Thursday, July 19, 2007


For a brief period of time in European genre cinema, sadomasochistic themed films were all the rage. Jess Franco doled out plenty with his personal touch, Just Jaeckin hit it big with his glossy adaptation of The Story of O, and Radley Metzger even hoped on the bandwagon in true European style with certain scenes from Camille 2000 and the some-what hardcore The Image; and those titles just touch the tip of the iceberg. Many of the films were utter exploitation, and others approached the subject matter with a specific intellectual bend, which was perfectly fitting towards the subject matter.

In 1973, Pierre-Alain Jolivet released La Punition (which translated to "The Punishment" in English). Jolivet had began his directorial career directing an adaptation of a play written by Fernando Arrabel, La Grand Ceremonial. Today, none of his films seem to have any official releases (outside a few VHS releases throughout the world), and throughout my searching I've come across almost no information on the man's career, or his films. To me, he remains a mystery.

I had seen a few still frames from La Punition on a now absent website a few years ago and they managed to stay in my mind. The images showed a decrepit, almost empty hotel room except for a bedframe and a cowering naked woman. The images alone were powerful enough; I made a mental note to try to check out the film. I finally managed to track the film down a few weeks ago, and sat down to watch it tonight.

From what I can discern of the plot (another no English viewing), La Punition tells the story of a woman (played by Karin Schubert, who later went on to hardcore pornography) who gets roped into a prostitution ring while developing a relationship with a man who's involved. She fails to please a trick and her boss forces her into confinement in a room in a hotel that is completely devoid of furnishings except for a bed frame, a locked, white cupboard, and a floor covered with dead leaves (an amazing visual). While in the room she is stripped naked and in a series of tableaus degraded and whipped, forced to fulfill every man who enters desire (hence the title; it's her punishment). While in the room she regularly hears another girl next door howling in fear and pain.

It's a sort of odd film; aside from the fact that I'm obviously missing loads due to my not understanding the dialogue, there's a lot going on here. The film opens (after cutting from a scene that is repeated once again near the end of the film) in a sort of art gallery/party. The room is mostly white, and upper class men and woman mingle around. An overwhelming sound of gunshots sand helicopters drowns out the soundtrack, which is soon revealed to be a game that a man is playing. A pinball machine is shown with legs coming out so that while playing it creates the visual implication of fucking a woman. And then comes dinner; grotesque animal heads and body parts decorate trays of snacks and food, which the men and women greedily devour.

I can't put my finger on exactly why it was, but something about this scene reminded me a lot of the opening scene (after the credits sequence) of Alain Robbe-Grillet's Eden and After in the cafe Eden. It might have something to do with the lack of a character that the camera is focusing on; rather the camera smoothly glides around revealing the people and items in the room, while the disturbing soundtracks creates a sort of nullified divide.

There are also brief moments of intense violence throughout the film which also seem to stem from the grosteque art of the opening scene. It comes rarely and as a surprise, so it's very effective when it does come, and suitably disrupts the mood.

If there's one thing I can say about the film it's that Pierre-Alain Jolivet has a remarkable sense of aesthetics. Almost every scene in the movie is either decked out in subtly bright colors, or, as in the hotel room, the visual aesthetics emphasize the emotional position that the character is in. There is a copious use of red and green lights, and there are many tracking shots that move in truly unique ways around what's being depicted.

The soundtrack is also great, varying from mid-70s party-psych to more harrowing piano chords for the sadistic scenes. The sound effects are wonderful too, from the aforementioned use of sound to put the audience off guard in the first scene to the way that every telephone conversation is heard with a creepy reverb that seems to create a mood of distance and threat.

I can't comment too much on the narrative, as I still feel I'm missing a great deal by not understanding the dialogue (more than normal compared to some of the other films I've reviewed without English options), but overall I believe that this is a film worth watching, and probably revisiting, if for the visual aesthetics alone.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Exhibtion II succeeds in being worthwhile and interesting for one main reason: Sylvia Bourdon. While most remembrance she inspires today involves her pornographic career, particularly her turn in Claude Mulot's delirious Pussy Talk, Sylvia's life itself is far more interesting than any of the pornographic films she ever made.

This short documentary, which clocks in at just over an hour (apparently scenes that were shot featuring insertion, which would have helped to sell the film on the pornographic circuit and pad out the run-time, had their soundtracks unknowingly destroyed), followings a short period in Sylvia's life. A trip to Greece, an evening out to dinner, a partouze she has organized with the centerpiece being her slave Jan, and a more intimate session with Jan, much to the dismay of one of Sylvia's less extreme friends. I'm tempted to say that what's depicted on screen would be just as interesting even if there had just been a camera in the room, running, filming everything going on, but there are certain decisions made throughout the film where the camera pans to reveal an expression, whether on Sylvia or one of her friends faces, and it's these moments that help one to realize that the film is just as much Davy's as Sylvia's.

