23 September 2008 | lazarillo
For David Hamilton fans only
Sometimes my quest to see every notorious European sex film from the 70's leads me very far afield--and sometimes it just leads to a lot of boredom. I saw this film back-to-back with Catherine Breillat's directorial debut "Un Vrai Jeune Fille" (Breillat was co-writer of this film as well). Both are very pretentious, but while "Jeune Fille" is genuinely disturbing yet also realistic in a strange way, this film is simply dull and rarely rises above the most generic level of male fantasy. The director David Hamilton, depending on who you ask, is either a brilliant photographer or an incorrigible pervert. His main subject of interest was capturing adolescent and post-adolescent females at their most nubile. He's definitely in hog heaven at the beginning of this film which is set at a French girls' school the protagonist is attending. This apparently is a VERY liberal school where the students freely skinny-dip, openly engage in lesbian frolics, and even put on Greek plays for their families wearing nearly diaphanous togas that barely cover their lissome bodies. Naturally, ALL these girls are model beautiful. It's probably best not to wonder how old some of them were at the time, but the lead, American actress Patty D'Arbanville, was actually in her mid-20's, although she looks younger.
As questionable as the first half hour may be though, it certainly achieves it effect (it's surpassed only by the "Barthory" section of Walerian Borowzyx's "Immoral Tales" in its sheer gratuitous display of nubile skin). It's really the second hour that's the problem. D'Arbanville's character "Bilitis" goes to stay with her ridiculously young female "guardian" (Mona Christensen) and the latter's unfaithful, brutish husband. "Bilitis" falls in love with the (slightly)older woman and they have a long lesbian sex scene. The guardian spurns her afterwards, but "Bilitis", taking it like a trooper, decides to try to personally "find a man" for her after her husband walks out. "Bilitis" also has a would-be beau herself, a young photographer (just like the director, hmmm). Respected actor Mathieu Carriere also shows up as one would-be suitor for the "older" woman, but I THINK he's supposed to be gay. The film ends with EVERYONE left pretty unhappy, which is really the only place the downbeat influence of Breillat shows through the soft-focus schmaltz of Hamilton.
Although he is the polar opposites in his taste in women (Hamilton's actresses rarely have enough fat on their young bodies to make for more than a B-cup), David Hamilton is a lot like "bosomaniac" American director Russ Meyer in a way. No heterosexual male can honestly say he is turned off by bountiful breasts OR nubile 18-year-old bodies, but if you don't happen to share either of these director's obsessive personal fetishes, their work gets kind of tedious after awhile. This movie would have been vastly improved , for instance, if the guardian had been played by a voluptuous older woman instead of another young nymph like Christensen. (It's not that I really advocate inter-generational lesbian sex, but if you're gonna do it, do it right).
I'd definitely recommend this for David Hamilton fans, but otherwise, ehhhhh.