Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Flora Martínez & co in "Canciones de Amor en Lolita's Club" [2007 Spain]

When it comes to a Vicente Aranda film, one knows what to expect - his characters will not be able to contain their passion - they'd indulge themselves despite the consequences. His drama "Canciones de Amor en Lolita's Club" [Eng. Trans: Love Songs in Lolita's Club] starts off in a similar fashion but strays off aimlessly, partly due to the screenplay. Perhaps he was experimenting with some new themes, but were abandoned half way - I haven't read the novel, but from what I see, it carries several half-developed sub-plots, and that time could have been better used to work on the main plot and characters.

Technically, it is as good as can be expected from Sr. Aranda, even if there was nothing too challenging here. The soundtrack is decent, as is the cinematography. But overall, an average film for a fine writer-director. I'd reviewed this film earlier, but this is a reappraisal, with fresh compilations from my DVD.

Raul is a short-tempered albeit sincere cop who gets suspended for assaulting an important person's son. He decides to spend the enforced vacation at his dad's ranch, who's now married to Olga, his former girlfriend. He also reluctantly strikes a deal with an informer concerning a human trafficking cartel. At the ranch, he learns that his mentally challenged younger brother Valentín is working as an errand-boy at an upmarket brothel, and that he's also in love with to one of the prostitutes there. A furious Raul goes looking for Valentín to rescue him, but finds him happy as ever with his 'girlfriend' Milena, a Colombian prostitute owned by the brothel. He tries to break the pair apart, with little success. He then decides to have sex with her, hoping that would put him off. Tragedy strikes unexpectedly, and Raul ends up taking up his brother's place.

Compilation 1: Flora Martínez
Prostitute Milena is played by the pretty Colombian actress Flora Martínez - shame though she seems to have needlessly gone under the surgeon's scalpel.

Flora Martínez in Canciones de Amor en Lolita's Club

Scene Guide:
  • A high-on-cocaine Milena is tended to by lover and errand-boy Valentin.
  • Raul had come to the brothel to end Valentín's relationship with Milena, but decides to 'check her out' for curiosity sake. Even after knowing who he is, she agrees. 'Inspecting' her vagina, he remarks, "never thought whores could get horny too".  She retorts, "with a stud like you, who wouldn't". A disgusted Raul throws money and leaves.
  • When Valentín refuses to stop loving Milena, Raul barges into Milena's room when she's with a customer and warns her to stay away from his brother.

Compilation 2: Flora Martínez
The remaining scenes of Flora Martínez who plays Milena.

Flora Martínez in Canciones de Amor en Lolita's Club

Scene Guide:
  • Valentín seeks his turn with Milena after the last of her customers leave. It certainly doesn't appear as if she's ready for him yet - hygienically at least. She's however glad he reminded her she's not always a prostitute.
  • Raul comes visiting again - this time he really wants to do it with Milena and ensure Valentín also knows - so that he could put him off. He see her dancing with a customer, and Nancy, who wants to try and keep Raul away from her, offers a trick, but he's not interested. Nancy is played by the gorgeous Cubana Yunet Guerra - pity she doesn't take her kit off in this film.
  • A brief scene of cute Miriam Giovanelli - she barely has a line to speak in the film, but does offer a nipple-slip.
  • Raul pulls Milena away from her customer, and after making a scene, offers his custom instead. He ravishes her after leaving the door unlocked - she pleads him not to break Valentín's heart, but he'd have none of it - pretty soon it is apparent she too is enjoying it. An unsuspecting Valentín enters, and leaves in shock.
  • Valentín is killed due to mistaken identity - Raul feels guilty and uses his connections with the human trafficking cartel to 'release' Milena from her bondage. She's however not interested as she's earning enough to send decent money for her child back in Colombia. He then offers to take Valentín's place. She replies, "in which case, I want you to get my next fix".
  • Raul has now become Milena's new Valentín.

Compilation 3: Daniela Cobo, Yunet Guerra, Carla Sánchez, Belén Fabra, and others
These are the other nude scenes not involving Flora Martínez.

Daniela Cobo, Carla Sánches and Belén Fabra in Canciones de Amor en Lolita's Club

Scene Guide:
  • The film starts with Raul insisting on paying for the night with a prostitute - played by Daniela Cobo.
  • Valentín bringing in drinks for a customer who's having a threesome.
  • A watchful eye is kept on all the goings on in the establishment.
  • Girls enjoying their bachata, as Raul look around. One of the girls points out that he resembles Valentín.
  • María, Raul's police-colleague comes visiting to warn him of a plot against him. The carefree Raul shags her nevertheless. María is played by Carla Sánchez.
  • A couple of brief scenes of Olga played by classy Belén Fabra - Olga was once Raul's girlfriend, but is now married to his dad - we're not told what happened - or whether this is the reason behind Raul's alcoholism. Valentín catches them in the act and feels it is not quite right.


Monday, 30 May 2011

Scenes from Gaspar Noé’s “Seul Contre Tous” & “Carne” [1998, 1991 France]

Gaspar Noé made his first full-length feature, "Seal Contro Tous" [Eng. Trans: Alone Against All, Eng. Title: I Stand Alone] - a deeply affecting portrait of alienation and despair, as a continuation of the story of a down-on-luck and out-of-work butcher from a short he made years earlier, "Carne" (Horse Meat).

To say this is not an easy film to watch is an understatement. At the same time, this film will not only have your complete attention, it will force you to probe the depths of your own innermost anxieties, and compare them with what the protagonist is going through. It makes us realise how close many of us must have come to be clinically labelled 'mentally ill' at some point in our lives. For that's what we see the butcher go through - at times in a more intense and menacing manner than Travis Bickle in the American classic, "Taxi Driver". While Travis wants to do what he thinks 'is necessary' for the overall good of the city, the butcher cannot think beyond his immediate circumstances, and that's what makes this film so personal. We relate to him in so many levels and yet are repulsed by what he ends up doing. He is hard working, caring, and honestly attempts to turn his fortunes around. All the ingredients necessary for him to lead a decent existence are there - only in the wrong proportions.

It helps, even though not necessary, if "Seul Contre Tous" is seen with some knowledge of his earlier short film, "Carne". That was about how the butcher loses everything he cared about in a single day - the custody of his daughter, and his shop, after mistakenly causing GBH on an innocent man. It ends with him leaving Paris with his pregnant girlfriend upon release from prison - with his mute daughter locked away in care, he feels he can now start life afresh.

"Seul Contre Tous" starts with the butcher disillusioned after being let down by his girlfriend - she had changed her mind about investing in a butcher shop after getting to Lille, and wants him to take up a paid job instead. Things come to a head and he flees to Paris after attacking his girlfriend in a fit of rage. He rents the old motel room where his daughter was conceived fifteen years ago, picks up his daughter from the care home for a day out, but brings her to the room instead. There are three bullets left in his revolver - how is he going to use it...

The film hardly looks like one made by a director beginning to find his feet in cinema. Not only is it immaculately planned and executed, it has also become a blueprint of sorts to his future style of film making.

One is also intrigued by Noé as a person, his themes and subjects may point to a tormented soul with strong pacifist leanings, but one could also see his clear convictions on what he wants to tell, made apparent in almost every aspect of his production techniques, be it the way he frames his subjects, the clear-cut, almost brutal scene transitions, his preference for strong colours, and also his typographic choices. He remains one of the truly remarkable film makers in world cinema today, and every new film of his is enthusiastically anticipated by film lovers, myself included. I look forward to his current project, "7 días en La Habana" - a collection of short films by an eclectic mix of directors, which also includes the great Julio Medem - and I hope it turns out to be as special as it deserves to be.

Compilation: Paule Abecassis, Blandine Lenoir
There is very little nudity in many of these scenes, but they are disturbing nevertheless.

