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domenica 27 marzo 2011

Taking Off from East to West: Milos Forman's social satire





Jeannie is a fifteen years old girl. She’s out with an excuse from home to attend an audition for a stage musical, off Broadway.
In the meantime Larry and Lynn, her parents, have discovered the lie, and after a while Larry in company of one of his friends goes out to look for his daughter. But the only thing in which he’ll succeed is to get drunk at the local bar.
At dawn, Jeannie is back, but instead to be happy Larry hits her and want to set things the old fashion way.
While having a quarrel with his wife about this, he doesn’t realize Jeannie is taking off again, this time for good.
The couple will look for her for months, having any sort of adventures and meeting other parents of fugitive kids. They will attend dinners of an association for distressed parents, they’ll experiment drugs as well, their biggest concern, to understand what is going on in the young people’s mind. In the end Jeannie will be back. She’s fine, not on drugs, she’s with an hippy boyfriend only, a singer that makes Mum and Dad unhappy, until they’ll realize the guy is actually making a fortune out of his songs.
Milos Forman’s first English language film, Taking Off  features all the themes and sarcastic tones of his previous movies Horí, má panenko (Firemen’s Ball), Lásky jedné plavovlásky (Loves of a blonde). Shot with a cinema veritè style, with mostly non professional actors, its’ a fun ride trough the stereotypes of a typical middle class American family, took as an example that could be applied to any family in the world. Unable to understand the changing in contemporary life, too much absorbed in their little idiosyncrasies and problems, Lynn and Larry are the symbols of an old conception of life that is giving up under the pressure of new generations’ needs and ways of living. The conflict generated by the sexual revolution and the 68’ movement and protest, leaves no room for a truce or a peace meeting. The parents are unable to understand their sons and daughters, because the main problem is they can’t really understand themselves. The “façade” of an happy marriage is constantly kept on, but could miserably fall down any moment.
This dramatic set up is brought up with a light and ironic touch making fun of everything and everybody, with a black humour Forman was able to display before in Cerný Petr (Black Peter) and the already mentioned works; even his first opus, Konkurs, is evident here, in the audition sequence that Forman admits shot as a kind of remake, to achieve a result that was impossible at the time he made Konkurs due to the limit of budget and equipment.
Coming from a foreign country Forman, with the help of famous screenplayer, Jean Claude Carriere, fully understands Western civilization and can’t help to make fun of it and expose all his contradictions. The finale is the best part of the movie, the reconciliation between the parents and the daughter is achieved when they’ll realize her long haired, moustached, boyfriend is making a fortune as a protest singer. He’s rich and, most of all, he’s accepting the contradiction to make money out of something like the social and political involvement and the fight for a cause. His earnings are a healthy three hundred thousand dollars, before taxes, as he’ll admit, declaring with this assertion that while fighting the system, he’s actually accepting his rules and constrictions. In this, the movie is a sort of a prophecy of what the 68 generation would become later, at least a big part of it.
All the beauty of idealism, free love and altruism will be digested by the capitalistic societies and regurgitated as a product to be sold in stores at 99 cents. The rebellion and the ideals brought on by youngsters in the 60’s and 70’s, will leave room to a frantic consumerism;  protesters’ minds, once corrupted, will turn to the Reaganian hedonism of the 80’s; the hippies will transform into white collars.
The movie provocations would cause more than a stir if made today, in this devastating era of political correctness; the scene in which all the parents experience drugs, marijuana, to fully understand the risks and the dangers tight to its use, it’s funny and comes to a conclusion that it’s actually a positive practice to liberate the inner self.
While flopping at the Box Office, the film was well received by film critics everywhere, and awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971. Forman’s ability to overcome frontiers was highly recognized and this work helped him to establish himself as a reliable director and ultimately led him to one of the most successful career in Hollywood, with such reknown classics like One flew over the cuckoo’s nest and Amadeus. Forman was able with his talent to catch the changing of the times, exposing all the stereotypes of both sides. Fundamental to the build up of the Czech new wave, his cinema will constantly develop further on; making him one of the most prominent figures in the business even today.
Previously available on DVD in just few countries, the movie has been painstakingly restored for its Blu Ray debut courtesy of French distributor, Carlotta films.
Miroslav Ondricek’s magnificent lensing, appears to be intact, and all the grain of the film has been preserved with no digital manipulation applied. Conditions of the original elements are unknown but what we get here is a pristine HD master free of any damage, dirts, specks or whatsoever. OAR of 1.85:1, 1080/24P, AVC encoded.
Blacks are strong, with sharp detail all along the picture with no evident edge enhancement.
The BD is stated to be region B locked, but played flawlessly in a native region A player. The mono track is strong and has been restored as well, English is available with removable French subs.
While being actually region free, the extras are 50 hertz Pal, making impossible to reproduce them in a Region A player. Once played in a region B one, they consist of 3 featurettes. One very interesting with Forman telling stories about his first steps as a filmmaker and the making of the film. The footage comes from a year 2000 interview and lasts for thirty minutes; low quality standard def, but the facts narrated makes it definitely worth a watch.
The others are: a six minute introduction by Luc Lagier, and a sixteen minutes interview with Jean-Claude Carriere.
The BD case is housed in a nice O-card with a sticker stating this collector’s edition is limited.
This is a great film; there are many take offs in it, with drugs, of clothes and from home. It’s a wild trip in a long gone world, while what remains today it’s the hypocrisy of it: the very same one of our modern and past life. In all his movies Forman has always been able to capture this duplicity of human nature, and for this reason, he is going to be remembered and celebrated.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar

