Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Follie di notte / Crazy Nights / Notti pazze della Amanda Lear

Given Joe D'Amato's prodigious work-rate and his willingness to engage with just about any filone, it comes as little surprise that he should have made a mondo film, Follie di Notte.

The closest points of comparison are probably the two Jimmy Matheus / Bruno Mattei entries hosted by Laura Gemser and released about the same time, Le Notti porno nel mondo and the self-explanatory Emanuelle e le porno notti nel mondo n. 2, the latter co-scripted by Mattei and D’Amato.

Though Gemser is absent here, her stand in being Amanda Lear – a popular singer of the time, who book-ends proceedings with performances of a couple of her songs in a nightclub – it’s otherwise largely business as usual:

A touch of stock footage of Brazil in an unsuccessful attempt to convince us that the routine there, featuring a panther woman and some J&B bottles, wasn't conveniently filmed in Rome; voice-over documentary type scenes of highly dubious authenticity, such as a black mass cum orgy and a look inside a S&M club filmed with a rather noisy ‘hidden’ camera where outwardly respectable men enjoy being whipped and humiliated; doubts over that Lear knew what she was actually commenting on in her bridging scenes; and the overlaying of the mass of dialogue-free material with stock library music, much of it forming a Piero Umiliani greatest hits collection.

Being a D'Amato production, it's also a touch more sexually explicit than Mattei's films and others of the time, with brief masturbation and fellatio shots amongst the simulated fumblings between the likes of two 'primitive' dancers and a couple of 'lesbian' ‘ballerinas’.

The Amanda Lear variety hour?

There’s even a touch of reflexive self-justification as one segment sees a reporter interview a porn actress, who remarks that there’s no essential difference between porn and other types of cinema and discusses her unusual relationship with her impotent, voyeuristic husband, as clips from one of her movies – or maybe another of D’Amato’s– play on the screen before her and the interviewer. (There is no doubt that Marina Frajese / Hedman appeared in several porn films, including many for D’Amato, more that she is really representing herself here rather than a character.)

The thing that is lacking about this supposedly shocking material is, however, its ability to actually shock anyone who has sat through the full version of the director’s Emanuelle in America – as a film whose fake snuff scenes are far more disturbing than the S&M here, in diegetically going beyond the safe, sane and consensual – or any of the sex and horror themed crossovers he would soon engage in.

On the plus side, D’Amato’s presence as cinematographer under his real name, Aristide Massaccessi, grants proceedings a touch more visual dynamism as he attempts to mimic and further embody the performers delirium rather than just record it.

The film may also encourage us to think about the longer history of the mondo film, as a continuation of the hitherto repressed anti-narrative, exhibitionistic, spectacular and shocking tradition of the early “cinema of attractions”.

Yes, trash meets the avant-garde yet again...


Anonymous said...

I guess Lear might also have been chosen because there were persistent rumours that she was actually a transsexual.

K H Brown said...

That's certainly possible, though the impression I get is that she always denied and played down these, such that if D'Amato was to exploit this he would have had to have been careful, and done it in the post-production and promotion.

Wonder if D'Amato ever worked with Ajita Wilson...

Johan Melle said...

I love some of Amanda Lear's songs like "Enigma" and "Follow Me". I'm no expert on her but I seem to recall reading that she deliberately addressed questions of her gender in a rather ambiguous manner. This was apparently in order to make her more mysterious and to make sure she stayed a popular star whose persona was clouded in mystery.

Ajita Wilson *did* work for D'Amato. She is in one of his other mondo movies made prior to this one. D'Amato tells a funny anecdote about shooting a scene with her and Rick "Erocolino" Martino in the Joe D'Amato Uncut documentary.

Btw, was your version of Follie di notte in English or Italian?

K H Brown said...

Was Martino the one D'Amato credits with turning queer? He's credited in this, though I wasn't sure who he was - Hedman's partner?

My version was in Italian; I downloaded it off Cinemageddon a few days ago.



Johan Melle said...


Unfortunately, I don't have the D'Amato doc with me but from my memory, D'Amato talks about having a huge promblem with shooting a scene with Ajita and Martino in Le notti porno nel mondo nÂș 2 because Ajita's sexy dance routine kept giving Martino a visible boner. In the end, D'Amato told Martino that Ajita was actually a "he" and that was the end of that problem. That's how I remember the anecdote at least. Hehe!

Martino was Marina Hedman's partner in her hardcore debut in Emanuelle in America but I don't know who he could have been in Follie di notte as I still haven't seen it. I've been on the lookout for an English version but not come across it yet...