Paule Abecassis Blandine Lenoir and others in Seul Contre Tous and Carne

Scene Guide:
  • The butcher planning his next move while sitting in a porn cinema - his persistent rantings through voice-over highlight his sense of exclusion from society.
  • A desperate junkie - played by Paule Abecassis, takes him to her place, in return for whatever little money he could afford.
  • Reminiscing early days with his daughter's mum at the very room all those years ago.
  • With his mute daughter Cynthia (possibly with the mental age of someone even younger). I deliberately cut out a deeply moving scene in the middle.
  • These are scenes from his earlier film, "Carne", with daughter Cynthia - the only person he seems to care about or have any affection for. Cynthia is played by Blandine Lenoir.


Saturday, 28 May 2011

Ivonne Montero & co in "Asesino en Serio" [2002 Mexico, Spain]

Antonio Urrutia's outrageous comedy "Asesino en Serio" [Eng. Titles: Serious Killer, I Murder Seriously] is one of those deliciously tacky films you'll love to have in your collection. I had reviewed this several years ago, but this a reappraisal from my DVD.

The film is a sumptuous feast - it is ridiculously funny in places, especially the scenes between the protagonist Jesús Ochoa who plays the crime investigating officer Martínez, and Santiago Segura who plays the priest Gorkisolo, where liberal helpings of satire are dished out. It is also sexy with some seriously gorgeous Mexican beauties spicing things up. The casting, cinematography, direction, and of course the exquisite soundtrack give it the essential Latin flavour. There may be a lot of goofs and inaccuracies if you want to really nit-pick, but that is actually part of the film's charm. And I'm quite surprised Antonio Urrutia hasn't made a film since. But if you like Latin American cinema, you'll simply love this - needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Commandante Martínez is puzzled by the strange spate of murders in his neighbourhood - dead women found wearing the broadest of smiles, as if they were in a state of ecstasy when they breathed their last. The coroner establishes that the deaths were caused by 'fatal' orgasms. Martinez traces the murders to a recent discovery by an archeologist - about erotic techniques used by mesoamericans. Which leads him to a priest who'd been perfecting his technique of the new-found knowledge upon unsuspecting prostitutes. It so happens that Martínez also needs to master the technique if he's to survive an elaborate plot to eliminate him...

Compilation 1: Laila Saab, Liana Iniesta, and others

Laila Saab and Liana Iniesta in Asesino en Serio

Scene Guide:
  • This must be one of the sexiest opening credits in film - a student seduces her professor-archeologist to see if his theories about mesoamerican eroticism are true - with devastating consequences. Endearingly beautiful Laila Saab plays the sexy student who soon ends up dead, leaving Martínez and his team baffled. The coroner reports that she was filled with vaginal fluids at the time of death. The track “Amado Mío” by Pink Martini is simply perfect for this scene.
  • Victim no: 2 - Father Gorkisolo tries out his newly acquired knowledge on Estelita, a local prostitute, played by Liana Iniesta. Martínez investigates.
  • Victim no: 3 - which I think is played by Fabiola Torres, but I'm now not sure.
  • Victim no: 4 - actress uncredited.

Compilation 2: Ivonne Montero
Yolanda is the love-interest of Martínez.He soon discovers that she's a scheming bitch out to eliminate him after being appointed beneficiary to his life insurance - she wants to live with her real lover with some extra comfort. Yolanda is played by 'mamacita caliente' Ivonne Montero.

Ivonne Montero in Asesino en Serio

Scene Guide:
  • Martínez with Yolanda - sparks fly but the poor ol' chap couldn't contain his excitement. All I'd say is, Jesús Ochoa is one lucky b*stard.
  • An extension of the above scene from the DVD extras.
  • Yolanda makes sure her next date with Martínez will be special. By now he already knows about her cunning plan and is plotting one of his own.
  • Martínez shows Yolanda her birthday present - the insurance document, and soon treats her to his newly acquired technique. He also OD's her lover and places him next to her body.
  • CSI Mexico arrive and are still bickering over the reason for Yolanda's death.
  • Brief scene of Martínez with the only woman who seems to care about him - prostitute Gilda, played by Gabriela Roel. She tells him that he almost 'killed her' - oh really..!


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Elisabetta Rocchetti & Stefania Rocca in "L'amore è Eterno Finché Dura" [2004 Italy]

Actor-director Carlo Verdone has been a staple of Italian cinema for several decades. While his films are generally light comedies, his 2004 film, "L'amore è Eterno Finché Dura" [Eng. Title: Love is Eternal While it Lasts] is a comedy that tries to seriously examine modern family life, by focusing on a marriage going through crisis.

The film starts with Gilberto attending a speed-dating event, after signing up as a widower. His wife of twenty years Tiziana is however pretty much alive, both livng a seemingly harmonious life with a teenage daughter. He marks his interest in a woman named Stella, but doesn't take it any further. But when Stella disappears shortly after the speed-date, police call him, along with all the other participants of the dating event for questioning. Tiziana accompanies a reluctant Gilberto for the interview, and is understandably ticked off after learning about his attending the event (and that too by pronouncing her dead). She promptly asks him to vacate the flat, leaving Gilberto to temporarily crash at his best friend Andrea's flat, who lives with girlfriend Carlotta.

Gilberto initially tries to win Tiziana back, but changes his mind after he learns that she's been having an affair with their family doctor, after all. Several twists and turns in the 'pairing-up' game ensue after Stella, the girl who disappeared after the speed-date event, returns. Through it all, the film flows pretty well, thanks to some clean writing, but is made less credible by the fact that the various breakups seem to happen without causing any noticeable fuss or trauma to the other party. It is as if Verdone is too weary of straying from his traditional forte of comedy by portraying things more convincingly. I think he should have taken the chance and made a proper drama, as opposed to a comedy drama.

Compilation: Elisabetta Rocchetti and Stefania Rocca
Elisabetta Rocchetti and Stefania Rocca in L'amore e eterno finche dura

Scene Guide:
  • Carlotta chooses to spice up Gilberto's life a bit by introducing him to her friend Carolina. In this funny scene, he finds out that it isn't working with Carolina at all, when she enthusiastically answers all her calls and text messages even during the act. Carolina is played by Elisabetta Rocchetti.
  • No nudity but sexy, as Carlotta casually changes clothes in Gilberto's presence. Carlotta is played by Stefania Rocca.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Marina Kalogirou & Anna Mouglalis in "Alithini Zoi" [Greece, France 2004]

Watching Panos H. Koutras's Greek fantasy drama "Alithini Zoi" [Eng. Title: Real Life] was an exotic and sometimes surreal experience as it swung back and forth from melodrama and romantic fantasy. It was refreshing nevertheless, even thrilling at times, even though what originally drove me to purchase a DVD was an underwater scene involving the rather cute Marina Kalogirou, and the fact that Anna Mouglalis also makes an appearance (in the nude as well).

The film itself is interesting to watch despite its minor shortcomings (mostly editing) - but then again it is a commercial film that's not really meant to be taken too seriously. Having said that, the direction is stylish, and performances by all the main actors are of high standard, particularly that of Mlle. Mouglalis.

The film is made of three parts - In the first we see rich kid Aris returning home after some kind of drug rehabilitation - he had also ended his relationship with childhood sweetheart Joy, and is eager to start life afresh, but is also haunted by his father's death when he was very young. He wants to know more about the circumstances, but none of them in the household, particularly his mum is interested in rekindling the past. One day, he sees Alexandra designing a store window and instantly falls in love. They connect and all seems well, until Joy turns up out of the blue, making things complicated. Alexandra decides to leave Athens and takes up the offer made by Aris' mother (to stay away from her son for a period of time). The film then goes through several twists and turns, including some dramatic revelations about Aris' parents, until Alexandra's return, when we are shown their old romance is still alive.

