The Chick's Ability Review
When Cristina Lemos (Vanessa Alves) is sent packing by her father shortly after catching her romping in a stream with her boyfriend, she soon finds herself pregnant and in the care of her cousin Carla (Alvamar Taddei) in the big city of São Paulo. It’s not long, however, before ‘working girl’ Carla palms her over to someone else. Cristina is soon introduced to neighbour Lili (Romeu de Freitas), who takes the young girl under his/her wing. Shortly after Cristina gives birth it’s discovered that her baby desperately needs an operation, but it’ll cost a substantial amount of money to perform. Cristina’s doctor, Laura (Helena Ramos), suggests to her that she pose nude for her artist boyfriend Carlos (André Loureiro). Cristina agrees, and soon Carlos finds himself hopelessly in love with the girl, thus creating a rift in his relationship with Laura. On top of that Cristina decides to branch out into prostitution, but discovers more than she bargained for when Carla’s pimp decides that he wishes to employ her services.
So now it’s time to usher in the “Pornochanchada” genre for a whole new generation as Impulse Pictures sets its sight on a short but prolific movement which took place in Brazil between 1976-1984. This period saw the nation under dictatorship; freedom of speech in cinema - socio and political commentary in particular - was largely discouraged, yet the government, saw fit to OK the production of predominantly soft-core sex comedies as long as they didn’t step on any sensitive issues. This amount of freedom at least made it possible for directors to compete against foreign productions, thus maintaining steady success until the genre died out with the advent of hard-core pornography and its availability on VHS by the mid-eighties.
John Doo’s The Chick’s Ability happens to be one of the last features of this movement, and it’s one that certainly ticks a lot of boxes. Played entirely straight, save for Romeu de Freitas’s pseudo-comic turn as a transsexual, the film indeed avoids treading on any political toes, only going so far as to keep a nation’s strong catholic values close to its heart as Cristina finds herself kicked out of home by a strict father. Of course it doesn’t matter one jot that from here on it merely descends into a series of melodramatic meet-ups, fuelled by bouts of misogyny and prostitution. It’s all very cynical; half of our characters get what they want in the end, even if it’s through taking the most undesirable approach in life, while some exit in blunt fashion for no reason other than to reiterate that the world can be a bit of a shitty place. As a result the film’s denouement is awkward at best, yet Doo needn’t have had to go to so much trouble with his relentlessly interweaving plot strands, many of which are quite dull to begin with on account of some incredibly banal and lengthy dialogue. The script is peppered with incidental moments and lazy exposition, certainly not helped by characters who by their very definition are the epitome of cliché.
Just as the film, then, might grind to a halt from time to time, there’s naturally no shortage of bare flesh to continue padding out the derivative plot. The sexual encounters do well to outstay their welcome; they may border on hard, what with a flash of stiff cock and enthusiastic muff-diving, but they’re typically over-directed, sweaty encounters, tinged with a horribly diffused lens which tries to make the feature look a lot more sensual than it never is. Granted Vanessa Alves is lovely to look at; her slight but toned frame encourages the eye to wonder no end, and indeed she also happens to carry the film rather well on the whole, but at the end of the day her “ability” alone isn’t enough to completely satisfy.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with slight window-boxing, The Chick’s Ability isn’t too shabby at all. It exhibits some minor print damage and a few specks here and there, in addition to being slightly soft in appearance, but for the most part this progressive transfer looks very good, with pleasing tones and a varying amount of natural grain depending on day and night footage.
The original Portuguese mono track is unremarkable. It’s a tad flat and obviously shows up flaws in the post-dubbing stage, but it does its job accordingly with acceptable levels of dialogue and music. Optional English subtitles are also included, offering a seemingly solid translation, with no grammatical errors.
This is a bare-bones disc, with the only thing by way of bonus content being an insert sleeve which provides an introduction to “Pornochanchada”.
The Chick’s Ability is a competent slice of soft erotica. Perhaps it doesn’t warrant much scrutiny, but nonetheless it’s evidently a bit lazy. Even with the sight of jolly Cristina running naked into the sunset at the end we’re left with a somewhat bitter taste having witnessed director John Doo’s heavy-handed approach toward the resolution of various character’s plot strands.