 Sequences from the film

domenica 20 marzo 2011

Elliptic worlds of Wojciech Jerzy Has: Petla (Noose) – Wspolny pokoj (One room tenants)

Eight o’ clock in the morning. On the main road some workers are setting the street watch, while Kuba is watching them from his window, waiting anxiously for someone to arrive. Finally the door bell rings: it’s Krystyna his girlfriend.
The man is very upset, they have a brief discussion about what is going to change in their lives; after they’ll attend the appointment she got later in the afternoon. She is an hurry, but she’ll be back at the meeting hour.
After a while, Kuba left alone, is craving for something, and his addiction is finally revealed: the man is an alcoholic.
Wandering in the streets, waiting for the late afternoon visit with a doctor that could help him, Kuba is determined to stop drinking. But while the time passes by, all the people he meets instead to help him, with their sarcastic comments, brings him even more down the spiral of the desire of one last little drink more.
He’ll get drunk. He’ll be beaten and robbed. And when back, too late for the appointment with the doctor, he’ll find Kristina once again waiting for him.
The following morning at eight o’clock some workers are setting the street watch, while Kuba waits anxiously for someone to arrive again, but this time the loop of his life in which he constantly keeps repeating the same mistakes every day, will be stopped only by a definite and terrible decision: to commit suicide hanging himself.
The debut long feature of Polish director  Wojciech Jerzy Has, Petla, is an astounding piece of filmmaking, revealing the enormous talent of its director. With a firm and coherent approach, Has brings us in this world of misfits, derided by common people, and avoided even by their friends and relatives.
The film is one of the strongest act of denounce of the risks and the problems related to alcoholism (along with Billy Wilder’s The long week end and Blake Edwards’ The days of wine and roses), but it introduces us also to Has’ cinematic structures with his looping narrative devices and elliptic storytelling.
The ellipsis of the tale is declared starting with the title Petla, related to the hang noose, metaphorical for a situation out of control that will lead to any recovery, and physical when Kuba will use one to kill himself; but also to the narrative of the tale ending exactly where it started, when almost the same events would start to keep repeating.
Has’ characters are as trapped in a loop, as in a time warp, other recurring element of his work that will lead him later to direct one of his most celebrated films Sanatorium pod Klepsydra (The clepsydra).
The flowing of time in Has’ films seems to be different and its perception is always suggested to the viewer with frequent scenes of clocks running or people setting them.
This creates a detachment between the audience and the film, a barrier that suggests and reminds us we are watching at a movie. But instead to weaken the cinematic experience, this involvement grows bigger and bigger because: the fracture of the story telling in Petla is used to create a sense of suspense as well. Kuba is fighting with his biggest enemies: himself and time; and the tension mounting from scene to scene is produced by the constant announcement of a time table, counting the hours left before his visit to the doctor, an hopeless desire of freedom and salvation.
This objectivity of the audience is counter balanced by numerous shots of the events reflected in mirrors that create an alternative point of view. Staging a triangle of perceptions of the characters: acting in the film, reflected in the mirrors, caught by the viewers; Has seems to suggest that the images in the mirror are us watching at the movie; and constantly building and immediately breaking this point of view barriers, multiplying them, he re-establishes the participation  of the viewer to the story in the very same moment he could start to abstract from it; in a looping the loop of images from the start to the end. The circularity of an existence from birth until death, summarized in a day life.
Even if realistic, the story has a kind of unusual estrangement because of this; an element that will grow in Has’ following films leading him to completely abandon realism for a more allegorical storytelling to represent life and human beings.

