ART OF LOVE
8 AD: The poet Ovid (Massimo Girotti) instructs his pupils on
the art of love, and the ensuing orgy of sexual liberation leads
to dire consequences...
Walerian Borowczyk (The Beast, 1975)
delivers one of his typically lush and overwrought melodramas
with Art of Love. The historical
backdrop and use of mise en scene gives the film a classy
veneer, but the copious nudity and sexual situations would surely
have alienated the stuffier members of the art house circuit.
film is regarded as the last in his so-called "Immoral Trilogy."
The first two installments Immoral Tales
(1974) and Immoral Women (1979)
adopted a looser anthology structure, but Art
of Love seems, at first glance at least, to adhere to a
more linear narrative style. Borowczyk, who died in 2006, goes
against expectations in the final reel, but up until that point
it strikes one as a more conventional affair. That is not to say
that the film is bereft of the weird, idiosyncratic touches one
expects from the director. Far from it. The dreamy pacing and
editing rhythms point to the director's skewed perspective; for
some viewers it will prove off-putting and pretentious, but those
who can appreciate it are bound to admire its audacity.
flair for erotica is evident throughout. The various orgy sequences
and copulations are staged with real panache. The film flirts
with hardcore imagery but never degenerates into a simplistic
skin flick. The director also brings a touch of dark comedy to
the proceedings, as the characters' perverse fixations become
more and more comic in their overstatement.
cast performs fairly well. Leading lady Marina Pierro was a favorite
of Borowczyk's she appeared in a total of five films for the
director, as well as racking up credits for Jean Rollin (Living
Dead Girl) and Luchino Visconti (The
Innocent) and it is easy to see why. She's a stunning-looking
performer, for sure, but she also possesses the subtlety and nuance
to bring her character to life. She helps to anchor the film in
reality, which is no easy feat given the overall air of delirium.
Michele Placido (Plot of Fear, 1976)
is also in fine form as the hotheaded Macarius, while distinguished
character actor Girotti (Baron
Blood, 1972) is amusing as the sly and wise Ovid. Laura
of the Death Nerve, 1971) and Milena Vukotic (Blood
for Dracula, 1973) are wasted in smaller roles.
usual for Borowczyk, the cinematography is first class. There
are striking images throughout, and the director's use of framing
and editing helps to punch up the various sex scenes. Production
values are also impressive, with the recreation of ancient Rome
belying what was surely a rather low budget. The score by Luis
1966) isn't really one of the composer's more memorable efforts,
but it still adds to the overall impact.
the film lacks the sheer kinky impact of the director's most infamous
films notably The Beast and 1981's
Dr. Jekyll and His Women but Art
of Love is still worth a look for his fans.
release of Art of Love marks the
film's debut on DVD in the U.S.
and the first official, uncut release to be seen in America. The
1.85/16x9 transfer looks very nice. Colors are accurately rendered.
Detail is strong, and purists will be pleased to see some grain
in the image. The orgy sequence which occurs about 41 minutes
in looks a bit rough in comparison, leading one to assume that
it was culled from a different print; it was this scene that encountered
the most censorship, however, and it's wonderful to have it fully
intact. There is also a very bizarre defect at the bottom of the
image in a handful of shots towards the end (it starts at the
88 minute mark), but this is not the fault of Severin
it seems to have been an issue with something in the camera gate,
but one can only guess what it may have been. In any event, Severin
have done a fine job by the title. The mono English soundtrack
is acceptable. The dubbing is reasonably well done, and the dialogue
and music come through clear enough. The only extra is a battered
theatrical trailer. 1/21/10