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Studio: Mondo Macabro
Year: 2006
Cast: James Wilby, Arielle Dombasle, Dany Verissimo, Marie Espinosa, Farid Chopel
Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Release Date: August 23, 2009, 4:07 pm
Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, nudity, violence)
Run Time: 01h:58m:34s

ìHow could someone know the requirements of a projector so old-fashioned?î - John Locke (James Wilby)

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It's nice to see a more recent film come from the always-fun Mondo Macabro, and I'm sure it offers more of the same disturbing stuff.

Movie Grade: D

DVD Grade: C-

Those who are familiar with Mondo Macabro and the DVDs they distribute expect to see films at least 15-years-old that tend to wear their cult genre classification on their sleeve. Their latest release, Gradiva gets half of that right. This nudity-filled, gothic mystery is the perfect fit for the Mondo Macabro label in terms of style and substance, but the big difference between the rest of their releases is that it was originally released in France a mere three years ago, in 2006. And, also like the rest of Mondoís releases, Gradiva is a film that is definitely not for everyone, and, unfortunately, even its intended audience might have a hard time connecting with itÖthis cult film fan sure did.

British historian John Locke (James Wilby) is holed up in a hotel in Morocco, researching the painter, EugÈne Delacroix, a man who spent quite a bit of time in North Africa. One night, while studying, a mysterious courier delivers information involving a collection of Delacroixís previously unseen works. Locke sets out on a journey to find them, seeing visions of a beautiful, blonde woman, who died 100 years earlier. He is soon on a path of sexual obsession, witnessing horrible acts upon women, and eventually being accused of the murder of the aforementioned dead blonde, all the while getting closer to the soul of EugÈne Delacroix.

Ok, sure thereís plenty of T&A to satisfy those exploitation film fans, but this movie is so, mind-numbingly slow that Iím not sure any amounts of nudity are worth sitting through something like this. Most of the film consists of the main character simply walking around; meandering through hallway after hallway. Iíve seen more fluid action in even the worst Friday the 13th films, and those are full of elongated sequences involving Jason slowly lumbering through a setting, trying to find his hiding victim. Maybe an appearance by Jason is whatís missing from Gradiva? At the half hour point, I even that sounded appealing.

Calling Gradiva erotic is a bit of a stretch. We see nude women for at least half of the film, but never is there really any eroticism, or even a single sex scene on display. Instead, we see random images of naked women in various forms of cages, naked women lying, bloodied on a wheel of some sort, and naked women, well, just plain bleeding from apparent knife or sword wounds. If thereís a centerpiece of such ìtorture,î itís a sequence where we see a burly man slowly cutting the chest of a, get this, naked woman. This scene derives a total of zero value, as itís just too damn safe for a movie like this. Either leave it out of the film, or go all out and show some gratuitous gore here. At least that would have lit a spark under the slow, boring, simply uneventful material that weíve experienced up to that point in the movie.

Mondo Macabroís DVD isnít among the best that the outfit has to offer, thanks to audio and video transfers that are certainly nothing to write home about. The video presentation is surprisingly soft given the movieís young age, while the audio is subdued and bland. The extras donít really offer anything interesting either, although the interview with the Robbe-Grillet is worth a look. Still, this is a rare, overall disappointing effort from one of the most imaginative, reliable DVD distributors out there.

Chuck Aliaga August 23, 2009, 4:07 pm