Having been a serious film fan for over 10 years now, there aren’t many deep, dark corners of cinema that I’ve yet to experience. When one is unearthed however, I wholeheartedly embrace immersing myself in the new-found goodies. Enter Pornochanchada, a genre of filmmaking in Brazil during the late 70’s and early 80’s akin to the Pink film of Japan. While the films weren’t allowed to touch on political and social issues like the Pink film was known for, Pornochanchada (or Chada, for short) did deal utilize higher budgets, name actresses, and were directed with an artistic eye that we don’t normally associate with softcore films in the US.
Thanks to Impulse Pictures, some of these films will soon be seeing the light of day here in the US, and their first offering, as well as my first look at the genre, is The Chick’s Ability. The film centers on young Cristina, who, after she’s discovered having sex by her parents and is kicked out of the house when refusing to make the relationship official, finds herself in the big city with a bun in the oven. Once there she meets up with her cousin Clara, who works as a prostitute. She agrees to take her in, but it's short-lived, and after a disagreement Cristina shacks up with a transvestite named Lili who lives in the apartment building. Once the baby is born, it's unfortunately discovered that he needs an operation, and it’s not a cheap one. Laura, her nurse, suggests that she poses for her boyfriend Marcus, who is an artist. Marcus quickly falls for Cristina, which causes friction with Laura. Meanwhile, her cousin Clara’s pimp gets a look at Cristina, and he’s determined to have her work for him.
All notions that this movement of filmmaking was Brazil’s answer to Japan’s Pink film were quickly tossed out just a few minutes into the film. If anything, The Chick’s Ability has much more in common with the Eurotrash softcore films of Joe D’Amato and friends. The flick is sickeningly soaked in soap opera aspects, from the tangled web of love, the convoluted multiple storylines, and the melodramatic dialogue. Basically, if you took one of the more risqué plots from General Hospital and tossed in a bunch of nudity and sex scenes, you’d probably get something that resembles The Chick’s Ability. The story is pure fluff, but just good enough to get you through to the next sex scene, probably thanks to director John Doo’s discerning eye behind the camera, letting no shot linger too long and including some nice locales to keep the audience interested.
As far as I’m concerned, none of the sex scenes are particularly erotic, but they’re sure as hell entertaining. If this is how people have sex in Brazil, more power to them! Everyone in the film looks to have studied the Kama Sutra long and hard, with some incredibly bizarre positions being put to use. The bodies involved all tend to be notably sweaty, which lends weight to the passion onscreen, but doesn’t exactly translate well to the viewer who’s looking to be titillated. While the scenes aren’t really hardcore, and there’s no actual penetration shown, some of the scenes are pretty explicit and border right on the line of XXX, including full hard-on’s and one section that features pretty graphic oral sex. I’d have to say this may be the thinnest of ice I’ve seen treaded for a film not crossing into hardcore territory.
The acting on display is all quite passable for a film of this nature, although it seems the dialogue was dubbed in after filming, and the delivery sounds a bit off at times. While Helena Ramos seems to be touted as the star of this vehicle even though she isn’t in the main role (probably because she was a pretty big star in Brazil at this point), the real show-stealer is Vanessa Alves, who plays Cristina. For one, she’s an absolute cutie and exudes the innocence that fans of these types of films eat up. She has a lot of the same appeal that Cristina Lindberg has. Not only that, she’s a pretty good actress as well. She delivers her lines with surprising conviction, and carries a completely believable naivety throughout the film. Her wide-eyed, innocent look plays into the film well, and by the end when she opens herself up (literally!), it makes for all the more shocking material.
As an introduction to the world of Pornochanchada, you could probably find a better film, but as it stands, The Chick’s Ability is still just good enough to warrant a look for those curious about the genre and for fans of softcore Euro flicks. The soap opera tendencies of the story are a little much, the comedic elements usually miss the mark, and the ending is a bizarre amalgamation of happy and depressing, but the ample amounts of flesh on display should prove satisfactory for the audience this film is likely to attract.
Impulse Pictures looks to bring awareness of Pornochanchada here in the US courtesy of their Classic Latin Erotica Collection, and The Chick’s Ability is the first release. The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, and looks just fine. There’s some print damage here and there, along with some scratches as well as a bit of a washed-out look (but that could be intentional), but an admirable job has been done to make things look as good as possible. It should be noted that outdoor nighttime scenes are particularly grainy. The Portuguese Dolby Digital mono track is nice and clear, and the English subs are quite good, with only a few errors that I noticed. The disc itself lacks any extras, but an insert is included giving a quick history on the Pornochanchada genre, as well as a glimpse of their next release coming this summer, the awesome-looking Violence and Flesh.
Please feel free to discuss "The Chick's Ability" here, in our forums!