Sunday, September 18, 2011

No es nada, mamá, sólo un juego (1974)

... aka: Beyond Erotica
... aka: It's Nothing Bad, Mama, It's Only a Game
... aka: It's Only a Game
... aka: Lola

Directed by:
José María Forqué

"You have to know exactly what to cut away and what to leave. You leave only those roots that are indispensible to its growth yet at the same time those that won't tire it too much. It's like a child; temperamental. And yet you see how it preserves its youth while at the same time it grows old." - Juan, on cultivating dwarf pines... his second favorite pasttime.

Director / producer / writer José María Forqué followed up his difficult to find murder-mystery TAROT (1973; titled AUTOPSY in the U.S.) with this perverse psycho drama. While it's not at all pleasant to watch, it is interesting and fairly well-made, with decent acting and artistic pretensions. David Hemmings stars in what could be the most despicable roles of his entire career as Juan, a pampered, insufferable thirty-something sick-o from a well-to-do family who gets off on degrading, raping and murdering innocent women. In between victims, he also gets his jollies blasting away bunny rabbits already caught in traps. Juan lives with his facilitating mother Louise (Alida Valli, playing a role every bit as detestable as Hemmings') in a large villa somewhere in an impoverished Venezuelan village where everyone hates their family but feel powerless to fight back because they're responsible for employing nearly everyone in the area. Juan uses their stature to have his way with whatever woman he wants... most especially the ones who don't want it. And after he's done, he makes them don a pair of oversized rabbit ears and animal skin rags and then hunts them down MOST DANGEROUS GAME-style on horseback with help from a rifle, bear traps and his killer dogs.

A woman ripped apart by the dogs in the very first scene was actually the family's long-suffering maid Lucia (Nuria Gimeno) and now they're in need of a replacement. Louise hires Isabel (Rudy Hernández), but Juan immediately rejects her because she's "common" and a "slut" (i.e. he doesn't have to force himself upon her). Juan would much rather have the sexy and strong-willed Lola (Andrea Rau) and, after he throws a temper tantrum at the dinner table, Louise arranges for Lola to come work for them, promising to help further the careers of both her father and her boyfriend if she'll just learn to tolerate Juan. Though the young beauty agrees to the assignment, she is having none of Juan's sexual advances. When he tries to grope her at the dinner table, she pours soup over his head. Then the advances become increasing more physical and violent. He sets up a hammock right outside her bedroom and then sneaks into her room and tries to rape her, but she manages to get away.

Eventually, Juan traps Lola in a steel pin and promises to let her out once she's "prepared." His mother and the rest of the staff know she's there but do nothing to help her. In fact, Louise even ships Lola's boyfriend off to Caracas so he won't come there looking for her so her degenerate son can keep occupied playing his sick "game." For refusing to take off her clothes, Lola is denied food or water for days on end and has some left sitting outside the pin barely out of reach. When she finally agree to take off her skirt, Juan uses a water hose to spray her off. Many more days pass, and Juan finally gets to have his way with her in a repellent scene where he cuts off her panties with a machete and goes to town while Lola (filthy and nearly delirious by this point) slurps down a piece of melon he's kind enough to throw at her. Many days later, to get more food, he makes her get on all fours and act like an animal, then kiss his hands before giving her a sandwich. She starts gobbling it down before realizing he's filled it with worms.

After being adequately tortured, physically and psychologically, Lola is set free and told she can go, but she's apparently fallen victim to Stockholm Syndrome and is in love with her tormentor / captor. At least temporarily. Or perhaps she's just pretending to be. It was kind of hard to tell. Either way, she sticks around long enough to spark the interest / lust of Juan's Uncle (Francisco Rabal), who's been hanging around to try to cash in on his deceased brother. Uncle has a psychiatrist make frequent visits to the home; perhaps to find Juan and his mother mentally incompetent (though neither actually cooperate) so he can get their money. Every once in awhile, we get a soft-focus flashback to Juan as a child and how he was influenced by his sadistic tyrant of a father; also a rapist and murderer.

Though this certainly works on a base level - after all, it's difficult to make a movie about people being exploited without it having "exploitative elements" - this is also clearly meant to be a commentary / indictment on the sadistic treatment of natives at the hands of the wealthy outsiders who have colonized / industrialized their lands over the years. This kind of behavior has been prevalant throughout history, particularly in Latin America and Africa (with European settlers showing up to turn a profit by virtually enslaving the populace) and it's also a big part of the foundation of the United States (with European settlers showing up and systematically wiping out Native Americans). For a more contemporay parallel, it's billion dollar corporations setting up shop in depressed areas of other countries so they can maximize profit by having the desperate and poor work exhaustingly long hours in dangerous, sub-human conditions for slave wages. Funny how we in 'civilized society,' one supposedly far advanced from our blood-soaked "primitive" days, haven't really evolved all that much over the years. It's the same game with a different name... But I guess sometimes it takes a movie about an arrested adolescent making wormy sandwiches and chasing around Playboy bunnies on horseback to make these things pop into your head.

No R1 DVD release as of this writing, but this was released in the 80s on the Prism VHS label, under the title BEYOND EROTICA (the same title used when this played U.S. theaters back in 1979).


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