As a "documentary" it remains fairly objective, allowing Sylvia to passionately explain her actions and still keeping in comments from others that attempt to persuade otherwise. It's built up mostly of fascinating conversations, instead of sexual action, and it's for this reason that it remains so interesting. Sylvia is a very intelligent and passionate woman, fully aware and conscious of everything she does, and fully capable of dealing with any affect that her actions have on her. While many porn documentaries are somewhat exploitive in their depictions of porn stars as fairly naive and, in some cases, dumb, neither of these adjectives can be applied to Sylvia.

However, the one short coming of the film itself is it's fragmentation. I had just finished reading Bourdon's brilliant autobiography, translated into English as Love is a Feast, and the film served as a perfect compendium; visually depicting events and conversations that Bourdon mentions in her book. It serves to elevate the events of the book; as is it not in a book where our imagination has to create the visuals that we are reading? The film serves to illustrate, and it more than likely lives up to any personally realized visualization. The film let me put names to faces, and allowed the attitudes and ideologies of the book to transcend simple ideas; they became (closer) to reality.

For those of you unfamiliar with the great Ms. Bourdon, allow me to quote a somewhat lengthy excerpt from her autobiography:

"I don't need anyone on a Harley-Davidson. That's one of Serge Gainsbourg's songs. I remember a warm, rainy night in the Champs-Elysees. We had been to the cinema, then to a restaurant, and afterwards we had gone to pick up Eric's motor-bike. Seized by a sudden inspiration he sat me in front, facing him, skirt hitched up, and started off. I never wear panties, it's against my principles. So there we were zooming up to the Etoile. With rain in our eyes, the crazy night, my lips in Eric's neck, we were laughing like anything, we were happy, the sky was seesawing, the apartment blocks were playing meccan with the stars, and the Arc de Triomphe was rolling because it was drunk. It was an evening when modern men and women change their faces because they have finally recognised each other, when little children dream of sailing ships they'll go off in one day, when the fish in the Tuileries ponds think, with melancholy, about arctic whales. A magical evening, in which tenderness flows in waves over the cafe terraces, in which the rediscovery of the sea and of fossils is the order of the day, when everyone knows that everything is possible without waiting for tomorrow. I undid Eric's zip, I like Montherlant when he talks about rigour, I like Eric's rigorous prick, we're going to drink a cool Sauvignon straight from the spring, I raised myself and got impaled on my friend, who kept his machine roaring up the Avenue de la Grande-Armee. I kept coming and going on him, lighted windows were listening to Guy Lux, a policeman's white kepi never realised what was happening to us, the bike was doing fifty miles an hour, an outraged taxi hooted virtuously, I started to come at the Neuilly bridge, the rain was never, never going to stop. The roars, the acceleration, the dipped headlights, the tide was rising, it was so good to keep going quicker and quicker, more and more vigorously. We were tightrope walkers, we were on a wire five hundred metres up, I was swallowing the wind and Eric's leather jacket, Eric was beginning to zigzag with emotion. We exploded at the same instant, near the Aurore tower. Screwing becomes Electra. You who have never been fucked on a motor-bike, you will never know the colour of the stars."

I have chosen this quote to demonstrate many things: first of all, her utter exhibitionism, which is obviously well suited for a film entitled Exhibition II. Secondly, her enthusiasm for, well, as she would put it, fucking. And finally, how utterly happy she really is with her life. The film ends in a candid moment in which Jean-Francois Davy asks her if she is happy. She replies that she is always happy, and by watching her and reading her words, we can understand that this is the truth.

Another thing that warrants mentioning is a bit more about the aforementioned scenes of sadomasochism. They create the most sensational elements of spectacle within the film; Davy's camera remaining unflinching as she whips, knifes, and belittles her slave. It is obvious that Bourdon is no professional Sadist; S/M is not her life, rather it's just one of the many components that make up her intense sexually. But despite the fact she is (comparatively) an amateur, she is utterly enthusiastic, which is revealing. Following the scenes of the spectacle Davy's camera lingers on heated debates between Sylvia, Jan, and Sylvia's acquaintances who have just witnessed the event. It is refreshing to allow the players in the psycho-sexual game to justify and discuss their actions/preferences, instead of just being presented to an exploitative end.

So while the film isn't so much innovative or special in itself, it exists, in addition to Sylvia Bourdon's autobiography, as a refreshing and fully entertaining document of one of history's most joyful, hedonistic women.