The surreal moments include helicopters setting ablaze the Acropolis, the mysterious swimming pool at Aris' home that's inhabited by a strange sea creature. I don't know whether Koutras was trying to achieve something similar to what Julio Medem did with the island in 'Lucía y el Sexo' - I had to rely solely on the subtitles to tell me the story, and there may be some cultural symbolism I might have missed in the process - perhaps a Greek visitor could illuminate us at some point. The film is interesting nevertheless, and definitely worth viewing.

Compilation 1: Alexandra - Marina Kalogirou

Marina Kalogirou in Alithini Zoi

Scene Guide:
  • Passionate lovemaking between Alexandra and Aris at the beach
  • Some 'Greek style' wrestling from Alexandra and Aris. When he carries her into the water, Alexandra panics, and confesses why she dreads the water
  • At the same beach, Aris decides to rid Alexandra of her phobia there and then.
  • Brief nipple-slip as Alexandra is rescued from the swiimming pool.
  • Underwater romance, at its mystical best..!

Compilation 2: Joy - Anna Mouglalis

Anna Mouglalis in Alithini Zoi

Scene Guide:
  • A pantyless Joy and a totally naked Aris frolic in the room - only they're no longer children any more.
  • Joy starts fidgeting when Aris doesn't turn up on time, and suddenly finds her necklace suffocating - thanks partly to the drugs.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Anna Karina & others in Godard's "Vivre Sa Vie BR720 [France 1962]

What better way to kick-start 'Nouvelle Vague' or the French New Wave cinema in the blog than introducing two of its most illustrious figureheads in a single post - the legendary writer-director Jean-Luc Godard and the equally vibrant and beautiful actress Anna Karina, both of whom produced so many influential works when the French New Wave was in full flow.

When "Vivre Sa Vie - film en douze tableaux" [Eng. Title: My Life to Live - a film in twelve tableaux] was made, Anna Karina was also married to Godard. And the film is perched at the crest of Godard's own 'cinematic' wave - pretty soon he'd be famously forecasting the 'death of cinema' itself - as if he were the only person that mattered. Apart from his occasional megalomania, he was quite a genial chap, I'm told. But one thing we all have to (even if grudgingly) agree upon, is that he's one of those rare geniuses who appear just about once in a generation to change the way we see things - to enrich humanity.

Having said that, my favourite Nouvelle Vague auteur has been the more 'approachable' François Truffaut, and who in the overall scheme of things was perhaps a greater influence than Godard in the way Europeans make and view cinema today.

Coming back to "Vivre Sa Vie", we can see Godard had already begun questioning the virtue of cinema. The film's protagonist Nana, wants to have a career in cinema, but ends up becoming a prostitute - perhaps Godard is alluding to the compromises one would sooner or later have to make even when it comes to cinematic art. He even quotes at the beginning of the film, "Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself" (Montaigne), so we can anticipate where he is heading no matter what the story he's going to tell. As it happens, "Vivre Sa Vie" is as the title suggests, twelve disconnected vignettes, almost short stories of Nana, giving us a snapshot of her life, circumstances, and choices. Each one of them leave us high and dry just when we want to know more - it is like showing us something that's of interest, and pulling us away almost by force before we're done, as if that is not what he really wants us to see. But that is the point of the film - to make us look beyond the apparent. Well, people have interpreted the film in numerous ways - but I for one believe that while that is perhaps part of its charm, one doesn't need to be a scholar to appreciate its virtues either - just take it the way you see it.

And even if Godard isn't my favourite New Wave director, this little gem is a pure classic in the way a story is told. Along with "2 ou 3 Choses que je sais d'elle" (Two or Three Things I Know About Her), this is my favourite Godard film - in its simplicity, eloquence and sheer visual poetry - it even makes you want to forgive the man's arrogance. And I haven't even started to talk about the film's technical merits (I won't - it's understood)..!

This film has been essential viewing for not just those who love cinema, but even those who went on to become masters in their own right.

Those seeking another 'regular' nude scene may not find this appealing, they can gladly give this a miss. But for those wanting something different, yet beautiful, this may be of interest. Made of two scenes - first is when Nana is just getting her feet wet in her chosen profession (she is even reluctant to kiss her client on the mouth), and the second when she's become all too accustomed to the trade. There is no nudity from the sensual Anna Karina herself, but some of her other co-actresses, as Nana goes about looking for a girl who may be free to join her client in a threesome.

Anna Karina and others in Vivre Sa Vie


Monday, 23 May 2011

Carolina Bang & co in "La Daga de Rasputín" [2011, Spain]

I've known Jesús Bonilla only as an actor, but looks like he's now advanced into film making too, and not for the better in my view. His recent film, "La Daga de Rasputín" [Eng. Title: The Dagger of Rasputin] is a silly little film looking back to a bygone era of Spanish trashy comedies, ones starring the likes of Andrés Pajares (who surprisingly appears in this film too, albeit in a less histrionic role).

It's about a group of small-time crooks, one of them dragging his family along - on a quest seeking the legendary dagger of Rasputin - so called because the bearded mystic was apparently the last recognised owner of an otherwise more ancient and impractical weapon. This takes our inept heroes on an adventure all the way to Russia, followed by power-mad generals, spies from every other country and so on. Bonilla acts in this film too - as one of the trio of crooks - Papeles, and the woman who plays his daughter Carmen is his real-life partner Carmen Vicente-Arche. On paper, with the exception of Carolina Bang (never heard of her before), the cast is a strong one, but the toilet humour and juvenile script makes them look like an embarrassment. I honestly don't know what on earth were María Barranco (still sexy after all these years) and Antonio Resines doing in this film.

To conclude, if you loved the trashy comedies from 'that' era, and want to see one with the latest batch of bimbos thrown in it, perhaps you may enjoy this. Otherwise, you'd want to avoid this outdated excuse of a film.

Compilation: Carolina Bang, Carmen Vicente-Arche, and others

Carolina Bang Carmen Vicente-Arche in La Daga de Rasputin

Scene Guide:
  • A courtesan (uncredited) helps the dagger fall into Russian hands
  • Araña wants to bed Papele's daughter Carmen - he coaxes his hotel room mate and fellow crook Jacinto into swapping rooms, with the reward of raiding another fully-stocked mini-bar, but the bloke is treated to something more in the form of Luzmila, Carmen's room mate, and daughter of the power-hungry Russian sent to infiltrate this group. Luzmila is played by Carolina Bang.
  • A suspicious Papele comes looking for his daughter in her room, but sees Luzmila riding Jacinto instead.
  • He barges into a women-only spa who chase him off.
  • He finally tracks down Araña, who hides Carmen from her dad's view. Carmen is played by Carmen Vicente-Arche.
  • No nudity - Luzmila's girlfriend is making out with a prostitute when the gang enter after escaping from the hotel. Catfight between a jealous Luzmila and her girlfriend ensue.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Emmanuelle Béart in "Ça Commence par la Fin" [2010 France]

I was going to start the lovely Emmanuelle Béart's filmography with some better known classics, but after Johan's email request, decided to start with one of her more recent films, "Ça commence par la fin" [Eng. Trans: It Starts from the End].

A film directed, written and co-stared by Ms. Béart's real-life husband - actor Michael Cohen, it starts with Jean meeting Gabrielle at a party - they had separated a year ago after an intense relationship. The film explores this relationship in reverse order, trying to piece together the reasons why it ended. I haven't read Cohen's novel upon which this film is based - but I felt the film, while trying to be innovative, fails to develop its characters fully. We can see what the film is trying to say - that there is still scope for this couple to get back together as they were still in love when they decided to separate. But the audience won't care much less as we don't get to connect with them at all. There's hardly any romance even towards the end - their bond is depicted through extended and repetitive sex scenes, which in itself isn't enough.

While technically it is competent, the film as whole doesn't work for me. The cinematography could be a lot better - especially the outdoor night scenes of Paris, which evokes neither romance nor nostalgia. Perhaps there is a great story waiting to be told, and may be better screenplay and direction would have made this into something special.

