While probably best known to most people for darker fare like Caligula and Salon Kitty, Tinto Brass has pumped out some lighter material as well, and 2000's Cheeky! is a shining example of just how well he can combine comedy with eroticism. All the heat you'd expect from some of his better films like Frivolous Lola is present, and it mixes with some clever and very humane humor to make for a thoroughly enjoyable film that doesn't in the least skimp on what Brass is known for (and that would be beautifully shot booty).
Like many of his films, this one tells the story of a woman with a taste for the carnal. This time around her name is Carla (played by the lovely and ever so curvy Yuliya Mayarchuk), a young woman who has just arrived in London where she'll be working as an intern for a month much to the dismay of her boyfriend, Matteo (Jarno Berardi). He doesn't cope well with the idea of his foxy lady spending time alone in the big city without his watchful eye around to keep her out of trouble and so he arranges to head to London himself shortly after she arrives, just to make sure she behaves.
The rest of the movie more or less follows Carla as she meets one man after the other and even a few women, during her travels around town, most of which end in the same way time after time - with Carla tempted to give in to what her mind knows she shouldn't indulge in but which her body tells her to go for! Matteo is never too far behind though, and she finds herself in a bit of a dilemma as she truly wants to stay true to him, or at least she thinks she does, but it's proving to be very difficult what with so many willing playmates throwing themselves at her feet. Matteo, on the other hand, is starting to find out for himself just how tempting love can be when offered without consequence.
Brass' strong points lay in the cinematography that is always such a staple of his films. Known for lush settings, soft lighting, and, like Russ Meyer, showing just enough to get us interested without going for full out hardcore, his movies always look classy and slick. With that in mind, there are moments in Cheeky! that rival anything he's shot in terms of composition and flat out style, and at times it almost seems like he's raised his own bar - this movie looks absolutely fantastic. Just check out the scene with the ladies in the sauna room, how the steam glistens against the tiles and the flesh and note how the camera captures all of it.
The movie also has a very playful side to it that makes it a lot of fun. Carla is a free spirited character, we learn this early on when she reacts to a flasher by responding in kind, double fold, and it's an attitude she keeps up as the story progresses. We see through her interactions with her real estate agent friend and her randy ex-husband that she's not intimidated by strangers (to put it mildly) nor is she anything even remotely resembling shy in the least. As such, she stumbles through the film with such enthusiasm that you can't help but be at least partially charmed by her, and the character is made all the more appealing by Yuliya Mayarchuk's natural good looks and physical presence (which of course, Brass accentuates through his lighting and camera work, both of which typically fetishize the ass, as is his way).
The whole sexy comedic soap opera plays out against a bouncy soundtrack courtesy of Pino Donaggio that fits the mood and the tone of the film perfectly. The film seems to be a celebration of physical love and the joys that it can bring to a man or a woman should they shed themselves of the guilt that society, particularly a Catholic society such as Brass' native Italy, can shoulder upon someone. It doesn't preach, nor does it necessarily make a case for the hippy ideal of free love, it simply follows a pretty girl as she does some experimenting of her own free will and for the benefit of herself and no one else. Look for Brass himself to show up in an amusing cameo appearance in the later part of the movie.
Cheeky! arrives on Blu-ray in a very nice AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and looking vastly improved over the previous DVD release which suffered from some PAL to NTSC conversion issues and ghosting effects. Detail is considerably better here, you'll notice a lot more in the close ups and in the medium and long distance shots and flesh tones look much more natural and lifelike than ever before. Texture is more readily apparent in the clothing and in the sets used throughout the film while color reproduction is more natural and well defined than it ever was on DVD. There's the expected amount of fine grain as you'd hope there would be, but very little in the way of actual print damage, dirt or debris to note. Keep in mind, if you're unfamiliar with Brass' output, that he tends to use a lot of filters and likes to shoot things with a soft look in mind, so expectations should be set accordingly. Overall, however, this is a very, very nice improvement over previous versions made available.
Cult Epics' Blu-ray offers both Italian language and English dubbed versions of the film, both presented in DTS-HD 2.0 and with subtitles provided for the Italian cut in English only. Again, we get a nice upgrade here. Both tracks sound quite good, particularly when it comes to Pino Donaggio's score. Dialogue is crisp and clear and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. The levels are properly set and there's nothing to complain about here at all, the movie sounds just fine. As to which track is more accurate? It's obvious that Yuliya Mayarchuk has been dubbed in both versions so it probably doesn't matter much which option you go for but attentive viewers will notice that some of the other cast members' mouths match the Italian track and not the English one, which would seem to give a little more validity to the Italian language option.
The main extra feature on this release is a fantastic (standard definition - it's carried over from Cult Epics' previous DVD release) eight minute interview with the cigar chomping director himself entitled Backstage With Tinto Brass. Here he talks quite openly about what he likes in an erotic film, what he thinks works and doesn't work, and how he goes about capturing that very specific viewpoint on film in his work. There's plenty of great behind the scenes footage here including plenty of clips of the fine female cast in undress, as well as some nice clips in which we see Brass actually at work on the set making the film. The only complaint about this piece is that it's too short and it leaves us wanting more. Aside from that, we get a trailer for the film in high definition, and a still gallery in addition to the expected menus and chapter selection options.
Cheeky! remains one of Tinto Brass' better later period films. It's an enjoyable sexy and playful picture with some truly memorable and scintillating set pieces, a remarkably beautiful leading lady and some gorgeous cinematography. The story won't melt your mind but it's fun and enjoyable and as such, for fans of European erotic cinema, this is one well worth seeing. Cult Epics' Blu-ray looks and sounds considerably better than their previous DVD release and if it doesn't add any new extras, it does carry over all of the previous ones. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.