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Marina, for your coffee table…

Well – we’ve seen the lovely and utterly easy-on-the-eye Marina Anna Eich dare and bare in several of her films, grace German editions of Penthouse and Playboy, and also end up in the odd crazy-fan tribute on the net. It now appears that she’s also making her way to people’s coffee tables.

Thomas Karsten’s sumptuously illustrated “Marina Anna Eich, An Erotic Portrait” contains well over 200 pages and pictures of Marina in all her glory. The tastefully photographed and edited volume, intended for a discerning aesthete, comes with captions in both German and English.

A sampler of some ‘spreads’ taken from Karsten’s website:

Marina Anna Eich nude - An Erotic Portrait

Marina Anna Eich, An Erotic Portrait

Marina Anna Eich nude - An Erotic Portrait

Marina Anna Eich nude - An Erotic Portrait

No-holds-barred – Marina Anna Eich

Marina Anna Eich nude - An Erotic Portrait

Marina Anna Eich nude - An Erotic Portrait

Marina Anna Eich nude - An Erotic Portrait

If you want her on your coffee table too, here’s the book link:
Amazon.de Book Order Link

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What you don’t take, you won’t have! “Marketa Lazarová” [1967 Czechoslovakia]

Frantisek Vlácil is considered one of the pioneers of the Czech New Wave. Having started out as a graphic artist, Vlácil ventured into film, particularly features, much later in his career, and therefore belonged to an earlier generation to his other New Wave contemporaries. He wasn’t film school trained, but his extraordinary visual flair had enabled him to bequeath cinema with some of the most exquisite compositions ever captured on film. Obsessed with detail and equipped with a natural instinct for theatre, his films presented drama and history of the very highest order – art pieces that until recently, were also among the best kept secrets in cinema, because not many outside his country got to see them. There is an informative article about Frantisek Vlácil in BFI’s old website that some may find of interest.

Magda Vásáryová in Marketa LazarovaI’ll start Vlácil’s filmography here with what is arguably his finest masterpiece, “Marketa Lazarová”, a film that in 1998 was also voted the greatest Czech film ever made by his country’s film makers, critics, and historians. The medieval epic could broadly be compared in its authenticity and grandeur to Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, and in its feudal subject matter to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Berri’s Manon des sources – it’s no coincidence that the comparable films are also masterpieces in their own right.

Marketa LazarovaThe film tells a tale of neighbours who become sworn enemies – the noblemen and their respective clans will feud to death in order to gain supremacy over the region. One of the two, pagan Kozlik (Josef Kemr), called ‘Goat’, is a battle-scarred man who has more children than the number of pigs in his farm. He and his sons make a living by preying on caravans passing through the highway.

The other – Lazar (Michal Kozuch), is a Christian, who selectively interprets his new religion to justify criminality and treachery – according to him, “the just are allowed to transgress seven times a day”. Obviously, ‘noblemen’ during those dark ages weren’t necessarily men who were morally erect, cultured, and law-abiding – it was all about survival of the fittest and the most brutal.

Magda Vásáryová in Marketa LazarovaLazar had promised what he holds most dear, his virginal daughter Marketa (Magda Vásáryová), to the Church, in the hope of redeeming himself from his seven-a-day transgressions. But fate dictates otherwise when Marketa is abducted and raped by Mikolás (Frantisek Velecký), Kozlik’s favourite son, during one of the clan’s raids.

Marketa LazarovaKozlik’s got problems too – he’s holding a young German count captive, and the King had already instructed the Royal Regiment’s Captain to arrest him. The captain will get his man through one of Kozlik’s other sons – the one-armed Adam (Ivan Palúch). But before that, there will be plenty of carnage and skulduggery from both sides, and sub-plots involving other characters, including a wandering hermit aptly named Bernard (Vladimír Mensík) and his lamb, and the story behind Adam’s one-handedness, which in turn will shed light on his past relationship with his sister Alexandra (Pavla Polaskova), who’s now in love with the captive German count.

Marketa LazarovaAside from its starkness and harsh brutality, this is also a pretty difficult film to follow, and to make an objective assessment would take more than a single viewing. While this is partly due to it’s ‘lyrical’ screenplay, it is exacerbated for foreign viewers with the subtitling that translates the literal rather than implied message from the dialogues, as often happens with literary works. If you approach the film as you would an ancient play, the film will begin to make a whole lot more sense.

