27 November 2009 | lazarillo
"The Smell of Flesh"
Salvatore Samperi is considered a respected director today in Italy apparently, but international recognition has largely eluded him, perhaps because all of his films have been clumsily (often horribly) dubbed into English as opposed to subtitled. The dubbing in the version of this I saw wasn't bad relatively (the Sicilian characters have Italian accents at least, as opposed to Texas or cockney ones, and there are no adult women trying to dub children by talking in a really high-pitched voices). Still, it's hard to fully appreciate a film like this when you're dealing with indifferent English dubbing, a lousy full-screen video transfer, and electronic Portugese subtitles (don't ask). But here goes:
Technically, Samperi was only the writer-producer here with Alfredo Malfatti directing, but this movie is definitely at a piece with Samperi's other films. His most famous film "Malizia" is about a boy sexually obsessed with his stepmother-to-be. "Scandalo" is about a man who desires the adolescent daughter of his married lover. "The Dark Side of Love" is about unhealthy (and eventually sexual relationship) between a brother and sister. (Do you see a pattern developing here?). This movie is about a man (Domenico Modguno) who returns to his native Sicily from New York where he has earned a relative fortune by Sicilian standards working as a lowly shoe salesman. He moves in his brother and his brother's new wife (former Bond girl Luciana Paluzzi), but quickly becomes obsessed with his brother's nubile stepdaughter (his own "niece") played by Eleanora Giorgi. There's quite a lot of gentle satire here involving both this "wealthy" immigrant "from America" and the provincial Sicilian yokels (the man and his brother have some pretty funny arguments about the merits of indoor plumbing).
The "uncle-niece" thing kind of puts this film in what was practically an entire genre of 70's Italian comedies and comedy-dramas inspired by Samperi's own "Malizia" and Ferdinand DiLeo's "The Seduction". These might be called "erotic family" films (one of them was actually called "Erotic Family"!). They are very Italian films with quasi-incestual themes, but are (usually) not nearly as sleazy as they sound because the characters are (usually) not blood relatives at least. It also helps greatly that the real-life actresses involved were almost always very gorgeous women well past the age of consent (i.e. Ornella Muti, Gloria Guida, Jenny Tamburi, Ely Galeani, Lili Karati, Sonia Viviani, Nastassia Kinski). The erotic content in this movie is pretty tasteful (perhaps TOO tasteful considering how damn sexy the then-twenty-year-old Eleonora Giorgi was). It could even be a respectable European "art" film with a decent presentation and some subtitles.