Così fan tutte (1992)

Synopsis: Diana (Claudia Koll) is happily married to Paolo but due to her extrovert character she regularly winds up in short-lived adventures, which she doesn’t keep hidden from Paolo. On the contrary: by telling him, their sexual relationship is fueled with fresh impulses. When Diana experiences a stormy affair with the poet Alphonse, who is obsessed with female bottoms, Paolo gets jealous after all. He rejects Diana, who responds by indulging in a series of sexual excesses with her sister and some friends. After a particularly rough houseparty, however, Diana returns to Paolo.

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Così fan tutte (1992) 6.5

eyelights: Claudia Koll. its message. its eye candy. its naughty bits.
eyesores: Claudia Koll’s performance. its rudimentary plot. its schizophrenic score.

The more I watch Tinto Brass movies, the more it’s becoming clear that Brass has a limited range.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched the wrong films, but ‘Così fan tutte’ is very similar to ‘Tra(sgre)dire‘ to ‘Monella‘ to ‘Monamour‘. The key differences are the cast, the explicitness and the finer points of what passes for plot. Beyond that, they’re virtually interchangeable.

In his 1992 “masterpiece”, Brass serves his audience the story of a young woman who regrets going to an erotic poetry soirée with her sister; ever since that evening, during which she encountered a horny Frenchman, she has been utterly obsessed with getting her backdoor deflowered.

Yep. You read that correctly.

That is not a misprint.

And so, despite being married to Paolo, she begins to flirt with all the men she meets, trying to coax one of them into satisfying her urge: with a seminarian on the tram, on the train to Venice, after the reading of her aunt’s will, …etc., she does everything to lose her cherry.

But it’s 1992 and men were a bit more uptight about being up tight. So she eventually resorts to calling up the Frenchman, who takes her to his den, which is filled with bottom-heavy erotic art, and proceeds to making her dreams come true. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Paolo.

Hmmm… I wonder why.

After seeing ‘Monamour’, I was pretty eager to watch another Brass picture. Though ‘Monamour’ totally lacked subtlety, it managed to press my buttons. But ‘Così fan tutte’ didn’t do it for me. In fact, the longer I watched the picture, the more I got bored and irritated with it.

It’s not that it didn’t have sexy bits in it; it most certainly does. And, seriously, I was stunned by how bold it was for a 1992 film. Somehow, Brass always manages to show naughty bits (both male and female) in all their finer details – and yet he eschews putting the two together.

It’s as though he tries to find that sweet spot between erotica and pornography, somewhere past softcore, but not quite going all the way. Even when his characters do, we only see them in various positions, mock-!@#$ing for the camera. Perhaps the actors won’t cross that line.

And yet they’re ready to show every bit of themselves.

Every. Little. Bit.

In any event, the “sexy” bits didn’t actually bore me, though there were fewer than in ‘Monamour’. It could simply be that the plot is far too similar to the other ones for my taste; there were no real surprises, especially since each scene was conceived strictly for titillation.

I was, however, decidedly annoyed by the film’s lead, Claudia Koll, a stunningly beautiful woman who, in ‘Così fan tutte’, is nearly painted up like a !@#$-ing mime. Why anyone would hide her beauty under so much paint is beyond me – especially since the rest of her is au naturel.

But, really, it’s her performance that killed it. For some reason, she giggled irritatingly after every other word, like some porn cartoon, like a caricature of a sprightly, playful young woman. I suppose that it was intended to be cutesy, but it was as artificial as her make-up.

Though I enjoyed Diana’s playfulness, since it’s completely in keeping with the picture’s “plot”, I just couldn’t stand how fake it was. As a “fantasy”, she’s an utter failure, coming off more as a braindead bimbo than as an emancipated woman who owns her sexuality to the core.

Brass tries to justify his lapses by making many strong verbal statements about women’s sexual freedom, by showing Diana in control of her situation (even as men paw at her left and right!), and by defying societal standards in subtle ways (like Diana having unshaven armpits).

But it’s not really enough to redeem this picture, which does nothing to justify Diana’s actions: polyamory is fine so long as it’s agreed upon by everyone involved. Otherwise it’s dishonest; it’s infidelity. But Brass preferred to throw in a layer of jealousy to pepper his film.

And then proceeded to deflate the growing tension casually, like it didn’t matter.

It’s sloppy storytelling, its only reason for existence being the connection of sexy scenes. In that respect, ‘Così fan tutte’ is not too far removed from pornography, in that plot is never the first consideration. Here, Brass’ only intention was to show some @$$. Quite literally.

What’s hilarious is that Brass claims to have loosely inspired himself from Mozart’s own ‘Così fan tutte’ ( hence the title, which was later translated in North America as “All Ladies Do it” – do they really?). But he jettisoned pretty much everything and replaced it with nothing.

Nothing but @$$.

Perhaps if Diana wasn’t as grating as she is, I would have gotten in the right mood. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been as cognizant of the contradictions in Brass’ philosophy. Perhaps I wouldn’t have paid attention to the unrealistic production and the wildly schizophrenic soundtrack.

Perhaps.

In any event, ‘Così fan tutte’ was a disappointment to me. I’m no great Brass fan, mind you; I’ve only liked half of the films I’ve seen. But it’s quite possible that some audiences will enjoy it in ways that I didn’t; it really doesn’t stray away from the classic Brass recipe.

It’s just a matter of whether one appreciates the ingredients.

Story: 6.5
Acting: 6.5
Production: 7.0

Nudity: 6.0
Sexiness: 4.0
Explicitness: 6.0

Date of viewing: March 12, 2017

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