Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mariangela Melato & co in "Attenti al Buffone" [1975 Italy]

Writer and director Alberto Bevilacqua uses dark humour to highlight human frailties and the corrupting influence of power in the film, "Attenti al Buffone" [Eng. Title: Eye of the Cat]. The time around which this was made (1974-75), there was a lot of political upheaval in Italy and the world over, inevitably reflecting in its cinema. It may not have the mighty rage and despair of Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma" which also came out the same year, but it raises similar questions, and the film's chief villain Cesare would easily find himself in good company among the 'Duke' and 'President' from Salo.

Marcello, a musician returns home from a tour to find his wife Giulia and the kids have disappeared and the house a wreck. He will soon learn that Giulia had been 'persuaded' by Cesare, a powerful man who made his name during fascist rule, to have the marriage annulled, and marry him instead. Marcello, instead of rebelling against the outrage, goes with it - hoping that Giulia would of her own, change her mind. But it soon becomes clear Cesare has a personal score to settle with Marcello - and wants to truly defeat him. He humiliates Marcello repeatedly - on one occasion, bragging about having 'bought' his family, "I've taken possession of the only true harmony that you managed to compose - it was your masterpiece". Marcello is also required to fake a reason to church for the annulment - and claim he is impotent. The conversation between him and the church clerk about the matter is one of the more interesting passages of play, full of satire and wit. Giulia on the other hand seems to have had an unpleasant past, possibly working the streets and often being molested before meeting Marcello, who decides to marry her. She loves Marcello, but wants him to let her go so she could live by her instincts. The film becomes an ethical battle between Marcello with his high morals, and the vile 'Ras' Cesare, one that Marcello 'the jester' wins.

The only other film I've seen of Bevilacqua to date is his earlier film, "La Califfa". Among the two, "Attenti al Buffone" is the superior one, notwithstanding the classy presence of Romy Schneider in the latter. The direction, the screenplay (which also won a David), and the fabulous soundtrack of Ennio Morricone work very well this time. And besides, you have another classy actress appearing in this film as well - signora tutti italiani Mariangela Melato, who plays Giulia. My DVD is a fairly recent edition, digitally remastered from negative, and the colours and sound quality are pretty good. Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Mariangela Melato, Erika Blanc, Loredana Bertè, and Cristina Gaioni

Mariangela Melato, Erika Blanc, Loredana Berte, and Cristina Gaioni in Attenti al Buffone

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity - a brief look-back at how Marcello met Giulia.
  • Giulia is commanded by Cesare to strip naked. When she refuses, an angry Cesare rips her clothes off, but is soon gladdened to see she had shaved her nether regions, just as he had asked her to. "...just like a child - you see, we're both alike and our vulgarity, sublime - it'll be like doing it for the first time."
  • His enthusiasm is however short-lived as Giulia walks off to spend the night with husband Marcello instead, who'd decided to pitch tent in Cesare's attic until the annulment formalities are finished (what the..?!). She asks him to treat her as a whore that she is, but is admonished by Marcello. While a body double was used for the previous nude scene, Mariangela Melato bares it all here, even giving us a brief frontal flash, which hardly ever happens - comfortable with Nino Manfredi (Marcello) with whom she'd worked before, but not so with Eli Wallach (Cesare), it seems..!
  • An orgy organised to mourn a dead friend - true Etruscan style. All goes well for a while as the three women are shared around by Cesare and his friends. The bare bottomed girl with a French accent is Erika Blanc, the totally naked one on the staircase is Cristina Gaioni, and the other naked girl sitting on a guy's shoulder is Loredana Bertè - a popular singer during her day - Sei Bellissima..!
  • The trouble starts when one of the guys demands Cesare share his woman Giulia too just like the rest - she had retired to her quarters. Cesare pleads her to restore his dignity by agreeing to have sex with his friends. He considers it shouldn't be too difficult because she'd already been around with other 'pigs and dogs' - and these are after all his friends..! :)


Monday, 28 November 2011

Sara Vallés in "Antes De Morir Piensa En Mí" [2008 Spain]

Writer Raúl Hernández Garrido made his directorial debut through the crime drama, "Antes de morir piensa en mí" [Eng. Trans: Before you die, think of me], a film inspired by real events - facts surrounding one of the last women to be sentenced to death under the Franco regime. It's the unfortunate story of a young woman seeking happiness in her own misguided way.

Contrary to what IMDB ratings might suggest, this is actually a well made film with a lot going for it. The screenplay is good and direction adequate even if not ground breaking. The performances by most of the main cast is pretty good, and Sara Vallés, also making her film debut, gives a good account of herself. The sound track too is appealing. All in all, an above average fare.

The story is told using non-linear flashbacks during the court case that determined her fate, giving us a detached and non-judgemental portrait of Nina, a lonely child of a carefree single mother. Having never had a father figure, she seeks affection through older men before she falls in love with a younger man called Sergio, an apprentice under her husband Miguel. The film highlights various episodes from her life, culminating in the murder of her lover, and the apparent cannibalism that follows. The film is barely uplifting even if it attempts to lighten the mood through some comedic moments, partly because we're made aware of Nina's fate very early in the film. It is nevertheless a well made film, and therefore worth checking out.

Amazon DVD Link.

Compilation: Sara Vallés

Sara Valles in Antes de morir piensa en mi

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity, but sexy nevertheless. Nina, after many years in a convent, had recently returned home to live with her mother. In this kinky scene, she's seen flirting with her mother's boyfriend. Nina is played by unconventional beauty Sara Vallés.
  • No nudity. Nina gets married to middle-aged Miguel, and one can see there's a mismatch straightaway.
  • Long scene. Nina had recently met Sergio for the first time when husband Miguel invited him home for a barbecue. Sergio takes a day off and invites Nina to his shack, and it is pretty evident that she's only too eager to please as she starts ironing his shirt. Miguel wonders why Sergio didn't turn up for work and passes by his place, only to find Nina naked and looking back at him through the window. This doesn't stop her though - far from it..!
  • Sergio feels Nina loves Miguel and only uses him for sex. He is also involved in some anti-Franco politics. Nina visits him there, readily offering herself again. But the jealous Sergio treats her with contempt.
  • Sergio gets killed while visiting Nina - they had planned to elope. This is a brief vignette of related scenes and some flashbacks.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Irène Jacob in "La Double Vie de Véronique" [1991 France, Poland BR720]

From the moment he started working outside of Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski came to be widely regarded as one of the most important and original European film makers of his day. Even if his work from the very early days were cherished and admired in his native Poland, it took the rest of Europe more than twenty years to fully discover and acknowledge his genius. For an insightful article on Krzysztof Kieslowski, check out this obituary that appeared in The Guardian after his untimely death.

