare.
3) There are many pretty girls (and some of them will be ruthlessly killed by the decapitator).
The highlights in "Night School" are Rachel Ward (her beauty illuminates the screen) and Leonard Mann. In short, I think that "Night School" is a very enjoyable film. Those that want a non-stop action film with lots of bullets and fists breaking bones (fast! fast! fast!), should look elsewhere.
Hansel e Gretel (1990)
I Bambini! I Bambini! (The Children! The Children!)
"Hansel and Gretel" was inspired by an old fairy tale written by the Brothers Grimm – it tells of a brother and sister who go out in the forest. On their way they find a candy house. The house is inhabited by a kindly old lady, but in truth she's a witch, and what she has in store for them....
"Hansel e Gretel" (Never Hurt Children) by Giovanni Simonelli – Italy 1990, is, what we could call, a modernization of the fairy tale - Hansel and Gretel are going home through the forest, and on their way they are kidnapped by a gang that sells body organs to the rich in need of a transplant.
The children are taken to a clandestine clinic, and there they die after the operation. Hans and Gretel are buried in a shallow grave, but they will come back from the dead and take grisly revenge on all those who took direct or indirect part in their murder.
The story is good but it's not well developed. The film is a mixture of slasher and horror film, with rights to sentimentality, "moral indignation" (!) and tastelessness. The ghosts of Hansel and Gretel will kill and kill and kill, and they also have supernatural powers to boot. The killing scenes follow each other closely, and some of them will satisfy the gorehounds.
"Hansel e Gretel" (Never Hurt Children) lacks tension, but those that have a sense of humor will have their fun, and in its own way the film is entertaining.
Killer's Moon (1978)
just dreaming - raping and killing
Four criminal psychopaths undergoing LSD therapy (!) that escaped from a lunatic asylum. A group of stranded schoolgirls lodged in a mansion/castle. The four psychos will make their way to the girls through a string of murders. When they meet the girls, there will be a massacre - rape and murder.
"Killer's Moon", story wise, is the exploitation buff's dream, but there's no real nudity (just some bits of flesh), sex is more suggested than shown, and there's violence (not very explicit) but no gore. But this isn't really important because the story is violent and sleazy.
"Killer's Moon" may not be a great film but I've quite enjoyed it - besides having a good story, it's ironic, involuntarily funny and bizarre (suffice it to mention the three-legged dog!).
Recommended for those who love the 70s exploitation films.
L'eau à la bouche (1960)
Love and lies in a french castle
The death of their grandmother leaves to her grandchildren Milena , Jean-Paul and Seraphine all her possessions. Milena (Françoise Brion) waits at her grandmother's castle for her cousins Jean-Paul (Paul Guers) and Seraphine (Alexandra Stewart). Milena hardly knows them. The last time she saw Jean-Paul he was one year old. Seraphine (called Fifine by her friends) arrives first and later comes Jean-Paul. Other characters in the film are the majordomo Cesar (Michel Galabru) and the maid, Prudence (Bernadette Lafont) that will provide the comic moments of the film. Miguel (Gerard Barray, the notary, will be in the castle for the reading of the will. Miguel knows Milena quite well and has been her intimate friend. And there will be the fourth man. He's the real man!
"L'eau a la bouche" (whose English title seems to be "A game for six lovers") is a comedy of errors and mistakes. Its story is simple enough - the women are looking for love (and sex) and so are the men. There will be love, lies, misunderstandings, little dramas etc., but "L'eau a la bouche" doesn't lose the light touch and it plays a game with the story and its formulas. The story may remind some people of the vaudeville plays of the early 20th century in France, but "L'eau a la bouche" is typical "nouvelle vague". The film should be watched in the same way that one listens to good jazz music. A story is told but it's the atmosphere and the mood that make the film. Those that watch the film just for the story will probably be disappointed. They could find the film fluffy and inconsequential, but those that really love cinema as an audiovisual art will like the cameras, the discreet lighting, the scenery, in short, they will feel the charm of the film. I also liked particularly well the beautiful actresses Françoise Brion, Bernadette Lafont and Alexandra Stewart - three different kinds of beauty.
