Aug 26, 2014

Senso '45

Leave it to Italy’s foremost ‘erotic auteur’ aka pornographer, Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty, Caligula), to take a classic Italian film like Luchino Visconti’s luscious Risorgimento-era melodrama Senso (1954) and turn it into a quasi-campy fuck flick set during the end of the Second World War featuring sensual SS men as played by Guidos with glaringly fake blonde hair and Nazi whores urinating into bedpans. Ironically, Brass claimed one of the reasons he decided to ‘remake’ the film was because he did not like Visconti’s version and felt the director took a too liberal approach to Camillo Boito’s 1882 source novella of the same name. In other words, Brass probably felt Visconti’s film had a homo essence and had far too much histrionic acting and not enough hairy beavers and supple big sippers. To Brass’ credit, his remake/re-adaptation, Senso ’45 aka Black Angel (2002), is apparently more faithful to Boito’s novel, though both film version make the female lead older and more sympathetic, as if the films were specially tailored for old bourgeois trollops who want to reminisce over the good old days when they had affairs with handsome and sexually virile young men. On top of being another Senso adaptation and arguably Brass’ last ‘masterpiece,’ Senso ’45 is a work of self-reflexive cinema that acts as a ‘fascist-film-within-an-antifascist-film’ with various references to the director’s previous works, especially his (in)famously salacious Nazisploitation flick Salon Kitty (1976) incidentally starring Visconti’s Austrian boy toy Helmut Berger. Featuring gratuitous pussy shots of the corpse of female partisans who have been executed by fascists troops, a blond SS man selling pornographic watercolors by degenerate German artist Georg Grosz to a morbidly obese Jew, underwater shots of an SS man’s hairy balls and bunghole, and various other of forms of Brassian celluloid bawdiness, Senso ’45 is, if nothing else, the most elegantly degenerate and lavishly lecherous Nazi-occupation film ever made. Indeed, a truly ‘libertarian’ work (Brass is affiliated with the ‘Italian Radicals’) in that it mocks pretty much everyone, including the aristocracy, bourgeois, fascists, commie partisans, and Italian industry, Brass’ film certainly deserved the 1.6 million Euros given to the film’s overall budget by the Italian Minister of the Arts and Culture, as a quasi-erotic war epic that puts Liliana Cavani’s somewhat similarly themed work The Berlin Affair (1985) aka Leidenschaften to abject shame in terms of sensuality, aestheticism, and socio-political critique. Featuring a scene where, “Cinema is the strongest weapon,” is featured on the chalkboard of a film studio, Senso ’45 demonstrates that—for better or worse—European cinema has come a long way since the days when Joseph Goebbels oversaw the production of melancholy Veit Harlan melodramas. 

 Unlike Visconti’s film, Senso ’45 features black-and-white scenes from the ‘present’ where protagonist Livia Mazzoni (Anna Galiena) tells how she feel head-over-heels for SS man Lieutenant Helmut Schultz (Gabriel Garko). Beginning on, “March 25, 1945, Year 23 of the Fascist Period,” with Livia riding in the car of family lawyer Ugo Oggiano (Franco Branciaroli)—a man she has made a “wicked pact” with—as they drive to get Helmut, the film is mainly comprised of color flashback scenes chronicling the almost always carnal, sometimes comical, and even sometimes accidentally corny rise and fall of the protagonist’s extramarital romance, as well as the German occupation of Guidoland. While watching a horrendous play with her old fart yet opulent husband Carlo (Antonio Salines) where commie partisans stormed the stage and dropped leftist leaflets, Livia first set eyes on Helmut, whose mere stare managed to not only wet her panties, but give her an orgasm. As described by Ugo, Helmut got his elite position in the SS as a member of the German Film Unit and his status as a “stud who fucks them all” by acting as Joseph Goebbels' pimp, even hooking up the Minister of Propaganda with his Czech mistress Lida Baarova. That night, Livia is forcibly fucked behind by her husband while she stares at the moon, but her hubby finishes in a couple seconds, so she masturbates while thinking of Helmut to achieve an orgasm. While her husband tells Livia while he is fucking her that Helmut is , “amoral, cynical, a gambler, a degenerate, with women too,” the horny middle-aged countess does not care. Luckily, the next day, Helmut stalks Livia as she walks down the road, follows her inside her home, and immediately beings manhandling like a major champ while declaring to her “you’re mine,” thus commencing a hot and steamy yet short and bittersweet romance. 

