Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fuego (1969)

When a film opens with a lesbian makeout session, you're either in for something special or an experience akin to spastic colon; fortunately, this loopy Argentinean sexploitationer hews closer to the former. Isabel Sarli, a veritable Venus in furs, leads the proceedings as insatiable sex addict Laura, and while I can't bespeak to the totality of her acting talent (dubbing naturally tends to wreck any consideration of vocal delivery), she does has a formidable physicality to her. By that, I don't just mean her body's smokin' (though it is... damn, is it ever) - I mean that just by watching her, studying her movements, you can believe that this a woman caught in the throes of a sexual addiction that tortures and hounds her unto death. The opening half-hour or so is the film's best, as director/male lead/Sarli spouse Armando Bo exhibits a fair amount of flair behind the camera - he approximates the frenzied state of Sarli via abrupt jump cuts and tosses in a nutty scene where he and Sarli hump in the middle of a snowbank (presumably to literally cool down Laura's raging ardor). Once Bo's character Carlos slips a ring on Laura's finger despite the big blazing warning signs, the film loses its edge for a while; it does rally later for a bizarre gynecological exam, a jaunt to New York City (where everything is still dubbed) and a surprisingly fucked-up melodrama climax. That last shot of Sarli, arms out like Christ and white sleeves billowing in the wind, is about as close to genuine goddamn art as you're ever likely to find in these grindhouse specials. This shot, though demonstrates something important. This wasn't a knock-it-out job - this was made by people who cared enough to put themselves into the job; that's why, despite the fact that it practically oozes tawdriness and was obviously made on the cheap, Fuego leaves an impression. (Okay, okay, Ms. Sarli's breasts didn't hurt either.) Also worth seeing for: The overripe theme song. "FUEGO!"

Grade: B-


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