Bambola Valeria Marini
Flavio Stefano Dionisi
Furio Jorge Perugorria
Settimio Manuel Bandera
Ugo Antonio Iuorio
Mamma Greta Anita Ekberg
Popular Italo TV star and voluptuous pinup girl Valeria Marini drapes her larger-than-life curves across the bigscreen as a sensual amalgam of earthy wild child and clueless kewpie doll in “Bambola.” From the thinnest of stories, Catalan erotomaniac Bigas Luna has cooked up a blithely trashy, often flagrantly silly sex romp that offers hetero- and homoeroticism and some slippery fun with eels. This mindlessly entertaining rustic melodrama should steam up Latino and Euro salles and could become a cult video item elsewhere.
Rushed through post-production for a Venice fest premiere, “Bambola” and its star mobilized legions of paparazzi on the Lido, obtaining saturation media coverage that should aid the film’s Italian release in October. Attention to Marini’s first starring film role was magnified by the actress’s requests for cuts to several scenes in which she felt overexposed. While the offending frames stayed put for the Venice bow, national censors may yet opt for further cuts prior to release of the sexfest.
Marini plays Mina, affectionately known as Bambola, the comely daughter of gun-happy, alcoholic trattoria proprietress Mamma Greta (Anita Ekberg). Her mother’s death leaves Bambola and her gay, bottle-blond brother, Flavio (Stefano Dionisi), to run the ramshackle truck stop eatery, located on the remote northern plains of Italy by the Po River.
To spruce up the place, they turn to corpulent banker Ugo (Antonio Iuorio), who finances their renovations while hankering for Bambola. But his jealousy when she starts flirting at the local pool with hunky Settimio (Manuel Bandera) leads to tragedy. Ugo dies and Settimio lands in prison for murder. When the equally enamored brother and sister go visiting, Bambola catches the eye of ultraviolent prison inmate Furio (Jorge Perugorria), who demonstrates his interest by demanding a pair of her knickers and carving her name in his arm.
In order to make Settimio less of a rival for Bambola’s affections, Furio has him gang-raped by his prison flunkies. The experience uncovers a softer side, making him more susceptible to Flavio’s romantic advances. Meanwhile, Bambola agrees to visit Furio in his cell, where she is given a wham-bam once-over that leaves her weak-kneed and smitten.
Following Furio’s release, he unceremoniously moves in at the trattoria. His brutal bedtime approach horizontal sex doesn’t even get a look-in prompts protests from Bambola that she wants love, not just lust. But the closest he comes to tenderness involves the introduction of a large eel into their sexplay. The nature of the beast eventually proves too much for Bambola to handle, forcing Flavio to intervene and protect her from the man she loves.
In the age of political correctness, there’s something quaint about Luna’s nonchalance in setting feminist politics back by 50 years, and the ludicrousness of much of the scenario makes it almost impossible to take offense. Despite ample displays of T&A, the film’s erotic charge remains very much on the jokey side, perhaps locked there by Marini’s physically triumphant but emotionally one-dimensional performance.
The film’s look is as gleefully excessive as its rollicking, soap-operatic story. Mercedes Gutierrez’s costume designs are consistently amusing, from Bambola’s tiny angora sweaters and flimsy peasant-girl dresses to Flavio’s hip gay-boy ensembles and Furio’s grubby bathrobe. Walter Caprara’s production design also is eye-catching, especially the run-down riverbank trattoria surrounded by dilapidated fishing boats.
For the record, Marini’s objections were primarily to a climactic scene in which she crouches weeping over the slain body of Furio with her dress hiked up and her naked derriere pointing heavenwards (her underwear having been torn from her a scene or two earlier). The actress has stated she believed the camera to be pointing at her face.
“Bambola” is the first in a trilogy of pics about women’s power over men being made by Luna in each of the three co-producing countries. Next up is the big-budget French period piece “The Titanic Chambermaid,” shooting in January with Italian model-turned-actress Monica Bellucci. A modern reworking of “Carmen” will follow in Spain later in 1997.