DVD: Dark Side of Love, The / Fotografando Patrizia (1984)

November 29, 2012 | By

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Film: Very Good/ DVD Transfer: Very Good/ DVD Extras:  n/a

Label: One 7 Movies/ Region: 0 (NTSC) / Released: September 11, 2012

Genre: Erotica / Drama

Synopsis: The death of their mother brings a Venetian brother & sister WAY closer than is socially, morally, and sexually appropriate.

Special Features: (none)

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Review:

Salvatore Samperi managed to sustain his career as an erotic filmmaker from the late sixties straight into the eighties, and yet of his 20 feature films, The Dark Side of Love / Fotografando Patrizia is apparently the sole title available in North America.

Unlike One 7 Movies’ other DVDs which seem to be sourced from lone surviving prints, Dark is actually taken from a decent film to video transfer, and sports both Italian and English dub tracks (although there are no English subtitles).

This is important given the film was photographed by the great Dante Spinotti (L.A. Confidential, X-Men 3: The Last Stand), one of Italy’s top cinematographers who’s maintained an ongoing association with Michael Mann (Manhunter). Spinotti’s camera glides carefully in and around the ornate mansion where Samperi’s weird tale of burgeoning incest foments, plus there’s the gorgeous Venetian locations.

The core story involves Patrizia’s (Monica Guerritore) return to the family mansion after her mother’s sudden death, and initially diligent efforts to transform younger brother Emilio (Lorenzo Lena) from a porn-addicted, lazy hypochondriac into a proper young man with normal social skills.

Her initial methodology is to push & prod him like a drill sergeant, dragging him out of bed, enforcing an exercise routine, eating proper food, and getting him less reliant on the neck and back braces he’s worn since childhood due to their over-protective mother. With Patrizia back in his life 24-7, Emilio starts to see his sister as more hot than the neighbour’s daughter, whereas Patrizia becomes aware of little Emilio’s power to shape her current sexual desires – a process that begins with bedtime stories not of giant friendly bears and yummy pots of fuzzy bee honey, but Patrizia’s first, third, and umpteenth tales of being ravaged and used as a blank canvas for phallic spray-painting.

It also doesn’t help that Patrizia’s a fashion designer, constantly surrounded by pretty models at home and at work, nor that her bedroom activities are just a glass pane away from her brother’s dark bedroom. On one level, Dark is a straight tease – Samperi acknowledges the siblings are very much hungry for each other through words and reaction shots instead of moments of graphic Wrongness – but in being such an elegant production (and boasting a score by Ring of Death‘s[M] Fred Bongusto) we know their inevitable union will never be dramatized as a wet & sordid affair, as Bernardo Bertolucci eventually depicted in his emotionally tormented mother-son drama Luna (1979).

The film’s most effective element isn’t the nudity or the wrongness of its subject matter, but the power struggle between brother & sister, as each seems to dare the other until jealousy interrupts and erodes any vestiges of a normal sibling relationship. Samperi fixates on their gazes and reactions, while Bongusto treats their longings with a strange amiability, almost approving of their intention to eventually consummate forbidden desires.

The English dubbing and dialogue is predictably ridiculous, often making Patrizia’s reactions to and sudden dismissal of any sibling conflict almost spastic, and Lena’s acting skills are virtually nil (hence his limited dialogue), but the two actors are physically complimentary. Moreover, the film’s art direction still remains stylish, which is quite a feat given the hair styles, décor, and colour schemes of most eighties productions look hideous today. (The only misstep is Patrizia’s buzz cut and hair colour, which is weirdly evocative of the head shaving forced on heretics and WWII prostitutes. Perhaps Semperi intended the to infer Patrizia’s heretical behaviour by contrasting her clipped hair against her modish wardrobe.)

The film’s Italian title is roughly translated as Photographing Patrizia, which makes more sense since it relates to Samperi’s device of freezing a frame of Patrizia after a pivotal event, and pulling back to reveal a white table backlighting the emerging slide images.

Samperi wasn’t Italy’s sole erotic filmmaker, but the classiness of this production (in visuals, sonics, and tempo) shouldn’t be dismissed as merely de rigueur for the genre. When the siblings finally confirm their intentions, Samperi borrows an idea from Radley Metzger’s Little Mother (1973) – separating the tactile actions of the two would-be lovers with a glass pane – and the specific colour scheme throughout the film, emphasizing warm reds, amber, and soft pastels – may well have influenced American erotic maestro Zalman King; there are definite similarities between Samperi’s visual and editorial style, as well as the depiction of sexual power using montages of reactive eyes instead of graphic, physically abusive realism.

Perhaps best-known for Malizia (1973) and Stormtroopers (1976), Samperi would durect La bonne (1986) and Malizia 2000 (1991) before switching over to TV work. Actress Guerritore would enjoy a prolific film & TV career, whereas Lena would only appear in 3 more films, bowing out after a supporting role in Samperi’s La Bonne.

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© 2012 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Composer Filmography

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