Oct 17, 2014
Long before dirty commie dago Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris, Last Emperor) demonstrated with The Dreamers (2003) that he has a fixation with Michael Pitt’s pecker and has yet to get over his fetishism for the 1968 student movement, a fellow forgotten Guido auteur named Sergio Capogna (The Consequences aka Le conseguenze, Diary of an Italian aka Diario di un italiano) directed a somewhat unique and captivating, if not somewhat stereotypically histrionically acted, movie, Plagio (1969), about a melancholy and forlorn bizarre love triangle turned ménage à trios starring blond Anglo-Guido stud Ray Lovelock (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man) as a strange rich ‘student protester’ who finds himself infatuated with a young couple and begins a tragic threesome that ultimately leaves all three of them broken, albeit in considerably different ways. Unlike other Italians films made in the spirit of 1968 like Bernardo Bertolucci’s Partner (1968), Liliana Cavani’s The Year of the Cannibals (1970) aka I cannibali, and Lucio Marcaccini’s Hallucination Strip (1975) aka Roma drogata: la polizia non può intervenire, Capogna’s unjustly forgotten work, not unlike maestro Luchino Visconti’s Conversation Piece (1974) aka Gruppo di famiglia in un interno, has aged relatively gracefully over the nearly half a century since its initial release, which largely has to do with the fact that it is not an avant-garde agitprop piece but a mid-high drama that merely uses the far-left student protests as a backdrop for an undeniably unforgettable darkly tragic romance about an unloved and somewhat unhinged rich boy who develops a rather dangerous admiration for his two new friends’ love for one another. In fact, in its depiction of a semi-deranged young man whose mental illness is, at least partially, the fault of his belated ‘modern’ feminist mother, Capogna’s film would probably be considered ‘counter-revolutionary’ by certain less sophisticated viewers. Although completely unknown in the United States and hardly a success in its native Italy, Plagio was such a huge hit in Japan that star Ray Lovelock, whose performance is nothing short of hauntingly penetrating, became a teen icon among horny Jap teens and even had a fan club dedicated to him. Ultimately, Plagio is a sort of shockingly entertaining proto-Emo-fag melodrama of the vaguely bisexual sort where the two boys are ‘prettier’ than the girl and sleazy drama is more satisfying than sex. Featuring a soundtrack including Symphony No. 5 by Gustav Mahler, a hit single by Peppino Gagliardi, and songs by surprisingly unknown Guido rocker Johnny Davil (whose songs “Morning” and “I’ve Lost You” are just as important ingredients to the film as Ennio Morricone’s were to Cavani’s The Year of the Cannibals), Plagio is a distinctly aesthetically pleasing work with a highly complementary soundtrack that paints the pleasantly melancholy portrait of a decadent generation that thought “free love” was free, not realizing bizarre triangles are called ‘bizarre love triangles’ for reason.
Plagio opens in fall with a somber young lady named Angela (played by Mita Medici, who later became a popular Italian TV host) walking down a park path and saying to herself: “Already a pale sun warms this morning. Soon leaves will cover the branches of these dry trees. But none of this…will help us to forget the bad things…that against our will we were forced to live through…and for which we were not responsible. Of course, our poor dramas have no use but it is our awareness that helps us…that gives us the strength to fight…to continue. And even your memory will help me…because nothing is more pure in this world…than the love of a child.” The “child” Angela speaks of is a tragic young man named ‘Guido’ (played by Ray Lovelock in a standout role where he bears a striking resemblance to Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro) who she and her boyfriend Massimo (played by French actor Alain Noury, who is probably best known for his roles in Alfred Vohrer's post-Edgar Wallace works and Just Jaeckin’s 1975 The Story of O adaptation starring Udo Kier)—a sort of Mediterranean post-black-male Michael Jackson look-alike—will get to know very well after the two befriend and eventually fall in love with the young man. Flashback a couple months and Massimo, who is driving in a car with Angela that was borrowed from his friend Roberto, saves a young protestor who is getting beaten by three fascist MSI members. The young protestor is a Nordic-like goombah Guido and despite the fact that Massimo and Angela have helped save his life, he ends up stealing the car that they borrowed from Roberto (Dino Mele). Roberto’s father sues Massimo, but luckily Guido shows up out of the blue with a brand new car to give to Roberto. Indeed, Guido is the heir to a paper mill dynasty and he is quite generous when it comes to money, even buying his new friends Massimo and Angela an apartment to stay at when they are in Bologna (they two are originally from Rimini and Massimo travels there quite often). Guido is a somewhat perturbed young man who seems consumed with the memory of his deceased parents. While describing his belated father as a “good guy,” Guido is less generous towards his mommy, stating that she was, “young, modern, open-minded…Hardly a mother at all, in fact. She was madly in love with her husband.” Like many gay men, Guido seems to suffer from an inverse Oedipal complex which has damaged his ability to start and maintain friendships and romantic relationships, but with Massimo and Angela he seems to have found the best of both worlds, or so he initially believes.