Whether you could follow the plot or not, this will be one of the most visually gorgeous films you’ll ever see. Bedrich Batka’s breathtaking black and white cinematography that carefully interprets Vlácil’s compositions, combined with the eclectic but majestic film-score, will have you transfixed from the very beginning – it’s difficult to take your eyes off the screen because it is that sumptuous. My Second Run DVD is spectacular in itself, but Criterion has now come out with a Blu-ray edition as well. This is naturally one of the ‘must-see’ films for any film enthusiast, and is certainly Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon.com Blu-ray Link

 

The Nudity: Magda Vásáryová and Pavla Polaskova
Beautiful Magda Vásáryová makes her feature film début as the titular character – she’d become a star and will later venture into politics as well, by serving as diplomat, and also running for presidency in Slovakia. She briefly appears nude during a scene when her character is raped by Mikolás – and ironically they fall in love afterwards. There is also frontal nudity from exotic beauty Pavla Polaskova who plays Alexandra, the wild and sensuous daughter of Kozlik. She appears nude in two scenes – the first is during the young German count’s fantasy, and later when it becomes reality.

Magda Vásáryová and Pavla Polaskova nude in Frantisek Vlácil's Marketa Lazarová

Magda Vásáryová and Pavla Polaskova in Frantisek Vlácil’s Czech epic “Marketa Lazarová”.

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A review: “See You in Hell, My Darling” [1999, Greece]

Nikos Nikolaidis made “Tha se do stin Kolasi, agapi mou” [Eng. Title: See You in Hell, My Darling] following Singapore Sling. It may have been filmed in colour, with a different storyline, but it nevertheless shares similarities in style and content with its more notorious antecedent.

Vicky Harris and Valeria Christodoulidou in See You in Hell, My DarlingIt is indeed ‘style’ that the film is preoccupied with, since there is very little in the way of narrative. It literally starts and ends with a bang, and the characters’ exuberance and their frequent resort to ‘calendar-girl’ poses are more akin to an erotic workshop on acting and choreography than a serious attempt at drama. But the film is not nearly as explicit as Singapore Sling, as Nikolaidis is content in merely teasing his audience, and make us imagine a whole lot more than what’s actually shown.

Vicky Harris and Valeria Christodoulidou in See You in Hell, My DarlingThe film is about sex, betrayal, vengeance, and an estranged intimate friendship between two women in their thirties, Elsa (Vicky Harris) and the visiting Vera (Valeria Christodoulidou), and their connection to a dead man floating in the swimming pool – Elsa’s husband. Their love-hate relationship, sometimes tender, but often painful and masochistic, is played out over the course of the film, with Elsa revelling in inflicting the pain, and passive Vera being willing recipient.

Vicky Harris and Valeria Christodoulidou in See You in Hell, My DarlingLike in a recurring bad dream, we watch instances of Elsa lacing Vera’s whisky with drugs, that may or may not be the cause of Vera’s bouts of vomiting. It is obvious that Elsa has a grievance against her childhood friend and lover, since she discovered a tape of Vera having sex with her (now dead) husband, on their wedding day.

Valeria Christodoulidou in See You in Hell, My DarlingCharacters are killed and resurrected again in the film, to the extent that we’re no longer certain if the person floating face-down in the pool is dead or ‘undead’. As often as the women jostle with his corpse in spectacular fashion, we see the man also bear witness to goings-on inside the house. On one occasion, he even rapes Vera.

Valeria Christodoulidou in See You in Hell, My DarlingIrrespective of whether you get what the film is trying (or not trying really) to say, it is a mesmerising piece of cinema made in Nikolaidis’ trademark style, which could be surmised as a distinct mixture of Fellini and Chabrol, with a dash of Greenaway, and perhaps a hint of Borowczyk. The core ingredient however, is Nikolaidis’ own fertile imagination. He’s ably assisted by the two main actresses, but most of the praise should be reserved for the quick-fire editing of Giorgos Triandafyllou, that succeeds in keeping the audience captivated. At least for the editing and the performances, the film is Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Order Link [PAL]
This is an attentively restored version with colour and contrast close to the way the film was originally intended. My only complaint is that it is letterboxed and not anamorphic.

 

The Nudity: Vicky Harris and Valeria Christodoulidou
While the actresses are clearly nude in many scenes, most of what we get to see is concealed, and the nudity is largely implied, especially from Ms. Harris who, unlike in The Zero Years, wears a pasty in many of her scenes. But the film is nonetheless erotic and ‘sexy’ (and regular readers of the blog would know that I don’t throw away such remarks randomly). Rest assured, you won’t be disappointed.

Vicky Harris and Valeria Christodoulidou nude in See You in Hell, My Darling

Vicky Harris and Valeria Christodoulidou in Nikos Nikolaidis’ “See You in Hell, My Darling”.

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A brief review: “The Stalker” [2013 Italy]

A scene from "The Stalker" (2013 Italy)Giorgio Amato’s “The Stalker”, centred around an abusive protagonist separated from his wife and child, is meant as a study in pathological jealousy and possessiveness. But it also aims to be a crime thriller, which it achieves with mixed results.

A scene from The Stalker - 2013, Italy Lucio (Victor Alfieri), a guard working for a security van firm, has recently separated from wife Nadia (Cosetta Turco) and daughter Adele (Alessia Moore). Unwilling to accept reality, he continues to obsess over Nadia by stalking her, and hopes to reunite with a wife he’d walked all over during his physically abusive relationship.