As you may have guessed, there are several instances of nudity or partial nudity by Emmanuelle Béart who plays Gabrielle, but I've included only the first scene - probably the only one worth watching. Jean visits Gabrielle after their chance encounter following their breakup a year ago. It is rumoured that this is an unsimulated sex scene - I can't tell for certain, but then again there's no reason why it couldn't be - Béart and Cohen are after all real-life partners. The scene was cut from a DVD.

Emmanuelle Beart in Ca Commence par la Fin


Friday, 20 May 2011

Sarah Felberbaum, Chiara Francini, & others in "Maschi Contro Femmine" BR1080 [Italy 2010]

Fausto Brizzi is one of the most commercially successful writer-directors in Italy today, and it is not hard to guess why - they are by and large gentle comedies with A-Grade star line-ups with liberal budgets. While entertaining to watch - they are certainly not Italian cinema at its best - more like a Hollywood formula packaged in Italian.

His 2010 film, "Maschi Contro Femmine" [Eng. Title: Males against Females] is sexy, funny, and a generally enjoyable comedy. It's filled with beautiful people living a sanitised existence, and can't do anything evil. There's not much of a storyline though - we see a few people pairing up, breaking up, and getting back etc., so I'll spare you the details, and proceed with the compilations - cut from Blu-ray - which says it all.

Technically, this is a grand production with no expense spared - aerial photography, underwater photography - you name it, it's there, with some special effects thrown in for good measure. The editing, direction and soundtrack are typically 'mainstream' - satisfying young and old people alike. If you need to unwind with some easy viewing, this film is for you. A sequel of sorts (Femmine Contro Maschi) has also been released recently, but this is the one for bonus nude scenes.

Compilation 1: Sarah Felberbaum, Chiara Francini, Paola Cortellesi and others

Sarah Felberbaum, Chiara Francini and Paola Cortellesi in Maschi Contro Femmine

Scene Guide:
  • Walter's just turned dad - he's happy about it, but hasn't had sex for ten months, thanks to his fussy wife. Things ain't made easy at work either - he's the coach for a professional women's volleyball team, and must keep his wits about him for the dressing room debrief. If you can follow Italian, you might even enjoy the double entendres strewn about. The one with the plastered nose is Laura Barriales, and the blonde champion is Giorgia Würth - unfortunately neither of the two take their kit off - some others do.
  • No nudity, but sexy scene of some dancing tequila girls led by Francesca, played by the rather pretty Sarah Felberbaum. Andrea manages to befriend her.
  • No nudity but sexy again - Andrea's best friend and flatmate Marta - a lesbian, is drawn to the rear view of a blonde working out in the gym -  the tequila girl Francesca that Andrea is also hitting on. One can see the gags coming...
  • The little drama between bickering neighbours - playboy Vittorio, and nurse cum Greenpeace activist Chiara is perhaps the most engaging of the lot. Gradually drawn towards her, he goes out of his way - Antarctica in fact, to win her over, in the process also getting rid of his temporary impotence, of which she's only too aware of. Chiara is played by the beautiful and fine actress Paola Cortellesi.

Compilation 2: Sarah Felberbaum, Chiara Francini and others

Chiara Francini and Sarah Felberbaum in Maschi Contro Femmine

Scene Guide:
  • Francesca dips into Marta's jar like a child to ketchup, and the following night also parties with Andrea - what an open-minded girl! She wanders out of Andrea's room looking for the toilet, making Andrea's pal Ivan one frustrated man. Marta turns up as Francesca returns to her room - neither she nor Andrea have a clue they've been seeing the same person. Marta is played by the equally sexy Chiara Francini.
  • Fast friends Andrea and Marta - after discovering they've been bedding the same girl, become rivals vying for Francesca's attentions, who invites them on a camping holiday to patch things up. It had to be a nudist camp. The embarrassed Andrea is told off by a passing woman for being clothed and orders him to appear 'decent' as there are children around..!
  • Andrea catches up with Francesca and Marta after disrobing, but strategically covering himself with a newspaper, just what one of the guys chatting with the girls wants to borrow, to catch up with some news.
  • Andrea and Marta give their 'status report' to Ivan over the phone.
  • Cunning Marta coaxes Francesca into proposing to go horse-riding, knowing full well that Andrea grew up a typical city boy.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Michelle Phillips & Penelope Milford in "Valentino" [1977 UK/USA]

Ken Russell's 1977 biopic of dancer/silent film star Rudolph Valentino is a mixed bag, artistically speaking - there are flashes of brilliance, while some scenes are rather pedestrian. However, the costumes and art direction contribute heavily towards making this a sumptuous film.

Rudolph Nureyev, playing the eponymous part was perhaps underutilised for the fine dancer that he was - the choreography should have been even more spectacular (baring one number at the beginning of the film which amply displays his virtuosity in Tango). His Italian accent sounded ridiculous - Nureyev is after all Russian. A lot of effort had gone into set design, which is great to look at, but also a bit overdone - which may be because a lot of these were recreations of the Hollywood sets used in the Valentino's original films. I haven't seen any of Rudolph Valentino's films, and therefore unable to verify.

Set in 1920's New York, it follows parts of his career, but focusing mainly on his reputation as the Latin Lover. While 'the Sheik' had enjoyed huge popularity among his female audience, some men thought he was plain gay. He goes out of his way to prove his machismo, which apparently also contributes to his early death - he was only thirty one.

Anyway, the film didn't do much for me, but it has a couple of copious nude scenes involving Michelle Phillips who plays his third wife Natasha, and Penelope Milford who plays Lorna, one of Valentino's co-stars - which is the only reason for this post. The compilation below was cut from my DVD.

Scene Guide:
  • Natasha shows Valentino her version of the dance of the seven veils as she beckons him into a tent for some silly conversation. They get married after this. Michelle Philips as Natasha sure is a pretty little thing.
  • Valentino follows his wife Natasha's instruction to 'screw the bitch' - his co-star Lorna as part of a PR exercise, which will prove to the world his virility. This is a crazy scene where Penelope 'Bush' Milford throws caution to the wind and gives us an unrestricted view of all her charms.
  • There is only brief nudity in this scene where Natasha apparently has had it with Valentino's 'god-like' status, but I've included some additional footage prior to this so that it all makes sense.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Scenes from "Satanás" [2007 Colombia, Mexico]

You'd be forgiven for assuming that any Latin American film titled "Satanás" must be a nunsploitation flick from a bygone age. As it turns out, this 2007 drama is a recreation of a shocking 1986 massacre in Colombia when a Vietnam vet killed 29 people including his own mother, before turning the gun on himself. For a feature-length directorial debut, Andréz Baiz had constructed a brilliant crime drama indeed. He makes us follow not just the protagonist but some of the victims before the they find themselves at the restaurant where the final act happens.

When I bought the film, I thought it was a psychological thriller, that this was a crime drama inspired by true events was a revelation. Damián Alcázar gives a restrained performance as the soft spoken Eliseo, an English professor and former soldier in the US Army, getting lonelier and depressed by the day, until he finally snaps. The screenplay is particularly well written - we see some of the victims even interact innocently with Eliseo days earlier, and that is not all - some background stories not directly related to the massacre, but may have contributed to the victims being in the wrong place at the wrong time were also conjured up to give us a bigger picture. It is cinema of high calibre along the lines of early Gaspar Noé works, and I'm surprised that so little is known about this film outside Spanish-speaking countries. The direction, dialogues, editing, cinematography and set design are all of high quality, including the performances by all the main characters. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Compilation 1: Patricia Castañeda, Isabel Gaona, and Marcela Valencia

Patricia Castañeda, Isabel Gaona and Marcela Valencia

Scene Guide:
  • Eliseo visits a brothel and picks Valeria, played by Patricia Castañeda. But he quickly changes his mind and leaves in a hurry.
  • Priest Ernesto is having an illicit relationship with his maid Irene. After torturing himself for having 'sinned', he decides to quit priesthood in order to live with her. Irene is played by señorita caliente Isabel Gaona - can't help commenting on that awesome ass of hers - muy impresionante..!
  • Alicia is serving time for murdering her three children - she just couldn't afford to feed them. When the priest visits her in prison, she tries to seduce him, claiming to be possessed by the devil. We are later shown a bizarre scene of her urinating while reading the bible, and tearing one of the pages to clean herself afterwards. Alicia is played by Marcela Valencia.