Wspolny pokoj (One room tenants)
Lucyen rents a place in an apartment. The flat is very busy, and the young man divides the room with many other people, occupying one of the many beds.
Trying to restore his health, Lucyen would like to start to write prose, while another guy living with him is writing poetry. A law student, two women and many others are also living in the same crowded room.
Lucyen can’t really write in the place, divided by his interest for some girls and the parties with the men, always going out for a drink.
His health will get worse and in the end he will die, surrounded by the ones who liked him and some others that really didn’t care about him.
This Kafkian tale of love and death, marks Has’ complete depart from realism in favour of the allegoric tale. It’s easy here to spot a metaphor for the problem of claustrophobia, but Wspolny pokoj is also an exposition of the constrictions and restrictions of the society in which Lucyen lives. With his hesitations and lightness of being Lucyen could be one of the very young men of contemporary day; living with the longing need for something, not really knowing what it could be, with no guidance and constantly suffocated by the urge to superficially experience and get more.
Has is telling us that passions and desires are truncated in the modern way of living, by the situations and even the opportunities that surrounds us. The capitalistic way of life is wrong, and leave us only with a beg for more that will devour our inner self until death. This death is a symbolic one; it’s the consumption of all the beauty and artistry of human soul, extinguished by power, greed and men’s own interests.
Lucyen will die surrounded by a lot of people, each one of the characters to represent some of the seven capital sins as a “summa” of all the evils affecting the middle class.
Our claustrophobic society, our constant search for time to be spent in a proper way, will lead us to madness. Once again the circle is complete, from life to death, Lucyen’s tale is the ellipsis of modern man. The crowded room is a parable for our current life, a pale imitation of what it should be, where there is no room for things that really count like unselfishness, love and mutual respect.
Stylish and accomplished, the film is full of beautiful, slow, camera movements that enter deeper in the inner self of the characters underlining their weakness and disrespect for the others. Technically, it’s an improvement over its already gifted predecessors, displaying a talent worth nurturing that will be fully disclosed in the later opus.
The DVDs examined here are the Polish editions, released by Telewizja Kino Polska.  Both films have been re-mastered and look very good with few minor issues, like some big damages (nicely fixed) and the heavy use of DVNR, but nothing that could annoy the viewer too much.
Featuring both French and English subtitles, these editions are unfortunately very hard to find at the moment. But for the French friendly, the very same transfers have been used in Malavida editions.
Malavida actually released the whole Has’ work, including his shorts, in a series named L’integrale Wojciech Jerzy Has.
His daring narrative and symbolic images, his elliptic stories and worlds have been primary source of inspiration for such different directors as Tarkowski and Scorsese, making him one of the most influential film directors of modern times.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar

domenica 13 marzo 2011

Mai Zettterling, women’s portraits across the sexual revolution: Alskande Par (Loving couples) – Flickorna (Girls)

