“Nana”

Paleo Retiree writes:

nana

When I announced “I’m perfectly happy” as we were watching this erotic costume drama, my wife gave a giggle — she knew exactly what I meant. “Nana” isn’t simply a fuck film or an exploitation movie. It has a pedigree; it’s loosely — very loosely — based on a Zola novel. The lighting, the costumes, the cast, the score and the settings all have some genuine class. Yet at the same time the main reason you watch the movie is for its erotic content. It’s a well-produced arty sex film that’s doing a decent-enough job of pretending to be a real drama — that’s its genre. And, in the way that nearly every movie fan has a favorite genre or two — they’re content just to be watching a Western, or a rom-com, or a sci-fi movie — I can be extremely happy when I’m having an arty-’70s-sex-film genre experience.

These films often played at art-house theaters, filling up the weeks in between the prestige releases; if going to art-house theaters was a regular part of your life in those years, you wound up seeing dozens of these movies. The genre seemed commonplace at the time — we took this filler for granted, god knows. But in the decades since it has all but vanished from the scene. It’s funny/peculiar, and rather hard to explain, that while hip young filmmakers have revived and ripped-off a lot of ’60s and ’70s movie genres in recent years, they have so far left this one untouched. Why?

“Nana” isn’t a great example of its genre, but who cares, it’s good enough. Although it was released in 1982 it’s very much a 1970s-type movie — yes, there are a lot of zooms. It’s sort of “Emmanuelle,” sort of Laura Antonelli, very early Golan-Globus … It feels like a movie from Nastassja Kinski’s or Valerie Kaprisky’s teens, from the years before they became stars. The performers, female and male, represent loads of quirky physical types — hey, back in those days we sought out and relished quirkiness. And the actresses flaunt (Peter Rosa alert) exuberant bushes, which are put on display not as flaws or monstrosities but as erotic talismans. Imagine that. When I checked out reactions to the movie online, I ran across more than a few people raising their eyebrows about how dismayingly “natural” the women onscreen in “Nana” are. Youngsters these days, eh? Life, and maybe moviegoing too, can be a lot more fun when you’re not so put off by basic physical realities.

I found the movie’s final 10 or 15 minutes lame, and it’s debatable how much of an enchantress Katya Berger, the film’s young lead, really was. I rather liked her klunkiness. Good acting, and even great looks, aren’t always required of a sex star, you know? Otherwise, I enjoyed myself without reservations. The legit stretches pass the time more-than-engagingly. The Belle Époque era is well-evoked; the plot twists aren’t bad; the Ennio Morricone score is sweeping and lavish; the settings — mansions and lakesides, a festive house of ill repute — are elegant … It’s all well-enough done to make you forget for a minute or two that you’re watching a sex film. (That’s part of the fun of the genre.) The ooo-la-la erotic passages and moments deliver as well; they’re numerous, god knows, and they’re naughty and spirited enough (“hard R” is how we used to think of these boundary-pushing scenes) to make you wish you’d been one of the movie’s extras. Trigger warning: a few scenes involving a black guy foreground the exotic element in interracial sex in a way that’s likely to give the PC-brainwashed a huge case of the vapors.

The film also has a few wonderfully bizarre real-life elements. (Reading up and musing about a movie after watching it can be a big part of movie-enjoyment generally, right?) Was Katya Berger 18 or — gasp! — 16 when filming took place? No one seems to know for sure. The woman playing Nana’s partner/maid is Mandy Rice-Davies, famous for her role in the real-life British political scandal known as the Profumo Affair. How did the distinguished Jean-Pierre Aumont, who plays one of the many men Nana entrances and then ruins, feel about appearing in a sex-film project? Why did Katya Berger quit movies so soon after “Nana” was released? One of the film’s beautifully dressed and coiffed blondes turns out to be Annie Belle, who showed a daring gift as well as a lot of flesh in numerous non-porn sex films of the era. Best of all: the actress who plays Nana’s Charlotte Rampling-like lesbian lover was Katya Berger’s real-life half-sister. Ah, it was the ’70s …

Related

  • We watched “Nana” on Netflix Instant.
  • I took a look at a how-to-have-rough-sex DVD.
  • The Question Lady and I co-wrote and co-produced an audio entertainment whose main character is a present-day young woman filmmaker who does want to revive the arty-sex-film genre. Fabrizio gave it a wonderful, and I’m sure totally unbiased, review. You can learn more about our creation here.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff, formerly Michael Blowhard. Now a rootless parasite on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
This entry was posted in Movies, Sex and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to “Nana”

  1. peterike2 says:

    I guess the advent of gonzo-porn proved that you could make just as much money getting right to the sex without any pretense of scripts, scenes, settings, etc. Just as much revenue with costs cut to the bone (heh…. he said “bone”). That, and I guess the steady mainstreaming of porn and then the major breakthrough of VHS bringing it into the home. Didn’t people go see these “art” films because they didn’t want to sit around in a Times Square theater with a bunch of men in trench coats whacking off?

    Speaking of erotic films, what did you make of “Blue is the Warmest Color”? I haven’t seen it yet mostly because I get put off by three hour films. There just never seems to be enough time to watch it uninterrupted.

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    • FWIW, I loved BLUE. Fabrizio is a fan, too.

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    • Paleo Retiree says:

      I suspect you’re right that gonzo and homemade porn helped killed the dressier sort of erotic movies. There were the years of “Basic Instinct”-inspired C-grade “erotic thrillers” back in the ’90s … But since then has anything else come along? I’m not much of a new movie goer these days and I don’t have cable, so for all I know there might be …

      Haven’t watched “Blue” yet myself. But the length doesn’t put me off, really. I don’t mind watching a movie over several evenings. “Nana” was a two-nighter for me, for instance. I love it about watching movies at home that you can space the experience out over multiple viewings. Have there been any hot movies you’ve enjoyed recently?

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  2. What’s the movie about?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. james says:

    The “exuberant bush” as “erotic talisman” …. perfectly put.

    I have toyed with this idea lately, that there is a distinct and interesting aesthetic in these sort of soft core skin flicks. I’m thinking of the kind of Cinemax or HBO fare (remember that unforgettable “HBO will show this only at night” message?) that was serious in tone and plot but seemed to exist primarily for the sexual content. Nonetheless, these movies were still enjoyable in a weird way because they had a nice, gauzy atmosphere and you could enjoy them as genre works kind of like you might enjoy even a bad film noir because you just enjoy seeing the noir conventions employed.

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    • Paleo Retiree says:

      Nicely said. And/or I agree completely. I felt that way a little about the erotic thrillers of the ’90s too. They weren’t *just* vehicles for skin. Even if skin was a big part of the appeal, they were also their own (occasionally fun) experiences. For my tastes it’s one of the downsides of pure porn — there isn’t a whole lot else going on but the fucking. The bluntness has its appeal, god knows, and occasionally I manage to find a personality interesting. But most of the time, if I’m not finding the fucking appealing I find I’ve got nothing else at all to get involved with, or even to let my imagination run with.

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