DARK SIDE OF LOVE
One 7 Movies
ridiculous as it might seem, I think there is a strong argument
for saying that the mid-80s were some sort of golden age for Italian
erotic cinema. Seriously. Think about it - with the rest of the
country’s exploitation and horror genres in decline, filmmakers
were increasingly drawn to the softcore cinema that still had
a market, and a bunch of glossy movies came forth, far removed
from the sex comedies and sleazy exploitation of the previous
decade. Led by Tinto Brass and Joe D’Amato, a whole bunch
of films flooded forth, and while many were pretty dull, some
managed to transcend their own limitations. The Dark Side
of Love is one of those films – a well-crafted,
surprisingly erotic story that shamelessly plunges headfirst into
sexual taboos – in this case, incest.
Now, it takes a special kind of person to try and mine the field
of brother-sister sex for its erotic potential, but Salvatore
Samperi steps up and, against the odds, pulls it off – partly
through allowing the incestuous elements to be manifested as a
combination of forbidden yearnings and sexual manipulation rather
than any actual coupling, and partly because the viewer is aware
that the two leads are not really related and so is less
unwilling to appreciate the erotic frissons of the film.
In fact, this is more a story of dominance and submission –
not in a BDSM sense though, but rather the ongoing manipulation
that takes place within the power games that Patrizia (Monica
Guerritore) and her brother Emilio (Lorenzo Lena) play out. When
she returns to the family home to look after her shut-in, socially
and wilfully inept brother following the deaths of their parents,
the pair quickly develop a love-hate relationship. He resents
her attempts to force him into the outside world (and you can’t
blame him – she’s self-centered, arrogant and pushy)
but also feels an attraction to her – something made obvious
by an erection during a platonic cuddle. While Patrizia is shocked
by this, the pair start to develop a curious bond, and after an
unsatisfying night with an old boyfriend, she comes to tell Emilio
an explicit, masturbatory story about a previous sexual encounter.
This soon becomes a regular thing, the stories and her telling
of them taking on a more and more provocative manner – and
it’s here where the film achieves a genuine eroticism, the
combination of her stories and the tease having a real punch.
even as this is happening, she tries to fix him up with a sexy
model acquaintance who he somehow manages to resist (more fool
him, I say), while Emilio provokes her to carry out the sexual
acts she is describing in the stories for real with strangers.
As the pair battle for control, their own forbidden desires become
harder and harder to resist.
You can’t really call a film about a brother-sister relationship
‘tasteful’, but The Dark Side of Love
is far from the crass exploitation piece you might expect. By
softcore standards, there’s little nudity (and it’s
fairly evenly distributed between men and women) and the story
is handled more seriously than you might expect. The most explicit
moment, in fact, is a brief hardcore shot glimpsed on a TV screen
as Emilio watches a porno film. Being a 1980s film, there are
of course a couple of heinous songs and fashion photo shoots that
are considerably more offensive than anything in the story.
I’m not sure if 1980s Euro erotica has yet found a cult
following – though if not, it’s surely only a matter
of time. The Dark Side of Love, regardless of
the bad taste central idea, is one of the best non-Brass examples
of the genre though, for viewers with no sense of shame at least.
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