The story takes place in a castle in the countryside (a green valley that spreads till the horizon and from far away we can see the mountains). The castle is surrounded by gardens and there's an artificial round pond (good for swimming) that has a wooden pavilion in the middle. Inside the castle, luxurious decors, soft lights that help to create an intimate atmosphere, old pictures where naked women show and look - maybe they point the way. There's a moment of joy when the night is deep and the camera circles round the castle, the soundtrack enhances the beauty of the moment. We see just the outline of the castle lost in the vastness of the night - the poetry of darkness.
I've really enjoyed "L'eau a la bouche". The film doesn't intend to be a masterpiece, but it's intelligent and stylish. Recommended for those who love the "nouvelle vague".
Noi vivi (1942)
What I think about "We, the living"
This commentary is for the transformed and edited American version of the Italian film "Noi vivi" that was released in Italy in two parts - "Noi vivi" and "Addio Kira!". Unfortunately I haven't seen the Italian integral version, but even in the American version the film hasn't lost the grandeur.
"We, the living" ("Noi vivi" Part 1 & 2) - the film is alive. It hasn't dated and it can't simply be dismissed as anticommunist propaganda. "We, the living" goes beyond that. The film was made in 1942 and the action takes place in Russia (then Soviet Union) from the early 20s to the early 30s. Taking into account the historical facts mentioned in the film, the story maybe takes place between 1922 and 1930. Still the story could take place in Mussolini's Italy or any other country ruled by a dictatorship. To give a very simple definition, the film is about the fight of Man against Society, but this is a too narrow definition as "We, the living" is mainly about love, beauty and the right of each one to choose his/her own way.
Kira, a eighteen-year old girl, goes with her family from Crimea to St. Petersburg (then called Petrograd). They are white Russians (the white Russians were against the communists and they were usually of noble or middle class extraction). In St. Petersburg their life is very difficult. The communists are slowly tightening their grip. It's necessary to adapt to the new reality, but will the communists let them breathe in peace? Kira will know Leo Kovalenski (son of the admiral Kovalenski, shot by the communists), who has become an undesirable and is on the run from the reds. They fall in love, but he's in hiding, he can't be seen. It's all very difficult! In the meantime Kira gets to know Andrei, a GPU (the soviet secret police) officer. Attraction. And this attraction will grow. A love triangle and a dilemma for Kira. Each one of the main characters will face a dilemma.
In "We, the living" the cinematography, the acting and the soundtrack give the film a contemporaneous feel. "We, the living" may not have many outdoor scenes but evokes quite well the harsh Russian winters and the snowy landscape... the plight of the white Russians, the crowded streets and apartments, the disillusion that follows in the wake of every revolution... And Alida Valli, as the young Kira, is quite impressing. Fosco Giachetti, as the GPU officer deserves mention too, the acting in general is first rate. As to the film, there's no need to be afraid of the subject - there's no vulgar anticommunist propaganda (as there were so many!). "We, the living" is more multifaceted than you may think (watch it with open eyes and brain). It's a really moving and absorbing film.
A Reencarnação do Sexo (1982)
Reincarnation of Sex - pornohorror noir!
Patricia (Patricia Scalvi) lives with her parents in the countryside near São Paulo. She's in love with Artur (Artur Roveder) who works for her parents. Both are very happy and full of plans, but Artur is atrociously killed and Patricia fades away in pain. Years later, the house, seemingly empty, is to let, but Artur's voice and Patricia's ghost remain there. All those who rent the house will suffer their influence and become possessed. Through sex and through violence they will be led to the point of no return.
"Reencarnação do Sexo" (Reincarnation of Sex) is not a traditional horror film - it has no suspense. On the other hand, the film is rich in atmosphere. Many scenes take place during the night and the mood is gloomy and melancholic. There are many sex scenes (softcore), but they are an essential part of the story.
