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Nymph, The

Koch Lorber Films // Unrated // May 2, 2006
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted May 18, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

The final film from the Lina Wertmuller collection to street as a single disc, Ninfa Plebea a.k.a The Nymph (1996), follows the story of Miluzza (Lucia Cara) the daughter of the town whore Nunziata (Stefania Sandrelli) who people seem to have embraced regardless of her endless sins. Miluzza is largely unsuspecting of her mother's deeds and even though she sees the men who would often stop by to pay their "respect" the young girl is unaware of the services Nunziata provides. But when disaster strikes and Miluzza is left all alone the locals begin to take advantage of the young girl assuming that she has chosen to follow the steps of her mother.

Much like many of the films Lina Wertmuller directed during the 70s and 80s The Nymph relies on the same well-tested qualities we have come to appreciate from her work: plenty of raunchy sex, edgy humor, abundance of melodramatic characters. Unlike Lina Wertmuller's early works however where politics and powerful social statements played a major role The Nymph remains strangely tame. It almost feels as if the director has finally decided that it is no longer worth resorting to the old tricks that made Swept Away and Seven Beauties such a success. As a result what The Nymph offers is a benign plot with only a few minor surprises that would hardly impress those familiar with the Italian director's legacy.

The strong sex appeal that most of Lina Wertmuller's early films reveal is also rather absent in The Nymph. Yes, there are quite a few scenes where we see Miluzza engaging in "passionate" lovemaking but the chemistry we witnessed between Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato in Swept Away seems long gone. Furthermore while beautiful to behold Lucia Cara's character is not as seductive as one might have hoped - Miluzza's scenes with the Italian soldier who will consequently fall for her are mostly tame and frankly quite unconvincing.

Strangely enough what truly sparkles in The Nymph is the little we see from the life of Nunziata, Miluzza's mother. Her sexual escapades and the "understanding" Nunziata's husband shows towards the middle of the film create a few awkward but very funny scenes. Unfortunately as the story of The Nymph is mainly concerned with Nunziata's daughter the film quickly veers off in a direction that soon becomes rather tedious.

I had a difficult time understanding the reasoning behind this film. At first it seemed like The Nymph would be a nicely put together Italian melodrama with plenty of humor and more than enough sex to keep older fans of Lina Wertmuller's work entertained. But as the story progressed the humor quickly disappeared and the sex turned out to be anything but impressive (certainly the spicy language was there but the edgy characters were nowhere to be found).

Pietro Germi was a master of what I believe The Nymph was meant to be: an Italian comedy with plenty of social slaps and quite a few zesty scenes. But while Germi's films always managed to compensate with humor and sarcasm what the story could not deliver most of Lina Wertmuller's late pictures seem noticeably ineffective even though they still use as a foundation the expressive style that made the Italian director a sensation. By all means The Nymph is such a film: beautiful to behold yet disappointingly simple!!

How Does the DVD Look?

There have been some very strange descriptions of the aspect ratio for this film that have been floating in reviews around the net. Described as being shot in 1.66:1 to being a 2.35:1 production The Nymph is presented in neither of the two ratios noted above. The original aspect ratio for this film is indeed 2.35:1 but the print which Koch Lorber have provided is closer to being 2.27:1. This is also a non-anamorphic presentation which as far as I am concerned is most disappointing. Furthermore there are a number of issues with this print: oversaturated colors, heavy overcompression, digital noise, edge enhancement, and a below than average degree of detail. While the quality is a major improvement over any VHS version you might have seen it is anything but fitting for a film this recent (1996). Furthermore, I could have lived with the fact that there are some very minor faults with the original aspect ratio but the fact that the print has not been 16/9 enhanced is simply quite a letdown. Clearly this DVD should be revisited in the future and some major improvements must be done on the existing print!!

How Does the DVD Sound?

Presented with an Italian Dolby Digital Stereo track the audio treatment this film has received is a tiny bit better than the video presentation described above but it is still lacking substantially as far as I am concerned. Yes, dialog is easy to follow but the quality of the music coming off the speakers is hardly at the level it should be: the sound isn't active at all and the high frequencies of this audio mix are somewhat questionable. Most certainly this is an area that needs to be revisited by Koch Lorber as well. With optional (sadly) yellow English subtitles.


There are no supplemental materials to be found on this DVD release!

Final Words:

I am a big fan of Lina Wertmuller's work but The Nymph (regardless of the fact that it offers a cameo performance by one of my most beloved actresses: Stefania Sandrelli) is not one of my favorite pictures. Disappointingly the presentation of this film is also more than questionable, I am unsure why but Koch Lorber have done very little to match some of the better transfers provided in the boxset with the rest of Lina Wertmuller's films. As far as I am concerned hardcore fans of the Italian director (me included) should wait, hope, and pray that if and when Koch Lorber adopt one of the new HD formats all of Lina's films will be reissued!! RENT IT.

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