8 August 2003 | bbhlthph
What was the promoters objective here?
I find it unusually difficult to comment on this film. Commenting is a process based on two requirements, (a) some knowledge (real or assumed) about the intentions of the promoters and director of the film, and (b) a personal assessment of how far their objectives have been met - unfortunately in the case of "Vivid" it is far from clear to me what were the primary objectives for producing this film. It is listed in the IMDb database as "Genre -Drama". Drama in the conventional sense it certainly is not - the only form of drama for which it might be eligible is erotic drama. Despite a proliferation of early sexual comedies, this category of film was virtually unknown until the 1932 release of Extase. Extase was a much more significant film than Vivid and it is one which I certainly regret I do not have in my collection, but today the most widely known examples of true erotic drama are probably the first three Emmanuelle films. Many attempts have been made to emulate them but few have achieved even partial success, and although a real erotic drama based on the theme of Vivid might well be possible, this film cannot make any pretensions to being such a work. Your collected user comments tend to suggest that to most of its viewers it is no more than a somewhat ordinary sexual comedy, but I feel that the promoters were attempting to achieve much more and that their film has to be assessed against a somewhat higher standard than this.
The early scenes show Steve Shellen as an artist suffering from severe depression which has led him to develop very erratic behaviour patterns that appear to be just tolerated by his live in model (Kari Wuhrer). These scenes are totally unbelievable - an artist who tramples wet canvasses into the floor, and even throws cans of paint around, would not live in the reasonably clean and tidy suburban type home which is shown - he would be more likely to be found in a completely decrepit slum type apartment. It is also unlikely that by this stage even the most complacent girl friend would continue to be co-habiting with him in reasonably good humour. However this introduction is quickly left behind, and what follows is primarily a series of sexual couplings carried out by these two actors with both their bodies covered in paint. Without the paint and the artistic theme, this part of the film would probably, with good reason, be regarded as mildly pornographic. It takes more than this to create a successful movie. The ability to simulate any type of physical or emotional activity is part of the art of acting, and I personally see no reason why a simulated sex scene should turn an indifferent comedy into a successful sex comedy. Also, whilst most sex comedies attempt to display nude bodies in a voluptuous manner, a painted body is no longer nude -it may be as well covered as one that has been clothed in exotic fabrics by one of today's leading fashion designers, and it often has much less erotic appeal. In this sense there is relatively little full nudity in this film and I do not believe its producers visualised it as a sex comedy or nudity as its key feature. Rather I believe that they had a wider message in mind. Is it not primarily a satirical comment on the way in which modern art shows, and even major galleries, often promote garbage because they are afraid that it may be important art which they have failed to appreciate? One does not have to go too far to see a pile of bricks casually unloaded onto a white board, or a surface covered by paint which was essentially thrown at it from a distance, being promoted as a modern artistic masterpiece. If the true aim of this film was to parody this type of situation, then it would indeed be a somewhat unsuccessful, but important, artistic work in its own right.
In the meantime I fully agree with an earlier comment that it is a great pity Kari Wuhrer has been ignored as a major actress by most of the major film studios. Whatever she is wearing, her very mobile facial expressions can make her into an extremely erotic actress, and this will probably remain true even when she reaches old age. It will be a long time before I forget the scene where she has a can of paint flung over her and initially experiences the inevitable rush of rage and disgust. Her artist partner approaches her and with loving fingers begins to play with the pattern of the paint on her body. Within a few seconds her rage and disgust visibly fade away and are replaced by her love for her partner and her amusement at his stupidity. I believe it was an outstanding achievement for her to show this transition as realistically as she does in this film. Please let us see more of her.
As for this film, I repeat that in my view its promoters had serious intentions and did not feature nudity simply to provide eye candy for the viewer. However, as it was released, I can only regard it as no better than a screen version of a typical Harlequin romance - it is quite easy watching, but has no substance.