THE LICKERISH QUARTET (RADLEY METZGER, 1970)
It's really too bad that Radley Metzger got branded as a "dirty film" maker so early in his career-- many of his filmic efforts prove close to the same caliber of many important films of the period. A perfect example of Metzger proving his artistic and intellectual capabilities comes by way of his 1970 film, The Lickerish Quartet.
Set in a "700 year old castle," a husband and wife, and the wife's son, watch an 8mm stag film. The son becomes upset, the husband and wife simply find it amusing. They finish the film and head to a carnival. The end up attending an attraction, The Wheel of Death. Not only amazed by the spectacle, the family is even more amazed when one of the motorcycle riders takes of her helmet and reveals herself to be the girl they had just seen in the film. The entire group is shocked by the revelation, the husband and wife decide it would be a great idea to invite the stunningly beautiful girl to watch the film with them in their castle. The husband invites her over, and she accepts.
What follows, summarized quite succinctly, is the seduction of all three "family members" by the beautiful girl. The girl makes it with the castle owner in the library, where dictionary definitions of words relating to sex pattern the floor; in the woods with the young man; and back in the study where the film was first viewed with the castle owner's wife. However, much more is going on that what appears at surface level, and Metzger leaves us with a deliberate, ambiguous mystery to solve.
An interview with Metzger from 1976 reveals his inspiration from Alain Resnais' film, Last Year at Marienbad. While the film, to most, may seem in an entirely different league than Metzger's magnum opus, many similarities can be noticed. Both films deal heavily with memory, distortion of memory, and memory versus reality. Also, both feature long, sumptuous tracking shots, Metzger's film to a much lesser extent to that of Resnais'. Another big art house title the film is comparable to is Pasolini's Teorema; in which Terence Stamp plays a stranger who visits a dysfunctional family and changes everything. In fact, there are so many similarites between the films that many cinema goers assumed that Metzger had been heavily inspired by the Pasolini film; however, Metzger denies having seen Pasolini's film before he made his own, although after viewing it doesn't deny their similarities.
As I intended to bring up originally, it really is a shame that Metzger never received the critical praise he deserved, especially since this film is at the same level as the enigmatic films of Alain Robbe-Grillet and aforementioned Resnais and Pasolini. If critics of the time had been willing to watch Metzger's film in a context outside of it being a "blue movie," one can be sure that it would be as well remembered as the aforementioned "classics.
The film is one of Metzger's crowning achievement as far as technicalities go; it features the most beautiful setting in a Metzger film, incredible camera work by Hans Jura (who did the cinematography for many of Metzger's other beautiful films), a perfect score by Stelvio Cipriani (credited as "Stephen Cipriani"), and a beautiful cast that's as beautiful as the film itself; acting, albeit seeming a bit too theatrical, fits the script perfectly.
While probably not being the best introduction to Radley Metzger, The Lickerish Quartet still serves as an excellent movie on it's own, outside of Metzger's oeuvre. View it as an example of the excellent, ambiguous avant-garde art films of the sixties, or view as one of Metzger's most personal and experimental works; either way, you won't be disappointed.