Radley Metzger, 1975
Starring: Mary Mendum aka Rebecca Brooke, Carl Parker, Marilyn Roberts
Continuing with his series of excellent softcore and hardcore films that led up to Metzger’s masterpiece, The Opening of Misty Beethoven, comes The Image, one of his most beautiful and most erotic works. At a party in Paris, Jean meets up with an old acquaintance, Claire, and is smitten with her friend, the beautiful but quiet Anne. He begins spending time with Claire and Anne and learns that their friendship is not a normal one - they both enjoy S&M and Anne is Claire’s slave. Jean becomes more obsessed with Anne, who has to do whatever Claire commands. Claire kindly shares her, leading them on a number of adventures, though their threesome is not really as it seems.
Though this is technically a hardcore film (Metzger directed it under his porn pseudonym, Henry Paris) and there’s plenty of nudity, there is little in the way of explicit sex. There are a number of scenes of unsimulated fingering and oral sex, but there is no visible vaginal penetration, though the latter is implied in two scenes towards the end of the film. Most of the erotic scenes are sadomasochistic and thus relatively unconventional fare for '70s sex films. Anne, who is not allowed to wear underwear throughout the course of the film, is pleasured with a rose and then punished with its thorns. She is forced to publicly urinate in a garden and to stand at an expensive tea house while Jean and Claire finger her from behind, among other things. She engages in a threesome with Jean and a lingerie assistant while shopping for new (crotchless) underwear. On the more extreme side, she is repeatedly tied up and whipped, and also jabbed with needles. Claire forces her to pleasure Jean and in one scene it is unclear whether or not Jean is raping her. Probably not a film for everyone.
All three stars give good performances, though Carl Parker’s (the saucy telephone repairman from Metzger’s Score) Jean sadly narrates much of the film. This was a typical ‘60s/early ‘70s convention, but it will undoubtedly seem cheesy to modern viewers. Mary Mendum (Laura’s Toys, among others, credited here as Rebecca Brooke) is excellent as the icy, reticent, and vulnerable Anne who suffers and enjoys a number of increasingly violent and humiliating punishments. I think the real star is Marilyn Roberts (Looking for Mr. Goodbar), who becomes more beautiful and seductive as the film progresses.
Though not everyone will enjoy The Image, I think it is one of Metzger’s most erotic and beautifully shot films with some incredible set pieces. Also known as The Punishment of Anne and The Mistress and the Slave, like so many of Metzger’s other films, this has a literary source and is based on Jean de Berg aka Catherine Robbe-Grillet’s (wife of writer and director Alain Robbe-Grillet) novel of the same name. Though there is some extreme subject matter, this is a subtle love story in the vein of Pauline Reage’s Story of O. In the beginning of the film, Claire shows Jean a series of photographs depicting Anne in a sadomasochistic sexual scenario. The titular image, a picture of a naked woman that is clearly not Anne, sparks Jean’s interest. He comes to realize it is Claire, leading to their developing interest in one another that results in a surprisingly romantic and vanilla conclusion.
Synapse lovingly restored The Image and released it on Blu-ray. It looks amazing, though there are sadly no real special features other than some fluff and nice liner notes from Nathaniel Thompson. Hopefully Arrow or Distribpix will get ahold of this sometime soon, because I would love a commentary track from Metzger.