His mesmerising drama "La Double Vie de Véronique" [Eng. Title: The Double Life of Veronique] form part of his later works, but it was my introduction to Kieslowski when it was screened on TV. Watching it more recently on Blu-ray, I am surprised at how superficial my TV viewing was. The film is actually a philosophical work - deeply personal, it is an exploration of among other things, love, loss, and fate. Kieslowski loves humans, or more accurately the superior qualities in human nature, like their ability to love, feel empathy, and so on. He uses two contrasting cultures - Polish and French, to underscore the universal appeal that these higher feelings hold among us.

On the way to her first concert performance, Weronika - a promising young singer in Poland, notices a spitting image of her in a tourist bus arriving from France. She tries to garner her attention, but the woman is busy taking pictures of a political demonstration taking place at the square. We learn during the course of the film that Véronique, the French woman, and Weronika - apart from their physical resemblance, also share the same profession, and a similar health ailment, one that'll lead to Weronika's sudden death while on stage. Even without having any knowledge of the identical Polish woman's existence, nor her death, Véronique will begin to mourn. She quits her job and takes up teaching music to schoolchildren. Despite having met the love of her life, something from within keeps her in a perpetual state of melancholy. It is her boyfriend who first identifies Weronika from one of Véronique's travel photos. Perhaps now, Véronique might grow curious about Weronika, and learn the reason for her mourning...

The film is visually stunning - almost every frame is picture-perfect - be it the colours, composition, or lighting. The soundtrack is haunting, aided by flawless engineering and editing. And with the camera transfixed for most part on a divine Irène Jacob who plays both Weronika and Véronique, it's possible that no director could've achieved any more than what we get to see on screen. She glows! She looks like the most beautiful creature and soul to have walked the earth. Everybody in the film loves her. Everybody watching it will love her. The Blu-ray disc comes with loaded extras including interviews and an interesting documentary. What more can I say - Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon Blu-ray Link
(Great deal still going)


The Nudity: Irene Jacob

Irène Jacob nude in "La double vie de Véronique" aka The Double Life of Veronique


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Sonja Richter in "Elsker dig for Evigt" [2002 Denmark]

Susanne Bier's "Elsker dig for Evigt" [Eng. Title: Open Hearts] is an interesting study of love and relationships, and how they could be influenced or complicated by other feelings such as guilt. It is a terrific piece of drama, made even powerful by some convincing performances by all the sparse but impressive cast.

Cecille and Joachim are about to get married - they'd been living together for a while, and are truly in love. But their world is turned upside down when Joachim has a nasty accident that leaves him paralysed neck-down. By sheer coincidence, Niels (well played by Mads Mikkelsen), a doctor at the hospital where Joachim is recovering, also happens to be the husband of Marie (also well played by Paprika Steen) - the driver of the car that caused the accident. A remorseful Marie and Niel feel it's their duty to console the devastated Cecille - Marie even encouraging Niels to meet and talk to Cecille whenever she felt depressed (which is often), because Joachim refuses to see Cecille and wants to break the engagement so that she could move on and start a new life. These meetings instead lead to a full-blown affair between Niels and Cecille, complicating things further for everyone.

The screenplay and characterisation are excellent, and the cast give a commendable performance, including the actress playing Cecille, Sonja Richter. The soundtrack is appealing, but I'm however not sure about the cinematography - doesn't help that some scenes are too grainy in my DVD. That may well have been the director's intention, but I doubt if it was really necessary. This also claims to be a Dogme 95 film, but since my knowledge about the film movement is at best rudimentary, I shall refrain from discussing it, but those interested may check out this Wiki link and decide for themselves after watching the film. The DVD extras and commentary from Susanne Bier give us an insight into the director's thinking, and also the reasons for removing some of the scenes - which I completely agree with. Either way, the final cut of "Elsker dig for Evigt" is a great piece of drama, with an apt ending, and therefore, Recommended Viewing.

Amazon DVD Link (excellent deal going here - I don't work for these guys btw)

Compilation: Sonja Richter
There's only brief nudity in all these scenes, but nevertheless still worth checking.

Sonja Richter in Elsker dig for Evigt

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity - Cecille hopelessly tries to cheer up a miserable Joachim at the hospital, by wearing some underwear he had bought her as a present before the accident. She had to be pulled away by the hospital staff. Cecille is played by the beautiful and equally talented Sonja Richter.
  • A depressed Cecille calls Niels (the doctor) in the middle of the night - and asks him to come over. She just wanted a hug, but then things take over.
  • During his next visit, Niels notices that Joachim, still at hospital had arranged for all his furniture to be removed from Cecille's flat, reason enough for Niel to administer some more TLC.
  • Niels and Cecille overhear a message left on her answering machine, from the hospital informing Cecille that Joachim had finally asked to see her. Just before this scene, all hell had broken loose at Niels' household resulting in he moving out.
  • No nudity, but felt it necessary to show the reunion of Cecille and Joachim when he hesitantly asks her if she could help him.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Joselin Waleska in “Ladies Mafia” [2011 Colombia, Mexico]

Colombian director Oscar González's film, "Ladies Mafia" is a comedy drama about three girls who unwittingly find themselves in possession of a stash of cocaine, and who against common sense decide to make themselves rich by selling it to a trafficker directly. They're helped by another female friend - a street smart kick boxer.

