Times like these are when I hate reviewing; when a film that I realize has merit just doesn’t strike me as being good. I totally comprehend it’s just “not my thing” and for others it most certainly would be, but I can’t be fake and rate a film higher than my personal enjoyment just because I know this will click with others. Reviews are simply an opinion at the end of the day, and that’s what I’ll be providing here; one for Tinto Brass’s Attraction, a film that I fully understand may float the boat of some, but personally sunk mine.
It’s pretty much impossible to surmise the plot of Attraction, as it’s not a narrative film. It’s more like moving pictures of whatever was popping into Brass’s head while filming; a stream of consciousness type of film. What is discernable is a married woman named Barbara is dropped off in bustling London by her husband during the early afternoon shopping rush. She soon finds herself drawn to a black man on a train, and he clearly has eyes for her as well. A playful courtship follows, with all sorts of psychedelic elements being thrown out at random throughout, including a UK rock band called Freedom contributing the soundtrack, not just musically but physically, as they show up at every turn playing live.
One thing about these rebellious, counter-culture films of the 60s and 70s is that you either had to have lived through it or have a strong interest in the era’s political climate to really appreciate them. Being 28 I obviously wasn’t a part of the movement and I’m not particularly interested in the specifics of it, so films like this come off as indulgent tripe to me. I actually like the bold statements it makes in a few areas, especially interracial romance which I have to think was a hot topic at the time, but the film is so scatterbrained that it never really delves into one area too deeply, giving the film a very disjointed feel. Sometimes being too free to do whatever you want while making a film isn’t the smartest of ideas.
I'm also not a fan of the period's music, so the fact that the film amounts to an 80-minute music video for Freedom with a bit of story here and there to move things along doesn't really help matters. They’re onscreen playing a new song at least every five minutes, and unless this is your type of music, you’ll want to quickly fast-forward and get back to the story. Of course, there really isn’t a story here at all, so I guess in a way it flows okay since the musical numbers aren’t exactly pulling you out of a strong narrative. Still, if you’re unsure whether this film will be for you or not, go to YouTube and listen to a Freedom track. If you don’t like it, then don’t bother as it’s all you’ll be hearing for 80 minutes. If you didn’t like The Rolling Stones you wouldn’t watch Shine a Light, would you?
Even with so many things working against my sensibilities, there was an element at play in Attraction that did hold my interest however, and that was the anticipation of seeing what the heck Brass would throw in front of the lens next. It sort of feels like he was sitting around smoking weed and dropping acid while directing and right in the middle of a scene he’d yell cut and tell everyone to put on giant cow heads. I know when I’ve been high I’ve always wanted to know what a cow would look like laying in a bed or thought I saw vampires and monsters hanging out in the tops of trees! The visual style of the film is also fantastic, it's just a shame there's not much there to bring it all together.
If you tend to find yourself staying up late on Saturday nights to watch Magical Mystery Tour for the 50th time, then by all means give Attraction a look. Tinto Brass fans may also find it an odd curiosity considering after this film he jumped head-first into erotic, and at times sleazy, cinema and never looked back. If you’ve already made up your mind you don’t like counter-culture, plotless art cinema though, this will do nothing to change your mind.
Cult Epics wraps up their slate of early Brass releases with Attraction. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film is taken from a 16mm English language print courtesy of Radley Metzger, who’s Audubon Films picked up the film for US distribution. As a quick side-note, this is apparently the first in a series of “Radley Metzger Presents” releases from Cult Epics, and looking at some of the films he produced and acquired for his studio, some quality Sexploitation goodness could be on the horizon. As for this release, while there’s a fair-share of print damage present, the film ultimately looks good, with nice colors that complement the color scheme of the film nicely. Fine detail is a bit lacking though, and one scene where the "Attraction" title and cast & crew credits scroll by, which I can only assume was culled from another print, suffers from cropping with most names only half-visible. Audio is a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix that has a bit of hiss present but for the most part is entirely acceptable. Extras include the English language trailer for the film (under the title The Artful Penetration of Barbara; gotta love this stuff!) and a short gallery of the film’s lobby cards.
Please feel free to discuss "Attraction" here, in our forums!