A Farewell to Arms, and Legs, and Breasts, and…
8 November 2008 | by Dirtymoviedevotee (dries.vermeulen@hotmail.be) (Brugge, Belgium)

As porn’s theatrical age drew to a close in the Old Country, Parisian field leader Alpha France decided to pull out all the stops for its final production (though cinemas continued for a while longer exhibiting purchased product) and wisely gave its in house director Claude Bernard-Aubert – a/k/a “Burd Tranbaree” – Carte Blanche for what was to prove his farewell to fornication films as well. With an alleged cast of 36, a veritable Who’s Who of the period though many of them restricted to orgy action, Tranbaree did not stray too far from his comfortable habitat, i.e. the upwardly mobile middle class of the French capital. While this favored choice of protagonist had stifled many a previous cinematic endeavor, he finally got the recipe right and managed to elicit audience sympathy for the plight of the socially pampered. Much of the film’s success can be attributed to leading lady Cathy Menard, a fine actress with hauntingly sad eyes, who delivers an absolute career performance – along with her very different turn in Gérard Kikoïne’s scathing BOURGEOISE…ET PUTE! – as apparently prototypical bored housewife Babeth. Yet it’s not her ennui which propels the pornographic proceedings but rather the dissatisfaction of her horn dog husband Léopold (stalwart Richard “Allan” Lemieuvre still shedding new light on familiar territory) who has been stringing along several mistresses to supplement the routine bedroom action he gets at home.

The narrative progresses logically with the movie’s strength lying not so much with the material, which isn’t all that original, but the director and cast’s surprisingly fresh handling thereof. Babeth shadows her husband in pure private eye fashion as he engages in some afternoon delight at a motel with secretary “Christine Glenne” a/k/a Marie-Christine Chireix, who played the starchy meter maid in Tranbaree’s initial explicit endeavor LA FESSEE, elegantly bringing the carnal circle to a full close. When wifey finds the unexpected competition an aphrodisiac and satisfies her mate with renewed vigor that night, this gives Léopold the courage to suggest their relationship turning a bit more adventurous with both spouses opening up, for the very first time perhaps, about their respective needs and desires. Experimenting with both voyeurism and exhibitionism at the notorious Bois de Boulogne leads the couple to the comparative safety of a swing club headed by down to earth Brigitte, sympathetically portrayed by screen sex siren France Lomay, unfortunately in a non-sex role. Sex establishment regular and friend of the family Violaine (the vivacious Elisabeth Buré) acts as their all too willing guide on the road to depravity, both husband and wife finding fulfillment and contentment along the way. Final sequence sees them holding a no holds barred soirée of their own (watch for the late lamented Cathy Stewart as a new recruit to the swapping scene) with Menard’s gaze of mocking disillusion just prior to fade-out possibly telling a different story.

Regardless of how you intellectually interpret this initiation of a married woman, either as a positive experience on the surface or rather negative in ostensible subtext, this movie provides the Gold Standard by which French fornication films should be judged. Pieces click together beautifully on a production level with imaginative aspects in photography and set design cleverly differentiating between various group get-togethers which could otherwise have grown quickly tedious. The director has also discarded many of the more outlandish sexual gimmicks he frequently resorted to in the past, like the dildo strapped to the rear end allowing for simultaneous penetration of two partners, which had already made him something of a laughing stock. A seasoned star cast – further including the likes of a pleasingly pompous Piotr Stanislas as the Baron, dependable Alban Ceray, porn paramours Carole and Alain L’Yle, mischievous Carole Piérac and massively underrated Olivia Flores a/k/a “Moanie” – knows perfectly well how to screw without silly tricks on celluloid, thank you very much. This wonderful swan song to 35mm adult film production by arguably the art form’s European giant supplies a fitting farewell to an era now long gone but never to be forgotten.





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