I'm not going to elaborate on this nonsense of a plot - let's just say it was made for an undemanding audience. Almost every aspect of the film is average or less, but at least they managed to author it decently on disc. Of course, we on the other hand sit through these for their exotic chicas, nothing more, nothing less..! ;)

Scene: Joselin Waleska
One of them takes her kit off briefly - exotic newcomer Joselin Waleska, who plays Tori - a college student making ends meet by stripping at a club (shame they should've put her in a scene plying her trade - they merely talk about it). The scene is mildly funny as she picks up a guy at a shopping mall and brings him home - the bloke dies of a heart attack upon orgasm - she'll know soon enough that's he's a drug trafficker when she escapes with his suitcase, identical to her's. "Damn, and he was so good in bed..!", she mutters to her cute friends at the end.

Joselin Waleska in Ladies Mafia


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Jasmine Trinca in "Il Grande Sogno" [2009 Italy]

Michele Placido is a fine actor and also a pretty good director. He made the semi-autobiographical drama, "Il Grande Sogno" [Eng. Title: The Big Dream] recounting his early years as a young police officer in 1968 Milan amidst momentous world happenings.

Nicola (Placido's alter ego), a fresh police officer from a poor background in southern Italy is assigned to infiltrate a left-wing student group from a privileged background in Milan to thwart unrest, and begins to question the state's rationale. In the process he falls in love with Laura, one of the students from the group. He also joins a drama school to pursue his passion. But when his police identity is discovered, he becomes an object of hatred among the student group - and his good intentions go unacknowledged.

It had the potential to have been a memorable film - promising young actors, interesting storyline, pretty good cinematography, and a decent soundtrack too. What lets it down is the screenplay and characterisation - they loose focus pretty quickly, what we see are scattered images from an era that not only looks manufactured, but also devoid of purpose - and the film meanders aimlessly. While some of the cast give a pretty good account of themselves, notably the actress playing Laura, Jasmine Trinca,  the protagonist's love interest, the rest are less than memorable - they possibly had very little to work with.

Compilation: Jasmine Trinca and Laura Morante
Some scenes have no nudity, but they're still worth checking out...

Jasmine Trinco in Il Grande Sogno

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity - Laura is not too keen to entertain her fiancé - she's got revolution on her mind. Bespectacled Laura is played by the engaging actress Jasmine Trinca.
  • Laura looses her virginity to our hero Nicola, in the middle of a police raid..!
  • No nudity again, but interesting nevertheless as Nicola's lecturer Maddalena gives him a private masterclass in acting (and slutty behaviour) as she takes him under her wing. Maddalena is played by the sexy as ever Laura Morante.
  • Laura's initiation with Nicola was apparently an aberration - the one she always fancied was Libero, the leader of her group. She manages to bed him.
  • But things change quickly when Laura takes Nicola again in Libero's absence - this time at the group's headquarters itself. Out of the blue we see a very different Laura - who doesn't mind walking around naked among her 'comrades' - she also declares to Nicola her love in this bizarre but awesome scene. The talented Ms. Trinca is definitely a delight to behold in the nude..!


Friday, 18 November 2011

Najwa Nimri & Kristel Díaz in "Los Amantes del Circulo Polar" [1998 Spain]

My favourite Julio Medem film happens to be a love story - or a fantasy even... :)
"Los Amantes del Circulo Polar" [Eng. Title: Lovers of the Arctic Circle] is quite possibly as intense as love stories get. Outwardly like all his films, it tells a straightforward tale, but what makes it special is the multiple layers hidden within it, some of which are so deep that it makes you marvel at Medem's insight into human nature - I mean, he was barely forty when he wrote this, but there's a lifetime's wisdom stacked within it. What is even more breathtaking is the manner in which he had translated this into film, which is, and I dread to use the phrase, almost perfect.

One might think I've begun to see things after repeat viewings, but I'm not the only one who feels this way. And yes - you certainly have to watch it more than once to experience its inner beauty because the first viewing will be consumed by the film's exterior. Gonzalo Berridi's breathtaking cinematography, the impressive editing that goes with it, the haunting soundtrack, and not least the incredibly beautiful people in it, young and old, see to that. The film's not just a work of visual art, but an intellectual exploration of 'love', 'destiny', and... 'circles'!

Delightfully whimsical but truly deep, Medem uses palindromes and patterns to propel his story - Otto's son is Alvaro and another Alvaro's son is Otto. Otto loves Ana, both names palindromes. What is chance and what is destiny - little Otto and Ana meet under the sweetest of chances - Otto while chasing a ball and Ana running away from her mother - upset to learn her father had just died in an accident. They never stop loving each other since that moment. But the same Otto and Ana, years later sit almost next to each other without even noticing, ironically at a plaza in Madrid historically renowned as a meeting place. Medem uses the circle as a metaphor, like the Arctic circle where the sun never sets i.e., timeless, and where Otto reunites with Ana - they'd now created their own little circle of space just for themselves. Or cyclical events like Otto becoming a pilot, just like the other Otto years before. Otto also jumps off a plane, like his older namesake - both end up meeting a Spanish woman. Medem obviously enjoys telling us stories this way, as we can see this circular pattern repeated in his later film "Lucía y el Sexo" too. Apart from these surreal and poetic explorations however, there is a poignant story to tell, that of Ana and Otto's quest to somehow try and find a way to live together - for society will simply not allow their relationship - they've become step-brother and sister after Otto's divorced father marries Ana's widowed mother. He does this beautifully.

Among the DVD extras is a mundane looking 'Making Of', but which manages to at least give us a glimpse into Medem's thought process. The interviews with some of the stars also showcases Medem's remarkable genius as a director, because while they've rightly seen things from their viewpoint, what the film achieves as a whole is a couple of notches higher. As for the DVD itself, it is crying out for a remastering. The film also appears in the Julio Medem box set, but the quality is poorer than the edition sold individually, and that's what I'd recommend. If you can afford to buy only one Julio Medem film in your entire life, let that be "Los Amantes del Circulo Polar" - Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Kristel Díaz and Najwa Nimri
There's only brief nudity, but it is such a magical film that it needs to be recorded here. Those looking for substantial nude scenes can gladly skip this post.

