Sunday, November 18, 2012


A journalist travels to a faraway house, expecting to pick up some documents for an article on male sterilization. She finds that the lord of the house has a yen for imprisoning women, and many means of tortures (psychological and otherwise) at his disposal. But he soon finds that she's not quite all she seems, either.

If there's a finer, crazier, deeper film on the ongoing battle between men and women than this one, I need to see it. Balancing frank discourse with gorgeous visuals and mounting suspense (and more than a dash of knowing comedy - the final reckoning in a swimming pool is scored and shot like the showdown in a Western), director Piero Schivazappa (aided immeasurably by the confident performances of Philippe Leroy and Dagmar Lassander) turns a psychedelic and lurid genre piece into something smarter than anyone probably wanted it to be. The movie is rife with the gloriously bold sleaziness that makes late 60s/early 70s erotic cinema so refreshing. And yet there's intelligence at work here, as the film unpacks the baggage of the male id and ego (and the toll they take on women), counterbalancing it with soft (but ultimately dangerous) femininity.

It's braver and deeper (and a lot less predictable) than its contemporary counterparts - the basic storyline and themes manifest these days in tepid psycho-sleaze like CAPTIVITY and P2 or dreary work like the oeuvre of Neil LaBute. The accumulated years are evident in THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, but its remarkable how much intelligence it credits us with, even as it titillates our darker sides. Would that those intent on crafting another cinematic unpacking of the male id take a cue from this film instead of shallowly aping Cassavetes yet again.

(I'm grateful to the San Francisco Cult and Psychotronic Film Society for giving this thing another airing in 35mm. Yeoman's work, ladies & gentlemen.)

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