It is worth nothing that while the English translation of Love is a Feast is currently out of print, it can be obtained easily enough through a library or for not too expensive at OOP Book outlets

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Lately I haven't been updating as often as I was a month ago. I've been working a lot more hours than normal recently, and unfortunately have fallen behind my goal of at least one review per week (generally I try to do more). I apologize, but at least I'm making some extra money so I'll be able to afford a few more DVDs and film books than normal!

Also, almost an entire month ago I was awarded, by two fantastic blogs (Cinebeats and Flickhead), the Thinking Blogger's Award! I, as it seems like a lot of the blogging community, am not too keen on memes, but I'm very flattered that I received this great acknowledgment, yet alone twice! It's always really great to hear people comment that they appreciate what you're doing, so I'm finally following up on this like I was planning on doing long ago.

To begin, there are certain rules you have to follow:

Thinking Blogger’s Award Rules

  1. If, and only if your blog is one that is tagged on my list below, you must write a post with links to five other blogs you like that consistently make you think (hence, the Thinking Blogger’s Award).

  2. Link to this post so people will know whose good idea all this was.

  3. Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” logo with a link to the post you wrote.

I'm generally remarkably bad at following rules as far as these things go, but surprisingly, this time I'm actually imposing another rule upon myself: I'm not going to name any blogs that have, to my knowledge, already received the award. Of course, I don't read every blog on the internet, but I figure the addition of this rule can help generate more linkage for more people!

I also have to clarify that every blog on my blogroll makes me think, and I fully support all of them, plus many more great blogs that I don't link, so this is just small taste. Like Kimberly at Cinebeats, I would also recommend checking out each and every site that I link! And now, on with it!

1. Ombres Blanches
I found Ombres Blanches through another favorite blog that has already recieved the Thinking Blogger's Award; Jahsonic. Andrej's blog takes very interesting looks into all types of culture, from literature to film, to art, and more. He seems to share really similar aesthetics to me in terms of what he blogs about, so I can always count on his posts to be both informative and interesting; and amid a sea of culture there aren't that many people whose interests seem to mesh with mine very well! He's also been utterly helpful to me in tracking down some out of print books and articles, and he has spoken enthusiastically about contributing to the Esotika website once I get it off the ground.

2. I'm In a Jess Franco State of Mind
Bob Monell is, in my mind, one of the definite authority on Franco films, and he shares his thoughts and comments on the man through this blog. He also comments about other films, often including connections to Franco films. Since this summer I have moved from being very enthusiastic about Franco to being completely obsessed with Franco, his blog is always helpful and makes me think.

3. Giallo Fever
K H Brown runs this wonderful blog that continues very detailed, intelligent reviews of every possible gialli film you could think of; and if it's not there yet, it undoubtedly will be soon! He also has very insightful comments on genre related books, as well as posing somewhat overarching questions about genre films themselves that always get me thinking.

4. Desistfilm
Desistfilm is a new film blog published by one of my real life acquaintances, Ron Felton. Ron used to live a few doors down from my house, and it was always a great time talking to him about how absurd current culture is, and it was always nice to have "intellectual" conversations with an actual person. He just recently got into film, and it seems that he always has something insightful to say. He's recently told me that he found himself only wanting to review films that he hated (he finds it easier apparently), and he doesn't like the attitude that presents, so he was stopping. However, I'm hoping that with some encouragement he'll continue!

5. Documents
Documents is a blog that often publishes insightful posts about two of my favorite things: Georges Bataille and black metal. Not only does he talk about these two things, but he often successfully connects themes between the two, which never ceases to amaze me, since he's always spot on with his connections. Of course, Georges Bataille and black metal are not the only two things he blogs about, his blog also approaches culture in great ways.


aka Delirio Caldo

Delirium is Renato Polselli's 1972 feature that tells the tale of a psychiatrist who himself has serious sadistic tendencies. He also suffers a sort of depersonalization where he spends most of his days denying to himself that he is, indeed, psychotic. The film opens with Herbert (played by Polselli regular and former body-builder Mickey Hartigay) strangling a young girl after he picks her up from a bar. Once he arrives home the viewer becomes aware of the intense relationship that he and his wife, Marcia, (played by the always wonderful Rita Calderoni) endure-- Herbert is utterly impotent in the bedroom, having been unable to consummate his marriage with his wife who, regardless or circumstance, is utterly in love with him.

The rest of the film explores more murders that are being committed; some by Herbert out of pure sexual desire, and others by Marcia out of pure love for her husband, and out of the fear that she will lose him (it should be noted that this isn't particularly a spoiler; it's fairly obvious, and the reason that the film succeeds is due to this relationship). Along the way a voyeuristic park watchman gets pulled into the affairs, and Herbert believes he has a scapegoat.