Kristel Diaz and Najwa Nimri in Los Amantes del Circulo Polar

Scene Guide:
  • A beautiful scene. "Come to my room through the window tonight, I'll be waiting for you. And be Brave" - a note from an adolescent Ana to now step-brother Otto. Played by Kristel Díaz.
  • They continue this relationship until they become young adults, on one occasion they almost get caught together in the same bed. Ana demands a good morning kiss from Otto afterwards. An adult Ana is played by owner of the most intoxicating eyes in the business, Najwa Nimri.
  • That scene from the sample, for those who also want it for keeps.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Emma Suárez & Martina García in "La Mosquitera" [2010 Spain]

It is films like these that made me fall in love with Spanish cinema. Catalan director Agustí Vila's psychological drama "La Mosquitera" [Eng. Title: The Mosquito net] is a portrait of a dysfunctional albeit well-to-do family. It is an exceptionally well written and directed film, and to see that it had managed to win only a handful of relatively minor awards is disappointing - must have been one of those that slip through the net each year. Although without a doubt, this is the best new Spanish film I've seen all year. Surprisingly, this is only Agustí Vila's second full-length feature. I hope he gets to write and direct more such films in future.

Alícia just can't communicate with husband Miguel. She nevertheless forces him to put up with their teenage son Lluís' eccentricities, and accumulating pets from shelters is just one of them. Lluís doesn't talk much either, but at least his mother manages to connect with him. María, Miguel's mother suffers from Alzheimer's and husband Roberto is finding it hard to cope - he's generally foul tempered and wants to commit suicide. Ignored by his family, Miguel is drawn to the new housemaid Ana, and when Alícia wants some time off and asks Miguel to leave, he embarks on an affair with Ana. Add to this, Alícia's sister, a single mum, also has serious issues with her young daughter. Everybody wants to change, but find it easier to be in denial than face the truth.

The DVD extras include some deleted scenes which give us additional insight into the characters, but the final cut is still good as it is.

The performances by all the actors are excellent; beautiful as ever Emma Suárez who plays unhappy housewife Alícia is melancholy personified, Geraldine Chaplin who plays the ailing María doesn't say a single word, but is as convincing a portrayal as can be. Ana the migrant maid is played very well by gorgeous Martina García, one can see her maturing into a very serious actress. But the best performance had to be from Eduard Fernández, who plays beleaguered husband Miguel with admirable restraint. The cinematography is of very high calibre, but it is the exquisite screenplay and direction by Agustí Vila above all else, that makes this film a gem. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Emma Suárez and Martina García

Emma Suarez and Martina Garcia in La Mosquitera

Scene Guide:
  • Alícia, now separated, gets flirty with Sergi at a small party she'd organised for son Lluís' birthday. Later at night, a sleepless Alícia sneaks into the room where she thought Sergi was, only to realise that it's her son Lluís sleeping there. Embarrassed at first, she manages to find Sergi. More embarrassment as they get discovered by Lluís (and the dog) the following morning. :)
  • Channel hopping Sergi shows his immaturity when he calls Alícia a whore, much to her shock. He practically molests her afterwards.
  • Miguel, separated, meets Ana who's now jobless, and invites her to his hotel after giving her some money. She feels compelled to repay him for the kindness. Just watch the rest as it requires no explaining.
  • There's only a brief nip-slip in this long scene but very interesting nevertheless and filled with wry humour as Miguel, in denial of his own nature, behaves like a righteous old fart, and wants to convince Ana that he's looking for something more than a brief physical fling. At the restaurant, when she asks if they could go back to the hotel room, he suggests instead, "no, let's go outside and look at the stars".


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Marina Anna Eich, of Lust, Pain and Passion [from Süddeutsche Zeitung]

It was interesting to read a recent interview by Marina Anna Eich. Thomas Anlauf, writing for the largest circulated German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung", unearths some interesting facts and anecdotes from her life, as she opens up candidly about her childhood in Bavaria, her dreams, and her eclectic but thoroughly modern career. You'll also uncover the mystery behind her bandaged right middle finger when you see her in the forthcoming film, "Die Wahrheit der Lüge". Here's an English translation of the article, which I bet you're unlikely to come across elsewhere - I've also inserted below a scanned pdf of the original article for those who can follow German. Read on...

pdf-50 « Original article


Translated from German..! ;)

Lust, Pain and Passion

Between Passion play and Eroticism: the career of actress Marina Anna Eich

It sounded like a piece of wood in a chipper. A short sharp crack. But they were fingers that had got caught in the rotor blades of a lawnmower accidentally, this summer. Marina Anna Eich takes the brown bandage off her right middle finger: the first phalanx is missing - the ring and forefinger could be saved at the hospital in Murnau. She has beautiful, delicate hands. Eich plucks a bit at her bandage and says: “That’s a part of me now.” The one which isn’t there any more.

Two weeks after the nasty accident she went to Cannes all the same, to the German reception at the Film Festival. She wore 3 thick white bandages then and had to tell what happened at home, on the lawn of her old farmhouse near Lake Ammersee. They called Marina Anna Eich “The finger” then.

Nude pictures – some ravishingly beautiful, others disturbing.
She doesn’t get too much attention in the film scene usually. Although the 33 year old actress has acted in more than a dozen films. Furthermore, she’s a producer in the small film production company WTP International under rebel director Roland Reber. In addition to being Reber’s PR Manager, she’s also in charge of DVD production and marketing of the Label. She appeared as a model in the Bravo, also twice in Penthouse, she says, sweeping her fingers over her iPhone. With a flick of her fingers photographs appear, nudes. Some ravishingly beautiful, others disturbing. Marina naked as a witch with a hat; lustfully riding a broom. Eich as lust incarnate; the head of a doll rests between her wide open legs. Pornography? “What is pornography even?” she says “It’s sexuality, eroticism, nudity – something natural”. Her films also all relate to it. To lust, passion and pain.

“The truth of lie” is the new movie with Marina Anna Eich, which is once again from the no-budget-production of Roland Reber. An author (Christoph Baumann) keeps two women – Marina Anna Eich and Julia Jaschke - imprisoned in a labyrinth. He tortures them in a bizarre way, trying to drive them towards a borderline experience.

The Movie has its premiere on October 28th at the Hof Film Festival which will open this Tuesday. And it’s in line with Reber’s film world which carries a symbolism reminiscent of an incense-laden Hindu temple. “It is a tough film” says Marina Anna Eich and sweeps a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “Merciless and full of symbolism”, she says. Saying so her shining blue eyes look as if she was talking of a flower field in Oberammergau.

