Thursday, 12 May 2011

Justine’s Hot Nights (1976)

Justine’s Hot Nights (Les nuits chaudes de Justine) is a 1976 sex comedy written and directed by Jean-Claude Roy. The sex comedy as a genre can be dire. It really needs a considerable lightness of touch to make it work, and Justine’s Hot Nights has that touch.

Mik Farez is a fikm-maker with serious ambitions whose career is going nowhere. he just can’t come up with any ideas at all any more. In desperation he decides to do an adult film. But he can’t come up with any ideas for this project either. Luckily his wife Nina has a bit more imagination. She offers to help him out.

Most of their fantasies centre on Justine, an imaginary character they conjure up after seeing a rather striking actress on TV.

That’s it for the plot. The whole film consists of fantasy sequences of ideas they’re tossing about in their heads. This has one major advantage - it means that having a very very limited budget is no problem. Fantasies don’t require elaborate sets. When you fantasise about desert island, all you need is a painted backdrop and a hammock. Want to recreate the famous sex-on-a-plane scene from Emmanuelle? Just place your actors in front of a photograph of an aircraft interior. If you tried to do that and make it realistic you’d end up with something that looked cheap and tacky. So make sure it doesn’t look realistic at all - make the background photo black-and-white. The result is a witty riposte to Emmanuelle.

If you’re going to do this sort of thing as comedy you need to be actually funny, and this film is consistently and good-naturedly amusing. Of course these were the days when people appearing in softcore sex movies could in fact act, and the actors in this one are more than adequate. Philippe Gasté as Mik, Michèle Barton as his wife Nina and Nadia Kapler as Justine all handle the comic elements with assurance.

The film’s biggest weakness is its attempt to inject a little social commentary into the proceedings, which turns out to be as clumsy as such attempts invariably are. Fortunately they quickly get back to a more light-hearted mood.

There are a couple of very brief hardcore inserts (only a few seconds of screen time really) which were added later. The film as made was strictly softcore (although with abundant nudity) and manages to combine eroticism and humour quite deftly.

This is one of a series of interesting and odd 70s and 80s erotic films recently released on DVD by Nucleus Films on their Naughty DVD label. This is the third that I’ve seen, the others being Dressage and Scandalous Photos. The transfers aren’t exactly pristine but that’s no reflection on Nucleus Films - these sorts of movies only survive by accident and in most cases the prints that have survived are in poor condition. Image quality is still quite acceptable and all three movies I’ve seen have been pleasant surprises.

An entertaining piece of lightweight eurosleaze.

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