Diary of Forbidden Dreams Reviews
There are worse thing in life, like:
Sticking your tongue in a paper shredder.
Filling your nose with someone else's boogers.
Being buried alive in a coffin full of starving hagfish, in heat.
Curly-haired beauty Synde Rome stars as Nancy, an American hitchhiker who flees a poorly chosen ride in Italy and stumbles into a luxurious, beachfront getaway. Like Candy and Annie, she's a naive, manipulable blonde who somehow keeps losing her clothes. Aww, how embarrassing for the poor dear. During most of the film, she has one leg painted blue and wears only a borrowed pajama top. It's not worth explaining.
The idyllic home is owned by an old invalid (character actor Hugh Griffith, Britain's answer to Jack Elam). But he has multiple guests and caretakers, including the ubiquitous Marcello Mastroianni. Marcello takes a shine to sweet Nancy and soon has her indulging his favorite fantasy, which involves being playfully whipped as he crawls around in a tiger skin. Grrr. In a later scene, Marcello talks to a tree. This was not his proudest role.
Other visitors include a woman who casually walks around nude, a Mozart-loving pianist (his duets with Nancy are quite enjoyable as music), two ping-pong addicts and a hip priest who eventually gets kicked in the groin. Most of them have some sort of lurid interest in Nancy. Polanski himself appears as a trivial imp nicknamed "Mosquito." It's easy to see why women found him so adorable.
Rome is not a bad actress, and indeed is still working today. But even Mastroianni can't salvage this tired, aimless script.
Following this disaster, Polanski's next project was a little noir tale called "Chinatown."
I know the charm is supposed to be on its absurdist situations, but I just didn't find it funny, rather incredibly boring and uninsteresting.
I can wonder this, but what it comes down to is the movie is funny. It's funny because of the extremes Polanski and co-writer Gerard Brach take with characters and specific scenarios. Everybody at this villa, where the protagonist arrives at, is surely demented to one degree or another. There's the pimp, played by Marcello Mastroianni, who loves the feel of crushing ping pong balls with his feet, dressing up as tigers and admirals for sexually sado-masochistic endeavors; there's the guy who plays piano beautifully and doesn't respond when someone talks to him during his incessant playing; there's Polanski himself playing a character named 'Mosquito', a fellow with a fake beard and a strange thing for Sydney Rome's character's jeans, which he steals in her sleep. This doesn't even include random people like the woman walking around naked for no reason.
There is no distinct plot, but rather it follows that illogical line of logic one could find in the Exterminating Angel (or Alice in Wonderland for that matter), or perhaps as just a parody of the creation of a 'sex diary' that Rome carries on her person everywhere. Some lines fly over my head, and others are some of the funniest and most cleverly deranged that Polanski's ever done. There's even time for the villa's wise-old dying patriarch, with his bushy beard and eyebrows who nearly passes on on at a big dinner, only to recover and become with obsessed with Rome's shirt.
This all said, it's not altogether excellent. Rome's performance wavers between competency and total flatness. That might have been what Polanski wanted (she reminded on of a slightly cuter Elizabeth Berkley), but aside from good looks there's not much going on for her here. The good news is the bevy of Italian character players, people one's never seen before (or non-Italian ones like Hugh Griffith), hit their marks and can be hysterical on the whole.
None, however, are quite as good as Mastroianni. As another proof of his genius as an actor, he makes this perverted Don Jaun all his own. He's suave, but in that slimy way, like a permanently libidinous version of his sexual fantasies in 8 1/2. So that his sudden appearances qas he spies on Rome are funny on their own, but one he gets into 'uniforn' in those sex-role play scenes (particularly that tiger, good Lord), or fetishizes that ping pong ball, it's a kind of outrageous perfection.
What? isn't top-shelf Polanski, and there is something to it being unavailable for so long in the Unites States. But if you ca find it, and are at least a decent fan of the director and/or the star, it's a hoot. That's what it is.