 As Livia in all seriousness states regarding her ridiculously risqué romance with Helmut: “Venice acted as pimp to our love.” Of course, Helmut has a different view of things, as he treats the city as his own personal whorehouse where he buys morphine that is supposed to be used for partisans so he can get high and where he ultimately uses Livia as his southern ‘sugar momma,’ as she offers to pay his way, including funding his drug use and gambling habits, among other things. Before Livia offers to pay his way, Helmut makes money doing dubious things like selling a stolen George Grosz paintings to grotesquely fat Jewish art dealer for 20,000 liras. After the transaction, the Jewish art dealer lets Helmut know that he forgot his suitcase, to which the sardonic SS debauchee says he can keep it, hilariously stating to the Israelite, “A memento of Dr. Goebbels, as a gift from me.” Indeed, Helmut is a shameless opportunist who, although he has a macho Apollo-like appearance, is really quite the degenerate who couldn't care less about the National Socialist cause as demonstrated by the following rant he makes to Livia while buggering her bum: “to fuck the whole world in the ass. Fuck Hitler! Fuck Mussolini! Fuck Stalin! Livia, I’m drunk on your ass! Fuck the priests! Fuck the bosses! I want to go crazy in your ass! Tell me it’s drunk! Say it!” Needless to say, Livia’s husband and lawyer Ugo soon realize that she is regularly humping Helmut, but the wanton aristocrat does not care as indicated by various confessions she makes like, “I realized I was entirely dependent on him. Even giving him money made me cum.” Unfortunately for Livia, Helmut is more interested in her cash than her gash, which she ultimately realizes when it is too late, thus resulting in tragic, if not tastelessly titillating consequences. 

 A would-be-playboy who loves gambling all his hard stolen and blackmailed money away, Helmut eventually realizes he can use Livia for large sums of money. Indeed, after Helmut gambles all of Livia’s money away at a campy drug orgy featuring chicks roaming around wearing giant golden strap-on dildos and SS uniforms sans pants, his mistress agrees to gamble herself to a lesbian actress named Elsa (Simona Borioni) if he loses. Of course, Helmut loses and Elsa penetrates Livia with a strap-on dildo, but the debauched blue blood babe does not care, as she is high on cocaine and feels like she is proving her love to her boy toy by “sacrificing” her heterosexuality. Naturally, when Livia is told by her cuckold husband that they must move to their chateau in the country because the war is getting bad, she nearly cracks, as she cannot stand to be without her sensual SS man. Before Livia moves, Helmut comes by her home and tells her that he needs 1 million liras so that he payoff some quack doctor so that he can sit the rest of the war out. Of course, Livia obliges Helmut and after handing him the money, she proceeds to give him a rough blow job. 

 Needless to say, Livia does not handle being away from Helmut too well after moving to the country, so she offers her lawyer/husband's friend Ugo sex if he agrees to drive her to Venice to see Helmut. Of course, being grovelingly in love with Livia, Ugo agrees to the “wicked pact” and the two head to Venice. When the two finally arrive in Venice after their car breaks down and they hitch a ride from a truck of fascist soldiers, Livia stops by Helmut’s apartment, only to walk in on him screwing a young prostitute and discussing to the somewhat average-looking streetwalker how he does not love his mistress and merely uses her for her money. Hysterically heartbroken, Livia decides to head to local Nazi headquarters to tell a Nazi general that Helmut is a deserter. When the General questions her motives and tells her regarding Helmut, “You’re signing his death warrant, Livia coldly replies, “I’ve done my duty. Now do yours.” When Helmut is arrested and brought to Nazi headquarters to be executed via firing-squad, Livia takes Ugo to watch the big event. A coward to the pseudo-kraut core, Helmut shouts, “I don’t want to die!” and attempts to escape, but is shot down almost instantly like a rabid dog, with his young (and topless) prostitute soon running out to hug his corpse while crying hysterically. Rather hurt by seeing the prostitute crying over Helmut’s death, Livia demands that Ugo fuck her right then and there in a desperate attempt to dull her own pain. 

 Despite being a quasi-pornographic remake of Visconti’s melodramatic masterpiece, Senso ’45 was heavily inspired by the Italian neorealist films of Roberto Rossellini, especially Rome, Open City (1945), or as director Tinto Brass stated himself in the featurette, The Making of Black Angel, regarding his film: “There are many cinematic elements. Other than character typing, there are scenes, tributes to those I consider my masters. Other than the fact that it can be retraced to Visconti…In fact, the language of the film is more Rossellinian. I was more influenced by Rossellini, who was my master since I was his assistant director. One sequence explicitly refers to the one when Magnani is cut down by machine gun fire as she runs after the van that is taking her husband away.” Of course, there is little about Brass’ film that is socially redeeming aside from the fact that is demonstrates the upper-classes are literal and figurative whores who will join any political movement, even communism, if it is ultimately to their social and monetary benefit, or as protagonist Livia states while quoting Mussolini: “The people are like women…they go with the winning man.” Featuring an original score by Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, countless references to classic Italians films and painters (somewhat notably, Brass received his nicknamed ‘Tintoretto’ from his grandfather Italico Brass, who was a celebrated Gorizian painter), and seemingly immaculate technical direction, Senso ’45 is certainly not your typical Nazisploitation flick as a work that unequivocally proves that Guidos are probably the only masters turning sleazy and oftentimes senseless eroticism into relatively respectable celluloid art. Indeed, for all those individuals that are tired of seeing cliche World War II films that milk the holocaust, portray commie partisans as morally pristine heroes, depict all SS men as humorless bureaucrats and/or coldblooded killers, and present WWII as a clear cut example of holy and righteous battle against evil, Senso ’45 ultimately offers something more morally ambiguous and absurdly amorous, as a rather risqué Rossellini-esque dark epic romance of the Hightalian quasi-impressionistic sort.

-Ty E

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