What could have ended up a ridiculously "obvious" giallo is saved by Polselli's more than competent direction, and the subtleties of the story. At the heart of it all, what is normally described as "sleazy" and a "series of shock scenes," is actually an amazing love story. I should also point out, that for the purpose of this review, I am referring to the Italian edit of the film. The film itself exists in multiple versions; the American version is wrapped up in a sort of Vietnam War story that places all the action either as a dream of a veteran or as a direct result of the psychological stress--which, it should be noted, compared to the Italian version is sort of a cop out. There is also a French version available which I haven't seen, but from what I understand this version significantly ups the sleaze quotient.

Something that seems to be repeatedly overlooked in many of Polselli's brilliant films are their emotional intensity. In fact, Rita Calderoni and Mickey Hartigay's performances in this film somewhat resemble the performances of Isabelle Adjani and Sam Niell in Andzrej Zulawski's equally (if not more) successful 1981 film, Possession. The intensity of the performances in this film can seem, well, delirious and over-the-top if experienced with only a passing glance, but within the context of the extreme relationship that is confidently presented the actions and emotions are valid. Herbert is constantly battling with himself and his psycho-sexual desires, while Marcia is utterly dependent upon her impotent husband, and has severe reliance issues.

Near the end of the film these characters emotional states climax, and the film turns into an almost anarchic frenzy of desire and sadness. Marcia runs around the house screaming, unable to cope with the fact that her relationship with her husband is about to be severed, and Herbert tries unsuccessfully to stay in control (which perfectly echoes his sexual impotence), while also distancing himself from his wife and preparing to place the blame on her. The only thing that is briefly distracting in these final scenes is the somewhat random appearance of Marcia's sister, who suddenly also displays an intense dependency on her sister. Luckily the addition is only briefly jarring, as the intensity of the third characters emotional state helps to heighten the overall feel of the scene, and is at the same level as the previously displayed mania.

It is worth nothing Polselli's philosophical background when discussing the film, as the main driving forces behind each character seems to be a conflict with the self. In fact, the films climax almost shows a dissatisfaction with the philosophical mode of thought, because no matter how much these characters try to justify and analyze their actions, their intellect cannot surpass pure emotion, something that is common in contemporary Western thought.

Also, as in Polselli's later Reincarnation of Isabel, the use of music helps to heighten the emotional levels, helping to sustain the intensity. The editing of the film also occasionally echoes the chaotic nature of the individual, with many cuts that will begin with a fast pan before the actual cut occurs, which creates a sort of dizzying effect that no doubt is meant to emphasize the disorganized mind.

Watching the Italian cut of the film I was simply amazing at how successfully emotional the film was, and how deeply it was affecting me. The characterization is handled so well that the viewer can actually empathize with Herbert, who is decidedly the villain of the picture. It's also always very interesting to me when I experience these almost visceral reactions from films that are marginalized and passed off as sleaze or trash-- let it be known that the intense relationship between Herbert and Marzia affected me far more than any so called "romance" film ever has, because it contains something that most straight-laced romance, or even straight-laced drama films lack; an emotional intensity that is undeniably a human factor.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


aka Glissements progressifs du plaisir

Slow Slidings of Pleasure is a very difficult film. It's remarkably intelligent in both it's construction and execution, and it features images that are utterly sensational. Despite my affinity for experimental and avant-garde film, I've often commented on the fact that I wish the amazing structural ideas and other experimental techniques would be put forth telling a story-- Don't get me wrong, I love experimental and avant-garde film exactly how it is, but as far as my personal interest in films go, I'm always drawn more towards amazing ideas and images if there is a narrative strand holding the images and ideas together. Incredibly enough, Slow Slidings of Pleasure manages to do just this; use an almost structural/materialist construction to deliver an utterly enigmatic and interesting story.

The film depicts the story of an unnamed protagonist (in the cine-roman of the film, the character is named Alice, but that name is never used in the actual film) who is being investigated for the murder of her roommate. The girls live in what appears to be a sort of nunnery, or at least an apartment where the nuns are overlooking everything. She acquires a lawyer, and the lawyer somewhat falls for the young girls sensual charms. Throughout the entire film, elements of the incident that may or may not have been a murder are told, in repeated ways. The girl is at "court," and throughout the film the girl deconstructs the events of the narrative to the judge. This creates a tension, as obviously a judge must organize events in order to objectively make a decision, but the girl is utterly against it. The girl, as Robbe-Grillet has said himself, represents freedom.

As my short plot synopsis indicates, the narrative is more or less quite convoluted, but not impossible to follow. While I'm sure I could have gotten far more understanding had I seen the film with English subtitles, I feel that there was enough worthwhile in the film to discuss. First of all, in the way that the girl deconstructs the narrative, events are played out in what I describe as a visual equivalent of Robbe-Grillet's 1957 novel, Jealousy. The novel, which is a perfect example of the whole nouveau-roman style that Robbe-Grillet was key in developing, tells the story of a relationship that is possibly being compromised by an outsider. It focuses on key events that reveal a very subtle sort of jealousy, hence the title of the book. The key events are told over and over again with slight variations, allowing each time to be more emotionally revealing to the reader while keeping a very objective, almost anti-emotional viewpoint. The film also carries several key events that are shown over and over again, except instead of only slight variations (in the novel it's almost as if the event is being depicted from an alternate angle; it's another way of looking at the same event) the events play out with different characters; whether it be events happening to the girl herself, or the girl reenacting events on her roommate Laura or one of the much beloved mannequins (which lend themselves to many of the visually incredible scenes in the film).

The way that these variations are introduced into the film is where I can apply my aforementioned notion that it takes a structural construction and applies it to narrative (in order to deconstruct the narrative in fact!). The film takes full advantage of what would be referred to as "punctuation." The punctuation in a normal commercial film will be something simple like a fade, or a dissolve, or some other transitional device that has no relevance the narrative. For the punctuation in this film, Robbe-Grillet uses singular images of objects that may or may not play into the narrative. For instance, between two scenes, instead of a simple cut (which leaves punctuation out) or a fade-out, Robbe-Grillet inserts an image of an open-toed show on the beach. Eventually, as the film gains in momentum, these punctuations stop being quick shots, and turn into scenes in themselves, yet they still don't play into linear narrative in any clear fashion.

So, aside from the protagonist literally deconstructing the story line in her conversations with her accusers, the film itself deconstructs a linear time line and exists in an utterly non-linear fashion, existing on several planes of existence, many of which might not have actually happened. If you can catch on to Robbe-Grillet's methods early on in the film (I suppose in this instance some familiarity with his ideas is helpful prior to viewing) it becomes much easier to read, even without full understanding. On that note, I'm actually not sure that it's that much of a handicap to not understand the dialogue, as often in the film Robbe-Grillet will use non-congruous, diegetic soundtrack elements that obscure the dialogue itself! While it may seem like a frustrating concept, it actually comes together into something wholly unique and stimulating.

Despite being such an intellectual film at heart, Robbe-Grillet ran into trouble with the authorities when the film was first released. In Italy a judged declared Robbe-Grillet guilty of violating morals, and therefore obscene, due to the fact that the judge himself did not understand the film and therefore declared the sadomasochistic elements of the film unnecessary! Which, as Robbe-Grillet points out himself as being quite ironic, as a major element of the film is a judge prosecuting the girl because he cannot make sense of events (refer to my comments earlier about judges looking to organize, while the girl looking to liberate through the deconstruction of narrative).

As I briefly mentioned above, the soundtrack for the film is also very unique. Aside from Michael Fano's (a regular collaborator with Robbe- Grillet) brilliantly unnerving score, elements of the soundtrack often serve to obscure (but elaborate) the plot itself. Robbe-Grillet makes full use of what I've often referred to as "incongruous" sound (if there is a more legitimate term for this, please let me know)-- that is, diegetic sound that is cleary in the narrative realm, yet doesn't match up with anything being depicted on screen. While these elements of the soundtrack may seem odd, if you pay enough attention you can often notice that they actually serve to heighten the narrative. To quote Robbe-Grillet about an example;

"[...] the lawyer and the girl are talking in the cell, with the girl mocking the world and saying, 'Well, they don't behead little girls.' During this scene, the sound of working constructing a guillotine comes through the window. [...] I myself know it is the sound of a guillotine under construction, so it is a private joke for me but not for many others, because they cannot discern the nature of the sound. But the sound of one of the workers whistling while working can be heard distinctly."

While obviously this element of the film is rather obtuse and esoteric, the fact that Robbe-Grillet is doing so much with the soundtrack itself (something often overlooked in the construction of a film) is a very positive thing. It's a technique to elevate the art form that not many people have taken notice of.

