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  • Despite the typically lurid English-language title this is a surprisingly serious, and at times even touching, film about prostitution. It is mainly the story of a high-class madam (Francoise Fabian) who has fallen in love with a respectable bourgeois man and is planning to move into a renovated apartment and leave the business, but fate may have other plans.

    The movie also goes off in several other directions involving three of the madame's "employees" and a couple regular customers. One working girl (Silvia Dionisia) is at first an enthusiastic young whore, but reconsiders her line of work after a client (Ernest Borgnine, yes, THE Ernest Borgnine) has a heart attack during a session. Actually, he has a heart attack as soon as she takes her clothes off, both understandably and thankfully (since Dionisio was frickin' gorgeous, but NOBODY wants to see her actually have a sex scene with Borgnine). He then recovers and falls in love with her. The second girl (who looks like a more black, less Asian version of Laura Gemser) is a lot less believable. She doesn't actually have sex for money(!) and wants to be with a different guy each time. One of her male customers becomes infatuated with her and stalks her and finds out she's actually a bourgeois, married woman whose motives for entering the profession fall somewhere between "Belle du Jour" and "Breaking the Waves".

    The third girl is a impoverished and neglected housewife with a young child (Corinne Clery), a neighbor of the madame who she initiates into the business. This is a believable role, but perhaps not not when assayed by the glamorous model/Bond girl Clery who it's hard to imagine ANY man ever neglecting (or only at his own peril). Clery, like Dioniso, has some great nude scenes, but I'm really glad the two of them didn't appear in the same scenes at least because that would have given ME a heart attack. The movie eventually leaves the sex scenes and the sumptuous femme nudity behind to return at the end to the story of the madame herself. And it actually works pretty well. It's not a great movie, but it's rare to have a film move so successfully from hot sex to tragedy.
  • There are a couple of things about this Italian sex drama that are surprising, but none that are surprising in a good way. Surprise number one is the fact that the casting folks managed to get Ernest Borgnine to appear in a film of this kind. Surprise number two is that a film about Italian hookers could turn out to be so deadly dull - and it doesn't matter whether you're watching it for the story or the sex, because on both counts the film is an absolute snoozer.

    Nira (Francoise Fabian) runs an elite brothel, under the guise of an art gallery in Rome. When she sells "paintings" she is, in fact, setting up her wealthy clients with stunning, high-class prostitutes. Nira has a select band of customers, including businessman Max (Ernest Borgnine), an ageing and gentlemanly client who dreams of finding the right girl to marry. Nira's motive for running the business is to pay for a new home and life for herself and her lover Alberto. However, as she enters the final few weeks of her career Nira begins to become more ruthless and close-minded towards her hookers, thus alienating them and forcing them to cut their ties with her. She finds herself turning to a married neighbour, Senine (Corinne Clery), to handle her remaining appointments.... but even there Nira treats Senine unfairly and disrespectfully. Just as Nira is about to escape the unsavoury existence she has carved for herself, the fates throw up one last cruel twist that shatters her dreams....

    Natale In Casa D'Appuntamento (or whatever title you know it by - e.g. "Love By Appointment", "Christmas At The Brothel" or "Holiday Hookers") is a pointless and interminable time-waster. One can only assume that it is trying to convey some kind of message about the relationship between prostitutes and their employers, or prostitutes and their clients, or maybe even employers and clients.... but whatever the point may be, it is lost in endless scenes of boring chit-chat and po-faced philosophy. Borgnine - a former Oscar-winner for "Marty", and relatively fresh from hit movies like "The Wild Bunch" and "The Poseidon Adventure" - looks as out of place as a camel in Antarctica. He plays his character as an ingratiating, over-bearing "gentleman", and looks thoroughly embarrassed of his involvement in the whole thing. The film is sheer hell to sit through, yet has the nerve to end at a totally bewildering point (leaving the viewer more irritated and unsatisfied than ever). It took 90 minutes of my life to watch this film.... and I want that 90 minutes back!!!