Compilation 2: Marcela Mar
This compilation contains only brief nudity and includes an unpleasant rape scene, the reason why I compiled these separately. Paola is a con-artist working for a gang. One night, she herself becomes the target of another gang, who upon finding no money on her person, decide to rape her for all their trouble. I've also added Paola's retribution towards the end to balance things.
Paola is played by the talented Colombian actress Marcela Mar.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Irm Hermann & Ingrid Caven in "Der Händler der vier Jahreszeiten" [1971 W.Germany]

Going through Rainer Werner Fassbinder's filmography, I find his 1971 melodrama, "Der Händler der vier Jahreszeiten" [Eng. Title: The Merchant of Four Seasons] a beautifully 'designed' piece of cinema, albeit a highly stylised one. You won't find conventional realism portrayed here, far from it - it's as if Fassbinder had conducted a Pulcinella using his actors - puppets held by strings to recreate his own little world. I use the word 'designed' because it is magnificently conceived and produced, almost Bergman-like in detail, but with Fassbinder's own vision. One could also see strong influences from his theatrical background, the film could just as well work as a conventional play.

The story itself is simple - about a man's longing for acceptance by society for who he is, more importantly by his airs-and-graces middle-classs mother - she is even embarrassed to tell anyone what her son Hans does for a living - a street hawker selling fruits. The condescension heaped upon him by all around only add to his insecurities, to the point of despair, and eventual depression.

I agree this all sounds horrible, but Fassbinder succeeds in forcing us to look at the protagonist's anguish objectively rather than emotionally, by creating a disassociation between Hans and the audience. He achieves this by making his cast give toned-down, almost wooden performances, that we never get to connect with, and end up watching their plight in a detached manner. His theory, I presume, is that while it is important to get to see someone from their perspective, it is also important to know how a detached world would view their circumstances. The family members, baring Hans' sister Anna, also prescribe to the same viewpoint.

Technically, it is splendid - for such a prolific film maker (Fassbinder made forty three full-length films in a career spanning just fifteen years, no mean achievement), to pay so much attention to detail - set arrangement, angles, lighting, composition, and even the editing, in addition to writing it in the first place, is simply mind-boggling. Here was one man possessed, it's as if Fassbinder foresaw his own early death, and wanted to bequeath as many unique works to humanity as possible before then. To surmise, if you want to watch something challenging and unique, and love cinema, you should give this a try - just allow enough time to let it sink in. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

The Arrow Films DVD from which this compilation was made, came with an excellent quality transfer, and also includes goodies like fascinating and revealing interviews from the actresses in this film - held 10 years after Fassbinder's death, and also a feature-length retrospective of Fassbinder's filmography. Great value for money.

Compilation 1: Irm Hermann
A lot of the characters in the film have the same name as the actors playing them. Hans' wife Irmgard is played by Fassbinder regular and real-life lover, Irm Hermann.

Irm Hermann in Der Händler der vier Jahreszeiten

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity - Irmgard objects to Hans delivering fruits to the lady living upstairs - she knows that that woman was after all the greatest love of his life.
  • No nudity - marital disharmony when a visibly drunk Hans arrives late and beats up an annoyed Irmgard - but it is shot in a comical manner.
  • Irmgard decides to have a naughty fling with a stranger as revenge for her husband's mistreatment. But little Renate catches mum in the act, and Irmgard doesn't know where to hide.
  • The only scene where the couple display any sign of real affection towards one other.

Compilation 2: Ingrid Caven
Fassbinder cast his then wife Ingrid Caven in the role of Hans' love interest. Even after refusing to marry Hans, citing his lowly job as the reason, she continues to have the occasional sexual rendezvous.

Ingrid Caven in Der Händler der vier Jahreszeiten

Scene Guide:
  • A confused Hans takes a long walk and ends up in Ingrid's apartment. She quickly undresses and asks him to do the same as she wants them to be finished before her husband returns from work, which only puts him off the very idea.
  • Brief downblouse scene from Elga Sorbas who plays prostitute Marile. This was also how Hans lost his job as a policeman. Rounded up for routine questioning, Marile tries to win Hans' favour by volunteering some 'head', only to be caught red-handed by the Head constable himself!


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Emma Suárez & Rosario Flores in "Contra el Viento" [1990 Spain]

Paco Periñán's directorial full-length feature debut, "Contra el Viento" [Eng. Title: Against the Wind] should have kick-started a successful career - he was also nominated for a Goya the following year, but for reasons unknown, it was also the last film he's directed - he is an assistant director (1st or 2nd) these days.

It is a strange film with several plot elements in it which go nowhere. It is also a rare film and I've never been able to get hold of it in its native Spanish language. The DVD from which these scenes were cut is from an Italian version, and as with all dubbed films, subtle nuances are lost in narration. The end product looks like a cheap 80's thriller.

Juan leaves his parental home to live in an Andalusian village, fleeing an incestuous relationship with his sister Ana. We are given very little background regarding this, considering the fact that they don't come from a broken home. But Ana comes looking for him after a year without contact, and decides to live in his one-room shed, much to Juan's discomfort - he'd been trying to leave behind his past and had just started a relationship with local girl Rosario. We see the siblings still in love, but while Juan knows the relationship is wrong, Ana continues to harbour a distorted vision of familial love. She demands his attention even as he tries to avoid her, and when she'd just about given up, notices evidence that he still has feelings for her as before, and decides to stay in the village with an engineer, by lying to Juan that she's leaving.

This is an unusual role for the beautiful Emma Suárez, who plays Ana. technically, while the editing is decent, I didn't find the soundtrack all that appealing, and can't comment on the direction as I've only seen the dubbed version. The film was shot in full frame, due to which some close-ups have an abstract quality about it. The lighting could have been better, but difficult to tell as this may also be due to average DVD mastering. In the compilation, I have slightly increased the intensity to bring out whatever detail there is. The film is however here for its rarity, as rare as the nude scene from Rosario Flores who plays Rosario - she didn't take her kit off even for Almodovar in Habla con Ella!

Emma Suárez and Rosario Flores in Contra el Viento

Scene Guide:
  • When Ana arrives unexpectedly, Juan pleads with Rosario if he could spend the night with her. She relents.
  • Returning home the following morning, Juan sees Ana asleep in his bed.
  • That night, Ana persuades Juan into having sex - she asks him later why he left Madrid without informing her.
  • Ana with the engineer - displaying her best features, but letting him know she's come to this god-forsaken place for the only person she'd ever loved.
  • A heated sex session between Ana and Juan, with tantalising glimpses of Emma's breasts. From what I could see, this scene could have been executed a lot better.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Chiara Pavoni & Eveline in "VigasioSexploitation II" [2011 Italy]

"...and now for something completely different..!"

If you'd enjoyed Monty Python's Flying Circus, you might want to check out this refreshing oddity - a Sci-Fi comedy quite unlike Avatar.

Sebastiano Montresor is an interesting young director who has some strong convictions about what cinema shouldn't be - passive, suggestive, and anaesthetising the viewer's critical faculties, as he puts it. A proponent of the so-called "Agrestic Cinema", it is about deliberately de-constructing the film into a primitive state (or one devoid of any pretence or make-believe) - let the audience construct their own using what they hear, listen and see, as raw materials.

I remember watching his first feature, "L'eredità di Caino" (starring an up-and-coming Filippo Timi - a major star now) at a friend's and found a lot of it went over my head. His latest film however, "VigasioSexploitation II" is certainly more accessible, and funny too. I recommend checking out Montresor's website to discover more about his theories and work. What's more - you also get to download the film, "VigasioSexploitation I" for free.