One final thing to note about the film, that is probably obvious, is how incredible the visuals are. Robbe-Grillet films consistently have stark, unique, memorable visuals, and this is no different. A majority of the film is shot indoors on sets that are stark white, so all of the colors of the characters, and their blood, and any other visceral element contrasts greatly, placing a brilliant emphasis on the actions of these characters. There is also an amazing scene which visually invokes Georges Bataille; in a sort of charade that recreates a later event in the film, the girl pours deep, blood-red wine on her roommate and then breaks eggs, dropping them onto the girls body, the eggs slowly sliding off. The egg, aside from being a symbol for a number of corporeal images/actions also directly refers to a charges sexuality present in Bataille's The Story of the Eye. However, the most striking images in the film undoubtedly come from a scene where the girl and her roommate are on the beach, each carrying half of a mannequin to a metal bed frame, partially submerged into the sand. They assemble the mannequin and bind her to the bed frame, visually recreating a sadomasochistic scene, and then bloody the plastic body. It is a scene like this that is a key to keep in mind when looking at the sadomasochistic scenes that Robbe-Grillet places actual human bodies, instead of mannequins in. It's all about representation, and how representation affects the narrative.

In conclusion, Slow Slidings of Pleasure is an aurally and visually brilliant piece of cinema that forces the viewer to deconstruct narrative norms in a film and view events from different, possible narrative instances.

Note: Quotes and historical information regarding the film come from an interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet in The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews with Alain Robbe-Grillet on His Films, written by Anthony N. Fragola and Roch C. Smith, published by the Southern Illinois University Press.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


For a brief period in film history, anthology genre films were all the rage. Most often recognized in the horror genre, with examples ranging from the notorious made-for-TV Karen Black vehicle, Trilogy of Terror, to the Amicus omnibus House That Dripped Blood, among countless other examples. It was a format that worked decent with horror; allowing three (or more) films to be packed into a maximum runtime, allowing the films to approach the actual HORROR quicker, and not have to worry half as much about filling a 90 minute runtime. It could be said that if the directors were really into an ~40 minute time frame, they could have just made short films. But a short film isn't as financially viable as a feature film, so the anthology film was a compromise, allowing filmmakers to work with smaller time slots while still allowing for general public exhibition.

Private Collections is one of the only films that I can think of to apply this structure to "erotica" that's not a farce or comedy (like Vittorio De Sica's Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow). And it's uniqueness extends even further by the directors who were involved: Just Jaeckin was more or less internationally famous for his glossy adaptations of Emmanuelle and The Story of O, Shuji Terayama was a true aesthetic rebel who was not so internationally known, and even known in his native country as Japan mostly for his poetry and plays, and Polish director Walerian Borowczyk was more or less critically panned after he abandoned his groundbreaking animations in favorite of erotic feature films. In fact, it's such an odd combination of talents that it's hard to imagine exactly what the producers were thinking, but nevertheless, the film is a nice example of varying strains of erotism in the cinema.

The first segment of the anthology is Just Jaeckin's Isle of the Sirens. It begins with Benoit (played by Roland Blanche) falling of his ship due to a cyclone, waking up on a seemingly abandoned island. For a few days he does all he can to survive, trying to draw as much attention to himself as possible. One day he thinks he sees a beautiful woman (played by Laura Gemser), but she disappears after a few seconds and he blames his sighting on the intensity of the sun. However, the next morning he wakes up he finds a basket full of fresh fruit left near where he was sleeping. He then sets off to find the enigmatic woman. Eventually he does, and as he finally encounters her, he hears a boat approaching the island. He decides the beautiful woman is more important than his rescue, so he hurriedly tears down his flags and goes to her. For a while he is living in an island paradise, with four beautiful nude woman caring for his every whim. However, as time drags on he begins to suspect that things are not quite what they seem, and that a terrible fate may await him...

Jaeckin's trademark soft-focus cinematography is on full display here, highlighting the rich hues present on the beautiful, tropical island, and the beautiful curves and skin of the four "native" women. It's also interesting to note that the ending of this short comes closer to approaching "horror" than anything else Jaeckin has ever done. Unfortunately the "shock" at the end is fairly cliche and obvious. The violence at the end is also followed by an annoying "it was just a dream" coda, but this coda also allows for the viewer to interpret the events as some sort of bizarre fantasy, as it is rooted in simpler, base animalistic desires.

For what it is, it's a very brief enjoyable piece of Eurotica. As I mentioned before, it's beautiful to look at (Jaeckin was trained as a fashion photographer) and Pierre Bachelet's score is just as up to par as it is in any of his other collaborations with Jaeckin. The narrative also comes to fruition with minimal dialogue, and virtually no clear communication between Benoit and the island's mysterious inhabitants. But, it brings nothing new to the table, and aside from aesthetics barely transcends mere entertainment, which admittedly isn't a bad thing in itself.

The next segment is Shuji Terayama's The Grass Labyrinth, which, unlike the other two films in the compendium, had a release of it's own, outside of the film, in Terayama's native Japan. The film is the tale of Akira as he searches high and low for the lyrics to a nursury rhyme his mother used to sing when he was a child. He abandoned his mother as a teenager, and he has found out she has since died, so he cannot ask her himself. The past and the present become contingent as Akira recounts events related to his obsession with the rhyme, a red ball, and his relationship with his mother.

