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    22 years


Der Vorname

breaking points for the bourgeoisie
The premise for the film is the conflict that naming your child "Adolf" could cause in your family. That alone would not be enough to sustain a full feature film, and indeed this is only a starting point.

A whole host of family secrets are unraveled in the process, how they think about one another, what they have done in the past and present. It is like throwing a burning match into the store of a gunpowder fabric and making damn sure it stays alight. The result pushes their relations in way one might otherwise see in a Luis Bunuel film, just staying one step short of surrealism.

There are small hints here and there that this is French (rather than German) in its origin, and it may have been better (with a German cast) to adapt these subtle cultural differences to place this in a pure German setting.

Anyway, this is very entertaining for its witty dialogue. The after-the-party events that concluded the piece seemed unnecessary.


Unwatchable drivel
This is the kind of pretentious, self-indulgent, avantgarde art house cinema that killed attendance in German movie theatres at the time it came out.

It comes under the header of stage adaptation, but it retains a sense of staginess that inflicts upon you a feeling that you should be watching this in a theatre, not a movie theatre - except that I prefer root canal treatment over watching this any day in any form. A storyline may have existed at some point, but it is completely buried under a heap of surreal settings and over-the-top performances. The surrealism has no real function here, as it does not merely transcend reality, it disconnects from it. As a consequence, there are no identifiable characters either - the thing is just mystifying without sporting a mystery that keeps you interested.

Recremental bourgeois dross of this kind makes me envy China its cultural revolution.


heist with some plot holes
This is generally quite an enjoyable heist movie, though the plot (of the heist) has some enormous holes you can drive a bus through. The problem with the heist is first its conception: its main perpetrator should be pretty obvious to all affected, and the information that the heist actually took place would not simmer through to the police is totally unrealistic; the second problem is the sheer coincidence that a string of crooks not only all use the same set of deposit boxes, no - they also just happen to frequent the same prostitute - who then somehow gets together with a bank employee who just happens to be master safe cracker. Hm! I have less of a problem with the conduct of the final chase - which some other commentators complained about. The idea the pursuers would want to catch Collins alive to make sure of the money first is credible. Moreover, hitting a running person from distance with a pistol is no mean feat anyway - moviedom has distorted our expectations in that respect.

Polizeifunk ruft

realistic police drama
This TV series, transmitted between 5 and 7 in the early evening slot on the ARD, was a fairly accurate reflection of actual police work at the time. The action content was ever so slightly revved up for entertainment purposes, and each episode had a self-contained story, but other than that it does not feel too far removed from reality TV. Apparently there was indeed some collaboration with Hamburg's police, and - probably not entirely unconnected to that - the odd episode here and there feels like a police education video.

Several episodes were filmed outside Germany, in France and Japan, on the pretext of a police exchange programme (we always keep our leading man), and these episodes have aged much more badly than the rest of the series.

Killing Cars

ill-conceived thriller
The central plot idea of a non-petrol-based car whose development is being sabotaged by vested interests from the oil industry is a good one. (The title refers to the killing OF cars, rather than to cars that kill.) However, it does not make ideal material for an action thriller, and that is exactly what director Verhoeven attempted here.

As a result there are quite a few unlikely moments in the film where my capacity to suspend disbelief was overstretched. In particular, way too much importance was given to that one example of the World Car, as if Korda had built that thing himself, entirely instinctively using a hammer and a soldering iron - and setting issues such as rights to intellectual property completely aside.

The film tries very hard to look stylish, in a very 1980s sort of way, and from a modern perspective some of this looks a bit silly: wearing sunglasses at night, Backgammon as a game that separates the men from the boys, etc.

Le tango de la perversion

Murder, jealousy & blackmail
A story of lust, murder, jealousy, blackmail - but mostly sex.

The UK video release of the film, called Sex Crazy, had a completely generic cover - with absolutely no hints at plot, cast, director, origin, or that it would be at all a feature film. So it came as a bit of a pleasant surprise to find a complete feature film with a proper plot, never mind several plot twists.