She grew up there, in the middle of the mountains. Her father still owns a wood carver’s shop there, the next house one and a half kilometers away. As a girl Marina participated at the Oberammergau Passion Play. A Life, “a dream for every child” she says. Later she discovered her passion for dancing. Her ballet teacher in Oberammergau tells her about a distant city, Leipzig, where she could learn to dance properly. The 15 year old Marina went there. And danced. And suffered. Because the teacher talked down the girl from Bavaria. She had “mashed cabbage legs”. Marina put her finger down her throat and soon weighed only 48 kilos. Somehow she managed to leave. She completed middle school along the way, went to Frankfurt at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts. And danced. But it wasn’t easy. Increasingly, she was plagued by back pain. The orthopedist said if she doesn’t stop dancing she could end up in a wheel chair by the age of thirty.
The dream was over!

Marina went back home. But she continued along her way. “Everything works out, if only you want to”, she says. “You have to believe in yourself”. She graduated from high school in Garmisch, and also worked as a model. She traveled the world for a year, living in France, Canada, and Ecuador with host families, improved her French, and learnt Spanish. And then she discovered a new passion. Film. And a man: Roland Reber. The colossus of a man, who worked as a director, author and actor since the eighties had decided a few months back to declare war on the German film industry and to prove that one could survive in this shark tank without public film subsidy.

His first film was “The Room”: two persons should look after an empty house for six weeks. The only constraint - they shouldn’t enter a specific room. For that Movie Roland Reber, Mira Gittner, Marcus Grüsser and Marina Anna Eich were awarded the 2001 Emerging Filmmaker Award in Hollywood, the Best Foreign Movie in Chicago, the best Movie in Thessaloniki and others. “The film industry said: you were just lucky”, says Eich today. But the team were persistent. And with his mini crew, who not only acted in front of the camera but also shot and made the editing, Reber produced in a row “Pentamagica” (2003), “The Dark Side of our Inner Space” (2004), and then in 2005, “24/7 The Passion of Life”.

“My favorite film”, says Eich. She plays the role of the naïve hotelier’s daughter Eve, who one day meets the Dominatrix “Lady Maria” (Mira Gittner). And she immerses into a parallel world, populated by slaves, humans turned into pigs, sadists and masochists. “We were skating on very thin ice” says Eich. For several months, the team researched swinger’s clubs, and the S&M scene. “We simply had no idea”. Gittner stood in a studio as a guest dominatrix, the shoots were done at a Munich club during their ongoing daily business. All over Germany “24/7” was screened in small as well as big cinemas. Every year on July 24th, the movie is screened not only in swinger’s clubs, in Munich it was shown at the Museum-Lichtspiele this summer. ARTE will broadcast the erotic drama on November 10th at night; it was also screened at the Five Lake Filmfestival in Starnberg 2 years ago. There were heated discussions between Roland Reber and the audience not only there. Porn, flat, awkward clichés, said some. Others were fascinated.

In any case: it provokes. The sex scenes aren’t fake, even if during the shooting they are “absolutely unerotic and just exhausting”. Eich sticks by her work: “I also have a bit of an exhibitionistic streak.” But what does it mean: it only means to display themselves, to present oneself: “As long as I can still do this…”

She went on. In 2009 Eich performed in Reber’s film “Angels with dirty wings”, along with Antje Mönning, known as TV-nun Jenny from the ARD series “Um Himmels Willen”. BILD scented a scandal: “The TV-star shot a sex film” the paper wrote – and: “Sex-nun lives in a commune with director”. In fact Antje Mönning, Mira Gittner and Marina Anna Eich live together with Reber in the countryside. “We are like a family”, says Eich.

Somehow the young woman has reached her inner self. “One shouldn’t let others to lead us astray from our own path”, she says thoughtfully. She is a Jury member at international Film Festivals, and acquired much respect. In November, she flies to Goa to present the new work at the Film Festival, where she plays the main part. Marina Anna Eich performs a confident, self-assured woman. A challenge - she is more of the “hysteric, jittery kind”. Although she turned more calm since the accident with the lawnmower. She is satisfied with her life today - “and grateful”. One thing is very important to her, she says this sentence several times: Be yourself.



Monday, 14 November 2011

Theresa Russell & co in "Bad Timing" [1980 UK]

The 1980 film, "Bad Timing" is arguably the last masterpiece by the great Nicolas Roeg. He has of course made some fine films later, but none of them reach the heights set here, be it the characterisation, direction, or the editing - one can devote entire articles to each of the above features - so much to see and appreciate. Add to this Anthony Richmond's excellent cinematography, the eclectic soundtrack, and not least the superlative performance by actors playing the main characters - Harvey Keitel is brilliant, singer/songwriter Art Garfunkel sincere, and Theresa Russell captivating - you can see they were all 'a team' while making this film. Not often do I find it hard to describe how good a film actually is - even after second viewing, new information keeps sinking in.

About the film:
It's essentially a study of two characters with conflicting interests, in love - in retrospect they shouldn't have even met. Milena, a young American - married but carefree, meets Alex - a judgemental, possessive and older compatriot, and a visiting lecturer of psychoanalysis. Set in the Austrian capital Vienna, the film captures their mutual obsession and contradictions, and the tragic consequences. And this is done beautifully using short and sharp vignettes, flashing back and forth in time, like memory, as if 'remembering someone from the past'. Mr. Roeg gives an interesting explanation in the DVD extras for the reason behind this unique style of his - bewildering at times with those splintered edits, but which all makes perfect sense towards the end. He tells a story so succinctly, feeding audience just enough information at any given time to keep their attention - I reiterate what I mentioned in an earlier article. The film also uses symbolism to embellish its character study, notably through book titles and artworks (aptly Viennese, like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele). Surprisingly, the film with such a controversial subject was produced by the rather conservative Rank Organisation, even if they refused to put in their gong man logo during the film's opening credits.

