Radley Metzger, 1973
Starring: Christiane Krüger, Mark Damon, Elga Sorbas, Anton Diffring
In some ways, Metzger’s Little Mother aka Mother is an anomaly in his early ‘70s catalog, tucked in between incredibly stylish erotic exploitation films like Camille 2000, The Lickerish Quartet, and Score. Make no mistake, Little Mother does contain some erotic scenes (orgy, anyone?) and the central character is a strong woman who gains her independence through sexual means, a la Carmen, Baby and Camille 2000, among others, but it seems that Metzger was trying to do something different and a little more ambitious with this film. Little Mother is actually a loose adaptation of the life of Eva Peron, which Metzger claimed he adapted before her story became famous around the world.
The life of Metzger’s Peron stand-in, Marina Pinares, unfolds through a series of complicated flashbacks, where we see her rise from a birth in poverty to incredible political power and a possible presidency. In addition to prostituting herself, Marina is responsible for torture, betrayal, and almost constant power plays, particularly after she learns of her limited life sentence due to a terminal illness. She crushes a variety of friends and lovers under foot, namely her friend Annette, who parallels Marina’s story of partying, sex, and eventually syphilis, tuberculosis, and a murder planned by Marina. Her people, meanwhile, worship her, thinking she is generous, motherly, and almost saintly.
Christiane Krüger is absolutely lovely in the role, though her accent and sometimes questionable acting ability occasionally gets in the way of what should be a compelling, charismatic performance. She is more masculine than most of the actresses chosen for Metzger’s films, but this generally works in his favor and he is able to overcome her stiffness with a few very sexy scenes, including one involving a glass shower door. Metzger’s regular collaborator, Hans Jura, is in charge of cinematography and makes the absolute most of the set. The result is a film that looks far more expensive than it actually cost to make, and, as always, stylish and elegant.
Though the script, Croatian locations (it’s a beautiful country, but not so much here, where post-war poverty still lingers), and average performances don’t do anything in the film’s favor, it is still worth watching. It is certainly his weakest of the period, but only in the sense that the surrounding films are so strong, erotic, and imaginative. This mainly comes recommended for Metzger fans. It is interesting to see him attempt a historical drama with minimal eroticism, at least compared to his other early works, but it is ultimately a bit too ambitious. There is a decent DVD from Image/First Run that looks better than I expected it would, but keep in mind that this is still a relatively low budget early ‘70s film.