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Top Model (aka L'attrazione)

One Village Entertainment // Unrated // September 9, 2014
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted October 1, 2014 | E-mail the Author
In addition to Westerns and giallo horror, the erotic thriller was a staple of the Italian film industry that remains popular enough to get DVD releases today. Most of these films are exceptionally cheap, trashy movies with forgettable or incomprehensible plots, punctuated by bad acting and lengthy sex scenes. Still, there are fresh apples in every bunch. Top Model (aka L'attrazione) isn't a film the uninitiated should seek out, but it is an intriguing haze of fantasy and reality, packed to the brim with as many wild twists and turns as the filmmakers can devise. It's so loopy it hardly makes sense, but for a 40-year-old C-movie, it's a fun, inventive diversion.

Nadine (Florence Guerin) is a fashion photographer hoping to put together a sexy lingerie magazine, and she needs a place to shoot it (try and suspend your disbelief that people were not falling over themselves to volunteer their homes). Her hope is to shoot it in the home of rich businessman Victor Schneider (Marino Mase), and despite the warnings of his wife, Luciana (Martine Brochard), that he will say no, he gladly allows Nadine the space. It's a quick shoot, but as Nadine is about to walk out the door, Victor asks her to stay. He is intrigued by her presence, and insists that they play a lengthy game of chess, as he read that she was interested. The winner can command the other to fulfill one desire, whatever that may be.

The movie opens with Nadine on a train, looking out the window and smoking a cigarette. A man enters the compartment and runs his hands up and down her body, before pulling her panties off and having sex with her from behind. Neither Nadine or the viewer gets a chance to see his face. Was he really there, or was it some sort of carnal fantasy? Director Mario Gariazzo constantly plays with the audience, with scene after scene seamlessly shifting into one lurid fantasy after another before cutting back to reality. Gariazzo shows us not just Nadine's fantasies, but also Victor's, Luciana's, and those of a fourth character, Valeria (Ann Margaret Hughes). Valeria is employed by a tabloid and is trying to get pictures of Victor in the middle of something scandalous, to help blackmail him out of a promotion he's eyeing. She is also friends with Luciana, and knows a dark secret about Luciana's past.

One of the things that routinely plagues these kinds of movies is how they are forced to come to a stop so that the characters can have sex every fifteen minutes, but the fantasy conceit makes each one of these scenes fit better into the narrative, as well as explaining away questions about why characters suddenly fall into bed with one another. It also gives Gariazzo an excuse to shoot each one with maximum sensuousness and scandalousness, like the film equivalent of a trashy romance novel, with roaring fireplaces and such. Nadine's fantasies often involve mystery men or coercion, but Gariazzo manages to imbue these with a sense of her arousal, pulling them back from any uncomfortable undertones (one actual rape scene in the movie is brief and not overly exploitative). Still, it's not perfect -- one scene, where Victor makes a clay mold of Nadine's boob and drinks wine from it is just weird and unintentionally hilarious.

Gariazzo does not have a particularly tight grasp on the narrative, so when the film starts pulling its pieces together in the end, it does so half-heartedly, with a country doctor introduced as Victor's romantic competition hardly registering. There is also quite a bit of build-up for Luciana's character and backstory without very much pay-off; the character's thread concludes off-screen in a fairly dismissive fashion. There's also a major twist that is hard to see coming not because the writers deftly concealed it, but because at times, it's hard to keep track of what's happened and what hasn't. Still, in and of itself, the conclusion is kind of fun, wrapping the film's bizarre, fever-dream narrative up with an unreasonably neat bow.

The DVD
A Photoshopp-y looking photo of Florence Guerin lying in a chair, wearing only lingerie, in front of a bold crimson backdrop is all One 7 Movies needs to sell Top Model. The back cover looks much cheaper, and is more indicative of the video quality of the disc than the very crisp image on the front is.

The Video and Audio
Top Model's video and audio quality is as to be expected with these erotic Italian thrillers: an extremely soft 1.33:1 full frame transfer with obvious artifacting, a slight jitter, occasional aliasing, and distorted colors, and a slightly murky 2.0 stereo soundtrack that sounds fine, but lacks much clarity or nuance. It's a perfectly acceptable presentation when averaged against similar films from the same era and region, but far from the kind of quality an average DVD release of a bigger budget American film from the same time period would manage. English subtitles that are free of spelling and grammatical errors are also included.

The Extras
None.

Conclusion
Florence Guerin seems to have a significant fanbase, and it's likely that fans of her work are the most likely to check out or pick up Top Model. It's an inessential film, but an entertaining and sexy one, featuring some impressive directing for what might've been disposable. Recommended.


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