Cast, writing, setting and production values of the film are mostly fine, with one exception: one actor was aged by the make-up department, and not to the best effect, to put it politely. There was really no need for this measure anyway, as it would have sufficed to cast an older actor for the role.

This aside, the main problem with the film is that it cannot really decide what it wants to be: a sex film with crime elements, or a crime drama beefed up with sex scenes. As a result, it is a bit of both and somehow neither: the sex drags the viewer's attention away from the plot, and the plot elements undermine any budding eroticism from developing. Considering that the UK released I watched was cut by 9 minutes I have to allow for the possibility that the original version of the film balances sex and crime to a better effect.

Hurra, die Schule brennt - Die Lümmel von der ersten Bank IV. Teil

Almost disastrous, but with redeeming features
Anything with Peter Alexander and Heintje as top-billed cast members normally qualifies as an embarrassment that makes you want to hide behind the sofa - and this is not really an exception. The horrible couple unsurprisingly burst into song at inopportune moments, often too quickly to give the viewer time to hit the mute button. To make things worse, Peter Alexander plays his usual everybody-loves-me character - a character that was dated long before this movie came out.

However, this film can boost a few redeeming values - the support cast of Lingen, Schündler, Golling, and Stephan is in good form, but a particular jewel that really lifts the film is the scene with Werner Finck and Harald Juhnke. As brief as the scene is, it shows a prime example of Finck's perfect comic timing; that scene alone makes the film worth watching.

Blutjunge Masseusen

Episodic sex with a common theme
In the early 1970s Erwin C. Dietrich's sex-film factory went into overdrive. There was no room any more for plots, the films' episodic structure often betrayed a similarly episodic production history that would allow a flexible assembly of the shot material. Blutjunge Masseusen had at least a common theme - brothels masquerading as massage parlours, embedded in a narration in which a travel agent was openly soliciting these ventures.

This set-up does not promise too much originality, and when the writing did come up with something fresh and unexpected (like the roller-skate episode) then the competent but bog-standard cinematography seemed unable to turn this into something special.

People with an affinity to the genre may want to try one of Dietrich's episodic films of the period, and this would be as good or bad as most. Very much a case of "if you've seen one you've seen all".

Laß laufen, Kumpel

Sex in the Bezirksliga
This late follow-up to the Lass-Jucken-Kumpel series moves the centre of the plot to the miners' football club, a lower division outfit called FC07. Of course, this remains a sex film, and many people associated with the club in one form or another reveal their sex lives: one woman commits adultery with any man she fancies, a young couple find their first love, a middle-aged couple try to spice up the marital bed by following advice from sex education manual, etc. Eventually, the striker of an opposing football team is taken care of during the halftime break.

The quality of the acting is better than average for this kind of movie, and I am inclined to blame most of the hammier moments on the patchy writing. Having said that, writer Moppel Claer successfully manages to capture a contemporary working-class atmosphere throughout. The biggest problems of the film are that the connections between football, miners, and sex appear rather forced.

The Fifth Musketeer

sexed-up version, cut in US
In many ways, this is an unnecessary re-telling of a story we have seen realized many times before (and since), and often filmed better. It was certainly not Beau Bridges's finest hour.

What was unusual and certainly the major selling point of the film was that the leading ladies (Andress and Kristel) would shed their clothes on quite a few occasions. As this film's US rating is PG and as the American running time is 12 minutes shorter than the British 15-rated release (which is the one I saw) it is highly likely that most if not all nudity was cut from the American version. Which is a shame as this is the only proper reason to watch this film.

