Tuesday, June 1, 2010
A Call for the NTSC DVD release of INHIBITION
If I were to select a short list of films that best represent euro-cult, Paolo Poeti's INHIBITION would be one of the primary films on such a list.
One of euro-cult's most memorable faces, Ivan Rassimov, plays Peter Smart, who arrives in Morocco in cowboy hat and boots, American jeans, a supply of cigarillos, and a cool laconic attitude. His only baggage seems to be a suit and dress shoes, which he carries over his shoulder in a suit-carrier, as if it were a saddle. Smart is an identifiable character from the euro-cult pantheon who has to live by his wits and whatever particular skill he has that sets him above others. For Smart, it isn't a swift gun as his Western predecessors may have had, but acute gambling skill.
Claudine Beccarie plays Carol Levis, a rich, obnoxious widow, who suffered sexual indignities at the hands of her sadistic husband. Primed to give back the hate she received, Carol now cruelly lords over her servants and her young female companion and sex toy, Anna, played by Ilona Staller (future porn star name: Cicciolina). Carol's world is cold and brutal, though comforted by wealth and luxury and yes-men and yes-women. When Peter Smart enters her world, a challenge erupts. Who will win this battle--Carol or Peter? And what lessons will be learned, if any?
There's an awkward disparity in Beccarie's face. Some would consider her unattractive, but she's just right for this film and its need for a bitchy European femme. Beccarie had a provocative film career, starting off in 1972 in porn shorts. Well into her porn career, she consented to do the self-revealing EXHIBITION, an art-house film that managed to get shown in Lincoln Center and reviewed in Time Magazine. Time's critic, J.C., wrote:
She is a woman of principle. That is, Claudine Beccarie disdains foul language and absolutely draws the line at performing sex acts with animals or film producers.
She will carry on, either solo or in various combinations, almost any other amorous activity, provided it is being filmed by professionals and the price is right. She refuses, however, to discuss her politics on camera. Too personal Exhibition, a French documentary about Claudine's life, loves and heavy thoughts, has certain pretenses at social and psychological significance. The heroine may be observed, shedding tears in closeup, as she tells how she was raped by an uncle when she was only 15. This assault precipitated a descent into prostitution and an unfortunate marriage in which her soldier husband insisted on having a child against his wife's express wishes. "He tied me down to the bed and everything," she reveals. All of this occurred before Claudine's ascent to stardom in a series of quickies produced by France's newly burgeoning porno industry.
The selling of INHIBITION played upon Beccarie's notoriety (as is obvious in the title take-off on the EXHIBITION film). My guessing game is that it was with INHIBITION that Beccarie wished to distance herself from her porn past, which may be why, according to an entry on the IMDB, she held a protest fast in front of the French theater that showed the film with added X-rated inserts. Beccarie never made it into A films, but instead found probably unwelcome employment in low-brow exploitation R-rated films, like FRAULEIN KITTY and HELLTRAIN.
As with any emblematic euro-cult film, what makes INHIBITION work is the entirety. The actors, the foreign setting, the direction, and, importantly, the music. The soundtrack by Guido and Marizio De Angelis is wonderfully hip and sexy, and so euro-1970s that it's a crime it hasn't yet been released on an authoritative CD.
There are frequent scenes in INHIBITION where Poeti's fluid direction, the musical score and the editing merge into some of the best moments I've seen in euro-cult. The entire long credit sequence at the beginning is a superb testament to everything working with easy flow and what appears to be easy artistry. I must have replayed these first ten minutes or so a hundred times, and those moments still manage to hold the same transfixing and exhilarating power as when I first saw them.
Several years ago, INHIBITION was released by NoShame in a PAL-format set in an uncensored edition that gave previous viewers delightful moments never before seen, including a genuinely hot masturbation scene with Beccarie that sizzles with the lonely meaning of, and physical need for, self-gratification. The film was presented in Italian audio only, but an English audio track exists. (INHIBITION was shown on US cable TV and also received a video release in the States.) Seeing as it was a NoShame release, it must be more accessible for Mya to put in on their schedule--one hopes.
The 1970s was a time when international adventure of embracing sex and experiences in foreign, more exotic countries still remained viable. Terrorism and kidnappings, and worse, of Westerners were not threats, and globalism and the internet had not yet shed their blinding light in the more mysterious corners of the world. INHIBITION is now a languid memory of a time that was, a precious memory that makes the film a hallmark of euro-cult cinema.
Posted by Mirek at 4:43 PM