15 May 2006 | Bunuel1976
LA SEDUZIONE (Fernando Di Leo, 1973) ***
Before I attended the Italian B-movie retrospective held during the 2004 Venice Film Festival, I had never even heard of Fernando Di Leo - let alone watched any of his films! Now, less than 2 years later, I have 8 of them under my belt (this was followed by yet another of his poliziotteschi, KIDNAP SYNDICATE ) and I've been sufficiently impressed to consider ordering some of Di Leo's work via the R2 Raro Video SE DVDs...
The films of his that I've watched so far seem to fall into two categories: sociological pieces, albeit with erotic overtones - NAKED VIOLENCE (1969), SEDUCTION itself and TO BE TWENTY (1978) - and crime dramas - CALIBRE 9 (1972; which I consider his masterpiece), THE Italian CONNECTION (1972), WIPEOUT! (1973), KIDNAP SYNDICATE and THE RULERS OF THE CITY (1976). Almost all, however, featured heavy doses of comedy (including, in the scenes featuring the slick but foolhardy womanizer played by Pino Caruso, the film under review here) which came perilously close to the vulgar style prevalent in low-brow Italian comedies of the 70s and 80s. However, this was more than made up for by Di Leo's dynamic handling - particularly the rhythm of his editing - which, despite its necessarily talky and intimate nature, is also very much in evidence in LA SEDUZIONE.
It appears that ever since Pietro Germi made Sicily a den of promiscuity and infidelity in his classic, award-winning black comedy DIVORCE - Italian STYLE (1961), Italy's small neighboring island has served as backdrop for most other similarly-plotted ventures - and Di Leo's film, arguably one of the best of its type, is no exception. As a matter of fact, it's elevated above the norm by the excellent performances of its three leads - Lisa Gastoni (I wasn't aware that she had appeared in quite a few British films during the 50s!), Maurice Ronet (a fixture of 60s French cinema, he admirably tackles his difficult role here) and Italian B-movie starlet Jenny Tamburi (stepping in for Ornella Muti and who, incidentally, died at age 53 only days before the film's belated TV premiere last March!) - as well as a remarkable and eclectic score by the award-winning Luis Bacalov (who composed 11 films and even a TV mini-series for Di Leo!).
As for the film's erotic content, it's generally sensitively handled - though some may simply view it as exploitative - with both its female stars appearing several times in the nude...though Tamburi's leap from dutiful schoolgirl to teenage temptress feels too abrupt: she starts by eavesdropping on her mother's love-making but promptly proceeds to seduce Ronet herself, even by way of some lesbian cuddling (while dancing a tango in drag!) with her best friend. The latter (played by Barbara Marzano), then, features in the delicious twist ending and, indeed, the film's concluding section (following some rather repetitive squabbling between Ronet and Gastoni over what she believes to be the former's sick abuse of her daughter), leading up to the inevitable tragic curtain, is terrific.