Rosemaries Tochter

Satire without satire
Rolf Thiele's swan song is a film like a lazy teenager hanging around in malls - it does not know what it wants to be. There are signs of satirical ambitions, holding hedonistic 1970s upper class German society a mirror in its ugly face, but these aims are only pursued half-heartedly. We also find elements of farce, but the film fails to demonstrate the wit or the bite farces require. Hans Clarin provides the commentary in his famous funny voice, promising humour but barely creating a strained smile in the audience. Other hints point at drama, musical, sex film, but none of these styles is followed through.

The leading actress is pretty but neither a thespian nor someone who commands the screen. Considering the dramatic ambitions of the film this was a bit of a problem. As a result she comes across as a waste of space - a pretty waste of space, but a waste of space nevertheless.

But the worst part of the film are the musical numbers. They are very much in the tradition of German political cabaret. These kind of songs do not adapt very well to the cinema screen at all anyway, but Thiele (or whoever was responsible for them) aggravated the problem by using old-fashioned cabaret costumes and old-fashioned musical styles. The result is at odds with the rest of the contemporary setting of the film.

Der Rosenkönig

Pretty but Pretentious
The IMDb classifies the genre of the film as Drama/Musical, but "Pretentious Nonsense" is probably a more accurate characterization, even if this is a little unkind. The film is certainly pretty to look at; each scene is (visually) as carefully composed as an oil painting, and the slow pace combines these images to an overall impression that is not unlike visiting an art gallery, i.e. moving from picture to picture, pondering over each for a while.

The classical music accompanies this well and enhances that emotion, and the characters' movement have a certain balletic quality that fits to the mood.

However, that alone does not make a movie. There is barely a story extractable from the proceedings, and the personal relationships between the characters do not ring true, not physically, not emotionally; they are just weird. Ballet has similar difficulties when it tries to tell its audience a story, but there is little justification for maintaining this difficulty at the cinema, just for the heck of it.

The film is certainly watchable, like a piece of art, and is in this sense a vast improvement over Schroeter's dreadful "Das Liebeskonzil", but it does not engage the audience. In other words: for toffee-nosed elitists only.

Mike Bassett: England Manager

Funny Mockumentary, but not for everyone
This mock documentary about an England World Cup campaign has many funny moments, but it can only fully be appreciated by people with a good knowledge of English football.

The film is clearly modeled after the famous Channel 4 documentary "Graham Taylor: The impossible job", it only had to ever so slightly caricature its real life model to turn it into farce. As a result, the film has moments where it is hilarious and strangely realistic at the same time. Proof of that came a few years after the film was made, at Euro 2004, when David Beckham missed a penalty in almost exactly the same way (and by the same margin) as the England striker in this film.

Not all the jokes work, e.g. the car salesman turned England coach trying to flock Korean cars to England players just did not not ring true, but others were close enough to real life to make me laugh out loud, e.g. the video tape incident or the Pele interview.

The film will probably find it hard to find an appreciative audience outside Britain (certainly outside Europe), because there are too many footballing in-jokes. For example, when we hear about Mike's playing career with stints at Doncaster Rovers and Crewe Alexandra then this is very telling to a British audience, and the avid football follower in the rest of Europe can just about get the gist of it, but everybody else would be left bemused.

(T)Raumschiff Surprise - Periode 1

very camp but fairly traditional space spoof
The film has many good ideas, but sadly most of them had been used elsewhere before, e.g. time travel to the middle ages, sci-fi devices with ridiculous labelling, etc. In other words, although the film is fairly enjoyable on its own, it is a little too noticeably made to order.

Part of the cliche-pile is a completely useless romance; these were once compulsory in German cinematic comedies (up to the 1970s anyway) and you would think film makers would have liberated themselves by now from this constraint. The best asset of the film is the camp humour, but even on this level there is a snag: it is insufficiently explained why our heroes are so fond of the Miss Waikiki competition...

Keine Angst Liebling, ich pass schon auf

Painfully unfunny
From the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s film makers of German-language cinema were involved in a fierce battle to produce the unfunniest cinematic comedy of all time. It was the right time, it was the right place, and they could be sure that their efforts would never ever be matched.