After a successful career as an actress, in Europe and US, Mai Zetterling turned to a directing career and with the help of her second husband David Hughes, a screenwriter, she helmed in 1964 Alskande Par (Loving couples) that was the break through for her acclaimed work as a director.
Adele, Agda and Angela are three young women, that once admitted in an hospital, are waiting to give birth to their children.
While Adele is immediately informed that she is going to have an abortion,  the other two wait with different attitude for their delivery moment.
As the time goes by, the three women start to remember the events that led them there; and their lives from childhood to maturity; the pain and the anguish will bring them to a state of confusion in which they cannot discern the present from the past.
The simple minded Agda, that well knows how to use her beauty to seduce men; the bitter Adele who set up with an husband that she doesn’t love and that can’t satisfy her needs; the beautiful Angela undecided between the love for a man or for a woman; three different female portraits to expose the condition of the woman at the beginning of the twentieth century in Sweden, and not only.
A forerunner of the Feminist movement, the film was criticized for his frank approach to delicate matters like sexual relationships before and outside the marriage, and between persons of the same sex.
Zetterling depicts a society in which the position of the woman is relegated to the role of a pleasure toy or to be a beautiful piece of furniture.
The males characters are self absorbed, boring and insensitive, they define woman as thirty seconds of heaven for thirty years of hell. They are concentrating only on politics, work and their own satisfaction. A description that could be applied to the whole mid part of the twentieth century in most countries of the world, until the sixties. Will these women be able to find a way to free themselves from the chains of their daily lives?
Some will succeed, like Angela that will finally understand that a fitting marriage is only a burden a not more; in a beautiful wedding scene full of irony and sarcasm, in which all the stereotypes of happiness and mutual love are deconstructed by the declamations of a witness rehearsing with the newlyweds the ceremony soon to follow.
 Angela will run away from it and from the farce, she will be asked what she’s doing and finally she will answer “I’m enjoying my freedom”.
The liberation will be completed with the birth of her child, the only thing that will matter from now on. Based on Agnes von Krusenstjerna’s novel and lensed in black and white by master cinematographer Sven Nykvist, the movie is beautifully shot; and while some noted Bergman’s influence on Zetterling, I was more than impressed by the use of long tracking shots, following the events and by the search of the perfect angle for the most effective take. The resulting look is polished and glam, in counter opposition to the decaying morals of the society exposed and its prejudices. A master cinematic technique is displayed all trough the film, and apart the obvious contribution of Nykvist, the experience of Zetterling as an actress that worked with dozens of talented directors with different styles, was fundamental to achieve such perfect synthesis between an European approach and Hollywood “mis en scene”. Direction of the actors is impressive and the whole cast give an “ensamble” performance with unforgettable authority.

Flickorna (Girls)
Liz, Marianne and Gunilla: three actresses going to stage Aristofanes' Lysitrata, in which all the women of Athens refuse to serve and please their men until they’ll stop an ongoing forever war.
The trio has to leave, touring the country with the play. While acting the classic comedy, reality and contemporaneity will mix with the events of the play that sounds and looks much more modern than everybody thought.
Zetterling directs the film with a completely different style than her previous works. While always looking for the proper camera angle, the narrative fragmented between the play and reality, is more reminiscent of some free cinema experiments. This is a great piece of work, both in terms of style and content, and while most of the critics continued to underline Bergman’s influence, this is only because of the casting of some Bergman’s favourite actresses like Bibi Andersson.
Lines from the play are heard or pronounced during their daily life and their discussions with their men. Again, the men are shown at their very worst: ugly, insensitive and most of the times ridiculous. It’s not hard to understand why this movie has always been referred to as Feminists’ manifesto; praised by female intellectuals in the like of Simone de Beauvoir. The achievement of the construction of something new and revolutionary, using an almost 2500 years old play, is completely successful; as the movie is both reflective and funny at times with a surrealistic touch. Narrative devices that transcend reality are used as sort of “deus ex machina” and they are as effective as the provocations of the female trio.
 From the times of Aristofanes, women’s condition didn’t change so much, as well as the one of men, always absorbed in their search for war, if not physical being economical: a scene in which Liz’s husband is at work at the stock exchange market is a beautiful metaphor for a battle on the field.
It is the most surprising that the film aged so well, and this is due to Zetterling’s free of burdens approach, her fearless style that is constantly challenging the technical language of the media.
Mai Zetterling continued her directing career until the mid eighties with successful and acclaimed films like Scrubbers. She went back in front of the camera for an highly praised  role in Nicholas Roeg’s The witches.
Alskande Par and Flickorna were previously available in different editions in Sweden by SadrewMetronome and in the US from the now defunct New Yorker video. The DVDs in questions are the brand new releases from Doriane Films in France. They had access to the same masters of the original Swedish ones. The movies look nice in their 1.66:1 OAR non anamorphic; but didn’t get any extensive restoration from SandrewMetronome that opted for an heavy use of DVNR, making some scenes a little too waxy and soft.
I strongly suggest these editions for all those are French friendly (French subs only are available), and even because in Alskande Par DVD is included Zetterling’s awarded short The war Game.
I encourage Doriane to continue the collection with Zetterling’s Nattlek (Night Games), it would be a great chance to go back again to her cinema.
Mai Zetterling was a figure of an immense talent that she was able to display in a decades spanning career. Her movies are an important piece of Swedish Cinema History and those who’ll approach them for the first time, will be surprised by their freshness and actuality. Even if female condition has improved nowadays, still women have a long journey to reach the position and the importance, in some societies of the world, they would deserve. Zetterling’s movies are the demonstration that a gorgeous body contains even a gorgeous mind most of the times. She must be of example to all female artists, with her integrity and her open minded method, unchained from all kind of stereotypes and formalities.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar

mercoledì 2 marzo 2011

Nikos Papatakis, the depths of human soul as an anti establishment manifesto: Les Abysses – Gloria Mundi

GLORIA MUNDI


LES ABYSSES

Nikos Papatakis is a controversial director that has been known more for his role as a financer and co-producer of Jean Genet first and solely film Un chant d’amour, and John Cassavetes’ Shadows.
Always fighting for the freedom of oppressed people, Papatakis was part of a group of French intellectuals that included Sartre, Prevert, Genet and Breton.
There’s a lot of stories to tell about his life: married to actress Anouk Aimée first and Olga Karlatos later; he ran a Cabaret in Paris in which he helped to launch the careers of  Juliette Greco and Marcel Marceau (Tous les désespoirs sont permis, Fayard publishing 2003, his autobiographical novel).
Always involved in politics as an activist; he was pro Algeria liberation, and he also fought for the Greek cause, against the Colonels’ regime.
His movies reflects this involvement of course, and they are always like a political manifesto and statement.

Les Abysses

Living in a decadent estate in the country, Michele and Marie-Louise are sisters, working as housemaids for an elder couple on the verge of bankruptcy.
They have not been paid for three years, and their employers have left them alone for a while to take care of the huge mansion. Suddenly the two come back before the expected date, with their daughter. Mr Lapeyre is the father of the woman, while Mrs Lapeyre is his second wife. The girl has refused to marry, for unknown reasons, creating disconcert in her parents, that want to get rid of the decaying estate once and for all; while her supposed to be future husband is going to come soon bringing along some potential acquirers.
But Michele and Marie-Louise have already started their own plan to sabotage the sale. They have nothing, they have not been paid and there’s no place in which they could go, except the very same in which they grew up. The young woman has given them the use and the ownership of part of the estate, as a compensation for their fidelity; but the Lapeyre are conspiring to annul  the donation.
While the time pass, the situation gets from bad to worse, with the two, acting like wild cats and showing no respect for the Lapeyre family, the same respect they were denied for such a long time.
The relationship between the two sisters is not clear, and is full of sexual innuendos; so is the affection of the young Lapeyre, that leads her to a love declaration to Michelle, claiming she has always been very fond of both of them, and her love to be the solely reason of the broken promise of marriage.
Once she is refused by Michelle, she’ll turn back to her boyfriend again, that in the meantime has arrived with the potential buyers.
In an escalation of hysteria and weird acts Michelle and Marie-Louise will go beyond a point of no return killing Mrs Lapeyre and the daughter.
Inspired by the famous case of the Papin sisters, that shocked France in the late 30’s; the movie is also stimulated by Jean Genet’s famous play Les Bonnes.
The case of the two sisters has always been cited in French left wing intellectual circles as a perfect example of the working class struggle. Papatakis makes it clear, the motivation of the sisters, that will lead them to murder, it’s their life condition; the humiliations they had to suffer, exploited in every way by their employers, that are ready to get rid of them, once they don’t need them anymore. It’s the typical situation of the workers everywhere, specially in the early decades of last century, when Communist party and intellectuals were trying to emancipate the workforces, inciting them to fight for their rights.
There are no good characters here helping the poor, even the young daughter has a second purpose. She cannot reveal her parents the lesbian love for Michelle, and she’s scared of her own feelings, approaching the girl in the wrong way, with presents and promises. It’s another manner to exploit someone else, pretend to love, while in this case the sentiment is only a selfish way to be satisfied, since it’s not mutual. Michelle has feelings only for her sister, even if we don’t know until which point their relationship has grown outside the common one between two sisters. As Marx would say, the two sisters have became murderers, because mankind is made by the context he lives in.
Shot in a beautiful black and white, Papatakis’ direction is not invasive of the story. It’s functional and stagey, while showing here and there nice camera movements and a nice editing of close ups of objects that reflects the decaying state of the property and the minds of the two sisters as well.
The movie is truly effective, a sense of hysteria is created by the continuous screams and the discomforting cacophonic score. It gets under the skin of the viewer, crawling slowly, leaving him perplexed and with a strong feel of uneasiness. The last shot of the film, in which the survivors of the massacre are staring at the camera silently, is daring from a technical point of view and menacing as a storytelling trick.
Screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963, sponsored by Andrè Malraux (it was initially banned), the film divided the audience, and some complained about the political approach and the use of violence.
Part of the Gaumont a la demande program, the film is now available on a digital media.
While not restored nor in the video, neither in the audio, the film has been digitally re-mastered from a poor print source. Scratches and specks are evident specially in the reels’ change, with two or three evident jumps during the film. Hiss and pops affects an otherwise strong rendering of the mono audio.
Gallic major company Gaumont decided to open its vaults like Warner and Columbia, but their choice is a winner. While they didn’t put any effort in restoration, their DVDs are not burned in house but properly pressed ones, in this case the use of a DVD 9, for an 88 min. long film comes as a pleasant surprise; an encoding at an higher bit rate has been possible because of this. The DVD is housed in a mini Amaray case, with a nice, classy presentation, that makes the whole series an instant collectible. French audio track only is available, but another winning choice from Gamount is the use of French subtitles, that could be useful for those not so familiar with the language. The cover states a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but the movie is actually 1.66:1.

