Sunday, February 26, 2012

So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious (1975)

Original title: Peccati di gioventu

When rich girl Angela (Gloria Guida) returns from college, her father (Silvano Tranquilli) uses the opportunity to finally tell her that he has a new girlfriend, Irene (Dagmar Lassander). Angela is less than happy with that, because she doesn't "want a stranger to interfere with my life" and so sets in motion a plan to get rid off her rival for Daddy's heart. I'm sure all Freudians in the audience approve. Angela sics her no-good lover Sandro (Fred Robsahm), who has a much older and richer girlfriend of his own to perform tricks for for money and so really shouldn't have the time for games like these, on Irene.

Somehow (I suspect it may have to do with taste) Irene manages to resist all of Sandro's advances. Confused, Angela investigates Irene's past. Angela finds out that Irene was once tangled up in (and I quote) "an unnatural love affair" with one of her female teachers that ended with the teacher's suicide and convinced Irene that taking on a cold and aloof personality and pretending she's interested in men would be the only way for her to get through life. Angela's revised plan is clear. She is going to seduce Irene herself, convince Sandro to make incriminating photos and use these photos to make Irene go away.

Angela's plan of first bringing Irene back to emotional honesty again and then destroying her works out better than the girl expects. Only too late does the young woman realize what she's doing to Irene.

If Silvio Amadio's (probably best known to cult movie friends for the giallo Amuck) So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious is mentioned at all, it is usually called a giallo (or even a comedy, which it is even less), but I disagree with that choice of genre, for I recognize an exploitation melodrama when I see one.

As these things go, So Young surely is one of the better examples of that sub-genre. There's a copious amount of attractive people (and Fred Robsahm, but what does male hetero me know about male attractiveness?) frequently walking around in the nude, a lot of only teased sex, the usual hints at somewhat kinky character motivations, and the sort of sexual complications exploitation filmmakers love to pretend the rich and beautiful go through on a regular basis, even though we all know they're in truth spending their time drinking the blood of the innocent, and implanting alien reptiles in the heads of presidents. Or something of that sort.

The sexual content of So Young is not quite as sleazy as in other Italian movies I could mention, for director Amadio seems honestly interested in his characters, or rather in Irene and Angela, and so spends as much time on turning them into somewhat complex characters as he does on letting them strut their stuff (though he of course prefers to do both things at once). As is traditional in melodramas the male characters don't matter as much as the female ones and therefore get a more superficial characterisation, but that's not a problem.

While it's generally normal for Italian exploitation films to show off the more or less decadent exploits of their characters with a cynical sneer and without showing much compassion, making melodramas of this type often unpleasantly conservative in their philosophical outlook, So Young does things a little differently in that its sympathies clearly lie with Irene. Even though the ending is of the standard type where the older Lesbian dies and the younger girl cries, it's clear that the tragedy of the story is supposed to lie in Irene locking away her identity (sexual and otherwise), only to come back to life again through a girl who is only playing with her feelings, and not in her being different. Irene's feeling of not being allowed by society (or the morals of society she internalized) to live as she wants and not her loving women is the problem that kills her, which really isn't typical at all for Italian cinema of this sort.

So believe it or not, there's some actual humanism - let's call it a heart - hidden away behind the all-important nudity and bada-bada-da soundtrack of this one. Wonders never cease.


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