Tinto Brass to fan of exploitational cinema, and you're bound to see a little gleam appear in his or her eye. As the writer and director of Salon Kitty (simultaneously one of the most lushly artistic and one of the grime-encrusted sleaziest examples of the Nazisploitation subgenre) and one of the directors of the historical epic Caligula (probably the most expensive and star-studded exploitation movie ever made), Brass has already staked out his place in the pantheon of Exploitation Godhood. Even if none of his later movies could possibly harness the power of that one-two punch to the crotch he delivered in 1976 and 1979, Brass has laurels enough to rest his haunches upon well into retirement.
But like many a movie-making madman, for Brass, resting on a pile of shrubbery was never an option. Film is not a vocation for men like Brass, Franco, and others--it's sustenance. They have to make movies, or else wither and die from creative starvation. Sure, the public's tastes change, the budgets get smaller and smaller, and perhaps the edge is dulled as the visionaries get older and their eyes less sharp, but they're still out there, making movies on whatever scale they can--because they must.
All that's by way of introducing Brass's 2006 movie, Monamour, recently released on Blu-Ray by Cult Epics. The film shows that Brass still has an eye for magnificent composition, lush design, and gorgeous Euroflesh of the highest order. It also shows that age has softened none of Brass's perverse obsessions, which here are in full and varied display. As a result, Monamour plays as either the dirtiest mainstream movie you ever saw*, or else the most lavish porn ever made**, with only the actual penetration scenes cut.
This is, of course, a recommendation.
* Caligula excluded.
The plot is basically Unfaithful (2002) all over again. Prominent literary editor Dario (Max Parodi) has come to Mantova for a literary festival, bringing along his beautiful, free-spirited, and extremely restless young wife Marta (Anna Jimskaia). Six months into their marriage she is feeling the wane of what was once a passionate affair--no longer do they make love in public while bemused duck hunters look on, and she hasn't climaxed since she said "I do." (Marta records all this late at night in her journal--sitting at her writing desk, pantsless, while Brass gives us an up close and detailed view of her open marrone degli occhi.)
While looking at some explicitly sexual murals at the famous Palazzo del Te (including one of Jupiter's Erect Cock), Marta meets and mysterious stranger, Leon (Riccardo Marino), who seems to have been built in the same Sexy Factory as a young Antonio Banderas or Unfaithful's Olivier Martinez. Like that latter Latin Lothario, this Roman rapscallion uses the silent, forward, borderline-rapey seduction method that always seems to work in stories like these. Before you know it Marta is blowing Leon at a literary fest dinner, having anal sex with him in cafe restrooms, and dancing drunk and nearly naked in public squares, stopping only to quaff more champagne and stick her tongue down the younger man's throat. Of course it's not long before Dario starts getting suspicious (Marta's sudden distaste for wearing panties in public is one clue; her ass-baring dirty dance with Leon at the Lit Fest Ball is another), which paradoxically inflames his dormant desire for his wife to new heights. Is Marta's affair a marital tragedy, or a new kind of happy ending?
It's probably just as well that I don't have Blu-Ray screengrabbing capabilities as yet, because I would be hard-pressed to find a single frame of this film that I could post here without the Blogger Police shutting me down. As I said earlier: this is a porn, only without the actual penetration. Everything up to the very border of that--and I mean EVERYTHING--is present and accounted for. If you don't like seeing puckered starfish, turgid tube-steaks, spot-lit lady-parts,and lots and lots of simulated sex (of just about every configuration), then you had best stay well away from this one. Tinto also tips his hand as to his own personal "special needs," as we get many lovingly filmed odes to asses of all kinds, not to mention several scenes of Marta and her brazen confidant Sylvia (Nela Lucic) chatting while on toilets or otherwise squatting down to urinate.Threesomes, lesbianism, anal, masturbation, simulated-or-possibly-not oral sex--whatever floats your boat, chances are Brass has it covered.
So why does Brass tease the line of pornography without actually barreling over? Perhaps he thinks it's ugly, and Brass's work is about nothing if not the beauty of desire. The movie is sumptuously filmed, the compositions are striking and often gorgeous, and the sex scenes orchestrated for maximum artistic erotic impact. Whether the manner of sexual congress is to your taste or not, you still have to appreciate the artist's eye he brings to even the sleaziest material. It's a beautiful film to look at, and there's always something eye-pleasing on screen. With Monamour, Brass shows once again that he doesn't so much tread the line between sleaze and art, as he denies the existence of any such line.
Also included in this 2-disc set is a short film by Brass, Kick the Cock, which explores the ins and outs of special needs culinary study. Special features include making-of featurettes for both films, director's commentary, and trailers.
Monamour is a slight but sexy film, worth looking at for fans of Brass and Eurosleaze enthusiasts. Cult Epics has once again delivered an excellent Blu-Ray package for material other distributors might not touch with a ten-foot salami. 2 Thumbs. Stay sleazy, Tinto. Stay classy, Signor Brass.