Gloria Mundi


Olga Karlatos stars as Galai, an actress involved with her director, Hamdias, as artistically as sentimentally. The two are shooting a movie about torture; in the specific the tortures inflicted to women fighting the French army in Algeria’s war for freedom. Galai and Hamdias are also members of a terrorist group that doesn’t share anymore their vision and purpose.
Galai, left alone by Hamdias, is daily listening at the tapes he left with the instructions to carry on working on her role.
Hamdias claims that she must completely identified herself  with the victims of torture, even with painful self inflicted wounds, like cigarettes’ burns and electrocutions. The woman undertakes the task, as she goes around hiding from the secret services and looking for new investors to complete the film.
She’ll be forced to experience awful humiliations from her opponents as well from her supporters.
She does everything for the cause, but mostly for the love of her man, to protect him from a possible assassination planned by the government and green lighted also from their very own faction.
While showing part of the film to possible financiers, high class left oriented, she’ll be accused of pornography and betrayal and savagely struck; the project is doomed and Galai and Hamdias are both hopeless; soon the latter will meet his tragic fate.
Showed at first Paris Film Festival in 1975, the film was highly criticized and ravaged by both critic and audience for the use of explicit, graphic violence.
Trying to produce something against the employ of torture, Papatakis obtained the opposite result. It’s common in Cinema history, specially when such outrageous scenes are used like in this case; many directors have been misunderstood, like Jacopetti, Deodato, Pasolini, Peckinpah. At first could seem foolish to set aside such different artists and personalities, but all of them, were trying to make their point using violence as a media to tell a message. We are not going to enter here in a debate if their significance was right or wrong, or who was the best. The thing they have in common is that all of them succeeded to cause a stir because of their approach and the use of strong images. Something that seems almost ridiculous nowadays, when Real TV or Broadcast News show war live, executions, killings of innocent people and mass murders.
History is going to tell us which one was honest and who acted with good will; and sometimes will be restored the value of the ones accused to exploit violence only for a commercial purpose (like in the Cannibal Holocaust case, that in spite of its grotesque title and gruesome scenes, still remains an ante litteram j’accuse of what modern media journalism would became later).
Misunderstood and deluded, Papatakis almost retired from filmmaking for more than ten years.
It is obvious that to accuse Papatakis to be dishonest, is a blind assertion; if it was only for his constant battle against regimes of any kind.
If the movie fails in some cases it is not, because the torture scenes are gratuitous or made in a way to cause uproars to be exploited for commercial purposes; it’s his heavy political message and a style, that didn’t age well and that maybe was already surpassed  at the time of the movie initial release. It’s the style of political dramas and manifestos of the 60’s coming straight from the 68 movement and class struggle; Francesco Maselli’s Lettera aperta ad un giornale della sera, or Godard’s works being some of the best examples. The movie it’s much more interesting when it digs in the mind of Galai, suspended between fiction and reality, confused by the events and led only by the single real thing that count for her: love.
