Monday, May 19, 2014

Una ragazza piuttosto complicata (1969)

Italian Two Panel Poster

Una ragazza piuttosto complicata (aka A Rather Complicated Girl), directed by Damiano Damiani and based loosely on an Alberto Moravia short story, is the tale of a man named Alberto (Jean Sorel) who happens to overhear a sexy telephone conversation between Claudia (Catherine) and Greta (Florinda Balkan).  Intrigued, Alberto shows up in a public place to see Claudia in person.  What ensues is a complicated and odd relationship between the two, which includes a mysterious suitor named Pietro, who is constantly nearby watching Claudia's movements (and does not seem to be too concerned about Alberto's presence).  Alberto is unable to perform in this initial encounter with Claudia, but she is undeterred, and they continue to spend time together with odd talk about sexual and violent thoughts.  The viewer can only conclude that both of them have serious mental issues, especially after their uncomfortable encounter with a teenager on her way home from school.

Claudia tells Alberto that Greta is her step-mother, the widow of her deceased father, and that Greta has been taking sexual advantage of her, because Greta controls the money that supports Claudia (who is an artist).  Alberto and Claudia banter about the possibility of killing Greta, and then Claudia takes Alberto to Greta's home to meet her.  Ultimately, Alberto runs over Greta with his car as she is out for a bike ride.  To his surprise, in the aftermath, Claudia marries Pietro and tries to push Alberto out of her life.  Alberto believes that he has been duped into killing Greta.  The viewer is left wondering whether Claudia really did perfect a scheme to get Alberto to do her dirty work, or if Alberto is just insane.

Frankly, I was very disappointed in Una ragazza piuttosto complicataThe Empty Canvas is my favorite Catherine Spaak film, and it was directed by Damiani based on a Moravia novel, so I had high hopes for this movie as well.  This film, however, is not in the same league as The Empty Canvas.  This thriller has a bit of a giallo-like feel to it, and Catherine's performance is fine.  Those are positives.  Catherine has a short, brunette hairstyle in this role, which is a different look for her.  It looks to me like it was a wig.  I usually like Jean Sorel's work fairly well (his Una sull'altra would make my list of favorite Italian films), but I have never been very fond of Florinda Balkan's work.  Balkan, however, won a Golden Plate at the David di Donatello awards for this performance.  I don't get it, but good for her.

Claudia and Alberto are not only "unlikeable," they are mentally imbalanced.  Greta just comes across as odd.  There is nothing about this film that "clicks" with me.  If you miss this one, you haven't missed much.

Una ragazza piuttosto complicata features an ample amount of nudity and sex with a late-1960's feel to it, but Claudia's on-screen nudity is performed by a body double, not by Catherine.  Since Catherine had disrobed a bit on-camera for the first time in her previous film, La matriarca, it would be interesting to hear her thought process on what she was and was not willing to do in that regard.

After a January 14, 1969 preview screening at the AGIS screening room in Rome, Variety included a review in its January 22, 1969 edition, commenting that the film's "gala display of nudity, lesbianism and a generous display of psychopathia sexualis fails to spark the DCI release, also weakened by pretentious dialogue, mediocre performances and numbing exhibitionism."  It further added:  "Intended as an erotic fantasy, 'Complicated Girl' goes way over length with tedious explicitness and out-of-place realism to wring the film dry of stranger-than-life people and macabre suspense.  Damiano Damiani's film authorship effort is particularly disappointing in view of his track record."   

Lensed in the latter part of the summer of 1968 in Rome (starting in July), the film (originally to have been called Rear Drive) was released in Italy on February 7, 1969 (per IMDB).  Apparently the film performed well at the box office, although its subject matter created controversy.  A public prosecutor in Milan ordered the film seized after an indecency complaint.  The film had to be cut before being re-released, and the original version was only allowed after being cleared in a tribunal in 1971.  I do not know if that has anything to do with the two different titles used for the film in Italy (as shown by the posters below):
  • The July 10, 1968 Variety reported:  "Giorgio Agliani of Five Films is producing Damiano Damiani's 'A Rather Complicated Girl' (once 'Rear Drive') for Filmena and Fono Roma."  
  • The July 17, 1968 Variety reported:  "Maria Cuadra came in from Madrid to join Catherine Spaak and Jean Sorel in 'A Rather Complicated Girl'."   
  • The February 19, 1969 Variety reported that the film was in the bottom half of the top 10 films at the Italian box office for the previous week.
  • The March 5, 1969 Variety reported:  "After considerable success on opening venture, 'A Rather Complicated Girl,' Filmena is ambitiously tackling..."
  • The March 12, 1969 Variety reported that after the film had opened in 22 cities, the public prosecutor in Milan ordered that the film be seized wherever it was being shown after an indecency complaint by a filmgoer in Alessandria.
  • The June 22, 1971 Variety report:  "In Milan, a tribunal finally got around to 'A Rather Complicated Girl,' directed by Daminao Damiani for Fono Roma.  Confiscated in 1969, producer was forced to delete two sequences before getting clearance to re-release.  On appeal, Milan bench disavowed prior charges of 'offense to common decency' in the nude scenes, restored the sheared footage, and gave full absolution to the producer, director and cast."
Other than a possible release in the UK as A Complicated Girl, I have found no indication that the film was released in English-speaking countries.  It appears to have been released on video at some point in Spain, and a nice Region 2 DVD was released in 2011.

Here are some Italian posters.  I believe that the Senza Pudore posters were for a 1972 release, which makes me wonder if that was a version with restored scenes after the Milan tribunal finally settled the indecency charge in the summer of 1971.


Here's a trade ad promoting the film:

Here are some publicity photos/stills:

A Mexican lobby card:

A Japanese poster:

Packaging for a Super 8mm film release:

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