DVD: Blue Movie (1978)

July 16, 2014 | By

 

BlueMovie1978Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: Excellent

Label: Raro Video (U.S.A.)

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  May 27, 2014

Genre:  Erotica / Drama / Exploitation / Experimental

Synopsis: The realities of a former commercial photographer and a woman rescued after a brutal rape blur in this visual and moral assault by Italian cinema’s enfant terrible, Alberto Cavallone.

Special Features:  6 select scenes from hardcore version (Super 8mm) / Making-of documentary by Noturno Cinema: “Blue Extreme” (43 mins.) / 12-page colour booklet with edited notes by Noturno Cinema / O-sleeve.

 


 

Review:

“I can’t stand beauty. I love fear and abjection painted on people’s faces. Only then they’ll become human… You don’t only have a stupid face. You are stupid.” — Claudio, Blue Movie’s not-so-nice photographer.

 

One of Italy’s most infamous cult directors, enfant terrible Alberto Cavallone, has been pegged by detractors as a hack, a provocateur, and a pornographer, but little of his work has been released outside of Europe, except perhaps Man, Woman and Beast (1977). Blue Movie, his experimental assault on cineastes and fickle audiences, is perhaps his most notorious film, which is ironic since Cavallone shot this loosely written, star-less, no-budget art movie within a week, and yet it’s this monster for which he’s best known among connoisseurs of strange cinema.

Often functioning as director, writer and editor, Cavallone’s C.V. includes documentaries and fiction films, and like directors Tinto Brass (The Howl), Jose Benazeraf, and Jesus Franco, Cavallone found success in making films with erotic content, progressing from softcore to outright hardcore. Like Benazeraf and Frano, Cavallone did eventually helm several hardcore porn efforts (under the nom de plume Baron Corvo in the eighties), but not unlike Alejandro Jodorowsky, at least in Blue Movie, the film’s design is to take a teasing premise and destabilize staid audiences instead of sticking to genre tropes and a linear structure. Unlike Jodorowsky, though, Cavallone has no desire to create metaphors to mask intellectual views; he’s perfectly content in moving from sleaze to vulgarity, and then something quite taboo.

SPOILERS GALORE BELOW!

 

After being lured into the woods by an unseen admirer, Silvia (one-time actress Danielle Dugas) is brutally raped, flees to a nearby highway, and is picked up by passing photographer Claudio (one-time actor Claude Maran), who provides her shelter in his multi-level apartment / studio, but when he locks the door, she begins to sense there’s more to her savior than she realizes.

Claudio has eschewed filming anything commercial, and spends his time taking stills of empty Coke cans and tins in assorted poses and states of physical decay, plus the trying responsibility of Silvia, whom he initially keeps locked in an upper floor bedroom for her benefit, but eventually allows to move about the house and streets freely.

Sultry model Daniela (Dirce Funari), seen in an early photo shoot sequence, has become tired of being a beautiful commercial face, and after begging Claudio to assign her a new purpose, begins to live in a locked room as one of his empty ‘Coke cans.’ Claudio also lets a penniless waif, Leda (Leda Simonetti), live with him in exchange for being an assistant / office manager, and he’s when not taking pictures of cans or arguing with Silvia, he has sex with Daniela.

Although he’s juggling three women at once, he’s consistently emotionally detached, and shows little reaction when a stranger dubbed “Il negro” (Joseph Dickson) arrives and copulates with Leda. One night, Silvia discovers Daniela in a locked room and kills her, which unleashes a wave of delusions which may reveal a greater truth: she’s been suffering from a traumatic block that’s prevented her from initially realizing Claudio was her rapist (or was there even a rape?), or maybe the entire scenario was Claudio’ own highly perverted delusion prior to the photographer putting a bullet in his head.