As for volume 2, it is grotesque, crazy, but strangely endearing - there is nothing pretentious about it - it doesn't take itself seriously, but technically it is very well made with fine cinematography, an eclectic albeit interesting soundtrack, and neat editing. He does however indulge in taking the piss of some of the big names in 'B' cinema like Brass, Franco and Rollin - you'll know what I mean when you watch the scenes. The film has extensive and gratuitous nudity, but it is all hilarious - not intended to titillate. For twisted people like me, this little film is Recommended Viewing..!

The story in a nutshell - aliens are invading the earth, and a human scientist is unwittingly conscripted for this purpose. The plan was to inseminate a human female with their sperm to produce a hybrid. The scientist's 'assistant' is drawn for this purpose, but it backfires - instead she turns into a rabid bitch, feeding on humans and aliens alike. For the sake of this post, I have also retained the subtitles in the compilations, so you guys can guess what's going on. Don't expect Oscar winning performances here - just enjoy the ride..!

Compilation 1: Chiara Pavoni and Eveline
Osso the roughneck is bestowed a moustache by the devil. Osso is played by Chiara Pavoni. His girlfriend is the scientist's assistant, played by Eveline - I don't know what it is, but she'll have you transfixed..! And by the way, for those who don't already know, 'potato' in Italian is an impolite slang for 'vagina'.

Chiara Pavoni and Eveline in VigasioSexploitation II

Compilation 2: Eveline and Chiara Pavoni

Eveline and Chiara Pavoni in VigasioSexploitation II

Compilation 3: Eveline and Chiara Pavoni

Eveline and Chiara Pavoni in VigasioSexploitation II


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Francesca Neri in Almodovar's "Carne Trémula" [1997 Spain]

Pedro Almodovar has crafted some of the most exquisite films made in Spain, and among his later works, the 1997 drama "Carne Trémula" [Eng. Title: Live Flesh] is my personal favourite.

The film uses abundant symbolism to propel its story, and therefore can be approached from many different angles a la Buñuel - you can either treat it at face-value or dig deep and look at the intricate nuances - which is a personal view of Almodovar's Madrid, and the world as he sees it. As the title hints, there is constant referral to the womb - as the gateway to life, and the object of pleasure - something every character is talking about or playing with. An example - there's a moment when a brothel keeper (brilliantly performed by Pilar Bardem) calms her heavily pregnant prostitute (Penélope Cruz) on the way to hospital during a night when General Franco had just declared a state of emergency. "If fools like us don't decide to give birth once in a while, the world would be an empty place, or just full of old people..." The film is replete with such pithy observations relating to the pre-eminence of the womb around (and because of) which everything else happens. To me this film is so 'complete' that there is nothing more left to say. And the convincing manner in which Almodovar connects each of the characters is simply mind-boggling. Add to these the powerful performances by actors, the thoughtful editing and the fantastic soundtrack - the reason for my choice is self-evident. If you haven't already seen it, you really should. Highly Recommended Viewing!

Storyline in brief - After serving time for a freak incident at an Italian diplomat's house involving the daughter Elena, Victor decides to start afresh by forgetting the past. Just then he sees Elena at the cemetery - both were there for different reasons, and their lives cross path once again. But it doesn't affect only them, but those around them as well...

Compilation: Francesca Neri
Elena believes Victor is following wherever she goes, to extract some sort of revenge for his incarceration. He has now volunteered to work as an assistant at the same orphanage she's a patron of. Elena is played by the fine Italian actress Francesca Neri. In this scene, she surprises Victor by offering herself, in the understanding that after the night of passion, he will agree never to see her again. The scene is simple, but is beautifully done with a haunting Andalusian melody that makes it all the more powerful. Later, she's in bed the following morning when her husband (Javier Bardem) returns from a tournament. He starts to eat her pussy (as he normally does), but she requests him to stop because it hurt. When questioned, she says plainly, "Because I've been fucking all night"!

Francesca Neri in Carne Trémula


Monday, 9 May 2011

Scenes from "Stille Dage i Clichy" BR720 [Denmark 1970]

I bet Jens Jørgen Thorsen isn't exactly a household name in Denmark, but his 1970 film, "Stille Dage i Clichy" [Eng. Title: Quiet Days in Clichy] is utterly memorable, or should I say 'unforgettable'! After watching it for the first time (it was the 80's), I found it offensive and depressing for a number of reasons. For a start, I hadn't read Henry Miller, upon whose novel this film is based. Neither could I look beyond the persistent cynicism and explicit imagery throughout the film. But I just couldn't get the film out of mind either - remembering the lines or situations as I went through my own 'quiet days'.

Watching the film again recently, I could see where Miller was coming from, and why the particular novel drew interest even from the likes of Chabrol (that's a different film which I'll post later). The novel is largely autobiographical when Miller, between the wars, was living penniless in Clichy - a grotty corner of Paris which unfortunately still draws negative news in the press these days. It was a decadent period - and he wanted to be part of it. While reflecting on his experiences, he illustrates the sexual aspect rather vividly.

Revisiting this film, I find that Thorsen had imaginatively managed to recreate the rawness of Miller's prose, whether through design or serendipity. Conventional film making rules were either discarded or couldn't be afforded. What we have is an unapologetically amateurish-looking production with carefree editing and patchy screenplay, disguising the fact that it is exquisitely photographed, with an awesome soundtrack containing original scores from legends such as Ben Webster and Country Joe. It has a dry (and sometimes wicked) sense of humour, includes some interesting philosophical musings, along with some rubbish rantings too. The film will never enter the cinematic hall of fame - it was never intended - but it is outrageously entertaining all the same. I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone, but if you want to experience something unique, watch it - with an open mind..!

Even though this is a Danish film, it is made in English, so the scenes need little description. I've cut these from a recently released Blu-ray edition - decently restored, but would have been even better if they had mastered it in its original aspect ratio, which was full-screen. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable viewing experience.

Scene 1: Louise White
A hilarious scene where a weird woman enters Carl and Joey's apartment looking for some 'rent money'. The woman is played Louise White.

Louise White in Stille Dage i Clichy

Scene 2: Ulla Koppel
Nys is one of Joey's sexual exploits - he reminisces his first experience with her. Nys is played by the rather cute Ulla Koppel (credited as Ulla Lemvigh-Müller). If you're a 'breast' man, you'll love this..!

Ulla Kopel in Stille Dage i Clichy

Scene 3: Elsebeth Reingaard, Lisbet Lundquist, and others
A classic - with some rather 'earthy' lyrics by Country Joe. Fifteen year old Colette somehow ends up in Joey and Carl's apartment - they keep her there even when aware they could end up in jail if found out. Colette is played by Elsebeth Reingaard. Character names were not included for the actresses in the middle scenes. The Herald Tribune girl is Jeanne, played by Lisbet Lundquist. I haven't forgotten the images nor the lyrics from this scene after so many years.

Elsebeth Reingaard, Lisbet Lundquist, others in Stille Dage i Clichy

Scene 4: Petronella and unknown actress
This scene comes the closest to pornography - Joey and Carl pick up two 'enthusiastic' prostitutes from a bar (where you can also see Ben Webster performing), and have some fun in their apartment, even if they don't have the means ot pay for them. Only one character is named - Adrienne, played by Petronella - the one given the 'speaking' part.

Petronella in Stille Dage i Clichy

Scene 5: Susanne Krage and Anne Kehler
Christine is Joey's only serious love-interest in the film, here he recollects meeting her for the first time. I've included an earlier scene where Christine is played by a stunning brunette, but who turns into a blonde (a different woman altogether) in the sex scene - I believe this isn't careless film making, but intentional as Joey's remembering the woman he 'kinda' loved through rose-tinted glasses. Christine (the blonde one) is played by Susanne Krage. Carl also invites over his 'cunt' Corinne to the apartment, and they end up having a foursome, until Christine comes to her senses and decides to leave. Corinne is played by Anne Kehler. But beware of Carl's 'bits' getting a good airing towards the end. I've also included some additional non-nude footage to illustrate the scene better.