"Reencarnação do Sexo" is an interesting and bizarre film. If you happen to find it, check it out, it's worth it!
House of Correction for raped girls
After a long ride through the countryside, Marli (Sueli Aoki) arrives to a House of Correction directed by nuns headed by a sadistic lesbian Mother Superior (Meiry Vieira). At first Marli (a new fish) thinks that she is in a relatively normal prison – it would be grim, of course, but not a nightmare, and she was not prepared for what she was to find out a little later. When on her arrival she was greeted by Cinira (Zelia Martins), the informal leader of the group, with the words "Welcome to hell, my angel", Marli didn't understand, but soon the meaning of Cinira's words would become very clear. There were no major problems concerning the relationship among the girls, a fight could break out once in a while but that was all. What they really were afraid of were the whims of the Mother Superior that always led to severe punishments. These punishments are executed by the mute (and very devoted to the Mother Superior) warden, that always walks around carrying a big whip and a revolver on his belt. The girls are not satisfied, they mumble and grumble. And there's some dissent even among the nuns, but the Mother Superior is all-too powerful.
"Escola Penal de Meninas Violentadas" (House of Correction for raped girls) is a mixture of WIP and nunsploitation. It was made in 1977, in a time in which the political system was opening and the censorship began to relax its grip, but this was just the beginning, so "Escola Penal de Meninas Violentadas" is not as sleazy as, for example, "A Prisão" (Bare Behind Bars) – Brazil – 1980, or "Escape from Hell" – Italy 1980. Anyway in "Escola Penal " the girls are either wearing very few clothes or semi-nude, in short, lots of skin. Lesbianism is more implied than fully shown. But on the other side there's lots of violence – whippings, masochism, torture, you name it, most of it executed by the Mother Superior's henchman, the mute obedient warden.
"Escola Penal " tells definitely a story, a simple but interesting story, and the soundtrack presents a colorful selection of Brazilian music (those that understand Portuguese will enjoy it all the more). The film is a good example of the Brazilian popular cinema of the late 70s.
Bloody Psycho (1989)
the Castle of a thousand secrets
Dr. Vögler (Peter Hintz) is on his way to a castle inhabited by a wheelchair-bound chatelaine (Brigitte Christensen). She has a maid, Simona (Nubia Martini), to keep her company. Dr. Vögler, a famous pranotherapist, was called by the chatelaine to treat her. Pranotherapy is an alternative therapy that uses the hands as energetic healers.
On arriving to the gates of the castle Dr. Vögler is told by a clownish drunkard that there are ghosts in the uninhabited part of the castle. It was at this moment that he had for the first time a vision: a hand holding a bloody knife striking. This vision will reappear other times, each time more revealing. A clue, a warning... What? Inside the castle reigns a soap opera atmosphere - over-the-top dialogues, strange behaviors,threatening electronic score... And yes, in the uninhabited part of the castle there's a rotting corpse moving around with murderous intentions.
It looks like a horror film, but no, it isn't (at least not in in the traditional sense) - the suspense is almost nonexistent, it's slow and there's no much action to boast about (excepting some gory deaths), and definitely it's no cinematic highlight.
"Bloody Psycho" mixes mystery, deaths, a bit of gore, mawkish sentimentality, a good electronic soundtrack sometimes a bit inadequate (like in that scene scored by a joyous country tune!), and also some truly bizarre moments that left me wondering whether the director of the film was serious or joking.
In spite of all "Bloody Psycho" has some undeniable charm - the beautiful landscape, the score, the old cobblestone streets, the austere castle, the miniature sculptures - dark, brooding and distorted ...
In short, I've enjoyed "Bloody Psycho" - even if it's not a good film there's stuff enough for fans of psychotronic psychedelia.
