One of the basic criticisms made of filone cinema is that it it was imitative. Clearly imitation and innovation are placed in hierarchical terms, the latter valued above the former. But what then isn’t clear is what we should make of non-filone art films when they themselves form series.
Should Pasolini have made The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights after The Decameron? Should there have been a Trilogy of Life? Why couldn’t he have said everything he wanted to in the one film?
These questions are all the more important here in that what we have is a Decamerotic made in imitation of The Decameron but which takes as its source text The 1001 Nights – and this a good year or two before Pasolini’s version.
Antonio Margheriti’s approach is very different from Pasolini’s, of course, but this serves to further establish that the film and other Decamerotics were selectively rather than slavishly imitative, tending to get rid of the more serious elements.
Though probably not a particularly big-budget film, the money is all there on the screen.
Taken in its own right the film has a lot going for it, with attractive locations, production design and costumes – the last often not amounting to much as far as the female cast are concerned.
It is also pretty funny in places.
The film consists of three stories – how far they are actually found in The 1001 Nights I cannot say – vaguely connected by a framing device in which sultan Al Mamoun challenges three storytellers to arouse him with erotic / pornographic tales in order that he can satisfy the latest addition to his harem, Zumurud, incarnated by Femi Benussi.
The first of the three stories features another arbitrary and unjust sultan whose magic mirror tells him that he is not the greatest lover in the kingdom. He has the man who is sought out and sets him a test intended to demonstrate otherwise. Inevitably it doesn’t do what the sultan wanted...
More boobs, and some strategically placed fruit
This also means, however, that the storyteller’s work fails to satisfy Al Mamoun, who has him executed. Cue the second storyteller, whose fate is equally certain.
The second stort features Aladdin – or more exactly an Aladdin – and a Genie. Aladdin has the genie turn him invisible in order that he can sneak into a rich merchant’s house and make love to his wife Mariam, incarnated by Barbara Bouchet. Aladdin then makes use of a flying carpet to sneak her away. This flying carpet is distinguished by not going down until whoever is using it also ‘goes down’. Aladdin doesn’t have a problem with this when it is Bouchet, but inevitably the husband soon ends up on the flying carpet instead...
Bouchet auditions for The Sex Life of the Invisible Man
The third story begins with a parody of a spaghetti western as a mysterious stranger arrives in town to take up the challenge of satisfying a cruel princess thirteen times in one night. He proves more than up to this thanks to some duplicity that’s nicely, well, mirrored in Margeriti’s compositions...