The first thing to note is that in this anthology, instead of just subtitling the Japanese dialogue for the French audiences, a French narrator was added over the film; so instead of listening to any dialogue the film is told like a story, with one voice for all the characters. I had originally seen the film in it's original language with English subtitles, devoid of the French narration, so it was interesting to compare the two. The French version spells things out a little more, as the narration relies on one omnipotent story teller instead of what's actually happening in the story. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your outlook. I prefer the original method, as it allows the events to unfold slowly, and draws more upon the actual emotional implications of what's happening in order to tell the story, whereas the French narration more or less straight up just tells the story (as opposed to the original version showing it). Regardless of how it's watched, one thing doesn't change, and that's Terayama's amazing symbolic and surreal images.

Above everything else, the color red is utterly dominant in the film, taking prominence in every single frame, and helping to elaborate the emotionally important elements of whatever memory or event is on screen; an hair comb, Akira's mothers dress, a window, a ball. Terayama's trademark color filters are also on display, saturating, desaturating, or dividing the frame into brilliant surreal colors that add an air of the fantastique to events that are already bizarre. There is also a careful rhythm in the film; between the plotting, the images, and J.A. Seazer's brilliant score-- the film begins slowly and builds in tempo until it literally climaxes (although it's more like an orgasm, or a wet dream) with a bizarre surreal dream that is both all encompassing of the events leading up to it and utterly confusing, revealing as many answers as it begs questions.

But such is the nature of a Terayama film, and this is definitely that. It works as a sort of microcosm of the themes that Terayama would explore again and again throughout his career, whether it be in film, photography, poetry, or theater. Two very dominant traits that are ever-present throughout Terayama's oeuvre relate to family dynamics; the father of the protagonist (who is generally male, as most of Terayama's work is at least vaguely auto-biographical) is always absent, and the mother is controlling and manipulative. The film is also very similar to Terayama's 1974 feature Pastoral: To Die in the Country. It explores similar themes in a similar location in a similar method, so it's almost safe to view Grass Labyrinth as a sequel or continuation.

The third, and final, segment of the film is Walerian Borowczyk's The Cabinet. It tells the tale of a lonely upper class man at night who, fearing the onset of sadness, decides to go to the theater and pick up a whore for the entire night so he doesn't have to sleep alone. He meets a woman and gets her to agree to spend the entire night with him, instead of the normal half hour or so. He heads back to her apartment and makes love with her, afterward manipulating her into telling of her first time. Eventually he realizes that somebody else is in the room...

A period piece that is beautifully lit, Borowczyk's segment is decorated with details; something that Borowczyk carries off with ease. His camera gently glides from the couple making love to the border of a wooden bead frame, and this fetishistic eye helps to heighten the elegant, erotic tension. While ostensibly both Jaeckin and Borowczyk work within upper class eroticism, they handle it remarkably differently. Jaeckin's is more loose and glossy, like a magazine ad, whereas Borowczyk's is direct and studied, allowing for a more subtle atmosphere to develop in order to enhance the sexuality.

Early in the short, as the man is visiting the theater cum bordello, Borowcyzk shows his genuine skill in directing chaos, carefully allowing enough details to create a sensual atmosphere that will introduce the rest of the events on screen. It's interesting, however, that the main plot of the story ends on a melancholy note, then once again returns to the chaos that began the film. It's creates an emotional dichotomy; we see that both of our main characters have been, for lack of a better word, touched, yet both return to the same routine the next night.

As a whole, Private Collections is pretty disconnected. There are really no connections between any of the shorts outside of the fact that they all include sexuality as a primary plot progression. The films all stand up fairly well on their own, but there's absolutely nothing that makes them better viewed within the context of the anthology. Not that I'm complaining, I happen to be a pretty big fan of all the directors involved here, so to see them together is a very nice thing, even if the films don't interact with each other at all.

I guess one thing postive I could say about the anthology context would be that it serves to introduce core themes and ideas between all three directors oeuvres. Jaeckin regularly makes glossy softcore erotica that is almost always style over subtsance, Terayama creates enigmatic, memory-ridden 'trips' that rely regularly on sexuality to progress, and Borowczyk works mainly in period erotica pieces with a careful eye for detail. If you want an hour and forty minute introduction to three of the best figures working in the erotic in the 70s, this wouldn't be the worst place to start.


aka Hitozuma Collector, aka Decaying Town

Wife Collector was director Hisayasu Sato's third feature film, made in 1985. It follows the actions of a disgruntled taxi driver who regularly rapes his clients, videotaping the act. One of his victims, whom he has for some reason developed a sort of attachment to (partly due to the physical remains of the act; the evidence being the bite mark left on his shoulder), can no longer enjoy sex with her husband. Instead she takes to the streets and offers her body to whoever is willing, not charging anything. The woman's younger sister, who lives with her, has discovered all this and documented it with photographs that she eventually reveals to her sister and sister's husband, before she decides to meet with the taxi driver herself.

Not half as developed as many of Sato's later films, seeds of his themes and obsessions are still present. The dysfunctional family unit, represented by the two sisters and the older sister's husband is vaguely prominent, with no sense of unity existing between them. The taxi driver is very isolated in his own world, another characteristic that remains prevalent throughout Sato's oeuvre. The final key element that would pop up again and again in Sato's work is the camera; both the camera that the little sister uses to distance herself from (and eventually accept) what her sister has gone through, and the video camera that the taxi driver uses to document his crimes.

The film, for the most part, is a better than average ero-guro pink film, but the characters aren't developed enough to allow Sato's themes to become prevalent-- the audience gets the impression that the abundance of rape is more of a symbol for the disconnection and apathy that is present in these characters lives, but we don't understand the characters enough for this to approach anything beyond a level of shock. This is unfortunate, because looking back it's very obvious that Sato is a more than capable director when it comes to using shock for more intellectual purposes.

Which is why the film remains interesting, above being an above average genre flick-- there is evidence here of what Sato would soon become, and for someone like me who enjoys seeing progression in an artists work, every step of the way is fascinating, especially when each step manages to grow out of the former step. Overall, the movie is by no means remarkable, but definitely worth watching, especially for those with an interest in Sato.


I am looking for the following films; if anybody has any of them I would be more than willing to offer other rare films in return as a trade. Please contact me at mikekitchell(at)gmail(dot)com if you can help me out in any way.

Les Gommes (The Erasers) / Lucien Deroisy & Rene Micha / 1969
In the Labyrinth / Derek Martinus / 1976
La Jalousie / Klaus Kieschner / 1973 (Television allemande)
Les deux chambres distantes et/ou les deux chambres discretes / Kunihiko Nakagawa / 1975
La plage a distance / Kunihiko Nakagawa / 1977
La Chambre secrete / J. F. Urrusti / 1978
In the Labyrinthe / Robert Lrikala / 1962

La Salamandre / Alberto Cavallone / 1969
Maldoror / Alberto Cavallone / 1977
Blow Job / Alberto Cavallone / 1980

Eating / Frans Zwartjes / 1969
Achter je muren / Frans Zwartjes / 1970
It's Me / Frans Zwartjes / 1976
In extremo / Frans Zwartjes / 1981
Medea / Frans Zwartjes / ????

In the Highest of Skies (Nel più alto dei cieli) / Silvano Agosti / 1977
Hyper Auto Erotic Art / Walerian Borowczyk / 1981
Grotesque Perverted Slaughter (Gendai ryoki sei-hanzai) / Giichi Nishihara / 1976
Time of Wickedness (Ma no toki) / Yasuo Furuhata / 1985
Les Rendez-Vous En Foret / Alain Fleischer / 1972
Hu-Man / Jerome Laperrousaz / 1975
Story of I / Jo Anne Kaplan / 1997
Faceless Things (Eolgul eopnun geotdul) / Kim Kyung-Mook / 2005
Pornographie chez madame Saint-Claud / Norbert Terry / 1975
Piege / Jacques Baratier / 1968
L.A. Plays Itself / Fred Halsted / 1972
Phantasmes aka The Seduction of Amy / Jean Rollin / 1975 FRENCH VERSION
The Claw of Horus / Jean Rollin / 1990
Spatiodynamisme / Tinto Brass & Nicolas Schoeffer / 1958
Désirs et perversions / Jean-Pierre Bouyxou / 1977
Amours collectives / Jean-Pierre Bouyxou / 1976
Sortez vos culs de ma commode / Jean-Pierre Bouyxou / 1972
Graphyty / Jean-Pierre Bouyxou / 1969
Anarchie, L' / Jean-Pierre Bouyxou / 1967
Paris erotika (Paris Ooh-La-La!) / José Bénazéraf / 1964
L'Enfer sur la Plage (Hell on the Beach) / José Bénazéraf / 1965
Models International / Jacques Scandelari & José Bénazéraf / 1966

Any Roland Lethem other than THE BLOODTHIRSTY FAIRY (1968).

Anything by Hisayasu Sato that I don't have


Since it's difficult to go through the archives here, I've decided to build an index of the titles reviewed and any articles. I will be linking this post from the side bar for easy access.




I have also added a link in the sidebar to my screening log.