Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Femina Ridens (1969)

As you all know I have a tendency to fall in deep deep love with certain movies, like I've done many times in real life with real people. I get so into a movie that I have a hard time leaving it, if it has that special quality. Femina Ridens (or The Frightened Woman) is such a movie. If you watch it in a shallow way it's just a kitchy, fun, sexy sixties movie with cool music and fantastic sets. But it has a couple of twists that makes it so much smarter, darker and controversial than a lot of similar movies. It's just a waste of blog-space to say it's a cult movie. It's something so much more.

Dagmar Lassander plays Maria who, by a chance, gets invited to Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy). He soon shows his real face when he kidnaps her and forces her to be his personal sex-toy. Well, not sex in the practical way. More a doll - to the degree that he forces her to have sex with a doll-replica of himself! He abuses her physically and mentally, tortures her with threats and devices, water and by keeping her in a strange cell. He starts showing her photos for women he killed and explains that he wants to kill her, as the ultimate orgasm. But than a something radical happens, and... I don't want to write more. Watch it yourself.

Underneath the kitchy surface a complicated and dark sexual drama is hidden. It's deals with feminism, how men treats women and how women treats men - it's a puzzle of how humans are toying with each other, how roles suddenly can change and that people are more complex than we can imagine. None of the characters are stereotypes. They might seem so from the first look, but after a while we see layer after layer peel off, and suddenly our prejudices comes into the spotlight. What seems like the typical sleaze-fest becomes something more uncomfortable, something - maybe - true?

I wish I could write more about the twists, but I don't want to be accused of spoiling something, so I'll leave that. But in the end you feel confused. What is good and what is bad, if there's something so simple? There's no typical happy ending, not even in a surrealistic sixties way. It's a cruel hard world, in the middle of cool clothes, cars and wallpapers from an LSD-trip. It's like a reality mind-fuck.

Now, Femina Ridens is a perfect film when it comes to music, pictures, movements and acting. The script is wonderful by itself, original and intelligent. One of the highlights is the famous scene where Dr. Sayer enters a gigantic statue of a woman laying down, through her vagina. It was made by Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely och P.O. Ultvedt in 1966 and is one of the most famous Swedish pieces of art ever. Ultvedt also designed parts of the interior of Stockholms subway, and I have the pleasure to see his works everyday. One of the most unique things with Stockholm is the very arty subway, and I recommend a visit there - let me know if I can give you a clue to which stations you should visit. 

You know, I think some fans of "eurocult" has a problem admitting that their favorite directors actually had something to say. They think it's cooler to claim it's all fun, gore, action and surface. For me that's a lack of respect for those artists that worked in what we call "eurocult". I get angry every time I hear some idiot claim that Fulci was a hack - but still loves his movies because of the gore or the "cool incoherent plot". Those people just don't know what they're watching and shouldn't be allowed near anything else than... Independence Day and Pretty Woman. I've always liked and appreciate the intellectual approach that you can find in for example Fulci's work. Yes, hell - even Lenzi had it, not to mention other legends like Argento or Bava. I still think Fulci was the more political one of the more famous directors, but you can find layer after layer at almost all directors that has passion for their work. 

Piero Schivazappa is of course no different. This is the only movie I've seen so far from him, but it's also one of the most impressive "eurocult" movies I've seen in a very long time.


Alex B. said...

The only Schivazappa I saw was a very dull 80's erotic film "Lady of the night" with Serena Grandi.
Haven't see Femina ridens, but heard the score. Love Cipriani!

CiNEZiLLA said...

Yeah Yeah YEAH! Femina Ridens is a true friggin' gem. I totally love that movie. It's awesome and to see that old favourite art landmark rebuilt and set in a gialli-ish setting is mind blowing. excellent movie, one of the best. And one of Cipriani's greatest scores. So great that Albertini reused parts of it on Human Cobras. :)

Edward Depp said...

Very intriguing! i Will have to see the movie..

dfordoom said...

I love this move as well.

And I agree there's a lot more to euroult movies than gore (although personally I don't like Fulci's movies).