Mar 19, 2013

Waves of Lust

While his ultra-violent cop flick Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976) aka Uomini si nasce poliziotti si muore co-penned by Fernando Di Leo (Caliber 9, Avere vent'anni aka To Be Twenty) is oftentimes considered his first brutal breakout film, Italian exploitation auteur Ruggero Deodato (Jungle Holocaust, The House on the Edge of the Park) did direct a film the year before that, aside from his crowned cannibal subgenre masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust (1980), which is just as endlessly engrossing as the best of his films. A rather surprisingly refined and risqué rip-off of Roman Polanski’s early Polish masterpiece Knife in the Water (1962) aka Nóż w wodzie, Waves of Lust (1975) aka A Wave of Pleasure aka Una ondata di piacere was a sordid cinematic ‘family affair’ of sorts for Deodato, as not only does the film star the director’s then-wife Silvia Dionisio (The Fascist Jew, Murder Syndrome aka Murder obsession), but it also features a small appearance from their son Saverio Deodato, yet it is certainly not the sort of sunny and sentimental beach film one would want to watch with the entire family as a scenic yet seedy and salacious cinematic work in the spirit of late-1960s Italian jet-set erotic thrillers with a little bit of murder and a whole lot more of exposed and unrobed suntanned bodies. Centering on an awfully arrogant alcoholic industrialist and egomaniacal would-be-Übermensch named Giorgio who invites a young couple to join him and his long suffering wife/slave for a weekend cruise on his expensive and fully furnished yacht, Waves of Lust is a titillating and rarely tedious thriller about passion and power among four Nordic Hightalians of the hyper horny and somewhat homicidal sort. Ironically, Deodato initially had nil interest in directing a film that was even remotely flesh-driven and had the goal to “maneuver it out of the erotic ghetto,” and his jealous wife was not too happy with the idea of him directing other women in completely compromised and unclad positions, so to solve the problem, the auteur's sexy spouse Silvia Dionisio (who was quite popular at the time, not least of all due to a nude pictorial she did with her model sister for Playboy magazine in 1976) managed to talk the producers into annulling another actress' contract who was originally slated to star in the film so that her husband could direct her engaged in simulated carnal knowledge as opposed to some other random woman. Needless to say, Deodato managed to get over his anxiety of filming female flesh, so much so that he would inevitably become infamous for directing exploitation works featuring hordes of stripped and sadistic savages slaughtering arrogant leftist anthropologists in South American rainforests, as well as swarthy NYC thugs cutting up cute au naturel girls for fun, thereupon making Waves of Lust a nice cinematic vacation from the director’s more grotesque and vulgar works, even if it does feature some of the director's auteur signature themes, including murder, mayhem, exploitative nudity, animal killings and whatnot. 

