A young woman named Diana Tornetti sits in front of a panel of school advisors, ready to give her final thesis in hopes of achieving a degree in sociology. What her thesis is on however shocks her superiors: prostitution. For the past three months, Diana has gone undercover and taken on a double life as a prostitute, to learn about sex, the Italian man, and what makes the ladies of the night tick. Through multiple flashbacks, she relays her tales of sex and debauchery, most of which end up in laughs more so than anything seedy or dangerous, which involve mob bosses, gay waiters, lunatics, and a politician with a pistol-packing, pissed-off wife. Diana seems to be having so much fun in her new profession, it makes one wonder if she even really needs the sociology degree to become successful in life.
Having not seen many Italian sex comedies in my time, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with Italian Sex. After having watched it, I’m still not sure what I should expect. There’s just something about Italian Sex that makes it feel like a second-rate production. It has none of the flash that I’ve come to expect with Italian cinema, and I’m not even talking about the over-the-top flair of their horror films. No, even their neo-realism period of films had a look about them that stood out, making even poverty look appealing. Italian Sex, simply put, looks blah. Everything looks extra flat and is generally boring to look at. What makes it all the more perplexing is that the cinematographer, Franco Villa, made his name with director Fernando Di Leo (who may or may not have had a hand in directing this; doesn’t much look it though), a director whose films look quite good, with his crime flicks capturing a wonderful gritty realism. Most things about Italian Sex feel like a half-hearted effort at best.
These things could obviously be overlooked if the story was strong enough to grab hold of your attention, but it unfortunately doesn't. Just like most of the film’s other elements, the narrative is light and unchallenging with a lack of focus. It can be argued that that’s a plus, as Italian Sex jumps around from scenario to scenario so frequently that you’ll never get bored, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be particularly interested. It would be overly harsh though to say you won't find any enjoyment from Italian Sex. The flashback scenarios at first are quite charming and amusing, especially ones dealing with customers who are attempting to turn their gay son straight and an ugly guy who couldn’t be nicer and gives Diana a ton of money only to find out he was sent by her mother to deliver the cash, but as the film moves on these situations become more and more redundant and completely lose all appeal long before the credits roll.
Another of Italian Sex’s pitfalls is one that I’ve been finding a lot recently when watching international comedies: the humor sometimes just doesn’t translate. There are a lot of things that transpire in the film that I just didn’t get. The main one that comes to mind is an encounter Diana has with an odd individual (that looks a little like Ed Grimley) that apparently is some sort of character that’s been in other films, as when she opens the door she comments “Oh no, you’re in this movie too?!” The scene lasts a couple of minutes and is extremely slapstick, with a lot of dialogue that flew right over my head and would only mean something to those in the know (after some quick research, the man is Jimmy Il Fenomeno, a popular comic actor in Italy at the time. Still, unless you’re heavy into Italian comedies, it’ll seem like a bizarre interlude). The classroom portions of the film wear out their welcome over time as well, with the head professor delivering tired one-liners and yelling at the onlookers to shut up ad nauseam.
If you’re an avid fan of Italian sex romps, then by all means give Italian Sex a look. Having not seen many myself, I’m really not sure how it compares to others out there so it may very well serve as a better experience for those well-rounded in the genre. If you’re not into these types of film, I doubt Italian Sex would change your mind, and I can’t imagine this being a good jumping off point for those interested in exploring this area of Italian cinema. Pilar Velázquez is a good little actress and has notable screen-presence, but it’s just not enough to recommend Italian Sex.
Italian Sex sees release courtesy of MYA Communication, who continues to release obscure stuff like this for reasons unbeknownst to me, although hopefully these decisions are because the films offer little risk in losing lots of cash, and any profit can be stored up for bigger Euro releases down the line. The film is presented in a progressive letterboxed 1.85:1 print that looks serviceable, with an acceptable amount of blemishes. As I mentioned before, it looks really flat and while colors look okay in lighter scenes, darker ones look a little soft and undefined. Dolby Digital 2.0 mono is the only included audio track (in Italian), and sounds good and balanced. The included English subtitles have a lot of errors, including grammatical and spelling (such as "paid" being spelled "paied" multiple times). Not sure if MYA did these subs themselves or took them from another release, but they’re lacking in quality control and are rather embarrasing for a release targeted at an American audience. There are no extras on the disc.
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