The Voyeur (Director's cut) Review

The film

When you read the words "Tinto Brass" do you think of a portly septagenerian lusting after women a quarter of his age, or do you think of the man who has done more to celebrate the female rear that any living artist? Now I am on the bum beautifier's side, but I would have to admit that I would tick both the boxes on the question as to whether Tinto is a dirty old man or an erotic artist. I feel it would be wrong to deny how gorgeous his films look, yet I can't ignore that his view of female sexuality is a rather self-serving one. There is tremendous craft and fun to be had from films like Cheeky, or, even better, Snackbar Budapest, however they rise and fall on their pornographic merits as much as on any other criteria.

Nearly all of his films feature women who through sexual experimentation learn to express their true nature, and consequently their husbands or partners are both cuckolded in the now and blessed in the future. The Voyeur is no different, adapted from the book L'Uomo che garda, the film follows the ironically named Dodo as we learn about his voyeurism and his estranged wife. Dodo lives in awe of his father, "the great man", both in his vocation as a lecturer and as a womaniser of surprising endowment. Forced onto the sidelines professionally, his sexual tastes follow suit and his unfulfilled sexpot wife is soon skipping a generation in her need for a real man.

Dodo's dad has an impossibly sexy maid given to exhibitionism and flirtation and many women visit the great man as he convalesces from a broken leg. Poor Dodo longs for his wife, envies his dad, and is driven to sexual distraction by the women around him. Dodo eventually wakes up to himself and resolves to be part of a very strange love triangle in order to have his wife back. Sex is had, love is made, and cigars are treated in a rather casual fashion.

The escapades in Brass' film resemble slapstick and are driven by male wish fulfillment. For instance, Dodo is finally provoked beyond endurance by Fausta the naughty nurse by her titillating dress sense, he wanders on a nudist beach which even possesses a nude nun, and he enjoys very public sexual encounters with his wife. The purpose of such a story and the example of the professor who likes to watch, is to merely vindicate the viewers desire to do the same, and in this regard Brass knows exactly what he's doing and what his public want. The encounters are on the cusp of hardcore, the women are breathtaking and the sex is predictable and entertaining. Furthermore, dialogue and exposition are unimportant, and in no way is the dullness of the everyday allowed to dampen things down. His largely male audience will appreciate what he gives them whilst recognising that this is not real or lifelike.

Brass enjoys the watching so much that he peppers his film with shots of phallic cameras and receptive mirrors, and some compositions are wonderful combinations of reflections and image. If his later films become dangerously reliant on faux luxury, then the joy of The Voyeur is that its sumptuousness is based on intelligence and weak flesh rather than the fixtures and fittings of the sets. Brass celebrates his own lasciviousness by employing a cardboard cutout of himself peeking as the film's final shot and cameoing elsewhere as a seedy lecturer.

And so I return to my original problem that the women of Brass' film are not real and this kind of erotica has artful ways but lacks depth and intelligence. I ask myself whether what Brass presents is any better than pornography, whether that should really matter, and is this movie to be judged simply on its onanistic intentions? Then, I consider that what I seek to rationalise has actually pleased me, aroused me, and entertained me, and in the end isn't that all that matters?

The Voyeur is sexy, a little dumb, and very well made. If you treat it as reality then it is sexist trash dressed up as art, but if you accept that it's pure fantasy I think you'll be asking if you can have some some more.

The disc

Cult Epics' release of the director's cut is uncut, in the original Italian and clearly sourced from a lovely print. The problems come when you note that this is an interlaced transfer and also a standards conversion. Ghosting is noticeable throughout and the image looks more faded than it should because of the conversion, but this still looks mighty good with fine colours and fleshtones and strong management of the contrast once you have adjusted your A/V equipment.

The Italian stereo track starts off a little uncertainly with odd balance between right and left, and the whole track has some distortion with the treble range, and in the more exercised bassier parts of the soundtrack as well. This is far from distracting and a huge improvement over the various English dubs that this film is often saddled with, and the English subtitles are excellent in their legibility and meaning.

The disc is a dual layer with menus made with posterized stills. The extras include trailers for Cheeky, Frivolous Lola, All Ladies Do it, The Key, Miranda, Private and this film which are all available on Cult Epics, several in Director's cuts. There is a photo gallery featuring 35 stills of copious nudity, and there is a 24 minute interview with the director carried out in English in 2007. Brass discusses the differences with the source novel, choosing his cinematographer and cast, and his love of Hitchcock. He also claims that Bill Clinton owes him royalties for his Lewinsky moment! Brass is warm and intelligent, and even takes time to flirt with his improbably beautiful maid. A fun and interesting interview.

Summary

I am unaware of another uncut version with original language and English subtitles and perhaps UK censors may balk at some of the explicitness if the film is re-released. So this is the version of this film to buy, a very pleasant diversion and a good release as well.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
6 out of 10
Audio
6 out of 10
Extras
5 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

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