Wednesday, November 05, 2014
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Waves of Lust
A word on the title: Ruggero Deodato’s ‘Una Ondata di Piacere’ actually translates as ‘A Wave of Pleasure’, however the most common English-language title is the pluralized-for-no-reason ‘Waves of Lust’. So we’ll go with that. In all honesty, I prefer ‘Una Ondata di Piacere’ and when my wife asked what I was watching, that’s the title I used because it sounded nicely poetic and I didn’t have to ’fess up to it being a tawdry little thriller where Silvia Dionisio and Elizabeth Turner get naked a lot.
Off you go, then. The rest of the review will be waiting when you’ve finished noodling on Amazon or Netflicks.
So, where were we? Oh yes. There are two ways of looking at ‘Waves of Lust’, and either could serve as a capsule review in its own right.
1. It’s Polanski’s ‘Knife in the Water’ done as a porno.
2. It’s an 88-minute advert for J&B.
Granted, J&B and ’70s Italian cinema have an inseparable relationship and it’s virtually impossible to watch a giallo, a cannibal movie or a sex comedy without a bottle flaunting its distinctive yellow label in the background, but ‘Waves of Lust’ takes things to a new level. Deodato’s camera lingers on bottle after bottle of the stuff almost as fetishistically as it caresses the fleshly delights of its leading ladies or the trim lines of the yacht on which most of the action takes place. And then, just as the sexual tensions which have simmered away throughout the movie come to a head, Deodato throws in a scene where Dionisio lies naked on a sun deck while John Steiner slurps J&B from her navel.
‘Waves of Lust’ isn’t a particularly great movie, but damned if it doesn’t leave you feeling like a shot of whisky. Even bad whisky.
Here’s the basic plot – and believe me, it’s basic: young couple Barbara (Dionisio) and Ilem (Al Civer) are holidaying at a coastal resort when they encounter Giorgio (Steiner) and Silvia (Turner). Giorgio is a boorish industrialist who treats Silvia like a slave and his workers like cattle; his treatment of a fellow (if significantly less successful) businessman who appeals to him for backing is so contemptuous that the fellow commits suicide. This doesn’t bother Giorgio in the slightest. He’s more interested on getting Barbara on his yacht, and if that means suffering Ilem’s company then so be it.
Thus the first 18 minutes. The rest of the piece takes place almost entirely at sea and proceeds as a four-hander. An antagonism between Giorgio and Ilem has already been established, Giorgio regarding the younger man as déclassé. Ilem, meanwhile, needles Giorgio about his drinking and winds him up by plucking drinks, cigarettes and even food from his hand and consuming them himself without so much as a by-your-leave. Predictably, Silvia takes a shine to Ilem. Barbara almost demonstrates an interest in Silvia. Giorgio just wants to have his wicked little way with Barbara.
Discount any homoerotic tension between Giorgio and Ilem (a ’70s sexploitationer directed by Ruggero Deodato was never going to get that subversive), and there are only so many combinations of attraction, alliance and betrayal that the script can contrive and ‘Waves of Lust’ spends an often tedious hour working its way through them. There’s some interesting business regarding a painting and the psychological effect it has on Giorgio, but on the whole the narrative is boilerplate.
With the thrilleramics muted and no real individual directorial style on display – ‘Waves of Lust’ consists of nice shots of coastline, swish yachts, blue sky and sparkling water – interest in the movie stands or falls on its eroticism. And in Dionisio – to whom he was briefly married – Deodato has a seductive siren of the highest order. Lithe, confident and not remotely assailed by the ugly stick, Dionisio vibes a casually mocking sexuality that makes it easy to see why the hard-nosed Giorgio becomes so captivated and why Ilem is on edge the whole time. Turner also does a decent job of Silvia’s character arc from doormat to femme fatale, even if the script cynically refuses her deliverance.
Ultimately, though, ‘Waves of Lust’ teases with plentiful nudity (a Silvia Dionisio nudity drinking game will probably see you undergoing a stomach pump before the end credits roll) but short changes on actual sex scenes. The long-promised Silvia-Ilem consummation ends just as Barbara decides to join in.
Nor is there much in the way of suspense, while the inevitable violence of the finale is clumsily staged and offers neither shock nor catharsis. It’s watchable enough, and Dionisio doesn’t disappoint as the main attraction, but in the pantheon of sex-yachts-and-one-upmanship films, it doesn’t have the acute class-conscious underpinnings of ‘Knife in the Water’ or the delirious sleaziness and demented denouement of Ottavio Alessi’s ‘Top Sensation’, though it would probably play well in the bottom half of a double bill with the latter. Hmmm, now there’s an idea.