Thursday 7 December 2023

The Lickerish Quartet (1970), Blu-Ray review

The Lickerish Quartet is a 1970 Radley Metzger movie.

Radley Metzger was an erotic film-maker who believed that it was possible to make arty, intelligent, sexy, witty and amusing erotic movies that would work successfully on all those levels. He wasn’t the only film-maker who believed this but Metzger probably came closer than anyone else to pulling off this difficult feat on a consistent basis.

He was also interesting as an American director with a very European sensibility. Not entirely European perhaps, but a fascinating blend of European and American sensibilities. He made several truly great erotic movies but for me Peak Radley Metzger was 1969-1970 when he made Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet. As great as Camille 2000 is I would rate The Lickerish Quartet as his best movie.

It opens with a married couple and their grown-up son living in a huge chateau. They’re enjoying a normal family evening, watching blue movies (in grainy black-and-white) on a 16mm film projector. This is one of Dad’s favourite pastimes. All three are particularly struck by the beauty of a blonde actress in one of these films.

They then visit an amusement park where they enjoy watching a glamorous female stunt motorcyclist riding the Wall of Death. And then they notice something. This girl bears a remarkable resemblance to that blonde in the blue movie. Dad is fascinated and decides to invite the girl back to the chateau to meet the family.

Already very early on we become aware that Metzger is playing some narrative games with us. We see some snippets of another black-and-white movie. This seems to be a movie with a wartime setting. But we do not see this movie projected on the screen set up in the chateau’s drawing room. Is it one of the films in Dad’s collection? Or is this a film that exists only in the imagination of one of the characters?

The idea of inviting the motorcycle girl back to the chateau was to show her the movie, in order to watch her reaction if that really is her in the movie. But the movie seems different.

And the son puts on an impromptu magic show. He’s fascinated by stage illusionism. But then film directors are illusionists also aren’t they?

This could be one of those movies in which reality and illusion become confused. Perhaps it’s a story within a story. Perhaps there is more than one layer of reality. Perhaps there’s no reality. These people are after all characters in a movie. Maybe they’re discovering that they are just characters in a movie. Are some or all of the character reliving events from the past, and did those events really occur? Memories can be tricky things.

This sounds like real European art-house stuff, and it is, and it’s handled deftly. But this is a Radley Metzger film so it’s playful and fun as well.

And this is an erotic movie in which an erotic movie plays a major part.

There are sexual tensions. Dad is seriously bewitched by the luscious young lady motorcyclist. This does not please his wife, or his son. And the son isn’t really his, so nobody is what they first appeared to be. Both father and son want to sleep with this mysterious girl who may or may not be the girl in the blue movie.

While the erotic dramas are important it’s the narrative games that are the core of this movie. And those narrative games become ever more complex.

This movie was made with much of the same creative team as Camille 2000. This included, very importantly, art director and costume designer Enrico Sabbatini. Metzger has stated, very generously, that much of the praise he received for these two movies should have gone to Sabbatini. The two movies have a similar look and also a similar tone.

Radlet Metzger and Michael DeForrest wrote the story for The Lickerish Quartet and DeForrest wrote the screenplay. The original idea came from Metzger.

Metzger always liked to shoot sex scenes in an interesting way and this movie includes a couple of fine examples of this.

The film was shot on location mostly at (and in) the Castle of Bolsonaro. It’s a magnificent location and it’s used superbly.

The Cult Epics Blu-Ray looks magnificent and there are some extras, the most notable being an audio commentary featuring Radley Metzger. Metzger always did great commentaries, providing lots of information on the making of the movie and on his inspirations but in this case he quite properly refuses to be drawn on the meaning or interpretation of the movie.

This movie is deliberately and fascinatingly enigmatic. It’s a movie to watch more than once, and each time you watch it you’ll find a new way of interpreting it. THey’re the kinds of movies I really love. The Lickerish Quartet is very highly recommended.

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