I'd readily recommend the NTSC Criterion Collection DVD over any other version for the sheer quality of transfer and the loaded extras. There is an absorbing interview with the great man Nic Roeg himself, and also some candid thoughts from his ex-wife and star of the film, Theresa Russell. She gives an outstanding performance as the wild orchid Milena - she's also incredibly cute and sexy! This was the first time the twenty one year old Russell had worked with Roeg, and they obviously hit it off, on and off stage. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..! DVD Link

Compilation: Theresa Russell, Ellan Fartt, Dana Gillespie, and unknown actress
It's impossible to give a scene guide for this compilation that would make sense, as each of them is inter-cut with flashbacks and flash forwards - you just have to watch it. I've also inserted a couple of non-nude but sexy scenes in between, notably that of Russell and Garfunkel scene in the car when she (unintentionally) spills the schnapps she was drinking over her dress - the dialogue was not in the script but used nevertheless, and the shocked Garfunkel's expression in it is priceless. I've also edited out a few seconds of nudity that could have given too much of the plot away, especially in the final scene when Milena is raped whilst approaching coma.

Theresa Russell, Ellan Fartt, and Dana Gillespie in Bad Timing

Bonus Scene: Clips of Deleted Scenes from the DVD extras
A couple of deleted scenes here - they don't have sound, and have also not been remastered, for obvious reasons.

Bad Timing - deleted scene 1 Bad Timing - Deleted Scene 2 Bad Timing - Deleted Scene 3 Bad Timing - Deleted Scene 4


Friday, 11 November 2011

Isabelita Sarli in "Mis Días con Gloria" [2010 Argentina]

Any discussion about nudity in Argentinian films is incomplete without the mention of Isabel Sarli - undoubtedly the high priestess of cinematic nudity at least as far as Latin America is concerned. Affectionately called 'Coca' (for her addiction to that very American cola), the voluptuous legend appeared in thirty odd films brandishing her bountiful bosoms and generous smile, most of which directed by her long-term partner Armando Bo who featured his son opposite her. I don't see myself posting any of her films yet, but for those interested, you may want to check out her very first film, and the first ever Argentinian cinema nude scene, in "El trueno entre las hojas" aka "Thunder in the Leaves" from way black and white 1956.

Why am I talking about Isabel Sarli then, you may ask. In Juan José Jusid's recent crime drama, "Mis Días con Gloria" [Eng. Title: My Days with Gloria], Isabel 'Coca' Sarli stars and also oversees the debut of her daughter Isabelita 'Coquita' Sarli. It's Coquita's nude debut too, and we can all clearly see the 'family' resemblance. ;-)

About the film:
The film is an ode to Argentinian cinema itself (I mean, Isabel Sarli - some scenes are even made to look like her swan song), where she plays Gloria, an ageing actress returning to her homeland after many years to spend the last days of her life. She mistakes a hired assassin at the airport (escaping from an assignment) for a taxi driver and hires him, and they develop a bond. The guy wants to quit the bloody job but the corrupt police wouldn't let him. He also has this girlfriend Rita, a stripper and prostitute who adores him and wants them to go away to the seaside together. He later cocks up a job and lands in trouble, and Gloria helps him through. I must say that the best part of the film's actually the title, apart from of course, the newcomer playing Rita - mamacita caliente Isabelita Sarli..!

DVD Order Link

Upon completion of the film, Playboy magazine approached Isabelita Sarli for a nude photo shoot, which she apparently refused, saying that stripping for a film within context is different from walking naked in front of a camera just to show your body. She wants to do comedy instead, as she feels her personality is best suited for that. Why not, I'd say - even better if it was a sexy comedy with some nudity thrown in, just for laughs of course!

Compilation: Isabelita Sarli
I've included a couple of scenes of the full-of-promise Isabelita Sarli from the film - first with her assassin-boyfriend, and later performing in an actual strip club somewhere along a highway - apparently a couple of truckers walked in the middle of the shoot, and the consummate professional that she is, continued dancing. I've also inserted a brief montage of some Isabel Sarli clips shown in the film for those who enjoy their 60's nostalgia..!

Isabelita Sarli in Mis Dias con Gloria


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sibel Kekilli in "Gegen die Wand" [2004 Germany, Turkey]

It was a stroke of genius on the part of Fatih Akin when he cast Sibel Kekilli in his film, "Gegen die Wand" [Eng. Title: Head-On], a poignant romantic drama. It was as if Ms. Kekilli was born to play the role - you don't see an actress in the film, just the character. She would tell us later how much she could relate to some of her own personal experiences growing up within a Turkish family in Germany. She justifiably won a bucket full of awards the following year for her performance, and is now an established actress in world cinema. I'm purposefully avoiding her earlier work as it is irrelevant to this blog. Besides, we haven't even started talking about the film yet!

Cahit, a washed-up, 40-something 'bum' meets and marries pretty twenty year old Sibel under bizarre circumstances. It was meant to be a marriage of convenience, so that Sibel could get out of her overbearing family environment. The rest of the film is a story universal to generation 'X'. It beautifully captures the dilemma caused by reluctance of people to acknowledge feelings for one another and commit to a relationship - a self-preservation mechanism common among many. But just when Cahit and Sibel realise their feelings for one another, the drama begins. Cahit ends up serving time for manslaughter, and Sibel flees to Istanbul to escape from her family's wrath. By the time Cahit is released and comes looking for Sibel, a lot of water has flown under the bridge...

It is almost a perfect film. Because it is full of energy and has exquisite rhythm, like a masterfully choreographed dance. The pace, the timing of dialogues, the screenplay, the edits, the careful cinematography, and the eclectic soundtrack combine to tell a riveting story full of passion and love. It also has its little flaws here and there, but they could all be forgiven for its other strong virtues. Add to this, the performances by central actors are way above average. I saw the film first on TV, channel-hopping until bumping into it by chance - I couldn't get up until the end credits. This is a magnificent piece of cinema, and therefore, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Sibel Kekilli and Catrin Striebeck

Sibel Kekilli and Catrin Striebeck in Gegen die Wand

Scene Guide:
  • No nudity but sexy - Sibel and Cahit are married but live like platonic flatmates, and after she persuades him to take her dancing - he watches her being approached by a few young men - she'd later leave with one of them telling Cahit that she's getting laid.
  • A drunk Cahit is woken up by his ex-wife's friend Maren and they spend the night together. She compliments him later on his lovemaking. Maren is played by Catrin Striebeck.
  • Awesome scene as Sibel and Cahit decide to get to know each other better - he had been treating her as little more than a maid until then. But just when he's about to impregnate her, she stops him, reminding that by making love, it would be the consummation of their marriage and they'll become husband and wife for real. Their frustration says it all.
  • Sibel, desperately lonely in Istanbul, decides to give herself a fix after an argument with her cousin and goes to a bar, offering the barman whatever he wanted in return. She later gets drunk and passes out. He helps himself to whatever he can and then mercilessly asks her to leave.
  • After release from prison, Cahit comes looking for Sibel. But a lot had changed -Sibel's now married, and even has a child. She meets him when her husband goes away on business. And they finally make love.
  • Sibel asks Cahit what he intends to do henceforth. He tells her that he wants to settle in his home town, and asks if she, along with the child would join him. They agree to meet at the bus station at an appointed time the following day (I've left some non-nude moments of silence in between some scenes as it makes no sense without it).


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cristiana Capotondi in "Come tu mi Vuoi" [2007 Italy]

Volfango di Biasi's romantic comedy, "Come tu mi Vuoi" [Eng. Title: As You Want Me] is one of those average teen-targeted films that wouldn't normally feature here, but for one Cristiana Capotondi - an actress beautiful just as she's talented, but still confined to making light comedies.

I'll keep the storyline very brief as there's nothing special in this commercial film. Geeky Communications student Giada despises material culture until she meets fellow student, rich kid, and playboy Riccardo. He falls in love with her after her repeated rejections. She's eventually won over, and she too falls in love with the person whose kind she scorned at before. She then begins to appreciate some of the goodness in material things and uses it to advance her career (and love). The one aspect of production worth mentioning however, would have to be the make up - the effort put into making Cristiana Capotondi look 'plain', including her painted-in freckles is actually quite convincing (shown among the 'Making of' DVD extras).

Compilation: Cristiana Capotondi
There is only a single scene of nudity, about three minutes long. I therefore decided to include some of the short-of-nude best moments in the film to make it worthwhile.

Cristiana Capotondi and Giulia Steigerwalt in Come tu mi Vuoi

Scene Guide:
  • Giada gets ready for a date with Riccardo - who had found her 'fascinating' and decides to 'employ' her as his tutor, eventually asking her out for dinner. Giada of course, is played by signorina molto bellissima Cristiana Capotondi.
  • The date - Riccardo does the deed, and Giada shows him a good time too.
  • Fiamma, among Riccardo's circle of rich friends, felt bored and decides to help Giada fit into the 'it' crowd. And that includes a complete makeover, teaching the moves, pouting lips, and all the other girly paraphernalia. Fiamma is played by Giulia Steigerwalt.
  • Equipped with all the confidence, Giada struts her stuff in front of the gob-smacked Riccardo. Later on in bed, they tell each other they'll still remain their old selves at heart - and he uses the 'L' word.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Evangelina Sosa in "Ángel de Fuego" [1992 Mexico]

Dana Rotberg hasn't made that many feature films, and I keep wondering why. She is one of the most gifted female directors today, and I say this with conviction even if I have seen only two of her three features to date (the other one being Otilia Rauda). Her drama, "Ángel de Fuego" [Eng. Title: Angel of Fire] was made nearly twenty years ago - a heartfelt critique of the duplicitous nature of religion - claiming to redeem people from suffering on the one hand, while unforgiving and vicious on the other.

It is a passionate plea for tolerance and understanding, for reason to prevail over dogma. Set amongst the mundane and unattractive backdrop of an industrial rail yard on the impoverished outskirts of Mexico city, Rotberg has created haunting compositions that confronts and forces viewers out of their complacency. What the film is trying to tell may not be totally unique, but it is the manner in which it conveys the message that leave us speechless. It must have been tough making such a film at the time when Mexico wasn't yet a modern democracy. It is nevertheless a relentlessly unforgiving film - the first part would've put many people off, where a young acrobat has incestuous relations with her ailing father - it is shocking but handled delicately, considering the circumstances under which this happens. Some may also be put off by the catastrophic ending, but the bulk of the film however is all about redemption and salvation, asking pertinent questions like "when is love a sin", "doesn't God forgive all those who love" and so on. To the end we're left asking, who is the sinner in all this that require any redemption.

The film uses exquisite folk imagery like puppets, kitsch backdrops, and local beliefs to avidly capture the essence of a different, but altogether real Mexico. It speaks to me in so many levels, and it is also one of the socially important films to have come out of this fascinating country. It's hard to believe Dana Rotberg hasn't made many more films, she is one of her country's hidden treasures that should be more widely celebrated.

The characterisation and screenplay is well thought out, as is the delicate direction and cinematography. The soundtrack is haunting with a mixture of folk rhythms interspersed with sounds from nearby industry and distant barking (a symbol of human presence). Not least the magnetic performance of the beautiful Evangelina Sosa, who plays the melancholic and angelic Alma, a thirteen year old acrobat and fire breather using the titular name at a dilapidated circus. This is a gem of a film, and therefore, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link
(there are some good deals going there at the time of this post)

Compilation: Evangelina Sosa
Made from several scenes. I felt compelled to enhance this compilation as the DVD was stamped predominantly for older television sets. Here's a snapshot from the original DVD (left), and my enhanced version (right).

From the original DVD snapshot of enhanced version
It took my computer well over 9 hours to process this, that's not including my earlier unsuccessful attempts, but I hope it was all worth it..!

