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November 18, 2015

The Voyeur

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L'uomo che guarda
Tinto Brass - 1994
Cult Epics BD

Two of my favorite films are The Conformist and Contempt. Both are generally considered to be the best films by their respective directors, Bernardo Bertolucci and Jean-Luc Godard. Both films also are adapted from novels by Alberto Moravia. Now it is possible that something got lost translating Moravia from Italian to English, but Bertolucci and Godard improved upon the source novels. With that in mind, I'm pretty sure that the film Tinto Brass made is probably better than Moravia's novel, or at least livelier.

While not officially credited, Brass pointedly has one of his female characters reading the original novel, L'uomo che guarda in bed. In the supplementary interview, Brass stated that Moravia encouraged him to not worry about fidelity to the novel. The basic set-up is there, a youngish professor of French literature, nicknamed Dodo, is trying to reunite with his wife. There is the unproven suspicion that she is having an affair. Dodo is not the most faithful of husbands. There is also the uneasy relationship with his bed-ridden father, marked by sexual competition. From what I have read about the novel, Brass has tossed aside the political segments.

There is briefly, a lecture given by Dodo discussing the concept of voyeurism, with mentions of Herodotus, Andre Gide and Stephane Mallarme. Dodo discusses a Mallarme poem in, um, greater depth, with a young African student, at least until the housemate, a female photographer, walks in. Some might accuse Tinto Brass of the same accusation aimed at Moravia, of providing a bit of intellectual veneer to justify an interest in eroticism.

And let's face it, the point of seeing a Tinto Brass movie is to see attractive women in various states of undress. As Sylvia, Dodo's wife, Polish actress Katarina Vasilissa is one of Brass's most photogenic stars. The camera lovingly, some might say too lovingly, explores all the peaks and valleys of Vasilissa's body. That she is often filmed wearing diaphanous lingerie and clothes that barely conceal, adds to the visual pleasure. The film opens with Dodo fantasizing about Sylvia, with one of the sexiest scenes of a woman getting dressed. There's also some male nudity on display here, the enjoyment of which I will leave to the individual viewer.

This is Brass's film as originally intended, at 104 minutes, significantly longer than the running time listed in IMDb. Aside from the thematic continuity of stories populated by voyeurs and exhibitionists, Brass makes use of several shots using mirrors and in one scene uses a refracted lens, adding to the unreal quality of Dodo's voyeurism. There's a nice sax-driven score by Riz Ortalani, an aural sweetener to the highly polished visuals.

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Posted by peter at November 18, 2015 08:46 AM