Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Radley Metzger, 1969
Starring: Danièle Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo, Eleonora Rossi-Drago, Philippe Forquet

Though he tread somewhat similar thematic ground with the earlier Carmen, Baby, also a literary adaptation, Metzger’s Camille 2000 is the film I would consider to be his first masterpiece. Based on Alexander Dumas’ The Lady of the Camellias, which was most famously adapted as Verdi’s opera La Traviata and as George Cukor’s film Camille (1936) starring Greta Garbo, Camille 2000 concerns the beautiful, wildly independent Marguerite and her doomed romance with the young, innocent Armand. Marguerite is essentially a courtesan. She is a drug addicted party girl, kept by a wealthy older man, but is not opposed to entertaining others in order to keep herself in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed. She also enjoys throwing orgy parties at her house just for fun. Armand is instantly smitten with her and eventually wins her over, though he is angered and upset by her lifestyle. 

She briefly tries to change her ways and even supports Armand financially, because he has had his allowance cut off due to her reputation. But she knows it cannot last. Marguerite discards Armand and returns to her life of sex, drugs, and parties, hiding her heartbreak and concealing a dark secret that will soon spell her doom. Like Carmen, Baby, this is about a woman who has gained financial independence through her sexuality, a sexuality that Metzger portrays as essentially positive, a sign of a strong personality and secure individualism. While Carmen (and her powerful eroticism) is linked to a certain criminal element, Marguerite is a consummate party girl and her love of sex and dependence on it is mirror by other addictions, namely drugs. She is a slave to her lifestyle and past decisions have spelled her death sentence in the form of a terminal sexually transmitted disease. 

Model and actress Danièle Gaubert is absolutely radiant and the camera worships her. Nino Castelnuovo (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Strip Nude for Your Killer, Massacre Time) is very nice to look at, but pales in comparison to Gaubert, who completely overwhelms him. The chemistry between Gaubert and Castelnuova is somewhat lacking, but thanks to Gaubert’s expressiveness, it doesn’t really take away from the film. The dialogue is simple, but this is the first time Metzger’s trademark wit and humor are present, something that would shine in his later classics like The Opening of Misty Beethoven.  

As for the sex, there isn’t anything mind blowing or taboo busting, but Metzger’s portrayal of promiscuity is, as always, matter of fact and pleasingly free of judgement. He explores some questions common to his films, such as how sex and love relate to identity and to ownership. There is a truly wonderful scene towards the end of the film where everyone attends a prison-themed S&M party. Camille 2000 is worth watching just for the costumes and set pieces during this scene. This is also Metzger's most explicit film to date, showing more nudity and a little more softcore sex than his earlier works. Instead of close ups of faces in presumed ecstasy, there are actually full-framed shots of entangled bodies with the usual refreshing emphasis on female as well as male pleasure. Be forewarned that almost all of the sex scenes are very long. 

The film in general is perhaps overly long with slow pacing and gradually building intensity that moves towards a predictable conclusion, but both as an exercise in style and as an example of erotic filmmaking, Camille 2000 is definitely worth a look. Style is far more important than substance here, but that is where Metzger really shines. Though some of his early films like Therese and Isabelle are lovely, this is really where he began to expert with outstanding results. There is wonderful cinematography from Ennio Guarnieri and art director Enrico Sabbatini packs every frame with color, texture, fabrics, weird inflatable furniture, oddly shaped mirrors, and fantastic, futuristic costumes that celebrate excess. Marguerite’s bedroom, with its glass, mirrors, and shiny white sheets foreshadows the hospital scene at the end of the film, where she and Armand have their final, emotional meeting. The score by Piero Piccioni is another fantastic element. You can listen to it here. 

Camille 2000 is my favorite early Metzger film and it comes highly recommended. There is a Blu-ray from Cult Epics, who are restoring and releasing Metzger’s films with the utmost care and respect. They have included deleted scenes back into the film and recorded a commentary track with Metzger, among other special features. There is also a great region 2 Blu-ray with even more special features and a DVD combo from Arrow.

Edit: Arrow was kind enough to send me their fabulous new Camille 2000 Blu-ray, which is worthy of some additional attention. This February, they released Camille 2000 on dual format Blu-ray + DVD with two other Metzger titles, Score and The Lickerish Quartet, all of which are restored with incredible respect and detail. And they were personally overseen by Radley Metzger. The print here is so far the most complete released in the U.K. and I believe reflects the most complete version of the print available in general (it seems to be from the same source as the Cult Epics U.S.-released Blu-ray).

It was fairly standard for Metzger’s later films to be released in cut versions, particularly the hardcore movies he made as Henry Paris. Though Camille is a softcore film, some scenes were removed upon its theatrical release. The Arrow version is 124 minutes, while many other releases reflect the 116 minute trimmed print. The transfer is a 1080p/24fps MPEG4-AVC codec in the original 2:35.1 aspect ratio, restored from the original Technicolor 35mm negative, with some of the extra footage taken from another 35mm interpositive print. It is certainly the best this lush, beautiful film could possibly look. The remaining dust and spots were purposefully left in by Metzger, who wanted the film to have an original look, which means most post processing was also avoided. The audio also sounds great and optional English subtitles were included.

There are also some wonderful special features that make this release well worth picking up. The audio commentary track from Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen is my favorite extra and sheds some light on an era I have been revisiting extensively in February and will continue to look at in March: ‘60s and ‘70s erotica and porn. Also included is On the Set of Camille 2000 with behind the scenes footage of stars Danièle Gaubert and Nino Castelnuovo and narration from Metzger. A cut scene is included, “Sylviana’s Bare Striptease,” as well as an alternate take, a comparison of the print restoration, and original trailers for all three films Arrow has restored. The set also includes a collector’s booklet with essays from Robin Bougie (Cinema Sewer). On a final note, this is a region free release, so even though it comes from the U.K., it will work in any player. 

No comments:

Post a Comment