Evangelina Sosa in Angel de Fuego

Scene Guide:
  • In the circus called life, with a mother who'd run away long ago, the ailing father is the closest thing to love for Alma, which unfortunately spills into incest. Just when she learns of her pregnancy, her father dies. After discovering Alma's pregnancy, the wife of the circus owner asks her to get rid of the 'monster' if she wishes to stay in the circus.
  • Alma seeks refuge with a travelling preacher/priestess, who with her 'prophet' son Sacramento and Noe, an orphan child, draw audiences with their puppet show. God had just spoken to the priestess, and as penance for her sin, Alma will have to endure heat, hunger, and public nudity, apart from having her unborn child aborted, so that the priestess' son Sacramento can be one more step closer to God.
  • A disillusioned Alma returns to the circus, which she knows would also mean taking up additional duties like prostitution. Being dealt a cruel hand by fate, Alma finds it hard to come to terms with her loss.
  • Alma visits Sacramento when he's alone for one more chance of salvation - she knows he likes her more than his mother did. But Sacramento desires Alma, for which 'sin' he had been torturing himself. She asks him why he is punishing himself if he was born without sin. But sin he commits, as he succumbs to his desire for Alma. While leaving, Alma asks little Noe not to believe if anyone said Sacramento was sinless.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Mar Ulldemolins & Alícia Roy in "Mil Cretins" [2011 Spain]

Veteran Catalan director Ventura Pons is known for films with unusual characters (oddities almost), dark humour and kinky themes of a vicarious nature. He may have mellowed over the years, but his films still retain a refreshing frankness that's rare these days. Of course, Cataluña is renowned for its quirky artists (and that is an understatement), and it is only natural to see quirkiness manifested in its rich cinema too.

His recent film, "Mil Cretinos" [Orig Title: Mil Cretins, Eng Title: A Thousand Fools] is made of three parts, each with several chapters loosely connected either through one of the characters or an overall theme, a style of film making Sr. Pons has used more than once.

The first and third parts are set around an old people's home, and inevitably casts a pall over its characters - whether it is a family member about to die, or the end of a relationship. The second part is almost Decamerotic, even if these are staged as theatrical pieces, all chapters taken from folk and fairy tales but with either the roles reversed or with twisted endings. If you can sit through the first two chapters of the film, you'll begin to enjoy the rest. Having said that, I found one chapter particularly tedious where we follow a mature woman stripping her apartment of all belongings one by one with barely a dialogue or commentary - it may have worked well for a novella but perhaps not so on film. The soundtrack and cinematography is appealing, even if it's not exactly cutting-edge. While the film may not be in the same league as his earlier gems like "Carisias" or "El Porqué de las Cosas", it is still very well written, directed and performed by established actors.

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Mar Ulldemolins and Alícia Roy
Taken from two chapters from Part 1 and 2. The DVD comes with the option of the original Catalan soundtrack or in Spanish - even though I watched it with the Spanish dubbing, I've retained the original track for this compilation.

Mar Ulldemolins and Alícia Roy in Mil Cretins

Scene Guide:
  • Mar Ulldemolins as Gina. The more twisted and kinky of the two chapters, where care home receptionist Gina sends a letter to her ex-boyfriend (the poor sod is lying in a coffin by the time he receives it) explaining why she likes her life away from him. Her new boyfriend is apparently ready to please her whenever and wherever she wants, which inevitably include handing over her knickers and having sex in public, and the ensuing thrill of getting noticed. Add to this, she's now taken on another lover, which she admits might have made her boyfriend 'a little bit' jealous. She tells her ex that he doesn't have the balls to commit suicide as threatened earlier, and that if he were a proper man, he should be fondling a new woman's ass instead of spending all this effort trying to make her feel guilty for leaving him. Ouch..!
  • Alícia Roy as the Sleeping Beauty. This is a straightforward scene that need no explaining - anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the fairy tale will understand this twisted version.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Juliette Binoche in "Rendez-vous" [1985 France]

It's about time I started the filmography in this blog of one of France's most beautiful and talented actresses - Juliette Binoche. I'll begin with André Téchiné's romantic drama, "Rendez-vous", which is Mlle Binoche's earliest starring role and also features her first nude appearance. And what a grand debut it turned out to be..!

Eighteen year old Nina arrives in Paris with stars in her eyes - she wants to make a name for herself in theatre, and she takes up whatever minor roles she could get to keep her going. Free-spirited, she moves out of her theatre usher boyfriend's flat and meets letting agent Paulot, who instantly falls in love with her. But she prefers they remain platonic friends and falls for his flatmate Quentin instead. But Quentin has issues - he couldn't forgive himself for a past tragedy, and transmits his hatred to everyone close to him, to the extent that he wouldn't leave Nina alone even after he dies. His death unexpectedly acquaints Nina with a director Scrutzler, the father of Quentin's late girlfriend, who decides to cast her as the main character in his stage play, "Romeo and Juliet". Nina, who struggles at the beginning to understand the character she's playing, gradually learns what it is to fall in love, get hurt, and relate to the character she initially found so uninteresting.

This is a beautifully written film by Téchiné. We see glimpses of his brilliance in the manner in which he spins a elegant (and earthy) love story around the film's main theme, which is about the maturing of a raw actress from the provinces. Just as Nina samples, savours, and absorbs experiences from the people she meets, she begins to understand the character she plays - she begins to also understand and fall, in love. The sights and sounds of Paris, the screenplay, the uncompromising performances by all main actors, and the great ending is what makes this a true French film classic. Add to this, the amazing maturity shown by Juliette Binoche who plays Nina - she was only twenty one at the time - the film gives us a preview of what was to come from this gifted actress. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link

Compilation: Juliette Binoche and Caroline Faro

Juliette Binoche and Caroline Faro in Rendez-vous

Scene Guide:
  • Paulot, having watched Nina's average performance in a play, goes up to the dressing room to congratulate, only to catch her being fondled by the boyfriend.
  • Quentin, Paulot's flatmate invites Nina to a show where he performs in a different version of Romeo and Juliet in this outrageous scene - the not-too-pleased Nina leaves. 'Juliet' is performed by Caroline Faro.
  • Paulot, unable to express how he feels properly, tries to grope Nina during a property viewing, and an angry Nina humiliates him by stripping and laying down, asking him how he'd like to take her.
  • Quentin gets beaten up trying to protect Nina from a guy who wants her way with her. She rewards the bruised Quentin back at her flat.
  • Paulot visits Nina's flat the following morning to drop off some groceries she might need, only to see his flatmate had been there first.To add insult to injury Quentin takes him inside and urges him to feel the sleeping Nina's crotch. She wakes up shocked, only to be further humiliated by Quentin - he sees them both as ignorant fools who can't realise they are in love.
  • After some water under the bridge, Nina returns to see Paulot - she misses his attentions, and tries to win him back, but a hurt and angry Paulot takes his turn at humiliating her - dirty love, indeed..!