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March 01, 2016



Tinto Brass - 1991
Cult Epics BD Region A

It has been too long since I've seen Kenji Mizoguchi's Street of Shame. That film, about the last days of legal prostitution in Japan, and the women who work in a brothel, takes place within about two years of Paprika, and the efforts to close Italy's then legal brothels. I would not be surprised if Tinto Brass was familiar with Mizoguchi's final work, or if it was of some inspiration. The supplementary interview with this new blu ray includes an interview with Brass, discussing his own experiences and observations prior to 1958, when the law closing Italy's brothels took effect.

There is very little shame in Brass's world. His heroine is a naive young lady who initially goes to work for a couple of weeks with the goal providing her boyfriend with the finances to launch a small business. Discovering what the audience suspected, that the boyfriend is a cad, Paprika becomes dedicated to her work, with the goal of making herself financially independent. Not only are there a variety of sexual experiences, but most are found to be enjoyable. In spite of set-backs, Paprika is able to live her life on her own terms.

The perky score by Riz Ortolani sounds like something that might accompany a silent movie. And for the most part, Paprika is a comic fable, with lots of nudity. There is more care than I've seen in some bigger budget films to make everything era appropriate with the costumes and hair styles. One of the nice touches is the use of popular songs from that time, including Edith Piaf and Juliette Greco, as well as the high pitched vocals of the Mediterranean version of "The Chipmunks". There's also a terrific dance number that takes place at a dive in Marseilles.

That dance scene best employs a visual motif that appears frequently throughout Paprika. Brass has a several shots taken from floor level, usually with feet and ankles seen in the foreground. It's a nice touch by a filmmaker who could well have made more of a name for himself as a visual stylist, had he chosen to do so. Lateral tracking shots of women's bare asses isn't the stuff of serious film criticism, but that's never been the point of most of Brass's oeuvre.

Those familiar with the film of Tinto Brass from 1976 on, know what to expect. The interview suggests that for Brass, aside from making films is an enjoyment of finding a new "discovery" and making her his muse for one film. Apparently, Deborah Caprioglio found one kinky scene to be a challenge, although I would think it would be easier than living with Klaus Kinski as she had done prior to making Paprika.

tinto brass and deborah.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 1, 2016 07:24 PM