Sasanne Krage and Anne Kehler in "Stille Dage i Clichy".


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Natalia Pelayo & Alejandra Baldoni in "Aniceto" [2008 Argentina]

Now here's something different - a film musical..!

Veteran actor-filmmaker Leonardo Favio revisits a film he made forty years earlier (El romance del Aniceto y la Francisca) - this time, as a musical, "Aniceto". Favio produced this popular story as a modern ballet, with a unique blend of Latin American rhythms like Tango and Cumbia.

It was refreshing to see a film with minimalist set design, allowing us to follow the characters more intimately, and without too many distracting elements. Aided by excellent art direction and great choice of music, Favio had done a fine musical version of the story using his exceptionally talented cast.

Aniceto, a happy-go-lucky lad makes a living by organising cock-fights using his prized rooster. One day, he sees gypsy girl La Francisca, newly arrived in town and looking for work, and charms her. The naive Francisca also falls in love and goes to live with him. But when mysterious and attractive Lucía moves into the neighbourhood, it is Aniceto's turn to fall under her spell - he showers her with gifts and falls in love with her. When Francisca learns of the affair and realises that he doesn't love her as much as she does, she leaves, from which point Aniceto's fortunes take a turn for the worse.

Even if it is a simple story, the film narrates it with charm and grace. However - it left me wondering whether Sr. Favio, in making this film ballet, had fully exploited the medium to his advantage. Granted, the actors in the film are predominantly professional dancers, and facial expressions expected in close-ups may not be their particular strength, but I felt some other film making tools were also under-utilised, particularly the editing, and camera angles. Perhaps I've been spoilt watching too many musicals by Spanish auteur Carlos Saura - he wouldn't shy away from using cinematic techniques that would help his storytelling. The sound engineering could also be better, as could the choreography restrained, focusing more on the story than angles and movement, which are great on their own, but perhaps more appropriate for theatre than cinema. Never mind - I am just nit picking - it's a great film with awesome performances by the three main characters, and therefore, Recommended Viewing.

Scene 1: Natalia Pelayo
The talented and cute Natalia Pelayo plays La Francisca. Alas, there is only brief nudity from her, towards the end.

Natalia Pelayo in Aniceto

Scene 2: Alejandra Baldoni
The irresistible Lucía winning over Aniceto. Lucía is played by sultry Alejandra Baldoni.

Alejandra Baldoni in Aniseto

Bonus Scene: Natalia Pelayo
No nudity - this is only for those eager to sample Natalia Pelayo's performance skills. This early scene where Aniceto first lays eyes on La Francisca is very well directed - I so wish Sr. Favio had fashioned the rest of the film similarly.

Natalia Pelayo in Aniceto


Friday, 6 May 2011

Luisa Ranieri, Tiziana Buldini & Giulia Michelini in "Immaturi" [2011 Italy]

Paolo Genovese's latest box-office hit "Immaturi" [Eng. Title: Immature] is a breezy feel-good comedy about a group of friends getting together after twenty years. The premise is however interesting - the batch they belonged to have to re-sit an examination from twenty years ago - the board had just managed to audit the results and discovered some irregularities in the grading. This gives them the perfect excuse to reconnect with the once close-knit group - they had hitherto dispersed, taking up different vocations. As they get together to cram Greek philosophy, the film gives a fly-past of each of the main characters' lives, their family, and unresolved issues from the past. Needless to say, all ends well.

It is a typical mainstream film, with beautiful people trying to deal with their tiny little discomforts. While occasionally witty and intelligent, the characters are cliché, as are the dialogues and screenplay predictable. Great cinematography, art direction, popular music, and a simple story - easy viewing at its best, I guess!

There are also a couple of brief nude scenes in the film - the reason for this post. The compilation was made from DVD.

Luisa Ranieri, Tiziana Buldini, and Giulia Michelini in Immaturi

Scene Guide:
  • In the scene, Marta, played by Luisa Ranieri is checking out photos of her husband's childhood friends. Sra. Ranieri doesn't get nude in the film but is sexy all the same - and for me, the very definition of "Gorgeous".
  • Olivia is the mistress of Virgilio, who briefly panics after hearing the door bell, only to receive a recorded letter from the exam board. Wholesome Olivia is played by Tiziana Buldini.
  • Cinzia is with Piero in the bathtub - she wants to know when he's going to separate from his wife, as she's unwilling to play second fiddle any longer (the b*stard actually isn't married but pretends to be, so that he needn't make any commitments). The scene is also funny as she walks around naked just covered in lather while having this heated argument. Cinzia is played by Giulia Michelini.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Béatrice Dalle in "37°2 le Matin" BR1080 [France 1986]

Jean-Jacques Beineix's drama "37°2 le Matin" [Eng. Title: Betty Blue, Festival Title: 37°2 in the Morning] is probably his finest work to date - it was also nominated for Oscar, BAFTA and César the following year.

The romantic saga starts on a warm afternoon with Betty arriving at Zorg's cabin by the sea - she had just quit her barmaid job after an argument with the owner. When she tells him that she hasn't got money even for the train ticket, Zorg allows her to stay - and they embark on an intensely passionate relationship. Betty's short temper made sure that Zorg didn't hold his job for long, and they end up with Betty's best friend Lisa, as paying guests. Betty wants Zorg to be a successful writer - she had read his only manuscript that was hidden away and forgotten. She now believes it's the best novel she'd ever read and takes it upon herself to get the book published. But Betty is unable to accept rejection by publishers, and nearly ends up in prison for assaulting one of them who poked fun at it. While working at their friend's piano store, Betty is overwhelmed with joy after discovering she could be pregnant. But when further tests prove it to be negative, Betty goes into a state of shock and starts rejecting the world and eventually even herself. Zorg, who loves her deeply, gives his all to help cure her worsening mental illness. The pain he feels for her also helps him to start writing again.

This is a director's film, beautifully scripted, as we watch and feel the couple's growing love. The photography and soundtrack are excellent, as are the heart-felt performances by the main actors. While the film is famous for its nude scenes, there is a great story behind it, one you wouldn't mind watching again once in a while. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

I've had the director's edition DVD for some time now, and noticed the film was also released on Blu-ray more recently, but it is the general/theatrical version. To truly appreciate the film, I recommend the director's cut, which runs for nearly three hours - an hour longer than the theatrical version. The abridged version can be confusing and perhaps even incoherent in places.

For this post, I've cut all the relevant scenes available in blu-ray, but also dug out my DVD for some scenes either removed, or cut-short in the theatrical release, and put them here for the record.

Compilation 1: Béatrice Dalle
These are the early scenes set in the beach cabin when Betty initially moves in with Zorg. Betty's rebellious character couldn't have been cast better - Beatrice Dalle who plays Betty appears to have been born for that part. Mme. Dalle may draw the wrong headlines in the media for her attitude, but she will forever be remembered as Betty. From Blu-ray.

Béatrice Dalle in 37°2 le Matin

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity but sexy - Betty arrives at Zorg's cabin wearing an apron for a dress. making herself at home right away.
  • This long love scene is so authentic, they could even be doing it for real.
  • Zorg's totally uncool employer feasting on Betty, sleeping in Zorg's arms at the cabin.
  • This is a classic. Betty comes outside after overhearing the boss having a go at Zorg for turning up late for work She argues with the guy during which he lifts her shirt to point out she isn't wearing any panties. A furious Betty gives him a piece of her mind (and an eyeful of her pussy in broad daylight, and public view).

