Brass Candy

Boop-boop-a-doop!If one asked the average-average filmgoer (as opposed to the average, whose film diet probably omits most of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s spate of comedic dreck, which is a significant difference) questions about European cinema, there would probably be a blank stare, if not mere mentions of recent award-winning films or foreign films shared within the friend-family-marital realm. In other words: fairly bland, if not a safe taste for things uplifting, melodramatic, or pretty good – but not daring.

Now, daring doesn’t have to be naughty, but a bit of sixties/seventies political incorrectness never hurts, because sometimes within the confines of a once popular genre lie refreshing ideas that directors like Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright and Martin Scorsese have been screaming about for years – more so with the younger batch of directors whose work embraces the often risqué technique as well as human behaviour from the (mostly) exploitation sub-genres.

Again, that doesn’t have to include naughtiness, but sometimes a bit of rudeness spices up the obligatory elements directors had to acknowledge to keep paying audiences ducky.

That’s why a giallo deals with murder/mystery/incoherent plotting, spaghetti westerns combine a style of music/cinematography/cruelty/morality/Mediterranean tanned cow punchers and healthy Italian/Brazilian/French/German/Spanish babes, and the sex comedy deals with sex/mistaken behaviour and an acknowledgement that (mostly male) audiences are supposed to be wearing big, dumb, placid grins when an Edwige Fenech (or the real Fenech) displays her extraordinary ubaldishness, and moves with cat-like ubaldinastity.

The aforementioned directors are also well aware, and have blabbed on in recent documentaries and featurettes, of the technical and stylistic elements that make European cinema so amazing. This isn’t a rejection of other countries and their cinema heritage, but there’s a sharing of genres, actors, and warping of conventions between American, British, Italian and occasionally German thrillers, as well as sex comedies.

Candy (1968) was sort of a blending of elements, except it fell flat on its ass because of excess (style and running time), a wonky structure, lack of coherence, a vapid leading heroine, and the sadness of seeing a few great actors doing truly embarrassing things.

It’s sad when an award-winning actor is doing dreck for money (Cuba Gooding voluntarily made Daddy Day Camp for his family, so he doesn’t count), but then there’s seeing Richard Burton, barely a few years after making Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967), slurping up spilt alcohol from a glass-bottomed limo floor for what seems like an hour.

Is it funny? For a bit, and then it’s just painful.

Candy is not a good film and will never evolve into some underrated classic, but it has moments of arguable brilliance when the film camera, the actors, and editing capture the absurdity of Terry Southern’s outrageous writing style. He co-wrote with Stanley Kubrick Dr. Strangelove (1964), and wrote Barbarella (1967), and one gets traces of his insanity in Candy, as well as the best evocation of a Daffy Duck cartoon taken to its full narrative potential.

Anchor Bay released the DVD back in 2001, but it’s been out of print for a while now in Region 1 land, and the film needs a proper special edition. Historian commentary track, if not documentary, interviews, publicity archives, and a reassessment of what parts of Buck Henry’s film adaptation of Southern and Hoffenberg’s novel clicked.

The film was released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation, so perhaps like Bluebeard (1972), that dead company’s back catalogue is now handled by Lionsgate, a company known for good but perfunctory DVD releases of European classics, as well as superb special editions for recent American cult classics like Monster Squad (1987) and My Bloody Valentine (the original, not the poo-poo undie remake).

Someone should get cracking, seeing how Candy is now 40 years old.

Besides the overall train wreck appeal, part of that film’s notoriety is the casting of relative newcomer Ewa Aulin, a Swedish pastry who evolved from teen model to leading lady within a short period before leaving acting in 1973.

Aulin isn’t good in Candy, but then it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to bring depth to what’s basically Betty Boop as a blonde. Aulin as a mistress (Death Laid an Egg) or heroine work fine, and that’s where’ Deadly Sweet / Col cuore in gola (1967) comes in.

It’s her first real leading role prior to Candy, and more importantly, it’s part of a handful of ‘straight’ movies written, edited, and directed by Tinto Brass. The curiosity among his fans is what his non-smut film were like prior to Salon Kitty (1975), and if Deadly Sweet is a sampling of his pop art style, Brass was an impressive talent.

Before you click the “X” at the top of the tab and close this window, just read the review. It’s long and windy, but there’s a strong case to be made for a) what European directors brought to the British film industry during the booming swinging sixties period, and b) the sometimes experimental editing technique Brass employed in telling a story with a desire to balance genre conventions, be a bit satirical, political, and show a bit of skin now and then.

Part of the film’s success comes from the editing, and Brass says on the DVD commentary track (and it’s a good one) how he collaborated with Franco Arcalli, a great Italian cutter who worked with Antonioni, Bertolucci, Questi, and, uh, Brass.

Did Arcalli influence Brass’ editing technique? One film from his British period isn’t enough to say, but one film from this period shouldn’t be all that comes out on DVD.

Within his Brass’ C.V. there’s a short film, a spaghetti western, a drama, and two films with Vanessa Redgrave. Two films with British thespian royalty.

How is such a thing possible?

That’s where the mystery lies, and hopefully this marks the first DVD Brass’ British period that Cult Epics will exploit. Before Caligula (1980), there were more than asses in Brass’ career.

Deadly Sweet proves it.

Now you can click the “X.”



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