Ultimately, Guido seems to see Massimo and Angela as sort of surrogate parents whose love for one another he deeply admires to disturbing degrees to the point where he actively attempts to become a part of it. After failing to be aroused by a prostitute named Edera (Cosetta Greco) that Massimo is a friend/patron of, virgin Guido decides to seduce Angela when her boyfriend is away in Rimini studying for an exam. When Angela learns that Guido is a virgin, she is the one that ends up doing the seducing. While she enjoys having sex with Guido, she also confesses to him, “I don’t understand why I can’t love you and want him. Because I love him as before, even more. Is that wrong?,” hence why she never even considers breaking up with her boyfriend. Ultimately, Guido plots to have Massimo walk in on him and Angela together in bed, as he wants them to form a ménage à trios, but knows that his friend is far too ‘bourgeois’ to accept such a thing were he to ask him about it. Of course, Massimo freaks out and runs away upon seeing his best friend and girlfriend in bed together. While Guido attempts to convince his hurt friend that the three can live together as a threesome, Massimo agrees that he is a “banal bourgeois” who cannot stomach such things and decides to take the next train back to Rimini.
After talking to his prostitute friend Edera and having some time to cool down, Massimo eventually agrees to join Angela and Guido at the latter’s luxurious country villa where the three ultimately consummate a threesome. While Massimo basks in the majesty of the large villa, Guido tells him he is “naïve” because he had such an unhappy childhood that no amount of comforts or riches could make up for. Guido also reveals to both Massimo and Angela hints that he killed both of his parents, as they died in a car accident as a result of a busted tire, even though the tires were brand new (in an earlier part of the film, Guido pops one of his own tires). Guido is still resentful about his parents, stating of them, “I told you, they loved each other. I always came second. And they managed to die together. They even excluded me from that.” Of course, Guido will die alone. Indeed, after engaging in a passionate threesome with his two friends, Guido wakes up and tries to sneak out of the villa, but Massimo catches him and asks him what he is doing. Guido claims that he is going to buy cigarettes even though the store is not open and when Massimo asks if he can join him, he says no. Ultimately, like his parents, Guido dies in a dubious car accident, albeit alone. After Guido’s funeral, Massimo cuts off all contact with Angela. When Massimo finally attempts to talk to Angela, she infuriates her (ex)boyfriend by insinuating that Guido committed suicide due to his gay love for him. After revealing his love for both her and Guido, Massimo states of the latter that he was, “perhaps, better than me. He was like you.” In the end, Plagio concludes with Massimo shedding a tear for Guido as Angela walks away all by her lonesome.
Unlike a lot of the largely trashy exploitation films that he later starred in, Plagio was a sort of ‘labor of love’ for star Ray Lovelock, who later stated of the film that it, “really was a very special film: in fact I almost regret having made it so early in my career, perhaps I was a bit too immature for the character, which really was a great creation. Maybe if I'd had a bit more experience I would have been better equipped to do it justice.” Of course, Lovelock is selling himself short, as his performance in the film is arguably the best of his career and certainly one of the strongest attributes of the film, though auteur Sergio Capogna’s direction is also nothing less than striking and certainly better than the famous Italian auteur filmmakers from the same era like Bertolucci and Cavani. In fact, Lovelock credits the director’s passion for the film’s aesthetic majesty, stating, “I was completely guided by the director, Sergio Capogna, who had also written the story. At a certain point, the money ran out and most of the crew left rather than work for nothing. Only 12 of us stayed on so for a week we made the film ‘on the road' with just the director, the cameraman and the actors. I even had to operate the clapperboard!” Despite its sometimes histrionic overacting, Plagio is certainly a lost classic of Italian cinema that is dying to obtain cult status. While researching the film online, the only thing I could find were Japanese fan sites. Considering the strangely ‘immaculate’ and almost plastic-like beauty of the leads to the point where they somewhat resemble anime characters, I can see why Japs would swoon over such a film. Like a bisexual Guido Jules and Jim (1962) from the counter-culture generation, Plagio, unlike old perv Bertolucci’s botched jerk-off piece The Dreamers, almost makes the rather repugnant zeitgeist that it depicts seem almost exciting and romantic, which is certainly not something I can say of many films. Arguably a so-called ‘counter-revolutionary’ work where the two most ‘sexually liberated’ characters, Guido and Angela, are depicted as coming from broken homes (whereas “banal bourgeois” Massimo comes from a highly supportive family and only becomes a mental mess after being coerced into taking part in a ménage à trios), Capogna's startlingly overlooked film more or less depicts the protests of 1968 as being a latent reaction to poor parenting and lack of familial cohesion, which only makes sense considering the fascists love of the Father(land). If one thing is for sure, it is that the student revolutionaries of '68, who are now members and leaders of the very ‘system’ that they once rivaled against, have turned the Occident into a degenerate dystopia plagued by broken families, gender disharmony, nihilistic sexual perversions, multicultural chaos, childless female careerists, authoritarian political correctness, cultural vacancy, and a dying indigenous population that is being replaced with largely hostile aliens from the third world. With that in mind, Plagio absurdly seems like a sentimental depiction of the good old days.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 4:36 AM
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