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Blue Movie

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    John Gargo
    Senior Member

  • Blue Movie



    Released by: Raro Video
    Released on: May 27th, 2014.
    Director: Alberto Cavallone
    Cast: Danielle Dugas, Claude Maran
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:

    Alberto Cavallone is a comparatively unknown figure when it comes to post-war Italian cinema. The reason for his obscurity lies in the precarious state of his filmography; there are a couple of his films that are either lost or only available in compromised cuts. This is partly due to the often explicit subject matter of his films and partly a result of his work ethic; Cavallone was a highly political figure who liked to work fast for visceral effect. After more than a decade of skirmishes with critics and censors, not to mention the economic constraints of commercial cinema, an unrepentant Cavallone found himself directing a handful of quirky hardcore pornography films in the early 1980s before abandoning filmmaking altogether. As an intellectual with a penchant for creating confrontational cinema, parallels to his work can be drawn to such filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Dušan Makavejev.

    Blue Movie (1978) is an intriguing film that was shot and edited over the course of only twenty days. It begins with a woman named Silvia (Dirce Funari) being sexually assaulted in the countryside. She emerges on a highway and is able to flag down Claudio (Claude Maran), a photographer who specializes in artistic pictures involving soda cans. Claudio takes Silvia to his apartment/studio under the guise of taking care of her but he ends up locking her in against her will. His attitude to her is standoffish; he doesn't appear to believe that Silvia was sexually assaulted.

    Meanwhile, Claudio proceeds to photograph a model named Daniela (Danielle Dugas). Claudio physically and verbally abuses her over the course of the shoot; it is a scene that calls to mind Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966) and it reveals that Claudio is less interested in sex as a means to a pleasurable end but rather as a tool to exert power over others. Daniela eventually performs fellatio on Claudio and she is rewarded for her efforts by a slap in the face. Throughout the course of the film, Claudio will take this sadomasochistic relationship to its extreme as he imprisons Daniela against her will and forces her to undergo degrading acts in exchange for food.

    In many ways, the film's narrative is less important than the issues that it explores. It is revealed, for instance, that Claudio is suffering from violent flashbacks that stem from his experiences as a photographer in the Vietnam War. The point of this back-story is not to interject psychological depth into the character but rather as a springboard for evocations of atrocities throughout world history; in addition to footage from the Vietnam War, Cavallone splices in images from Nazi concentration camps. It is as if Cavallone wants to suggest an associative relationship between violence of all kinds, whether it be in the privacy of the bedroom or in the public sphere.

    Cavallone was reportedly baffled by the modest success that greeted Blue Movie on its initial theatrical run. He had intended his film to be a serious artistic statement and instead found that audiences flocked to the cinema in search of titillation and sensationalism. Despite its accidental success, it remains a disturbing work that explores the relationship between sex and violence (the film's upsetting nature may in fact have contributed to its subsequent obscurity). Like Pasolini's Salo (1975), Cavallone's depictions of sex acts are not meant to be pleasurable but rather to engage the audience on an intellectual level when played off against the film's political and artistic discourses. And it shares with Pasolini's film a sense of things becoming more disturbing as the narrative progresses (although not as upsetting a film as Salo, viewers are warned that there is a scene involving excrement near its conclusion).

    The ideas of French surrealist writer Georges Bataille are an important intellectual antecedent to Blue Movie. Drawing from Nietzsche, Freud and Marx, Bataille's conception of society involves a tendency of individuals to engage in “excess” and that these manifestations often take a violent and/or pornographic form (Sade is another precursor to Bataille's thinking). Cavallone's film explores the consequences of such a scenario through its protagonist; Claudio is attracted to soda cans because for him they are the quintessential "thing in itself," an object that has no meaning other than what it is (Cavallone's choice of a Warhol-esque object is perhaps a clever allusion; Warhol also directed a movie in 1969 called Blue Movie (aka Fuck), and Cavallone may be making a slyly reflexive materialistic joke). Claudio will treat the two women in the film in the same way that he treats his soda cans; it is indicative of the film's clinical detachment that the devaluation of the human body is not played for emotional effect. We never real care for any of these characters, nor does Cavallone ever expect us to do so. Rather, the film is a purposefully intellectual critique of society.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Blue Movie makes its debut via Raro Video's DVD release. The film was shot on 16mm and the existing elements are in poor shape, thus rendering a blu-ray release impractical. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a 720 x 480p transfer. The image looks very rough at times, with a dark and almost degraded video look throughout. Some of the more explicitly erotic scenes in the second half of the film are overtly dark and have a greenish tinge at the bottom of the frame. That being said, this is the best that Cavallone's film has ever looked (and likely will ever look) and it represents a marked jump in quality over preexisting bootlegs that have been in circulation.

    The film's audio is presented in its original Italian with a Dolby Digital ac3 Dual Mono track. As in the case of the image quality, the years have not been kind to the audio track of the film; there is evident distortion and a perpetual crackle and hiss when the volume is cranked. There are optional English subtitles that are easy to read, although I did detected a small number of typos throughout.

    In the extras department we have a few supplements of great interest. The first is a collection of deleted scenes from an extended cut of the film. These include an alternate beginning scene and more graphic sexual content throughout (including a disturbing rape scene in the woods that takes advantage of the phallic nature of a tree trunk). These scenes are in rough shape due to being sourced from a rare Super 8mm print of the film but it's hard to complain; these brief snippets are a welcome inclusion for completists. The main extra is a 40+ minute documentary of the film entitled “Nocturno Presents: Blue Extreme.” We hear a little from Cavallone at the start and end of the supplement, with the rest of the running time featuring a parade of interviews (including Claude Maran, who talks the most and is enthusiastic about his involvement in the film). Finally, there's a nice booklet with an extensive essay that is edited by Davide Pulici for Nocturno Cinema.

    The Final Word:

    The introduction of Alberto Cavallone into Raro's home video catalogue of Italian filmmakers is long overdue… although deceptively (and intentionally) marketed as a work of pornography, Blue Movie is a fascinating film that is a must for fans of political art house cinema. In many ways, Cavallone's film functions in the same manner as Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997), enticing the audience with the promise of exploitation but confronting them with an incisive deconstruction of transgressive subject matter. Although the existing elements are in rough shape, Raro's DVD is the definitive release of Cavallone's film and is highly recommended.































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