Piaf & German porn

From Oui (September 1974). –- J.R.

Piaf. In her life and in her music’ Edith Piaf is probably the closest thing France has had to a Billie Holiday. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that a feature-length fiction film based on her life gives her the same kind of treatment that Lady Sings the Blues gave to Billie. We begin with Edith’s birth in 1915 in a red-light district of Paris. Abandoned by her mother, she grows up in a provincial whorehouse, Edith starts singing for centimes in street acts with her acrobat father. Then she goes independent and sings on the street while her half-sister, Momone, accompanies her on harmonica.Piaf is menaced by a Montmartre pimp who sells her “protection”. After she gives birth to a bastard daughter who dies in infancy, she gradually makes her way up the ladder from a dive in Pigalle to a Champs-Elysées niqht club. The plot is taken from a “fictionalized” biography by Simone Berteaut, the real-life Momone. Newcomer Brigitte Ariel plays Piaf, although the singing voice belongs to Betty Mars in both the French and English versions of the film. Guy Casaril, the director, serves it all up in something akin to the American bio-pic Style: Edith sings her heart out as the camera sails up into the sky.

What Students Never Tell and Hotel of Vice.In these two samples of German sex flicks the women tend to be a little fleshier than the ones on display in most American products, but not quite as Amazonian as your average Swedish porn queens. And the characters are likelier to drink beer than Scotch or martinis. Students is a string of mainly comic sketches, loosely connected by a few dialogues between a doctor and a clergyman about youth today. A child molester in a dingy basement is held at bay by two voluptuous teenage girls who take off all their clothes –- claiming that at last they’ve found a real man – to keep him from fleeing before the police arrive. Another episode includes a sex party with Bavarian schoolgirls, held after-hours in a post office: A pretty brunette gets taken from behind while standing at the window, making small talk with a villager on the street, and later gets her bottom rubber-stamped with postal instructions such as nicht stürzen (handle with care) and übergewicht (overweight). Hotel of Vice clearly isn’t one of the gems of the genre. The hotel in question is mainly the setting for an interminable murder mystery, starring our old friend Curt Jurgens as the inspector. Apparently the producer realized it needed something extra, because grainy hardcore footage with no relationship to the plot (and featuring different actors) is inserted at random intervals. The hand-held photography is so inept that it often becomes difficult to decode how many (and what gender) are doing what to whom, although a lady with a vibrator and two women frolicking with a man are vaguely discernible through the camera’s convulsions. In the mystery part, Jurgens conveys the distinct impression that he’d much rather be somewhere else; come to think of it, so would I.

– J. R.

This entry was posted in Notes. Bookmark the permalink.