Cavallone periodically intercuts footage of immolating monks and other blown-out newsreel footage to give his film a pseudo-political undercurrent, and there are curious objects of fixation which sometimes seem banal for the sake of being banal, like Silvia’s periodic probing into Claudio’s assorted closets. There’s also shots at commercial art via Claudio’s poo-pooing (in attitude, and later in literal form) of models and branded products, and perhaps the work of more celebrated cinema contemporaries like Dario Argento: there a scene where Silvia examines bottled baby dolls displayed on a mantle that recalls the Goblin-scored, macro-photographed montages in Deep Red featuring a spinning turntable, toys, a string noose, knives, and a children’s doll.

Throughout the film, Cavallone editorially juxtaposes actions between Claudio and the three women, often contrasting action with inaction and busy couples with solitude, and the softcore sex scenes were originally goosed with hardcore footage that likely pushed the film’s running time closer to 100 mins. (The more graphic material, shot with stand-ins, has been archived in a separate gallery, since the footage comes from a surviving ‘bootleg’ Super 8mm copy of a surviving incomplete hardcore version.)

Blue Movie is perhaps less shocking for its sex scenes than the rape footage seen in one of Silvia’s later flashbacks (the uncut 8mm footage involves an impalement with a sharp branch), and Daniela fulfilling her role as ‘an empty can,’ or rather a machine which purges bodily waste into objects of American consumerism: urine into Coke cans, and runny fecal matter packed by hand into Marlboro cigarette packs which Claudio keeps refrigerated. The greater the offerings, the more food Claudio tosses to Daniela which perpetuates her role as a waste machine.

As bizarre as Cavallone’s shock film may be, when stripped of its most offensive details, it’s still a weird, trippy experimental work that repeatedly denies audiences conventional material but force-feeds the grotesque and the forbidden, making Blue Movie perhaps a precursor to more recent shock films such as Irreversible (2002) where rape and a reversed narrative structure mask the director’s otherwise deliberate intention to sicken audiences; and The Bunny Game (2010), which presents a debauched, masochistic relationship between kidnapper and his victim as a kind of cinema verite punk art. All three films have some legitimacy as art, but their agitative nature does question the fixation of the respective directors on having male characters utterly destroy heroines.

Perhaps the only act of defiance within Blue Movie is Silvia’s spontaneous vomiting in a courtyard (a scene that echoes a more graphic aborted sex / puking in Nikos Papatakis’ In Hell / Gloria Mundi), but it’s a scene designed to appall as much as Daniela smearing herself with her own feces for Claudio’s camera.

Blue Movie isn’t the work of a hack – there’s genuine skill in the film’s design, especially the editing, main titles, and two striking sequences involving a spotlit Daniela, and later a flaming photograph – but it’s a shock film, made as a dare, and a cinematic oddity which has outlived Cavallone’s other work. It also represents the ultimate point of no return, incinerating any chance at working within an established commercial system before diving into porn. The dilemma for the director’s supporters, though, is how to contextualize Blue Movie within his C.V. when it may not represent Cavallone at his best, either as agitator or fringe auteur.

Raro Video’s DVD includes a lengthy essay and a great 43 mins. doc by Nocturno Cinema featuring interviews with star Claude Maran (aka non-actor Claudio Marani, a former dubbing technician) and Cavallone’s longtime cinematographer Maurizio Centrini, both of whom discuss the making of the film, the locations, the actresses, and Cavallone the filmmaker. Director Pier Latino Guidotti is also on hand to explain Cavallone’s view of male-female relationships as states of shifting domination, if not teetering on war, and other former associates contribute their own memories of Cavallone.

If this DVD release of Blue Movie in North America is successful, perhaps Raro Video might follow up with some of Cavallone’s prior work, especially the films which established his name – La salamander (1969) and From Our Copenhagen’s Correspondent (1970).

Of his known 17 films, two are reportedly lost (including the mysterious Maldoror), two were never completed, and three were adult films. Cavallone died in 1997 at the age of 59.

 

 

© 2014 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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