Monday, April 18, 2011

Inhibition (1976)

Plot Summary: Embittered and utterly alone, Carol, a wealthy heiress, returns to her palatial estate following the death of her sadistic husband. Her inner fury turns her into not only a ruthless businesswoman, but a cruel and manipulative sexual predator. She keeps her painful past a secret from those around her, until she meets a handsome stranger who sees through her cruelty and into her wounded soul. The stranger shows Carol that true freedom is only found in letting go.

Review: Long a staple of late-night cable and VHS rental outlets, the new millennium has, surprisingly, left Inhibition rather hard to find. This is certainly a shame, as the film is head and shoulders above most exploitation fare, and is a rather well-made character study, and an emotionally touching one at that. Inhibition takes genre conventions and defies them all brilliantly. What could have been standard T&A fare becomes an intriguing and involving film about loss of self, and lashing out at a cold and cruel world.


Ilona Staller and Claudine Beccarie
in the film's opening moments.
Claudine Beccarie was, not unlike her character in the film, embarking on a new phase of her life when Inhibition was filmed. Having become one of the biggest stars of French pornography, and after achieving worldwide notoriety as the subject of the famed documentary Exhibition, Beccaire decided to leave that life behind and attempt to cross over into legitimate film. Inhibition was her first starring vehicle, and she aquits herself with a lightness and ease that she never displayed in her hardcore work (for which, even at the time, she professed never to have enjoyed.) She breathes the right amount of anger and pathos into her role, making her debut a memorable one.

Not content to simply make another T&A picture, director Paolo Poeti (under the name Paul Price) instead delves deep into the psyche of his leading character.

Ivan Rassimov and Claudine Beccarie
in a powerful cinematic clinch.
When we first meet Carol, she is seen as no more than your run-of-the-mill "rich bitch." Her merciless taunting and belittling of her secretary (Ilona Staller, in an early, nicely subdued performance) followed by her successful seduction of the young woman, leads us to believe she is merely a power-mad predator. It is not until midway through the film that we discover the reasons for Carol's aggression and sadism.

Just as her consistent diatribes on how all men are users, abusers and degenerates threaten to make the audience lose any interest in Carol and her motivations, the film flashes back to a traumatic illustration of her husband's sick and twisted cruelty towards his bride. A younger Carol, in what seems to be a trauma-induced trance, is paraded nude in front of her husband and his friends, who have been engaged in a rape-themed orgy. As they, in turn, violate and humiliate Carol, her husband suddenly dies of a heart attack. At last Carol is free, and the rage she has held inside bursts forth, as she lashes out at all those around her.

Ivan Rassimov as Peter Smart
Not knowing how to love, and seeing all relationships (romantic and otherwise) as games of dominance and survival, she manipulates her way through the cast of characters. Beccarie, perhaps drawing upon her own abusive past (she was raped by an uncle at a very young age) seems to understand who Carol is, and why she behaves as she does. Beccaire's performance is nothing short of a revelation.

The most telling scene in the film, an example of Carol's dysfunction, occurs when she seduces the man that Anna has been seeing. It is obvious that her enjoyment comes not from the sexual act itself, but that she has, in a perverse way, proven herself correct: men cannot be trusted. They only care for what they can have sexually. She reaches climax just as she notices that Anna has caught them in their tryst.

Claudine Beccarie
The performances in the film are strong, especially among the three leads. Ivan Rassimov as Peter, the one man Carol cannot break or dominate, has a commanding screen presence. His character seems to see inside of Carol in a way no one else can. Rassimov and Beccarie are magic together - despite not getting along at all during filming - which is a testament to their fine acting.

The direction, cinematography and especially the music are all top-shelf. While the film may seem like an exploitation standard-bearer on paper, it is obvious that all involved had loftier notions.

The film was, by all accounts, a success upon release. Inhibition should have been Beccarie's springboard into mainstream motion pictures, but it was not to be.

Ilona Staller, aka Cicciolina, in one
of her earliest film roles.
When Inhibition was released in France, the local distributor inserted various hardcore scenes into the film, derailing Beccaire's wish to be seen as a serious actress. Beccarie protested by going on hunger strike and in front of the theatre. Her efforts, while admirable, were in vain, and her career ground to a halt. She appeared in several Z-grade exploitation pictures (many of which in the "Nazispoitation" genre) before vanishing from public life forever.

While her dreams of a career outside of porn may have gone up in smoke, Inhibition will stand as a memorable picture, and a testament to what could have, and should have been.
 
Finis.
DVD Information: Inhibition is not currently available on DVD in R1, or in any English-speaking country. The film was released in Italy, along with the Exhibition series of documentaries, in a multi-disc set titled "Sexybition." This set is extremely hard to find. I'm usually good at tracking these things down, but I've had no luck. I'm told the transfer is gorgeous and widescreen, and the original Italian-language track is used. If anyone can point me to a copy of the DVD, I would be ever so grateful!

-Johnny Stanwyck

1 comment:

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