The Libertine / La Matriarca (1968)
An apathetic widow learns of and inherits her late husband’s philandering ways and explores various fetishes trying to find a way to enjoy sex, she meets a doctor who loves her for her and rides him into the sunset.
Our protagoniste discovers her husband’s secret bachelor pad / sexhouse after his timely death. Upon learning of her loveless marriage’s unfaithful nature she seems more confused than hurt, wondering why he didn’t do all the kinky stuff with her, his wife, instead of a harem of other partners. And seemingly just baffled why someone would do such things at all. She starts to look into this whole “sex” thing with a succession of partners, trying on not just fetishes and kinks but styles of relationship as well. The most memorable of these men is a transparent scumbag, who gets some of the best lines in the movie:
“As a child I used to tear all my schoolbooks to shreds.”
“How did you ever graduate?”
“I switched to women just in time.” <3
“Maybe I could try to love you?”
“Don’t do that, I’m going to Africa.”
This asshole though is the only man who turns out to be outright abusive (what happens here is probably outside what some people have the stomach for in a comedy, but it’s interesting how it’s handled–she keeps up her odd objectivity, as if she simply recognizes this as one of the types of relationships women get into, and says no, this too is not my thing.), and she moves on to greener doctors, and stumbles onto both what makes her tick and an honest-to-god supportive partner.
Directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile (no clue) (just some I-talian)
The version we saw seemed to have deleted scenes spliced back into the film, resulting in random unimportant shots having lower film quality. It’s distracting, but not game-breaking since 90% of the actual movie is fine quality.
Also it’d be neat to have the original Italian accents (which were evidently heavy enough to warrant dubs) since they’re clearly speaking English, if for no other reason than the emotional guise (state?) of actress and voice actress often visibly differ by miles.
The wardrobe in this movie is off the 70’s chain (Italy), and and… pink fox!
Despite what a first glance would imply, this film isn’t a slimy-feeling playpen for a Humbert Humbert-esque director hiding in the murky waters of ‘art film’ which is what most Explores Her Sexuality movies I’ve seen end up being. Nor does it really deviate from a cliche plot structure.
Its originality (and what I find immensely enjoyable about this movie) comes from the subversion of the protagonist’s desires.
Mimi, our protagonist (played by the soft-serve-ice-cream-delicious Catherine Spaak)–who in any other ‘explores her sexuality’ movie would be a caricature of a capricious clit or a vindictive vagina–seems completely unimpressed by sex.
She is like Albert Camus’ Meursault (precisely like, when it comes to apathetic funeral attendance): her reaction is kinda like finding out your dead husband led a secret life as a taxidermist and studying it after his death to figure out why. (perfect)
Thus begins her delving into a [pretty un]helpful sex manual, and experimenting with various acquaintances and fetishes to find something, anything that she actually derives pleasure from.
The result of giving our protagonist such emotional detachment from her sexuality gives the story a huge boost of humanity and psychological meat to dig your teeth into which I could go on about for days.
It’s the kind of movie that opens conversations, not zippers. Watch it.