Tag Archives: erotic film



Director: David Wnendt

Writers: Claus Falkenberg, David Wnendt, Sabine Pochhammer

Based on the novel by: Charlotte Roche

Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Marlen Kruse

Original title: Feuchtgebiete

Germany 2013

105 mins

This adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s notorious erotic-comic novel was hands down the funniest, punkiest film at this year’s Etrange Festival. Merrily life-affirming, with life in this case meaning spunk, shit and blood, it stars the spirited Carla Juri as a wonderfully individual 18-year-old girl with a particular affection for grime, sex and bodily secretions.

While she is being treated for an anal fissure in hospital, an occasion she is naïvely trying to use to reunite her divorced parents, she reminisces about various episodes of her past, from her dysfunctional childhood to her various experimentations with sex and drugs. Her candid lack of inhibitions both startles and fascinates the male nurse looking after her, Robin, and they begin to grow closer.

The film possesses the same charm as its heroine: the gross-out comedy – from the initial toilet scene (which recalls Trainspotting with a female twist), to the pizza masturbation or the menstrual blood oath – is irresistible, because it is all done with such wide-eyed innocence and childlike matter-of-factness. Nothing about the body repels Helen, and even though there shouldn’t be anything shocking about that, in our sanitized culture the presentation on screen of a female character’s slimy adventures was enough to trigger initially slightly stunned, then boisterous laughter in the Etrange Festival crowd.

Helen is a truly great creation, as embodied by Carla Juri. Playing the character with bold abandon and spontaneity, Juri is utterly convincing, naturally inhabiting the role. Endearingly full of contradictions, Helen is strong and vulnerable, dirty and innocent, tender and selfish, brave and irresponsible, poignantly poised between childhood and adulthood. But above all else she is irreducibly herself, and as such is immune to the pressures of social norms and rules, which makes spending 105 minutes in her company heartily invigorating.

The only minor disappointment is a simplistic rose-coloured ending that is at odds with, and somewhat undermines, the radical singularity of the character. Admittedly the film follows – and subverts – the conventions of romantic comedy, but Helen’s perspective on sex, love and femininity is so mordantly fresh that it is a shame she is forced to fit into a standard, predictable conclusion. This, however, does not detract from the overall effect of the film, which is a big blast of filthy energy.

This review is part of our Etrange Festival 2014 coverage.

Virginie Sélavy

Watch the trailer:

Belladonna of Sadness

Belladonna 1
Belladonna of Sadness

Format: Cinema

Screening as part of the East End Film Festival

Screening Date: 23 June 2014

Venue: Red Gallery

Director: Eiichi Yamamoto

Writers: Yoshiyuki Fukuda, Eiichi Yamamoto

Based on the novel La sorcière by: Jules Michelet

Original title: Kanashimi no Belladonna

Japan 1973

93 mins

As a critic with an interest in the history of Japanese animation and manga, it is refreshing once in a while to come across a film that is like nothing you’ve seen before. While some animé films save money by using limited animation here and there, before Belladonna of Sadness I’d never seen a movie where around 40% of the running time consists of the camera panning across still drawings and paintings. By using this technique so extensively in-between the more traditionally animated sections, it avoids appearing like a cost-saving exercise (which is not to say it wasn’t, as the film actually bankrupted an animation studio) and creates a very different kind of storytelling that seems to hark back to older forms of Japanese entertainment such as Kamishibai or Emaki-mono. Kamishibai storytellers would travel from town to town entertaining children with a box that had an opening at the front, in and out of which different painted scenes could be moved, like a 2D version of paper theatre, with a soundtrack performed by the storyteller. Revived in 1920s Japan during the global economic depression, Kamishibai had its roots in an older form of pictorial narrative, that of Emaki-mono scrolls, which display a story to the viewer as they roll the unfolding image from one end of the scroll to the other.

The EEFF screening will be accompanied by a live score from Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs.

By containing filmed versions of both Kamishibai and Emaki-mono and mixing the style of older visual narratives with more modern animation (which in this case lifts imagery from 1970s fashion magazines and even a brief homage to The Beatles’ 1968 Yellow Submarine), Belladonna of Sadness almost feels like a tour of Japanese visual storytelling culture. All of this may sound charming – and indeed it often is – but the film is certainly not suitable for children, as the starting point for the screenplay was a 19th-century book called Satanism and Witchcraft (La sorcière) by Jules Michelet, and the film contains many scenes of rape committed against the central character. Although these scenes are thankfully tamer than hentai animè from a decade later, such as the risible Urotsukidôji: Legend of the Overfiend (1989), or even live action cinema at the time – for example Lady Snowblood released the same year – the imagery of a woman split apart by a river of blood that splinters into bats is still the stuff of nightmares.