A scene from The Stalker - 2013, ItalyHe captures Nadia’s activities on camera at work, home, and even when with a lover. He breaks into her home – sometimes when she’s not around, to look for clues to her flings, and sometimes when she’s asleep – to rape her after knocking her out with a sedative.

A scene from The Stalker - 2013, ItalyDespite his deeply flawed character, Lucio also appears to genuinely love his daughter, and when the court grants custody of the child to Nadia, entitling him only to supervised visits, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Robbing from his employer and kidnapping Adele are only part of his elaborate plan…

A scene from The Stalker - 2013, ItalyThe film has a plot, but unfortunately fails while trying to overreach itself – it takes its eye off character development when it turns into a crime drama. It might have worked with a better script and strong performances, but due to the lack of both, combined with the mediocre camera work (hand-held camera even when there is no need, and poor shot selection for a thriller), it struggles to hold our interest. Perhaps Amato’s directorial skills are still a work in progress – it would be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

Amazon.it DVD Link [PAL]
(no English subtitles – only Italian for the hard of hearing)

 

The Nudity: Elèna Tchepeleva
There’s brief nudity from Elèna Tchepeleva who plays prostitute Rita. When Lucio’s friend offers Rita as a treat for his birthday, Lucio nearly strangles her while having sex.

Elèna Tchepeleva in The Stalker

Elèna Tchepeleva in the Italian film, “The Stalker” (2013).

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In pursuit of happiness: “White Night Wedding” [2008 Iceland]

Acclaimed director Baltasar Kormákur’s 2008 bright comedy-drama “Brúðguminn” [Eng. Title: White Night Wedding] is set in the charming albeit remote island of Flatey, in northern Iceland.

A scene from White Night Wedding (Iceland)The film starts with Jon (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), a middle-aged professor of literature, rehearsing in church for his wedding the following day. He’s marrying Thora (Laufey Elíasdóttir), a former student less than half his age. However, Thora’s mother Sisi (Ólafía Hrönn Jónsdóttir) isn’t too pleased about the couple’s union, not only because of their age difference, but also because Jon had borrowed substantial money from her to invest in a dubious golf course project.

A scene from White Night Wedding (Iceland)When his pal Sjonni (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) arrives from the mainland to be his best man, they reminisce over younger years, and Anna (Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir) – Jon’s first wife, whose recent suicide can partially be apportioned to her discovery of Jon’s affair with Thora. During the course of the white (northern summer) night, the friends get drunk, and while Sjonni passes out, Jon, overcome by guilt and remorse over Anna’s passing, ponders over himself, and the personal choices that have led him to the threshold of yet another marriage.

A scene from White Night Wedding (Iceland)Having spent the morning by Anna’s grave, Jon arrives late for the wedding ceremony. Pulling Thora aside, he asks to call off the wedding. While a dismayed Thora insists that the wedding should go ahead, she receives unexpected support from her parents who were initially opposed to their union, thanks to events the night before that alters the dynamics of Jon’s relationship with his in-laws to be.

A scene from White Night Wedding (Iceland)The film will bewilder audience from the outset, thanks to Kormákur’s clever deception through screenplay that seamlessly blends the past and the present, like when Jon is seen practising wedding vows with Thora whilst Anna waited for him at home. He does this to not only illuminate us with Jon and Anna’s back-story, but also establish Jon’s introspection and confused state of mind, to make a deeper, philosophical observation on the human condition itself, in Jon’s quest for ‘happiness’.

A scene from White Night Wedding (Iceland)In introducing us to a postcard-pretty town with quirky characters and their hilarious shenanigans, Kormákur lulls you into the false comfort of a typical mainstream comedy, only to leave you with plenty of food for thought as the credits start rolling. If a film left you thinking about it after it has ended, it was a film well worth making. If the film had also challenged your established opinions in the process, like this one, it must be Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [NTSC] | Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Laufey Elíasdóttir, and Hilmir Snær Guðnason
Two flashback scenes in the film feature nudity from actors whose names are a struggle to pronounce – the first is after Anna lays a trail of seaweed leading to the bedroom, and pounces upon Jon when he arrives home. She urges him to make love to her outdoors during the white night. When he asks to be excused on that occasion, she rushes outside and jumps on a bicycle to head to the town centre. She’s bottomless and momentarily topless during this time. The second scene is when Jon and Thora are discovered having sex in the bush by Anna. Those who have a thing for freckles would love this.

Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Laufey Elíasdóttir, and Hilmir Snær Guðnason nude in Baltasar Kormákur's White Night Wedding

Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Laufey Elíasdóttir, and Hilmir Snær Guðnason in Baltasar Kormákur’s “Brúðguminn” aka “White Night Wedding”.

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