During the second half of the mentioned period the competition stiffened, when the "Dudu" movies ("Love Bug" clones minus special effects and minus acting) were challenged by an ever-increasing deployment of TV celebrities and pop singers in leading roles of plotless garbage. However, I gather that the race had already been decided in 1971, and the winning entry managed to achieve its lows with a purely professional cast, that is: without Volkswagen, without game show hosts, and remarkably even without any regulars of the ZDF Hitparade. Yes indeed, I am talking about this film.

The cast is led by the eternally cheerful Waltraut Haas in the role of C-list celeb Eva Ebner. Frankly, the threatening qualities of her permanent grin ought to have been exploited for more openly sinister genres than musical comedy. Instead, it is paired here with an even more ham-fisted variety of thespianism embodied by male lead Rudolf Strobl who provides us with an almost complete set of amateur dramatics' finest, ranging from faked drunkenness to phony phone conversations. Missing from the set is only a cliched Italian Casanova, and this major part (well, useless for plot development, but with plenty of screen time) chose the director for himself.

The plot itself features Eva's elaborate ploys to spoil her husbands attempted adultery - without actually confronting him about the matter. While this idea may stretch credulity, its realisation is just ludicrous. Our Eva disguises herself in various ways, some of which are both pointless and so complicated that they would surely require a professional make-up artist for assistance. On other occasions merely putting on a black wig suffices to render Eva unrecognisable for her husband, despite sitting next to him and then bursting into song.

All of this sounds mediocre, typical run-of-the-mill fare from the 1960s/1970s. So, why is it actually worse than mediocre?

It is the comedy! The Germans have a reputation for being the unfunniest lot in Europe, but here is proof that this condemnation is unjust - South of the border they are worse, i.e. in Austria and Switzerland. The jokes in this film are simply awful. There are moments when the editing, the scenery, the camera distance etc. are clearly meant to produce a joke - with built-up, punch line and all. And then these moments pass and a joke fails to materialise. At times I could not believe it, rewound the tape, and watched it again to see whether I missed something - and I had not, the scene simply failed to deliver.

Grün ist die Heide

Moves between comedy, romance, and a touch of melodrama
In the 1970s much of traditional German cinema was dying due to the advent of colour television. Some of its genres would not be missed at all, in particular the "Heimatfilm" (nostalgic back-to-basics films, set in some rural part of German-speaking central Europe) and the "Schlagerfilm" (films featuring some pop-singers in leading roles, but with a much higher dosage of kitsch than the Anglosaxon variety) have few fans, at least few who would openly admit to that.

This film threatens a combination of both genres, with Roy Black holidaying in the Lüneburger Heide. We certainly get to see lots of heather (heather=Heide) and although the plot does not give Roy any occasions to subject us to his corny songs, he does it anyway, at random. As usual, Roy's acting ranges all the way from soft-spoken, slightly grinning charmer to slightly grinning, soft-spoken charmer. Thankfully, the plot does not require much more than that, although a few moments of self-irony would have helped a lot.

Roy certainly does not deliver on that front, but I have the sneaking suspicion that director Reinl was deliberately mocking the genre conventions of the Heimatfilm by including exceedingly long journeys through the heather-covered landscape. This was too subtle to be picked up by the film's target audience (who aren't used to irony), but perhaps meant as a hint at the producers to spare him from projects of this kind in the future.

The mood of the film moves between comedy, romance, and a touch of melodrama. The melodrama appears half-hearted and phony, the romance fails to click due to a lack of chemistry (and lack of acting) between the leads, and thus only the comedy elements remain watchable. They benefit from being in the hands of the much more capable support cast, especially scene stealers Henry Vahl and Agnes Windeck.

Julchen und Jettchen ~ die verliebten Apothekerstöchter

Blossoming women prancing around in the nude
The exploitation branch of the Swiss film industry consisted for a long time of just one man: Erwin C. Dietrich. This film is a rather typical product of his early 1980s softporn period.

As in almost all films directed by Dietrich, Peter and Walter Baumgartner were responsible for cinematography and music, respectively. Both did an exceptional job here, although one might object that Walter Baumgartner's beautiful musical score has little connection with story and characters. However, it fits very well with these plentiful depictions of blossoming fruit trees Dietrich is so keen on, and my best guess is that these blossoms serve as an allegory for the blossoming young ladies the movie is about.

Or rather, it is about showing these women prancing around in the nude - I even recall seeing them in that state hunting butterflies with butterfly nets, in slow motion, but I may have been hallucinating. Dietrich is an admirer of the fully-developed female form, and thus - although our young ladies attend the ubiquitous girls-only boarding school - they appear to be well into their twenties. The only lessons we ever get to observe are sex education lessons, and these scenes are directly lifted from Dietrich's earlier film 'Mädchen ohne Männer'.

A second story line sees a well-tanned muscle man (Mike Montana?) failing his wife (Jane Baker) in the most delicate of marital duties. Although there is a connection to our boarding-school girls, this connection is highly unconvincing.

The word 'story' also hints at the biggest weakness of this film, and the weaknesses of so much of Dietrich's other output. There is not much of a story to start with, and the pacing and editing destroy any remaining sense of coherence.

As a product for the cinema, there were limits to how much could be shown in 1980, but these limits had to be exploited to the full - if only for commercial reasons. The result is a surprisingly large number of female masturbation scenes, which also tend to go on for too long - a deficiency normally associated with hardcore pornography. Most of these scenes were cut or at least shortened in the UK release, unwittingly improving the film's pacing. Still, the 2002 DVD release is the version to be seen, especially as the picture quality is pristine.

Club de rencontres

Saucy French Comedy
A light-hearted comedy about a guy who runs a dating agency and whose very own love life needs sorting out. This is in many ways typically French: a little saucy, with a male lead who's perhaps a little too macho for his own good but whom the audience is still supposed to love, not exactly politically correct regarding gender roles, with the ubiquitous gratuitous female nudity, with quite a bit of light-hearted humour - the kind of humour that makes you smile rather than chuckle.

Michel Lang is very good at this kind of genre and again he does a good job here. Thus, this is definitely watchable, but the genre is probably not to everyone's taste.

Come perdere una moglie e trovare un'amante

Sexy Slapstick
In the 1970s, the Italians made use of relaxed censorship conditions by considerably sexing up their comedies - even slapstick comedies such as this one. This process sometimes helped staging intrinsically sexual situations (e.g. a cheating spouse caught in the act), but more commonly was exploited to add gratuitous nudity.

Most of these sexy comedies from that era had slapstick elements of some form, but this movie goes further and shifts the balance towards slapstick. In other words, we have here a sexy comedy but also a slapstick comedy. There is a problem when these subgenres are combined, and it is: pace. Slapstick requires actions to be fast and furious, but erotic elements need a much slower pace to work best. This film implements a corresponding shift of gear to accommodate both moods, but the shift itself is at times abrupt and unconvincing.

Johnny Dorelli is much more bearable than the usual comedy males of the genre (Alvaro Vitali, Lino Banfi, Gianfranco D'Angelo, etc.), or at least his brand of humour travels better - he is less of a clown and more of a comic actor. Female lead Barbara Bouchet plays it straight, but she had hardly a choice - Italian comedies of that time use women as objects of adoration, not to carry the comedic elements.

The overall result does not quite work, but does not completely fail either. The unusual combinations of moods leaves it as an interesting curiosity.

Das gelbe Haus am Pinnasberg

One watches in amazement
One of those films from the early 1970s a modern audience can only watch in amazement. The story revolves around the "Haus" of the title - a male brothel, situated in Hamburg. That in itself is not a surprising topic for a German movie of that period, just about anything to do with sex was given the cinematic treatment. Such films were mostly comedies, and this one certainly is - so please do not expect a realistic depiction of male prostitution.

