Paleo Retiree writes:
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 …
- 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.