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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sweet Ecstacy
Sweet Ecstacy
First Run Features // Unrated // February 24, 2004
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted March 10, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Why do Eurotrash get such a social sneering? Granted, they are so disaffected by the world around them that there's a good chance they'll randomly lapse into a coma. And they do insist upon revisiting outdated fads (like Miami Vice vogue for men and boxy black framed glasses for gals) to denote their lack of trend setting sentiment. But in the current vernacular, calling someone a Germanic garbage dump or a Latvian landfill will get you in a lot of United Nation's difficulty. It's apparently unfashionable to label such lazy, laconic lumberheads as anything but cosmopolitan. But the real issue still remains why? Why are they so despised? Just because they substitute drugs for emotions and self-conscious stinking for showers doesn't mean they're all bad. After all, there must be reasons why people would want to go from being intercontinental to cultural jokes in one bad hair moussing. The upside to chain smoking clove cigarettes and drinking absinthe should, apparently, be obvious to everyone. But don't expect the 1962 remnant of the risqué, Sweet Ecstasy to give you any insight into the filthy lucre lifestyle of the loaded and impervious. This is a movie that champions the existence of excess like it's a day at the beach. After seeing how these idle idjits subsist and how easily they contort their sense of self to make it righteous every time, you'll be tossing out your Taco CDs and canceling your plans to vacation in St. Tropez immediately. In the hierarchy of overseas refuse, this film gives jobless jokers with gigantic credit lines a seat right next to the Nazis on horrid foreign exports.

The DVD:
Olivier is a sissified little load who gives his famous actress sister all the bad press she can handle. While trying to overcome his metaphysical stage fright he runs into Helen, a bit player in sis's play. The two timid trysters head off to the seashore to find an appropriate way to express their unspoken love. Wouldn't you know it, but the coast is overrun with pampered, privileged pukes. These trust fund fools are filled with the kind of existential angst that made Sartre smartre and Nietzsche gawk into his own abyss. Everyone talks about hating life and despising love, but they can't wait to participate in a wild bit of the former and make a lot of the latter. Indeed, when Olivier spies Elke, he has a Grinch like reaction (in which "something" grows three times its normal size). He wants her in a purely emotional way. If he can cop a feel, all the better. All she can manage is a screwing or two. She's so drag/hag-esque that you can't imagine she's human, let alone capable of complex emotions. Also, she's basically kept by an amoral a-hole named Maddy who loves to use her in mean games of grouping, Dangerous Liaisons style. Her heartless histrionics manifest themselves in weird ways. She wears more feline eye makeup than Catwoman. She likes to steal speedboats and roll in the surf. She'll seduce you then refuse you. But mostly, she'll just confuse your blue balls.

One night on a luxury yacht, Elke, Maddy and the gang party like it's 1959. Maddy hogties his honey and auctions her off. Then they set the frig-less riggin' on fire. In a moment of backward glancing, they all blame Charlie, the lonesome lothario with a penchant for tossing kerosene lamps onto wooden decks. With someone's warbucks about to get in an uproar, the spoiled sports start taking sides. Everyone agrees with Elke's club and they shun Charlie. Because he's on the fence, both ethically and fornicationally, Olivier sides with his bosomy babe. Then he gets regrets and tries to hook up with Helen again. When she tells him to go chomp merde, it's back to Maddy's band of the hand. Eventually, everyone agrees Charlie must be punished. Apparently, in the South of France, the penalty for flambéing a floatation device is a whipping, a beating and a slick covering of saliva by several of your once closest friends. Olivier steps in and with Elke's help, Charlie is saved. When Olivier goes to claim his carnal prize the next night, our blond bimbo blows him off (and not in the way he wants). Olly challenges the Maddyman to a duel and they end up playing building crane Chicken at a construction site. How gauche.

Someone once said that the rich are different, and after watching Sweet Ecstasy, you'll be glad of such social and/or hereditary variance. In the grand tradition of all those other dramadies of manners and manors, this dreary bit of 'to the chateau born' is enough to make you burn all your material possessions on a ritualistic pyre and go homeless. What we supposedly have here is a stupid, quasi-sexual social commentary on the idle rich; those ne'r-do-well well-to-dos who pass their time looking down their upturn noses at the rest of us riff raff rabble rousers. These mountebank miscreants do indeed give sloths a run for their three-toed indolence. Yet this is no wicked lick of lampooning. The closest this movie gets to insightful satire is that it has a Hungarian character that never speaks (I know, I'm laughing already) and some bongo players (stop, you're killing me...). Olivier is the babe in the gold bullion woods, unable to understand why the pleasantly prosperous are so pure-D mean. But he finds he can easily overlook his ethical dilemmas when he sees the sultry, overblown Elke in her heaving halter-tops. Apparently, sex not only sells goods and services, but the human soul as well. No matter how many times she says "no", Elke gives everyone the impression, including poor deluded Olivier, that it's always time for a little tit wrangling. This enigmatic erotica retard is so stoic in her rejection of all pornographic advances that we marvel in dismay when she tosses herself at some faux French brute.

