Sunday, December 10, 2017

Il sesso del diavolo (1971)

... aka: Il sesso del diavolo: Trittico
... aka: Sex of the Devil
... aka: Triptych
... aka: Trittico

Directed by:
Oscar Brazzi

After taking a relaxing anniversary cruise, Andrea (Rossano Brazzi) and his wife Barbara (Maitena Galli) are dropped off in Istanbul, Turkey. There, they meet up with Andrea's reserved assistant Silvia (Sylva Koscina) and his Turkish colleague Omar (Fikret Hakan), who hasn't been back to his home country in fifteen years. Andrea's secretary has arranged a luxurious seafront villa for them to stay at while they're in the country. Upon arrival at their vacation home, Omar has an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu like he's been in the same house before while the married couple can't stop bickering.

Andrea was once a brilliant doctor but has since lost his skills, developed a phobia of surgical instruments and devolved into an impotent, depressed drunk. The much younger Barbara (because there's this rule that all doctor's wives in movies must be at least twenty years younger) was once a model in New York before settling down and isn't too comforting in his time of need. As a matter of fact, she doesn't at all mind rubbing his face in his failures, especially when she doesn't get her way. Andrea disapproves at how provocatively she dresses. She tells him he just doesn't get modern fashion cause he's so old. He's too tired to go out to the nightclubs their first day there. I'm sure you can already guess what her response is. Because of his depression, Andrea also hasn't been able to be intimate with his wife, something she just laughs about.

While tensions rise between the couple, there's a sinister housekeeper named Fatima (Güzin Özipek) quietly lurking about. Fatima gives Barbara a special medallion necklace. She then whips out a large tray decorated with astrological signs and arranges tea cups on it in a peculiar, purposeful way before serving it to the guests. Silvia has a wavy premonition that discourages her from actually drinking the tea but the other three do. The following day during a sightseeing trip, someone wearing sunglasses “accidentally” bumps into Andrea and almost knocks him over a cliff. Someone else has made a plaster sculpture and uses a brick to smash in the faces on it. A mysterious man stalks the ladies on a shopping and sightseeing excursion. A weird little neighbor girl keeps going to the garden at night “to see the lady.” But a blind palm reader has good news for Silvia at least. She's a butterfly who will soon be able to spread her wings and fly free and happy.

Recognizing some art pieces around the grounds of their villa, Omar finally realizes why the place feels so familiar. That's because it had belonged to a French sculptress friend of his named Claudine. Claudine was obsessed with the zodiac and what influence it has in our lives. Said beliefs also influenced her art pieces, which always had astral and psychic components. She also hung herself right outside that very home.

So the housekeeper hypnotizes Silvia and puts her through some ceremony where she's stripped and then dressed in a pink kaftan dress. She emerges from that sexier and more confident than the conservative Silvia who arrived in Istanbul, which results in her coming on to both the doctor and his wife. Omar, however, isn't having any of this, especially after having a terrifying vision of Claudine hanging in the garden. He buys a plane ticket to Ankara and encourages everyone else to head back to Rome. They eventually do but not after some other bizarre things occur.

The sunglasses assassin shows up a few more times to kill Mr. Obromov (Ayden Tezel), an art collector who's been buying up all of Claudine's work, and then tries to take out Andrea with a throwing dagger. There's a trippy belly-dancer act cut with the housekeeper's witchcraft ceremony, including one where she summons a scorpion and tries to get it to sting Andrea's crotch (!) The two female leads can't seem to keep their clothes on for longer than ten minutes and there are a few slow-motion dream sequences, including several of Andrea being chased around by the Turkish side characters and one where he and Silvia do the Eurotrash version of the beach scene in From Here to Eternity.

The director and two stars died decades ago so they ain't talkin' but I doubt even a zodiac-obsessed, acid-dropping former hippie astrologist could tell you what in the hell is going on here. This seems to be trying to say something about love, relationships and men being emasculated and ultimately rendered insignificant by independent women who'd just assume turn dyke than deal with male baggage, but when a filmmaker buries said message(s) under a bunch of artsy nonsense in an otherwise incomprehensible film he might as well not be saying anything at all. Not that this movie isn't somewhat interesting at times. It is. Some of the sequences are actually well done and kind of mesmerizing. Still, by the end, I found myself not really caring. And that's a good thing considering this doesn't even really have an ending; at least not one that actually resolves anything. Too much empty travelogue footage and mostly bland performances (Brazzi seems downright bored) don't help matters any and the score is as all over the place as the rest of the film, with a main theme by Stelvio Cipriani that blatantly rips off the opening chords of Iron Butterfly's “In a Gadda Da Vida!”

Never released here in America, this is listed most places online under the title Trittico ("Triptych"), which refers to one piece of art divided into three sections. I usually see it used to refer to three paintings from the same artist hung next to each other to create one continuous scene / image or one of those closed framed photos with two flaps that open to reveal a larger photo, but it can also refer to a trilogy of books or a musical composition in three parts. While this does feature a sculpture of three faces they show a couple of times, whatever relevance it has to the plot is, like everything else, muddled beyond comprehension.

The director is the younger brother of the star and was also a producer on Psychout for Murder (1969) and the sleazy Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (1974), which also featured his brother. "Trittico” is merely a subtitle on the print I viewed and I found no poster with that title on it. Pretty much all advertising materials I've found call this Il sesso del diavolo or “Sex of the Devil” (not to be confused with Il sesso della strega or “Sex of the Witch” from around this same time), so that's what I'm calling it here.

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