7 January 2015 | peterosenau
Very, very mediocre...
The old widower Antonio enjoys dabbling with the vast family heritage, but the actual heir is his daughter Rosa. And once married, she will get control over all the riches. To ensure that this will never happen, Antonio had pressed the decennial Rosa to take a vow of chastity. Now, twenty years later, Rosa has remained true to her vow, but the temptations all around her just get to be too much for her. Antonio realizes he has to act fast to secure his position and therefore stages a pagan festival, where his lustful friends shall dispose of Rosa's desires once and for all
Many of director Salvatore Sampieri's works deal with impossible sexual or romantic fulfillment. And he is known for his biting satiric stance on bourgeoisie, old-school social conventions and similar class-conceit. All these ingredients are present in "Casta e pura", but it is just played out too simply. There is a bunch of random buffoons hanging around Antonio's villa, all deranged, incestuous, greedy and whatnot. Antonio is of course the worst, kidding his daughter for twenty years, always pretending the vow is for her own good. The contrast to the only "unspoilt" person, Rosa, comes out way too extreme to take any of these characters seriously – in the end the satiric elements serve for cheap jokes only. Speaking of Rosa, she is truly "chaste and pure", but the general setup feels very far-fetched and the situations the screenplay puts her in are just repetitive, be it the confessions, the lame gags with her dropping dishes, or not less than three nightly gatherings with the greedy cook. You can understand Rosa's misery and bitter situation, but the character remains shallow. Laura Antonelli's very own "Mio Dio, come sono caduta in basso" (1974) showed perfectly how to build up a story on a similarly awkward premise, and managed to be funny throughout. "Casta e pura" unfortunately fails.
The big turning point, the weird pagan party, is quite a disappointment as well. Resembling the Roman rape of the Sabine Women, the editing is very choppy (in two occasions we see Rosa nude, but after a cut, she is dressed again, plus rough music jumps). Of course the cruelty of the father and his friends is now pushed to the top. Now we suddenly get a rape-and-revenge situation with a very serious rape and a slapstick revenge afterwards. At this point the screenplay collapses completely and the whole payback stuff is just contrived. Rosa is suddenly like new-born, stone cold and will give everybody the just desserts. I was glad when it was over.
Laura Antonelli, while being absolutely wonderful to behold (sometimes even in the nude), is a little too old for the role (she was 39 by then), and I must say her performance leaves something to be desired. However, in view of the simple screenplay and the lack of any other remarkable actor, it is okay. The "rural" Italian dialect by some of the characters is very hard to understand, so I can't rule out I missed some hidden gags.
Overall, there is some general quality to "Casta e pura", one you can expect from a renowned director like Sampieri, but the movie never gets momentum owing to a lackluster screenplay and overly simple characterizations.