As Elke, Scandinavian sexpot Elke Sommers (many a manchild of the 1970s' late night stimulation simulation) tries her blondest to be a bitch of fickle frenzy. She is not supposed to know just what she wants, and if being as blank as a fart is any acting indication of her characterization, old Elk has hit this one out of the ballpark. She's so indecipherable that the folks who broke the German code in WWII should be called in to figure her out. Nobel prizes await the guy who can get this gal to give it up without some manner of complex emotional puzzling. All of this is supposed to make Ms. Sommers a loveable louse, a mixed up kid of touching turbulence. But Sweet Ecstasy really pushes the issue. It reminds us over and over again, mostly with glamour girl composition of Elke in full pout, that we are supposed to feel concurrently mad at and sad for her. Ladies may indeed sympathize with her vaginal impasses. But guys will just feel a familiar frustrated sensation in the lower groin area. Typifying the concept of the cock tease for all future generations, Elke specializes in being the girl who can't say no...or yes or maybe or when. She won't make up her monkey lovin' mind about said chimp chumminess. Maddy gets a hand full of hooter and all she can do is look vacant and miffed. Maybe she just wants a bone jump on her own terms. Or maybe she's realizing that, with all this breast bruising, her reputation is already rotten.

The rest of Sweet Ecstasy is like a bad '60s exploitation movie mixed with one of those lurid long ass trashy novels, a combination of symbolism and sin that satisfies no one involved. Anyone hoping Ms. E would expose her boobies will simply have to go without shots of her Swedish teatballs. In a hairdo so wild and a makeup job so ludicrous that she makes Divine look dreary, our kitten with a simp is meant as merely window undressing, a ruse for the rest of the routine attacks on class. Olivier, as played by Christian Pezey is the kind of open journal jerk to which all the poor plot points partake of. He is like a character catalyst, always around when someone in the film wants to flaunt his or her inner dimensions. As Maddy, Pierre Price gives the only fully rounded performance in the film. Unfortunately, he plays a soulless lout who you'd rather stab than root for and uses every opportunity to further redefine his crapulence. The rest of the cast is just anal archetypes, the kind of pop art poseurs that filmmakers use to fill in scenes to hopefully make them appear hip and cool. But nothing very fun, fiery or forward actually happens here. It's all subtext and suggestion. We really learn nothing about the upper crust that we already didn't know. This fetid, forced Fools of the Game is terribly trite and more than a little condescending. It expects us to lap up the luxury and moral laziness of these losers. All we want to do is smack them in their Swiss bank accounts.

The Video:
Sweet Ecstasy looks like soupy excrement in this non-anamorphic, 2.35:1 atrocious monochrome transfer. Companies like Something Weird Video can make black and white movies seem like slices of noir heaven. But the muddy, foggy, faded, fuzzy, indistinct print presented here – dirt, flaws and all – is something that First Run Features should be ashamed of. DVD was not meant for an image that retains most of its age issues. The digital medium is the plastic surgeon of cinema, and Sweet Ecstasy should look re-, not still- born. Fans of this film will be friendlier to this fiasco. But anyone hoping for a revolutionary remaster better pry elsewhere.

The Audio:
Since it's a foreign film made in 1962 and redubbed by Americans in a less than stellar manner, one expects the Dolby Digital Mono to sound a tad shoddy. But the amount of over-modulation is mindboggling and the subtle flutter in the soundtrack indicates that not much care was taken with the aural transfer. Without subtitles to help us through the sticky bits, the audience will have a hard time hearing all the Western wordings.

The Extras:
First Run Features tries a little shell game gambit by offering trailers, film notes and photo galleries on this disc as "bonus material". And the items offered here would meet this definition, if 'bonus' meant "useless" and 'material' was another word for "crap". While the original ad for Ecstasy is decent (if decidedly better looking than the movie itself) the rest of the marketing misfits are jumpy, edited entities that won't sell you on any of these supposed "classics". The photo gallery offers some cheap thrills and the Film Notes do put this paltry presentation into perspective. But nothing here really gets behind Sweet Ecstasy and pushes it as the powerful passionate peter play it wants to be.

Final Thoughts:
So what have we learned here? The rich are horrible, heartless scum who would gladly destroy private and interpersonal property for the sake of a socially correct conclusion to their affairs. Along with battery and assault, spitting is a form of punishment amongst wealthy Parisians. When it comes to men, Elke Sommers sure know how to pick 'em, ditch 'em and pick 'em up again. And no one named Maddy ever successfully intimidated anyone. But you can tell that Sweet Ecstasy wanted to be more than this. It wanted to challenge Bardot in a war of feline friskiness and had its sights on Sophia and her Loren lungs to make the men all week in the testes. But for every sultry Lollobrigida there has to be a Myrtle Pennypacker. This attempt at bawdy, brazen fun on the French Riviera is about as erotic as a root canal and only a tenth as deep. Sure, it may fool you and Dominique Dunne with all of its Lord of the Gadflies foolishness. But when a movie has to resort to burning up a boat, breaking bottles with a BB gun and ultimately getting its leading men to jump off of skyscrapers, you know it's just desperate for attention. Sweet Ecstasy should have been like one of those Doris Wishman potboilers: all badass bosom and ghastly dialogue. Here, we get the benefit of the bereft words, but there are very few bodkins in sight. It may be worth a once over rental, but you won't think twice about it afterward. Unless you find one of your Eurotrashy pals and score some of the title narcotic, the only rapture this movie will provide is when its 81-minute run concludes.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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