Unconditioned love is an extreme mean of torture, maybe even more painful than the factual one; and is also the solely device to defeat greed, and class differences. She will proclaim at one point during a dinner “I love him, don’t you understand?”; and the astonished left wing audience will not be able to understand, and their reaction to the violence they were exposed (a scene of the movie Hamdias is shooting in which Galai is raped from some French soldiers with a bottle during an interrogation) it will be violence as well. Brutality is the only response people has when can’t understand situations or other individuals of different culture and heritage.
Cruelty can be defeated with tolerance and comprehension, if it doesn’t work the only mean will be terroristic actions. Papatakis makes a crystalline clear statement here: the actions of a  terroristic movement are justified by the events and by a right fight for freedom. Another point of discomfort for the audience of the mid 70’s dealing with daily exposure to terroristic attacks all around the world.
Another interesting aspect of the film,  it’s his political attack to everybody; its essential anarchist point of view. Papatakis political credo can be summarized as in the following. The right wing government is a regime using military to oppress people and to cover secret operations, spying on citizens to control their actions. The left wing opponents are nothing less even worse, secretly dealing with the others, secluded in their high class lounge, snob and convinced that they are the unique depositary of culture or what is right for the masses; they lost contact with the very same those; they can’t understand their needs anymore. Activists are fighting a war, but they are divided, they have different ambitions and can be corrupted by money or success in case they should achieve it. Artists sold their soul to business.
Galai has been asked to perform in a movie, only during the test, she’ll realize that it’s a pornographic venture masked as art. She will have to undress in front of a Bunuel’s movie poster, and while expert viewers will immediately recognize La phantome de la liberté; Galai will suffer the humiliation to be verbally assaulted by the producer, that consider like garbage Hamdias’ art and movies.
Love and fight seems to be for Papatakis the only ways to change society; but even those can probably lead to tragic end.
Bunuel is a source of inspiration for Papatakis, since the dinner and screening Galai attends later, very much reminds us of the dinners of Le charme decrete de la bourgeoise or the above mentioned title, even if Papatakis’ lacks the light grimace of Bunuel’s touch.
The movie had a difficult life and has been little seen, due to its explicit content and the mentioned shocking images. It was released in Italy under the title Tortura (Torture) in 1979, but vanished until now. According to some sources, the same occurred in France where the movie was released only in 2005. The DVD edition carries the logo Cult 70 and has been released by Mosaico Media. The image is 1.85:1, 4:3, and the master while a digital one, has been made from a beat up, worn out 35mm positive print, full of jumps, scratches, dirts and specks of any sort and kind. The only language is Italian and the extras are a meagre poster gallery. The edition has been limited to 999 units, each of one is individually numbered. While being probably a little more than a bootleg, it’s the only way to watch at the movie for the time being, since a DVD is not available even in France, where official distributor Shellac has a video on demand option on their site that should have a better source material in its original language. I’ve mailed Shellac with some questions and I’m waiting for an answer; an update of this post with further information will be available soon.  
Nikos Papatakis passed way December 2010. He was a less prominent figure in French cinema than other more celebrated directors and artists.
Trying to defeat the establishment, he immersed in the depths of the human soul, where sunk are desires and instincts that can be exploited in the wrong way by the richer over the poorer. He always fought for his ideals, and his movies will remain as provocative and shocking as they were many years ago.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar