Top politician Senator Puppis is on the cusp of becoming president but his celibate reputation is at risk because of his wandering hands. Lucio Fulci does sex comedy and political satire and john looks at the Severin release
It has rather become a cliché to suggest that Italian politics is a tad corrupt and volatile. It used to be a belief that kept our stuck-up nation feeling superior when the latest scandal hit the Latins or yet another government fell as we praised our steady governments led by dull men and with parliamentary privilege hiding a multitude of British sins. Back in the purer and less enlightened times of the seventies, John Profumo and Jeremy Thorpe were held up to be the exception to the rule of our politician’s decency, whilst we horrified ourselves at the various shenanigans of the Mafia links with ruling parties of left and right in the land of our European cousins. Lucio Fulci’s The Eroticist attempts to satirise the political world of his homeland and his film will reinforce many of our received ideas about Johnny Foreigner even if we now know our politicians are little different.
In making the film, Fulci made sure that his leading character, the prospective president Puppis, even looked like a particular Christian Democrat minister. Allegedly, politicians tried to buy up the film and close it down when it was filming and the lead, Lando Buzzanca, said it made him a marked man throughout his career. You can appreciate why politicians, and presumable the powers behind them, didn’t want a populist film showing that suggested that the Vatican and the Mafia worked hand in hand. Political assassinations, coups and extreme corruption are rife in the film, but then so is female flesh and bawdy humour. The balance of sex and satire is well maintained in the first seventy minutes when Senator Puppis’ pathological groping leads him to therapy at an unconventional convent of German Dominicans, and some shapely nuns. His wobble from his public image of earnest buttoned-upness causes panic in his backers at the Vatican, especially the gruff puritanical Cardinal Maravigli, and then by extension in the nosy Carabinieri(Police) and the eavesdropping military. Soon the Mafia are searching for the absent Senator and his main rival is repeating less often his mantra of "I get the feeling you are going to shaft me" as he takes a lead in the race. The comedy flows and soon we are getting dream sequences involving sexy naked nuns and romps with the once virginal senator and fine political farce as the institutions of state try to cover up Puppis’ sexual awakening.
The final act of the film is less successful as the tone changes from the light, throwaway sex and broad humour to a darker message of evil manipulation and a Kafkaesque fate. This leaves the film failing to flow and causes the central tale of the Senator who becomes himself to be lost and contradicted by an ending which goes for the jugular in terms of leviathan like manipulations. Laura Antonelli who looks for a moment to be the Senator’s salvation disappears, and their romance is jettisoned for something that feels like it’s from another much more serious film as the status quo is supported by murder and mayhem. Fulci’s films often feel disappointed with humanity so the darker tone of the ending is not surprising given his world-view, but it ruins what was up till then an excellent bawdy satire. The opening two thirds is quite funny and people new to the film will be impressed with how the horror maestro handles the gags, even if some of the laughs are far from PC. The leading actors are all very good and Laura Antonelli is heartbreakingly gorgeous as a result of the photography and some serious help from mother nature, but the film loses its momentum because of the splicing together of two different treatments – one rather polemical and angry and the other more warm and cheeky. The Eroticist is great fun with a poor finale.
The movie is presented on a dual layer disc with an anamorphic transfer at the ratio of 1.85:1. The frame does not seem stretched or cropped and the quality of the print does seem very good with marginal damage which is barely noticeable. The image is quite sharp and the contrast only occasionally lacks some variation in the darker shades of the image. There is the odd compression artefact, but the only real problem with the transfer is the colour balance which sometimes is warmer than necessary, giving some of the reds too much vibrancy and a purple tinge to some of the black surfaces in the film. Overall, this is very good and a definite improvement on the transfer for The Psychic.
The Italian mono track presented here is well mastered with a few source problems in terms of pops and background hum. Voices are clear and the music lacks distortion, and it is a joy to not sit through a poor English dub as the English subtitles are very serviceable with minor grammatical slips.
The 42 minute documentary is made up of filmed interviews with the film’s lead, DP and Giannetto De Rossi remembering the making of the film and the furore it caused when it became popular. Cinematographer Sergio Offizi is rather straight up about Fulci’s manner whilst Lando Buzzanca tries to excuse the director’s mistreatment of Laura Antonelli, Offizi comes over generally as a gent and Buzzanca has a quite sizeable ego about his "influence" as he calls it. The title of the documentary is a red herring as there is little about censorship other than Christian Democrats trying to buy up the film before it was finished, and this is more an enjoyable memoir about the film’s production from the three participants.
A botched conclusion ruins the romp, but there is a lot to enjoy here even if it goes wrong and on too long. Severin have made a fine job of this release which Fulci completists will lap up.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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