L'assassino è ancora tra noi (1986)
Fear in Florence
"L'assassino è ancora tra noi" (The killer is still among us) is a suspenseful but not conventional giallo. It is based on the true story of a killer that terrorized Florence for some decades – the victims were couples in cars, tents etc
that used the nearby Florentine hills for their rendezvous. He was known as "the Monster of Florence".
The main character is Cristiana (Mariangela D'Abbraccio), a student of criminology that is writing a thesis for her degree – she chose the "Monster of Florence" as the subject of her thesis. It seems to her that it will be an easy task – she knows an important criminologist and also the detective inspector in charge of the case, so it isn't difficult for her to investigate on her own. But some people near her try to convince her to change the subject of her thesis and Cristiana herself is not prepared for the nastiness of the crimes. She starts receiving threatening telephone calls. She decides to investigate more – her investigation leads her to the voyeurs (well-organized and informed), they like to meet in the Devil's Tavern but as she gets to know more, Cristiana becomes afraid and mistrusts even those that are nearer her. Suddenly fear. Will the killer attack her? Who is he or she?
The film is atmospheric and there are good moments of suspense. No one has a clue who the killer might be, uncertainty prevails. "The killer is still among us" is not like the usual blockbusters where the bad is easy to recognize and the good will prevail. It could be defined as a thriller with psychological undertones, and in spite of being inspired by true events, the film is of course fantasy (there's even a bizarre element thrown into the story that left me wondering), and the story follows the honored giallo tradition - lots of red herrings or puzzling evidences (and if you let yourself be led astray by them your mind will boggle), and bits of nastiness and sex.
If you like films in which the story is told in a non-conventional way (far away from the Hollywood blockbusters), then this film is for you. I would also like to recommend a similar-themed film called the "The Monster of Florence" (Il mostro di Firenze) – it was made about the same time – the 80s -, but it's a different film – a giallo about a writer and a puzzle (the monster of Florence), and as he goes on shadows and sun mix themselves and run and run. Where?
L'année des méduses (1984)
Games of Life and Love
Chris (Valerie Kaprisky) and her mother Claude (Caroline Cellier) are spending their vacation at a beach resort in the Côte d'Azur. Chris is an 18 year old teenager that is searching for her place in the world – she is sensitive, amoral, egocentric, erratic
and to get what she wants she doesn't mind trampling on other people. There's a hidden rivalry between Chris and her mother, Claude. Chris watches Claude and her relationships with a mixed feeling of jealousy and indignation, but the funny thing is that her mother seems not to be aware of what's taking place within Chris's mind. Chris has many relationships – She is sweet and dangerous - Chris takes people, uses them and disposes of them - she destroys them if necessary. But Chris feels also insecure and doesn't really know what she wants and where to go.
The Côte d'Azur of the 80s is very freewheeling. Mother (Claude) and daughter (Chris) sunbathe topless (all the women on the beach do the same), and nudity is no problem at all in "L'Année des Meduses" (The year of the jellyfish). The beautiful Valerie Kaprisky appears frequently naked, but "The year of the jellyfish" is not an exploitation film and the nudity comes naturally - it plays an important part in the environment described by the film. People go to the Côte d'Azur (or any other beach resort) not just to swim, enjoy the scenery or go to discos - they are also looking for something different different love games, new thrills etc...
There's a difference between "The year of the jellyfish" and the similar-themed Italian films of the 70s (perverse/sweet teenage girl). The Italian films (at least those that I've seen), are sexual/romantic (sex and fantasy) and they may be cynical, but many of them are also a bit naive and sentimental. "The year of the jellyfish", on the other hand, is more grim, but it's neither a gray, nor an existentialist film - there's the Côte d'Azur, the girls, the beautiful scenery and the blue sky and the film displays a subtle irony and sense of humor. Besides showing a greater sense of reality there's sometimes a discreet poetry in its images.
Those that are tired of the conventional youth films made nowadays should check out "The year of the jellyfish" – it's a breath of fresh air.