Friday, 22 October 2021

Seduction (La seduzione, 1973)

Director Fernando Di Leo has gained quite a cult following in recent years for his 1970s work in the poliziotteschi genre. He worked in other genres as well, an example being his 1973 erotic melodrama Seduction (La seduzione).

Giuseppe (Maurice Ronet) is a middle-aged man who has returned to Catania in Sicily after a long absence. He has to wind up his deceased father’s affairs but he’s really come back in the hope of seeing Caterina (Lisa Gastoni) again. She’s now a rather beautiful widow in her late 30s. Maybe this time he can make it work with her.

They begin an affair. Everything goes wonderfully well. It’s just like it was all those years ago, only better. They hit it off in the bedroom, and out of it. And to make the situation even more perfect Giuseppe gets along well with Caterina’s daughter Graziela (Jenny Tamburi).

But maybe Giuseppe and Graziela get along a little too well.

The first time Giuseppe stays the night at Caterina’s house he gets up during the night to visit the bathroom. He can’t help noticing that Graziela’s bedroom door is open. He also can’t help noticing that Graziela sleeps nude and somehow or other, by some unlucky mischance, she’s managed to toss the bedcovers onto the floor so Giuseppe gets a good look at her nude body. Perhaps unwisely Giuseppe has another look on his way back to Caterina’s bedroom.

At this stage Giuseppe isn’t sure that Graziela is flirting with him but she soon makes it very obvious. When she drapes her legs over Giuseppe it is perhaps not an entirely wise thing for him to start caressing those very attractive legs, and it’s definitely not a good idea to start caressing her in more intimate places. But that’s exactly what he does.

It’s obvious that Graziela intends to seduce him and it’s equally obvious that he’s not likely to offer much resistance.

In fact he offers none at all. As to who does the seducing, it’s pretty much mutual.

Giuseppe’s judgment is not all that great. Having sex with Graziela while Caterina is out of the house is risky enough but having sex with her while Caterina is asleep in the bedroom next door is really really dumb.

It’s no surprise at all that Caterina walks in on them at a most inopportune moment.

This is by no means the end of the story. Giuseppe, Caterina and Graziela come to an arrangement which involves Giuseppe and Graziela promising not to get up to any more sexual hijinks but you know that’s not going to last long and then further complications arise when another player joins the game. And neither Caterina nor Graziela can stop loving Giuseppe.

Maurice Monet’s rather diffident performance works. Giuseppe is a guy who really doesn’t seem to appreciate the dangers of the minefield he’s wandered into. Lisa Gastoni is excellent. She’s beautiful and glamorous, and she has some some fairly steamy sex scenes. Jenny Tamburi is convincingly dangerous. Ornella Muti was originally cast as Graziela but Lisa Gastoni vetoed that casting. She was probably right to do so. Muti was just too gorgeous and that would have harmed the film since we have to believe that not only is Graziela a convincing rival to Caterina but also that Caterina is beautiful enough to be a convincing rival to Graziela. Jenny Tamburi is certainly beautiful, but not to the extent of totally overshadowing Gastoni.

Giuseppe’s friend Alfredo (Pino Caruso) provides the comic relief and he is genuinely amusing. He’s entirely inept with women but he likes to give the impression of being a Don Juan. And occasionally, and surprisingly, his observations on relationship prove to be on-target. He’s certainly right about Graziela.

Most reviewers succumb to the temptation to make comparisons to Lolita but that’s not necessarily helpful since once that comparison is made it becomes difficult to discuss the movie sensibly. Graziela’s age is never mentioned but she’s clearly considerably older than the title character of Nabokov’s novel. There nothing in the movie to explicitly suggest that Graziela is legally underage and Jenny Tamburi was twenty-one when the film was made. We can guess that she’s supposed to be around sixteen. This is not quite a Lolita story. There are some Lolita-esque elements but I think that if you get too focused on them you’re likely to be led astray in trying to understand the point of the movie. It’s a twisted romantic triangle that becomes a romantic quadrangle.

Graziela is young, sexually fairly inexperienced (although it’s implied that she’s not a virgin) and very keen to get some more sexual experience but she’s no child. That’s the problem. She’s a woman but young enough to be an emotional time-bomb for anyone who becomes involved with her. The point of the story is that Caterina has a younger rival and that rival is her own daughter, and that both Graziela and Giuseppe become involved in a sexual-emotional game that is likely to have momentous consequences.

The Raro Video DVD offers a very satisfactory anamorphic transfer. There’s an interesting documentary featuring the film’s director, cinematographer and producer plus Jenny Tamburi (who is charming and amusing). There are also liner notes but I wasn’t overly impressed by them. The snippets included in the documentary suggest that the print used as the source for the DVD is not an uncut version.

Seduction generates an atmosphere of both erotic and emotional explosiveness but it adds some touches of humour and even at times of farce. It’s one of those movies that could never get made in today’s much more moralistic climate but it is a genuine attempt to deal with fairly inflammable subject matter in an intelligent and sensitive manner. It certainly doesn’t let either Graziela or especially Giuseppe off the hook. They removed the pin from the hand grenade and they have to accept the consequences.

Highly recommended.

No comments: