Welcome To The Pleasure Dome… Pasuale Festa Campanile’s LA MATRIARCA aka THE LIBERTINE On Nucleus BD.

BD. Nucleus Films. Region B. 18.

Chi-chi young widow Mimi (Catherine Spaak) doesn’t seem too devastated at the funeral of her husband Franco, in fact she seems to regard the whole thing as analogous to kicking off an uncomfortable pair of shoes. While going through Franco’s estate with his attorney Sandro (Gigi Proietti), she discovers the deeds and keys to Franco’s secret man pad and on visiting, discovers that its modish fittings include (along with the mandatory J&B bottle bank) over head mirrors, sex toys and a state of the art (in 1968) home cinema set up for screening porno flicks. Although suspiciously professional looking, these turn out to be home movies featuring Franco indulging his hitherto unguessed at penchant for S/M, in the company of various willing strumpets including Mimi’s best friend Claudia (Fabienne Dalì). His secret journal meticulously records marks for aptitude, enthusiasm and imagination against each of his conquests. Turns out Mimi didn’t know Franco very well at all… then again, how well does she know herself?

Affronted as much by Franco’s relegation of her to boring respectability as by his infidelity, Mimi embarks on her own odyssey of erotic discovery by bedding Sandro in her late husband’s garçonniere and demanding his critical feedback. With a second hand copy of Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis as her guide, Mimi continues the obsessive exploration of her own emerging sensuality, fantasising freely and soliloquising salaciously as she relentlessly puts a succession of Eurocult’s finest manflesh to the carnal test… dentist Frank Wolff has no problems filling her cavities, though tennis coach Philippe Leroy fails to smash it during a post match session in the shower. Rough sex with sinister swinger Luigi Pistilli doesn’t really float Mimi’s boat, nor does the elaborate role playing favoured by Claudia’s husband Fabrizio (Renzo Montagnani… “oy oy oy oy oy!”) gel with her own private proclivities. Mistaking her for a working girl, Gabriele Tinti bungs Mimi a fistful of Lire after a spot of “wham bam, thank you ma’am” in his car (“The first money I ever earned in my life” muses the pampered widow). There’s also an unseen tryst with Venantino Venantini, playing the plumber fiancé of Mimi’s long suffering maid Maria (Edda Ferronao).

Through trial and error, Mimi identifies her own (very tame) kink (you might just possibly be able to work out her idea of horseplay from some of the illustrations here) and on finally giving in to her mother’s nagging to get a health check-up, she begins to suspect she might also have found somebody with whom to complete her equestrian quest, in the shape of handsome but vague radiologist Carlo De Marchi (Jean-Louis Trintignant)… but is Dr De Marchi The One? Love says “Ciao”, to quote Armando Trovajoli’s Bacharachesque theme song, belted out lustily (and more than a little Dusty-ly) by Andee Silver, but don’t forget that “Ciao” can as easily mean “see you later” as “Hiya”. Sandro’s still pressing his suit too, but by breaking the mirrors of Franco’s playroom (and administering a quick spanking), Dr D shatters Mimi’s narcissism and proceeding as mutually respectful equals, they discover that love and marriage really do go together like… well, like a horse and carriage.

Bunuel gave us the classic cinematic study of female sado-masochism in Belle De Jour (1967) and who more appropriate to mount a Belle ringer, the following year, than Pasquale Festa Campanile? Seriously though folks, Campanile (best known in English-speaking fan circles for a somewhat rougher take on sexual politics, 1977’s Hitch-Hike) is an infinitely more gifted grafter in the Eurotica mills than Franco, Rollin and the assorted usual suspects, a fact which would doubtless be recognised if only his films were better distributed. Similarly, the divine Spaak, currently best remembered as ice maiden Anna Terzi in Argento’s Cat’O Nine Tails (1971) is every bit as physically beautiful (a beauty which Campanile doesn’t hesitate to lay before the dreaded “male gaze” in this putative feminist tract) as, for instance Edwige Fenech or Barbara Bouchet and is probably (let it be whispered) a significantly better actress than either of those. Further releases featuring these two (together or singly) would be very welcome indeed… how about it, Nucleus?

Messrs Morris and West don’t release films particularly prolifically but when they do, they go that extra mile and then some. Extras here include The Libertine, the US theatrical version released by Radley Metzger’s Audubon distribution outfit, marginally saucier and redubbed to suit American ears. Lovely Jon celebrates Armando Trovajoli as “the voice of Rome” and Kat Ellinger strikes yet again with a characteristically erudite audio commentary on the main feature… let’s also raise a shiny Jimmy Choo, brimming with Bollinger, to Rachael Nisbet for a visual essay that cleverly correlates Mimi’s interior and exterior spaces. Trailers, image galleries, out takes and alternative scenes are present and correct, alongside a Fotoromanzo adaptation, Japanese release promo, gallery of poster for Audubon releases and reversible sleeve options. Giddy up and grab your copy now!

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