Tinto Brass’ latest Blu-ray release is another breezy, politically incorrect tale of a kept woman who engages in a dalliance with a studly erotic artist when life in the master bedroom just isn’t stimulating anymore with her husband, a wealthy publisher.
Marriage, in fact, has killed all passion, and it’s only through some healthy jealousy that Dario (Max Parody) and Marta’s (Anna Jimskaia) marriage clicks back to the hot-and-bothered activities they enjoyed during their courting – like fellatio, among the reeds of public riverbed.
Brass’ films tend to follow a formula in which a woman’s wanderings and adventures rekindle and re-align her erotic priorities and restores an existing troubled relationship, and the director uses that reliable structure to inject scenes of sexual hunger & dissatisfaction, stalking, wife-slapping, nighttime naughtiness at a coctail (get it?), mistrust, mulling over fidelity and love, one last grand and illicit fling, and the inevitable reunion.
And yet, within that stream of touching, boffing, and flagrant displays of naughty bits, Brass still gives Monamour his personal stamp. Groping and generous close-ups are standard, but humour is paramount to the success of his films, and he carries on the tradition of Italian sex comedies by indulging in the ridiculous.
Marta and Dario’s apartment (it's the standard standing set Brass has been using for the last 15 years) is decorated in panel reproductions of Giulio Romano's frescos of muscular, well-endowed heroes, and when Marta visits the original location of the panels, she’s transfixed by the detail and romanticized privates (not to mention horse tails that resemble exploding clouds of flatulence). As she moves from one room to the next, gazing at the ceiling art, an erotic artist/stud named Leon (Riccardo Marino) follows and takes snapshots of her rear, stalking her across the floor until the two have an exchange that could’ve progressed into rudeness had a school troupe not wandered in.
In an American context, the sequence would’ve been directed as pure sleaze, or as a disturbing sequence of dangerous predatorial lust, but Brass’ take isn’t far off from Benny Hill: the studly suitor is an annoying shutterbug flea who just won’t leave her alone, and he just has to cop a feel of something big and round.
Marta’s best friend Sylvia (Nela Lucic) explains the positive aspects of having an affair, and the two compare notes during a spa outing, discussing options and the benefits of immorality under herbal face masks while Nazi masseuses are annoyed with their constant chatter and affectionate touching.
Other sequences take place in Brass’ favourite surroundings, including a restaurant, a beach, a park walk filled with groping couples, a booksellers' cocktail party, and a seaside terrace where Marta displays her dancing abilities and waist-level privates with live musical accompaniment.
There is a misogynistic streak in the way Marta is slapped and pushed by Dario, and his harsh accusations of low-grade female behaviour, but one could argue Dario’s characterization as an idiot somewhat balances things, and the funniest moment has Marta delighting shouting “Cuckold!” to her hubby before slamming the bathroom door shut. A series of witty dream/nightmare sequences are also unflattering towards Dario, and at the film's end he's devolved somewhat into Marta's toy.
Monamour is Brass’ first HD production, and it’s surprisingly elegant, considering his production budgets tend to be very tight. The visual details are crisp, colours are the same misty off-whites Brass enjoys using, and while the 5.1 mix has minimal sound design, the music cues are clean, and reflect Brass’ odd taste in Italo-Bavarian jazz (if such a hybrid exists). The Blu-ray and DVD also include Italian and English 2.0 tracks, but they’re flat mono mix-downs. (The oddest aspect is Brass’ appearance at the cocktail party, and the fact his raspy voice was post-synced by an actor rather than himself.)
Monamour was previously released in August of 2010 as a single-disc DVD with a making-of featurette, trailers, and a teaser for Brass' short film Kick the Cock (2009), in which Brass acts and is seen peering through the window where a woman deep-throats a cucumber. That edition has been replaced by a new 2-disc set, on which Disc 1 features the film, trailer, and featurette.
In "The Making of Monamour," Brass is seen comfortably directing risqué scenes, sometimes with a 'hands-on' style, or standing in for either Jimskaia, Marino, or Parodi.
Disc 2 sports the short film starring and co-written by Angelita Franco, which, as Brass describes in the Venice Premiere featurette, is just meaningless fluff; it's just a concept piece where Franco's dislike for dishes was written up as a fantasy piece in which a seated Brass watches her bake a cake in a bottomless maid uniform, and in the short's second half, Brass plays a Peeping Tom who pulls out his member and cums multiple times (!) while Franco stimulates both vegetables and herself with corn, cucumbers, and berries - all fresh from the fridge.
(In the short's first half, the positioning of Brass, seated in an oval rattan chair behind a broad desk in the kitchen, remains very odd, but one suspects the props were dragged into the room so Brass could carry on with his approach to framing characters within circular lines to loosen the rigidity of hard vertical and horizontal dimensions of walls, doorways, windows, and tables.)
A bonus making-of featurette reveals the cameraderie among Brass, his adoring and enamored star, and crew, setting up shots in the grand mansion, and how to simulate penetration with what seems to be an eggplant (which to some may be quite useful). The cheeky tone is carried on in the Venice Premiere featurette, where Brass offers a description of the film, and briefly dsicusses the short format which has been a traidional venue for Italian filmmakers (like the cited Roberto Rosselini) to explore subjects free from the demanding 105 min. length expected by distributors.
The disc finishes with a short featurette on a photo shoot where erotic photographer Franco Saudelli snaps images of Angelita Franco in a variant maid's uniform cleaning an apartment, and later taped up in tight poses; and in the disc's oddest bonus, footage of Franco doing a strip tease at a club, wearing a Spanish-styled outfit.
Cult Epics' Blu-ray sports a clean transfer of Monamour, and Brass' aficionados should be pleased they can now examine deltan hair follicles in full HD splendor, if not every pore and fold on and within Jimskaia's posterior. Although filmed with softer focus, Kick the Cock looks quite vibrant in HD, and the wide framing with precisely positioned objects (bum-bums included) is pleasing.
Other Tinto Brass releases from Cult Epics include Deadly Sweet / Col cuore in gola (1967),Attraction / The Artful Penetration of Barbara / Nerosubianco (1969), Howl, The / L’hurlo(1970), The Key / La Chiave (1983), Miranda (1985), All Ladies Do It / Così fan tutte (1992), Voyeur, The / L'Uomo che guarda (1994), Frivolous Lola (1998), Cheeky / Trasgredire (2000), and Private / Fallo! (2003).
© 2010, revised 2011, by Mark R. Hasan