Alfred Vohrer not only directed this film, but also recalled some of his regulars from his Edgar Wallace movies, most notably Siegfried Schürenberg and Eddi Arent. These two were largely responsible for comic relief in the Wallace thrillers, and they simply felt no need to adapt their style for this genre switch; especially the Werner Zibell character is just about the same guy as Sir John, merely running a brothel rather than a police force. Other casting choices add to the sense of oddity, e.g. Willy Harlander is at least a strange choice for playing one of the studs.

A traditional German comedy had to include a romantic love story, and would you believe it, this film is no exception. Understandably, Zibell is not pleased when he finds out that his daughter is dating his newest employee, and from there the story follows the familiar pattern of romantic comedies. But one thing is strange: the daughter has no knowledge of either the origin of her father's income or her boyfriend's night job, but when she finds out she doesn't bat an eyelid.

Le fruit défendu

underdeveloped sex drama
Most pornographic films just contain wall-to-wall sex with very little plot to hold things together or even to explain the frequent intercourse. This film is different, because it follows a dramatic story (about a man who lost his wife in an accident who now finds it difficult to relate to other women) and even 'sacrifices' sex scenes for plot development.

This is all well-intended but the execution falls short on too many levels: acting, production values, writing.

Alban Ceray (who plays the lead character Milton) has shown in the past that he can handle comedic acting, but this requires dramatic, even melodramatic aptitude, and he seems at a loss of what to do. Yves Callas fares a bit better, but Yoko is completely out of her depth.

Concerning production values, this was shot on video which makes everything appear rather two-dimensional. The 'special-effect' of turning a woman Milton copulates with into his deceased wife is more embarrassing than special (it was a bad idea to start with). The make-up artist (Colmax regular Colette Xais) was given too much freedom: Helen Shirley's face looks as if she had fallen into a barrel with red paint, and Yoko's final makeover goes so far that it disrupts the feel of continuity.

Finally, the writing is a bit superficial - the characters appear too shallow, we do not engage with them. There is also a lack of narrative thread to keep our attention, the events are too random and incidental to contribute to a rounded whole.

Overall, I watched this with a sense of disappointment, because there was enough promise to raise one's hopes but too many deficiencies makes this a missed opportunity.

Wer einmal in das Posthorn stößt

An unusual sex comedy which tries to be quirky and succeeds in being weird. A female reporter in desperate search for a new story is following Postman Max Sparwein to come up with a "Postman Report", yet another addition to Germany's o-so-plentiful sex reports. These had featured postmen before but this movie is probably (and thankfully) the only film to put them at the centre of the story.

The first indication that we are in trouble arrives before the film starts (in the credits), because this is one of those sex films in which the director had put himself into the lead - such efforts frequently manage to out-vain Barbra Streisand (just have a look at the films of Jean-Marie Pallardy or Günter Hendel), and this is no mean achievement. Fortunately, Gerhard Hartig didn't have the physique to pursue that route with any conviction, but he still seemed to fancy himself as both an actor and a comedian capable of carrying a film, and sadly nobody told him (in time) how delusory such aspirations were. Especially his timing is conspicuous by its absence.

The content is mostly episodic, where some of the episodes manage to retain a certain charm thanks to a weirdness with a distinct surreal touch. There is not much to hold these episodes together though, the narrative thread is thin and even the style appears to change from episode to episode - mostly depending on whether Hartig was working with professional actors or laymen.

Any positive feelings about this project were annihilated by the horrific sight of a love scene between Gerhard Hartig and (shock! horror!) Helga Feddersen. I am tempted to blame it for the reduction of the German birth rate, because anybody watching this must have been put off sex for quite a while.

Gelobt sei, was hart macht

Weird sex and propaganda piece
In 1972 the Olympic Games were about to be held in Germany, or rather: West Germany. One aspect the West Germans dreaded most about the forthcoming games was the clear superiority of East Germany in so many sports.

This propagandist satire is a direct reflection of these feelings. The story is set in ancient Greece, with Sparta and Athens as representatives for East and West Germany, respectively. As it is a satire, it is also a comedy, but some of the representation of Spartan (i.e. East German) training and especially youth selection methods go beyond sarcastic mockery and show thinly concealed bitterness and disdain. For example, while East German children (in real life) were screened at a young age to determine in which sport they might excel, Spartan babies (in this film) who didn't measure up to specification were simply abandoned. For balance, West German decadence is also a target for mockery: the top Athenian athlete exercises because his reward is the pampering he receives at the local brothel.

Yes, brothel! Sex is another theme in this film - while the title of the film is a slogan that originated in the 19th century early fitness movement, it leaves ample room for alternative interpretations (it could be translated as "Let us praise what makes us hard!"). On the evidence of the content, one could argue that sex and nudity are merely used as bait to lure an audience into a propaganda film, but this is not entirely fair. Rolf Thiele made quite a few sex comedies in historical settings in those years, and it is rather the political slant of this movie that is a bit of a novelty.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

More coherent than the first
A clear improvement over the previous film - this is more a story than a sequence of set pieces and the (necessary!) thinning out of the material to reach feature film length was done here much more intelligently. The first film made the mistake of doing a proportional reduction of the material across the board, leaving too many things in there, and inevitably in a rather underdeveloped state. This still happens here occasionally, e.g. Harry's trip to Knockturn Alley has been reduced to the point where it contributes so little that it would have been better to cut it altogether, but this is more an exception than the rule. The final product is still rather long though and thus one might have gone a step further and e.g. ditch the spiders.

There were a few occasions at the beginning of the film when I briefly flinched - some characters and set pieces were too visibly introduced to the audience, for instance Mrs Weasley's first referral to Diagon Alley was a little too exuberant to ring true. I would have transferred that exuberance to Ginny, after all it could (for all we know) her first time there.

Compared to the book, the film follows more (perceived) American children's taste, e.g. the irony is toned down (I was disappointed about the omission of the Weasley twins' sarcastic exploitation of Harry's suspected Heir of Slytherin status, although this was perhaps an obvious sacrifice to make) and the level of sentimentality increased, especially in the sugar-coated ending.

Senso '45

Sex Drama in typical Brass Style
The marketing for this film refers to Tinto Brass's much earlier works, The Key, and Salon Kitty. Although Brass made many films since, this referral is entirely appropriate, as the style of Senso '45 is very much inspired by (if not derived from) these pictures, especially The Key. For the uninitiated: this is soft pornography of the classy kind.

As in both of these films, Brass sets the story during WWII. As in The Key, we have as central character a woman well past her twenties (in this case even well past her thirties) who explores her sexuality. Her lover is a blond SS officer, whose mannerisms recall the character played by Helmut Berger in Salon Kitty. Slightly unusual for Brass is to move from comedic to dramatic territory, but this shift proved useful when it came to depicting the dark and obsessive side of the central relationship.

The casting of Anna Galiena was excellent, and not just regarding her acting abilities. On the one hand, there is no credibility-stretching age gap between her and her husband (as there was between Sandrelli and Finlay in The Key). On the other, she looks fantastic for her age, even in the nude, and thus the sexual chemistry between Livia and Helmut appears quite real, despite the 20 year age gap between Galiena and Garko. Still, Gabriel Garko's SS officer leaves something to be desired, most simply put: his hair colour does. Garko's hair had been dyed straw blond, but he does not look like a blond man at all. Perhaps Italians do not have an eye for this, or, more likely, it was too late to change casting and Brass insisted on a blond SS man for this leading part, so he went ahead regardless. This bit of sacrificed realism is certainly at odds with the drama.

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