Tinto Brass is a director who has spent the last 30 years totally and cheerfully ignoring everything that has happened in the world of cinema. He makes the sorts of movies that conventional wisdom says can’t be made any more - classy erotica, politically charged erotica and sex comedies. And since people continue to give him money to make his movies one can only assume that he’s doing reasonably well at it. Trasgredire (also released under the titles Cheeky and Transgessions) is a 1970s sex comedy made in 2000, and it’s a pretty good one.
Carla is a rather high-spirited and uninhibited Italian girl just arrived in London. She finds a rather nice flat, but she’d have to sleep with the lesbian real estate agent in order to get it. But it’s a very nice flat, and Carla is open-minded, so her accommodation problems are soon solved. Moira (the real estate agent) believes in giving her clients lots of after-sales servicing, but since Carla’s boyfriend Matteo is still in Venice and Carla doesn’t like to go for really long periods (say more than two or three hours) without having sex the arrangement suits them both. When Moira makes it obvious that she’s looking for more than just casual sex complications do seem likely to ensue, but Carla’s appetites
Meanwhile back in Venice the boyfriend is starting to worry that perhaps Carla isn’t being completely faithful to him while she’s in London. He becomes even more worried when his best friend points out to him something he hadn’t known - that women are often quite fond of sex so it’s quite likely that Carla has found alternative outlets for her desires. Matteo’s jealousies become really inflamed when he goes around to her house in Venice to pick up a few items she’s asked him to send on to her, and he discovers a stack of very steamy love letters she’s written to a young Frenchman she met on holiday shortly before, while he and Matteo were already dating. The letters are accompanied by a nude photo of Carla on the beach, apparently taken by her young Frenchman.
Matteo is soon on a plane to London, determined to confront Carla with the evidence of her betrayals. But Matteo has made an interesting discovery. Jealousy acts as a powerful aphrodisiac. The more jealous he is, the more he wants her. The Italian title of the movie was rendered as Tra(sgre)dire, incorporating the Italian word for betrayal within the word for transgression, but the interesting thing about the movie is that it suggests that betrayal is not always a bad thing, and of course transgression can always be fun. And infidelity can do wonders in spicing up your sex life.
Yuliya Mayarchuk is likeable as Carla, while Francesca Nunzi is fairly sympathetic as the obsessed lesbian Moira. There aren’t any villains in this movie - everyone is basically decent even if completely and joyously amoral.
Tinto Brass’s famous obsession with the female derrière is certainly very much in evidence. This is a very erotic movie with lots of nudity and lots of sex, and could be described as being at the harder end of the softcore spectrum. It’s also a very good-natured movie. It’s a celebration of sex, and it’s a celebration of love as well. As Brass himself famously out it, pornography is there to give you an erection while erotica is there to give you emotions. By that definition this is definitely erotica.
If you think all modern softcore porn is badly and unimaginatively photographed with little attention to lighting and filmed on digital video so it looks awful then Trasgredire will come as a revelation. This is the way erotic movies such as Emmanuelle were made back in the 70s, with style and class, by someone who actually cares about how the movie looks and not just about how much flesh is on display, with competent actors and a script that consists of more than just excuses for having everyone taking their clothes off. They do take their clothes off, and they do so very frequently, but at least there’s some semblance of a reason for it.
I don’t want to give the impression that Trasgredire is the Citizen Kane of the 21st century, but it’s fun and it’s sexy and it leaves you feeling reasonably well disposed towards one’s fellow humans and also feeling that life is not such a bad thing after all. And that’s more than most movies these days can offer.