 Giorgio (British actor John Steiner of Caligula (1979) directed by Tinto Brass and The Berlin Affair (1985) directed by Liliana Cavani) is a grade A asshole of sorts and the fact that he is a rich industrialist only further compounds his flagrant and feverish megalomania and unquenchable thirst for power and pounding pussy. Naturally, Giorgio’s beauteous but somewhat masochistic wife Silvia (American actress Elizabeth Turner of Lucio Fulci’s The Psychic (1977) and Antonio Margheriti’s Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)) takes the brunt of his drunken brutality and sexual sadism, but he also has a keen proclivity for compelling his capitalist compatriots to commit suicide due to his nefarious narcissism as depicted in the beginning of Waves of Lust. Although Giorgio may be the undisputed master of his domain and dependent dame Silvia, he is about to get a lesson in love, lechery, and lethality from a young and beautiful couple of more humble and hot means. Strikingly stunning lovebirds Barbara (Silvia Dionisio) and Irem (Al Cliver) already have Giorgio and Silvia in their calculating and inconspicuous crosshairs after seeing the rich prick on his luxurious yacht and belittling his brutalized wife as they sunbath from afar on the beach. Seemingly a femme fatale of the counter-culture sort due to her insistence on using her brain and never wearing a bra, Barbara silently stalks and eventually approaches Giorgio at an art gallery in a foreshadowing scene where the filthy rich fellow buys a degenerate painting that looks like a bloodstain and the two make plans for dinner that inevitably results in an informal invitation from the corrupt capitalist captain to the luscious lady and her strong and stoic boyfriend Irem – a physical superman of a specimen who makes the elder man seem like a pansy peon of the particularly posh and prudish persuasion. Immediately upon boarding the ship and heading out to sea, cross-couple sexual tensions arise that involve Giorgio slobbing over Barbara and vice versa, Irem seducing Silvia and vice versa, and least, but not least, Barbara swooning over Silvia and vice versa. Despite all the sleazy passes and snide sexual remarks he makes at Barbara, Giorgio procrastinates in sealing the sensual deal with the little lady, but he has no problem incessantly drinking like a fish out of water and verbally assaulting his slavish wife Silvia, which rather infuriates the younger couple, thus leading to their secret desire to lead a 'slave revolt' of murderous mutiny against the captain of the ship. While Irem remains stoic in the face of opulent sadist Giorgio, Barbara begins to lead the wealthy vulgarian on in a sensual sort of way that will inevitably have rather risky results for the rich twat. In fact, Giorgio becomes so intoxicated with Barbara’s beguiling beauty and charm that he even hints at giving Irem a “present” in the form of his emotional wreck of a wife, but things get a little strange and paranoia strikes when a psychological war is directed at the industrialist, including the appearance of a ghastly painting in his room and faulty scuba gear that almost drowns the fellow. Like Giorgio, one does not learn until the very end of Waves of Lust who of the vengeful vacationing seafarers is trying to snuff out the demon of a seaman. 

 A film featuring an all blond and Nordic cast, Waves of Lust seems hardly like a work shot in the same country where Pasolini made his films and were it not for the film's innate sleaziness and Italian-language cut, it would be virtually impossible to tell this decidedly decadent and delightful film about beauteous bourgeois people doing bad things was a genuine Italian production. Sort of like a softcore (both in terms of theme and imagery) and less nihilistic thriller equivalent to nihilistic Italian auteur Alberto Cavallone’s iconoclastic and semi-psychedelic wife-swapping celluloid odyssey Zelda (1974) – a brutal and bodacious indictment of the debauched bourgeois featuring miscegenation-inspired murder – in its depiction of the salacious and sadistic sex-capades and snorkeling of the wealthy, wanton, and reckless, Waves of Lust is an unwavering cinematic assault on the senses that is undoubtedly enthralling from beginning to end, if not for all the wrong reasons. Featuring charmingly mediocre scenes of mundane melodrama and seriously strabismic scenarios of sexual socialization that are far less convincing than virtually any ‘porn chic’ from the Golden Age of Porn, Waves of Lust, not unlike most of director Ruggero Deodato’s films, owes a good bit of its entertainment value to its blatant lack of plausibility and preposterous porn flick style acting. With its nearly immaculate (reality speaking, of course!) pacing and fulfilling finale, pulchritudinous posh people, marvelous Mediterranean scenery and vintage tropical musical score by Marcello Giombini (the man responsible for the amazing synthesizer-driven score in Cavallone’s Zelda (1974), as well as trash exploitation works by Guido genre-hack-turned-porn-hack Joe D'Amato, including Anthropophagus (1980) and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980)), Waves of Lust is a work of extravagant escapist exploitation cinema that offers a much needed celluloid getaway for both arthouse and giallo fans alike as a work that is like Knife in the Water (1962) and Lina Wertmüller’s Swept Away (1974) meets Goombah Baywatch as directed by a much happier and less cinematically murderous pre-divorced Ruggero Deodato. Needless to say, I doubt it is a coincidence that Deodato directed his misanthropic masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust (1980) shortly after his divorce with Silvia Dionisio, as the director seemed to get stuck in a riptide of anti-romance and belligerent bloodlust after the dismembering of his marriage, thereupon making Waves of Lust an especially interesting exception in his oeuvre.  It seems that like the antagonist Giorgio of Waves of Lust, Deodato would become a much more bellicose, brazen, and ultimately broken man after coming under the spell of saucy succubus of the seedy silver screen, Silvia Dionisio – the main attraction of this pleasing celluloid plagiary of Polanski's early masterpiece.

-Ty E

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