Tinto Brass: Maestro of Erotic Cinema:
Semi-legendary sleaze-meister Tinto Brass (Caligula, Salon Kitty) has aged gracefully and gently into a stylish director of softcore erotica, with a deft touch and a real eye for the ladies. As his output (nyuk nyuk) makes its way into the HD arena he garners the laurel represented by this massive 5-disc set, featuring four of his most recent movies, (collected from their previous single-disc releases) plus a feature-length documentary.
Latter-era Tinto Brass movies are not for everyone. They're for lonely guys, mostly, or perhaps semi-adventurous couples in relationships that are on solid ground. As such, they are harmless, gorgeous things - except for Black Angel, which looks at power dynamics in sexual relations through the lens of Fascist Italy. That should not stop viewers who wish to OD on serious eye-candy from picking up this set, if they should not already have any of these movies in Blu-ray or DVD form. (All discs included here are collected from single disc Blu-ray editions, and are also available in other compilation or single disc DVD editions. The inclusion of the feature-length documentary Tinto Brass: Maestro of Erotic Cinema is what sets this overstuffed collection apart from the pack.)
Cheeky! hangs some lingerie on the bones of a plot involving a ridiculously cute Venetian student looking for an apartment in London to house herself and her soon to arrive boyfriend. After a breezy title sequence which follows our heroine Carla (Yuliya Mayarchuk) through a sun-dappled park in which literally everyone is making love, a park wherein eros and goodwill are so profound that Carla, who is essentially naked, merely laughs it off when a flasher shows her his proud member, well, then ... where was I? OK, anyway, Within a trice Carla is felt up by a ridiculously cute real estate agent, and is soon enjoying parties at which a dozen naked women in a row display their derrierres in a most brazen way to both businessmen wandering around with their zippers open, and couples making sweet love on every available surface.
I may have lost track of what was happening at some point in this viewing experience, but suffice it to say Carla's boyfriend Matteo eventually arrives and everyone lives happily ever after in a world where prosthetic penises are de-riguer, and all one needs to do to get a little nookie is wander around half-naked for 30 seconds or so.
Black Angel, on the other hand, takes itself very seriously. Livia (can't really call actress Anna Galiena ridiculously cute, though she's a stunner nonetheless) has grown tired of her fascist politico hubby in World War II-era Italy, despite his attempts to set them up for a nice post-war life. Lucky she's got Nazi Helmut to stoke her fires with all the kinkiness and drugged debauchery the Nazi party can provide. Only Brass' penchant for artfully and stylishly staging scenes of excess, erotic and otherwise, is there to shield us from the effects of love and war, neither of which can ever be seen as particularly fair.
Here Brass abandons the glee and sauce that make his other erotic works crackle with adolescent energy. Yes, there's plenty of sexin' going on, and the flesh on display is by and large Grade-A, but the air of moral decrepitude and lack of sympathetic characters tends to take the wind out of one's sails. At least in other Nazisploitation pictures (such as Brass' earlier effort Salon Kitty) there exists more of a freak-show appeal to genre aficionados' base instincts by way of sheer transgression. This melding of the erotic with a grim indictment of human nature during wartime reads like a stab at respectability first, and a cohesive entertainment last, even though it looks really good.
Private, finds Brass doing what I'd say he does best, abandoning a serious, long-form narrative for a handful of short subjects. The mood is kept light, the subjects simple and silly, and the sex playful. And through it all, Brass lays out what I'd call his philosophy of life: find yourself within your relationship, and do what you need to do to keep your partner happy. Pretty solid advice from an aging Italian horndog!
The short subjects begin: Alibi gives us a peek at the 7th anniversary of a couple celebrating in Morocco. Hubby wants to please wifey, who seems to want a little extra spice - at least for a night. Hubby thinks it's a good idea to bring in a third party in order to stave off the 7-year-itch. It's a very brief conceit, but the kink should appeal to viewers who crave a little guilt-free cheat, and it sets the tone. Probably goes without saying that all involved are pretty good looking.
Double Trouble explores in greater depth the joys of mutually assured infidelity. A tennis playing couple enjoys a little time in the shower, while a television executive puts some mileage on his casting couch. There's lots of zooming going on, but it's all for a good cause.
Two Hearts and a Hut breaks out some mild German BDSM (as well as participants older than we're used to seeing in a Brass film) for unusual fun and the crafting of a business plan based on riding crops and leiderhosen.
Jolly Bangs will give you an idea of just how far some partners will go to keep each other happy. The words 'whore' and 'piggy' are thrown about, as a husband asks his wife to detail her infidelities. It's all in the name of making good bedfellows, and it allows Brass to break out a recurring motif, the erection-and-dildo-fueled conga line.
Evil To Him Who Thinks Evil meanders a bit as it follows a photographer and his hottie 'friend' as they explore sexy photography in a nudist resort, among other things. I'll admit, by this time my mind was starting to wander and spin a bit. It all ends with corn-holing by a Scotsman, and everyone seems alright with that.