Belladonna 2

The plot is a somewhat misogynist tale of a poor couple who try to raise the tithe needed to get married on their local Baron’s estate. When he demands 10 times the amount, the fiancé has no choice but to let his bride spend a night with the Baron instead. Deflowered and full of shame, the next day Jeanne welcomes a penis-shaped demon into her bedroom (and body) so she can be empowered with the forces of evil to fight the corrupt regime they live in. The fantastical and erotic elements of the film are sometimes an uneasy mix, and perhaps only the use of scrolling images to replace much of the animation prevents the film from being a gruelling experience, as the focus of the plot is often on the repeated abuse of the female protagonist.

The third in a trilogy of animated ‘pink’ films made under the supervision of Osamu Tezuka, the most revered creator of Japanese manga, Belladonna of Sadness followed two light-hearted erotic fantasies by the same director, which contained animation that was recognisably by Tezuka himself – One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (1969) and Cleopatra (1970). However, this film swaps the child-friendly artwork of Astro Boy (1964) and Kimba the White Lion (1966) for a striking style influenced by fin-de-siècle European artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimt. The soundtrack is also exemplary, and like the globetrotting visual aesthetics, mixes sleazy Euro-pop – of the kind that might grace a 1960s film by Roger Vadim – with Japanese jazz. Only the subject matter leaves a bad taste in the mouth, which the filmmakers clumsily try to belatedly justify with a coda comparing the events of the movie with the sacrifices made by women who died during the French Revolution. But the many unique elements that make the film stand out from its peers, including the art on screen, combined with the Emaki-mono presentation, make Belladonna of Sadness a must-see for fans of Japanese animation.

Alex Fitch

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The Key

The Key
The Key

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 20 May 2013

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Tinto Brass

Writer: Tinto Brass

Based on the novel Kagi by: Junichirô Tanizaki

Cast: Frank Finlay, Stefania Sandrelli, Franco Branciaroli, Barbara Cupisti

Original title: La chiave

Italy 1983

116 mins

Best known for his scandalous Nazi sex shocker Salon Kitty (1976) and his orgiastic take on depraved Roman emperor Caligula (1979), Tinto Brass turned to lighter eroticism with The Key in 1983. Adapted from a much filmed novel by Junichirô Tanizaki (including by Kon Ichikawa in 1959 and by Tatsumi Kumashiro in 1974 as part of Nikkatsu studio’s Roman Porno series), The Key relocates the story to 1940s fascist Venice. Nino is an ageing husband who tries to get his much younger, but sexually inhibited wife Teresa to loosen up by manipulating her into an affair with their future son-in-law, Laszlo. This he does by writing a diary, which he makes sure Teresa stumbles upon. Unsettled by what she’s read, Teresa starts to explore her sexuality, starting her own diary, which she hides in a place where she knows her husband will find it. Exquisitely twisted mind games follow, leading to more and more adventurous sexual encounters fed by jealousy and unspoken desires, in which the couple’s daughter Lisa will also play a part.

One of Brass’s classiest films, it is a gorgeous, sophisticated, racy drama given added depth by its setting. Demonstrating Brass’s much-admired visual flair, the lush colours, painterly compositions and use of mirrors beautifully enhance the elegant eroticism of the film. The grey, rainy Venice and oppressive fascist background create a gloomy, melancholy atmosphere that contrasts with the warm, muted colours of the interiors that shelter the three characters’ private journey of sexual liberation and discovery. Mussolini admirer and fascist activist Lisa, the only explicitly political character, is also the only one who doesn’t seem to grasp the fluid complexity of the emotional and sexual relationships between the other three characters. Although to do so Nino and Teresa have to play an unconventional, elaborate game of secrets and disclosures, sometimes coldly calculating what to reveal and what to suppress in their diaries, they are able to finally attain a remarkable level of intimacy and understanding.

Unlike his later, rather cheesy All Ladies Do It (Cos&#236 fan tutte, 1992, also newly released on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Video), The Key is not a flimsy, silly sleaze-by-numbers fest, but an erotic drama that is as cerebral as it is sensual, relying as much on the words written by the characters as on the piquant sexual encounters. The superb Stefania Sandrelli lends her voluptuous beauty to Teresa, and her natural, unrestrained performance is essential to both the film’s psychological depth and carnal appeal. The Key delivers plenty of that while also offering a subtle, sensitive depiction of the strange remoteness within a marriage and the convoluted mechanics of desire, which, as in all of Brass’s films, are observed with a non-judgemental, open mind.

Virginie Sélavy