a Trash Cinema After Dark review
Written by The Primal Root
Sex is incredible; The feeling of being intensely aroused by another human being, the electricity of having that feeling reciprocated, and the excitement as your bodies move closer, are some of life’s greatest thrills. Without sex—the most innate of all human interactions—life just wouldn’t be worth living. There’s nothing in this world that can fill us with such a sense of vigor as a good, healthy, consensual, fuck. It’s life’s natural exclamation point.
This is why I find it such a shame that in my country (the good ‘ol, U.S. of A.) we treat coitus like it’s the most horrifying act imaginable. A perfect example is the recent film Blue Valentine, which was initially slapped with an NC-17 rating for showing two adults getting it on. Show a female nipple (or two) or, heaven forbid, a penis… and it’s labeled obscene. That is how the nude human body is viewed in our arcane society. Americans can handle watching people being killed on prime time local news networks. They are comfortable with the fact that Hollywood scenes of graphic, horrific violence are open to audiences who can’t even legally buy cigarettes. But throw a titty up on the screen, and our morally immature citizens come marching out of the woodwork, rambling righteously through their loudspeakers.
This mind set sucks, gang. When America’s moral scale is tipped by the mere glimpse of a woman’s breasts, but remains undisturbed by the hacking off of genitals (a la Eli Roth), something is horribly off with our equilibrium.
Which is why I thank my lucky stars for those artists who rebel against our ridiculous moral code and create films that explore human sexuality, for those courageous few who unabashedly bring sex into the light and force us to take a nice, long look. Sex isn’t as simple as many pornographers might lead us to believe. It’s a complex jumble of human experience and emotion. It can be just as cruel and vindictive as it is amazing and beautiful. It can be superficial or it can be deeply meaningful. It can trample us down just as easily as it can lift us up.
Sex is powerful, without question. Whether you save yourself for marriage or have a dozen lovers in every zip code, you cannot deny that sex is an ever-present force in our day-to-day lives.
Which brings me to Italian filmmaker, Tinto Brass’s 2000 flick, Cheeky (Trasgredire). It is a film about two lovers, our star Carla (Yuliya Mayarchuk) and her jealous fella Matteo (Jarno Beradi). Carla is a strikingly beautiful, free spirited young woman who is in London looking to find the perfect apartment for Matteo. She explores the city in see through, skin-tight tank tops and mini skirts (without the aid undergarments). Does she seem ashamed? Not in the slightest. She’s proud of what she’s packing and flaunts her sexuality openly.
This how we are introduced to her: smiling, self confident and gorgeous, bouncing through some park right out of Penthouse Forum, where everyone is either fondling someone else’s crotch or showing off their own. Or, as in the case of one woman, rolling though on a rascal scooter while she walks her dog. It’s the park that underwear forgot; women spread their legs freely as they sit in the grass, people get pounced behind trees and an old man ruins the sanctity of this innocent sex oasis by flashing his didgeridoo from beneath a stained rain coat. Carla is at first shocked, but then flashes her own lovely sexual anatomy at the old man causing him to flee, frightened by such an assertive woman.
This is the world Cheeky explores. There’s a ton of sex going on here. When the act isn’t happening in the here and now of the film, there’s a flashback to some other point when someone was having sex. There is literally not ONE character here without sexual motivations… as, one could argue, there are few people in real life who aren’t driven by some sexual motivation, bubbling just beneath the surface. But in Carla’s world, everyone’s intentions are out in the open and to the viewer this is refreshing and titillating, though maybe a bit disconcerting at first.
Hell, as soon as Carla heads to a real estate office to enquire about rental properties, she is promptly hit on and groped by the statuesque lesbian real-estate agent, Moira (Francesca Nunzi). Carla is befriended by Moira but never gives into her wild flirting (so as not to betray Matteo), even when they are in the shower and Moira begins sticking her finger into Carla’s ‘lady region’.
Matteo, on the other hand, is the only repressed character in the movie. While on the phone with Carla, who is masturbating and telling him about the hot woman who hit on her, Matteo can only express his fear and insecurity regarding Carla’s fidelity and beg her to hurry to London so they can get it on. Seriously, Matteo needs to get a fucking clue, man. His character is a frustrating, wet towel of a character whom the viewer just want to forget about and get back to Carla’s flirty and fun sexually charged romps around London. Matteo’s pouty, emo existence is made even worse when he uncovers old nude photos of Carla along with letters from an old flame. Being the insecure man he is, Matteo takes this opportunity to rip Carla a new one, causing a fracture in their relationship.
Without spoiling all the fun, that’s the basic plot in Tinto Brass’s Cheeky, which is heavy on genitalia low on story. Cheeky stands in direct opposition to many of Tinto’s previous works like Caligula and Salon Kitty; which, though sexually charged, presented sex as something sinister, ugly and often trite. But sex, within Cheeky, is presented as something festive, to be enjoyed someone you care about. There is an moment in the movie that reminds us how hollow it can feel if sex is had for the wrong reasons. It’s the single sad moment in an otherwise uplifting (in more ways that one) flick about the joys of sex and the adventure of life.
There are some truly inspired sex scenes here, nothing too gratuitous, but often showing more anatomy than you would ever find in any late night offerings from Skinemax. There is one scene that stands out for me, which is a flashback sequence between Carla and her former lover, Bernard. The scene takes place on the beach in mid-day and is shot entirely in slow motion. It’s a strikingly photographed, choreographed and edited sequence that is as deeply arousing as it is light hearted and delicate. Tinto Brass proves himself to have a knack for a creating very sweet, lovely bits of cinematic erotica to counter point his darker, more painful material.
And, to be honest, I enjoy this light and fluffy sex romp far more than the hard-edged material of his past. I know, I know, I am supposed to be Mister Hardcore. But when it comes to sex, I tend to enjoy the sweet stuff as opposed to people being shot by Nazi generals while standing naked in a sauna or seeing men have their penises bound and then being graphically gutted on screen. Yeah, I think I’ll go with the fun stuff where everyone’s junk is left intact, thank you very much.
It’s a strange, sexy, mixed up world out there filled with wonder, chaos, and madness. Sex is an amazing gift, not something to live in fear of or dismiss as an ugly, disgusting act. If there’s one thing on this planet we should rejoice in, it is each other.
I look forward to my continued investigation into Tinto Brass’s filmography. If you have any recommendations for me I’d love to hear them!
-The Primal Root