Lastly, Call Me Pig, I Like It winds things up with more cheeky kink, as a couple messes about with sex in front of a window. They have an admirer who isn't what they think, but as long as everyone is happy, everything ends well, and that seems to be what Brass is all about.
Monamour is the last film in this collection. Dario and Marta seem happily married. He's a semi-succsessful book publisher, but she's literally bored to tears by their vanilla sex-life. When Dario suggests Marta visit the Palazzo Te, rather than reading a sexy book, he sets in motion a torrid affair that leads to one of the most intense dance scenes you'll ever see. With many steamy scenes of adulterous love - love that's only making one person in the Marta/Dario marriage happy - Monamour straddles (nyuk nyuk) the line between Brass' playful and serious work. It makes for an engaging drama that should keep most viewers at attention.
Did I say last film? Because there is a feature-length 'documentary' as well, Tinto Brass: Maestro of Erotic Cinema, to push this collection from truly chunky to 169% overkill. I mean, this is a lot of stuff to absorb. Anyway, I put documentary in quotations since this DVD disc amounts to a 95-minute interview from the maestro, interspersed with clips from a good number of his movies. Brass covers everything as he smokes a couple of cigars, so you can't say this isn't a comprehensive discussion, it just doesn't contain any other signifiers of a documentary, such as interviews with other people, archival footage, critical discussion, or anything like that. As such, it's a gigantic extra (one that could use subtitles, since Brass has a fairly thick accent) of interest mostly to serious fans of the director. Casual viewers might not give a hoot.
Video presentations are a mixed bag. These discs are all identical to their earlier single disc BD releases. They are touted as newly restored HD transfers, but I would be hard-pressed to think they were remastered yet again after their initial BD debuts. All movies come presented in AVC encoded 1080p, in 1.78:1 ratios, except for Monamour which is presented in 1.85:1, and Maestro of Erotic Cinema which is in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs.
All films feature nice, rich colors and realistic flesh tones. You have to have realistic flesh tones when there's so much flesh on display. Black levels aren't necessarily all that deep, however. The most interesting aspect of these BDs is the fairly universal softness of the images. Much of that is down to Brass' stylistic choices. He wants everything to look gauzy and ephemeral, like a horny fever dream. The movies flirt with decent amounts of detail, but none of them could be called crisp. These are average but entirely acceptable HD transfers for movies of this nature. Every lovingly framed shot of an ass (or 12) gives you enough information to go on, while looking stylishly sensual.
As mentioned, these are the same discs previously released in single disc BD editions, so ain't a damn thing changed as far as their presentations, in fact all of these audio tracks seem to be ported over from even earlier DVD releases. Audiophiles take note! Cheeky! sports English and Italian Language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Audio. Dialog sounds like it has been looped, but is clear and well placed in the mix, which is otherwise active enough for a stereo presentation.
Black Angel has either an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 Mix or a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Mix. The score sounds delightful, and everything else is fairly solid, though not fancy by any means. Private delivers either English or Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Tracks both of which are relatively adequate to the task, but like most other tracks on these discs, nothing fancy. Monamour gives ya the Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 Audio Tracks and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Track all of which are OK, but nothing to call your mom about. The 5.1 mix is more active.
Each disc contains the same extras as found in the single disc BD editions. You may also consider the feature length DVD documentary, Tinto Brass: Maestro of Erotic Cinema to be an extra, though it in and of itself has no extras other than the doc. You also get a 39-page Booklet, written and edited by Nico B, with an essay, lengthy interview, and filmography of movies directed by Brass. To say that this release is overstuffed would be an understatement. Five discs come jammed into a two-flipper-equipped, double-width Blu-ray case, which, with the inclusion of the thick booklet, doesn't actually close. That's why there's a slipcover, simply to hold the thing together.
Anyhoo, Cheeky! comes with 8 minutes of Backstage Footage, the Trailer, and about 1 minute's worth of an Auto-Nav Photo Gallery. Black Angel touts a 25-minute Making Of Featurette, 8 minutes of Promo Reel materials, a 2-minute Auto-Nav Gallery, the Original Trailer, and the 43-minute Ennio Morricone Soundtrack. Private delivers a 16-minute Making Of Featurette, the Trailer, and a 2-minute Auto-Nav Gallery. Monamour will seduce you with a 15-minute Making Of Featurette and the Trailer. All movies come with Optional English Subtitles.
This is an insanely overstuffed collection of erotic goodness. Four BDs and a DVD documentary plus 39-page booklet all literally crammed in one double-wide case. Tinto Brass does erotica right, with a generally playful, humanist attitude. These movies aren't exactly examples of great cinema, but they sure put the ass in Brass, if you know what I'm saying. All BDs here are the same as their single disc editions, only the documentary and booklet are new, so if you have any of these already, this is not an essential buy, but if you want to bone up on Brass with a quickness, I'd certainly say this is Recommended.
My other bros here have taken a stab at reviewing some of the earlier BD releases, such as this review of Cheeky!, this attempt to fathom Private, and this in-depth look at Monamour.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com