Compilation 2: Béatrice Dalle and Clémentine Célarié
All the scenes below happen after Betty and Zorg flee the tacky beach front after setting fire to their cabin. From Blu-ray.

Béatrice Dalle and Clémentine Célarié in 37°2 le Matin

Scene Guide:
  • Betty and Zorg go upstairs 'for a cuddle' in appreciation for her efforts in getting him a publisher.
  • They've just moved into the house once occupied by their friend's mother who had passed on. This is a comic scene where Betty isn't happy sleeping in the same bed where their friend's mother died.
  • Annie is wife of the grocery store owner next door, Zorg enters the kitchen where she's breastfeeding the baby. When he comments innocently that the little one is going for 'it', Annie tells him that her nipples have now become very hard too because of the breastfeeding and asks him to feel it for himself! The ever-horny Annie is played by the very wholesome Clémentine Célarié.
  • Annie takes Zorg forcefully at the shop floor when her hubby isn't watching. This is the most erotic scene in the film where Zorg tries hard to be a gentleman, only to find his hands are all over the place, for someone supposedly rejecting Annie's advances. The poor lady is frustrated she hasn't been getting much from her husband of late, and fears he'd lost interest in her. In the scene you may also catch a glance of Mme Célarié's pubic hair peeping from the top of her thong.
  • Betty stops Zorg, who's in a hurry, to announce she could be pregnant. A longer version of this scene is in the director's edition below.
  • Zorg and Betty love scene.
  • While making love Zorg discovers some sleeping pills and questions her. She tells him he doesn't take them often. A longer version of this is in the director's edition below.
  • Zorg is shocked to see what Betty had done to herself - she was informed that evening that her pregnancy was negative - a touching scene where Zorg reaches out to her.
  • No nudity - see-through white t-shirt. Betty's friend Lisa urges her to take a dip in the lake, and Betty does so by literally falling into it.
  • Zorg comforts a sleepless and depressed Betty.

Compilation 3: From the Director's Cut DVD
Some additional and extended scenes from the director's edition of "37°2 le Matin".

Béatrice Dalle uncut scenes from 37°2 le Matin

Scene Guide:
  • Betty kissing her 'sleepy little slug' goodnight.
  • In the shower, Betty is worried if she's putting on weight.
  • In bed with Zorg after a few drinks.
  • Brief shower scene
  • Extended version of a scene in compilation 2.
  • Extended version of the scene where Betty informs Zorg that she could be pregnant.


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Maria Panourgia & Sofia Georgovassili in "Mavro Livadi" BR1080 [2009 Greece]

I'm only beginning to discover Greek cinema, but whatever I've seen so far is refreshing (and educational too - for e.g., now I know a Janissary is not a union of workers in the cleaning profession but a Christian boy involuntarily conscripted into the imperial guards of the Ottoman empire, as a kind of 'blood tribute' paid by non-Muslim families).

Vardis Marinakis's Greek drama "Mavro Livadi" [Eng. Title: Black Field] is an unusual romance set in late medieval Greece, when it was apparently part of the Ottoman empire. A Janissary escapes from his masters and ends at the doorstep of a remote convent-nunnery, exhausted and badly wounded. As part of her religious commitment, the Mother superior takes him in and treats his wounds, but also stays loyal to the empire by informing the authorities that they have held a deserted Janissary - the reward would be useful in keeping the convent running. A young nun however falls in love with him, and not only does she help him escape, but also follows him into the forest - a return to nature for both the characters. But the nun has a little secret too - she is a (Christian) boy placed in the convent to avoid being conscripted as a Janissary..!

The film is beautifully made with some stunning cinematography and locations, like the Palamidi castle where many of the scenes were shot. And a lot of thought had gone into the costumes and art direction, which transport us to a Byzantine monastery quite vividly, which gives the film a Gothic feel. If nothing else, it is a substantial visual feast worth savouring, which in Blu-ray is even more sumptuous - and the scenes below were also cut from it.

Scene 1: Maria Panourgia
It appears Sister Areti hasn't yet fully renounced carnal pleasure, and when she'd been assigned to treat the janissary's wounds, she uses this opportunity to also treat herself - considering how rare man-meat is in the secluded monastery. Sister Areti is played by Maria Panouria (or Maria Panouria as IMDB would have us believe - I had to do a bit of digging to find out who she was because the film credits were in Greek script, and I'm certainly no medieval scholar!).

Maria Panourgia in Mavro Livadi

Bonus Compilation: Sofia Georgovassili
This may not be up to everyone's interest - but I'm posting it anyway for its novelty. Sister Anthi has a secret - she's a Christian boy tucked away in the convent to avoid conscription. Despite the piety, painful adolescence draws Anthi to the janissary, instead of Sister Areti, her room mate who had been attracted to Anthi but not reciprocated. For obvious reasons, there are no topless scenes of Sister Anthi, because she is after all played by an actress, Sofia Georgovassili.

Sofia Georgovassili in Mavro Livadi

Scene Guide:
  • Anthi resorts to self-flagellation to keep sexual thoughts at bay.
  • We get to see who Anthi really is, when she cleanses herself in the bath.
  • Anthi escapes the monastery along with the janissary, who had fancied her, but he soon gets a rude shock.
  • This is a primeval scene - as far as I remember, there are no dialogues in the film from this point - it is nature taking its course henceforth, and even if the theme is homosexual, it is sensual all the same, certainly helped by the knowledge that Sister Anthi is after all played by a woman.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Martina Gedeck & Gabi Fleming in "Das Leben der Anderen" [2006 Germany]

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut feature is what one would call an 'unqualified success'. "Das Leben der Anderen" [Eng. Title the Lives of Others] bagged a bucket-load of awards the following year including a BAFTA and an Oscar for best foreign language film.

Set during the last decade of East Germany, it captures the extraordinary lengths to which the government went, to snoop on people who it thought posed a threat to the system. Intellectuals were singularly targeted, and every aspect of their personal lives watched, listened, and scrutinised.

Acclaimed playwright Georg Dreyman is suspected of having political links with critics of the regime, and the Stasi decide to keep an eye on him. At around the same time, the Minister for Culture falls for Georg's partner and actress, Christa-Maria Sieland. He wants Georg to be 'found out' so he can keen Crista-Maria for himself, and asks the Stasi to wire-tap their apartment and listen to their every conversation. Hauptmann is the agent appointed for the job, and he takes up this assignment with customary professional enthusiasm. But the more he watches and listens to them, the more he is fascinated by them, and the more he sympathises with them. On occasions he even goes out of his way to record an alternate version of events in his day book, to protect them. The film follows events until the beginning of unified Germany. Apart from the political intrigue and suspense, there is great human drama in this simple and beautiful film. Ulrich Mühe who plays the Stasi agent Hauptmann gives a powerful performance, as does Martina Gedeck, who portrays Christa-Maria. The strength of the film lie in its screenplay, clear direction, and strong performances. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

The film also depicts some brief but essential sex and nudity, and the compilation below was made from my DVD, which also contained some additional footage among the extras.

Martina Gedeck and Gabi Fleming in Das Leben der Anderen

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity - Crista-Maria is groped by the Minister for Culture in his limousine. She is to put up with him every Thursday if she is to prevent action on Georg.
  • Crista-Maria washing up on her return - Georg had just seen her getting off the minister's car, and is now aware of what's going on.
  • Hauptmann reads a report prepared by his assistant while he was away, and is pleased to learn that this time Crista-Maria didn't keep to her Thursday appointment, deciding to stay with Georg instead.
  • Crista-Maria lies to Georg after she returns home after two days of captivity, telling him instead that she was away with friends in the countryside where there wasn't a telephone. Just then, The Stasi come knocking at the door.
  • Hauptmann with a prostitute at his home - played by the wholesome Gabi Fleming with utterly delightful breasts - she asks him to book for an extra hour next time.
  • Some additional footage of the Gabi Fleming scene from a commentary among the DVD extras - it also includes some brief frontal nudity.