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Image, The
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by Charles Tatum

"Whip it, whip it good"
2 stars

Bondage, S & M, whippings, leather, masks, pain, torture, submissiveness...if you are intimately familiar with these terms, you are probably intimately familiar with this film.

Jean (Carl Parker, looking like a young Michael Nouri) is a bachelor writer in Paris invited to a stuffy party. There he sees an old acquaintance, Claire (Marilyn Roberts), and Claire's "friend," Anne (Rebecca Brooke, credited under the name Mary Mendum). Claire and Anne are obviously involved somehow, and Jean's interest is aroused. The trio go out for a drink, where Claire treats Anne like an object. Anne rarely talks, and cowers under Claire's control. Jean later tags along with the pair to the Bagatelle Gardens, where Claire demands unusual requests of Claire, like breaking the rule against flower picking...and peeing in public.

Anne is very short with Jean when he sees her later without Claire, which earns Anne a new set of punishments- namely being beaten. Thanks to Claire, we know that Anne gets sexually aroused when being treated this way. Claire orders Anne to satisfy Jean sexually (to which Jean offers no resistance) but, of course, the unnatural order of the sadistic triangle begins to break down.

"The Image" came out in the mid-1970's, when the line between mainstream and pornographic cinema was still blurred. Newspapers would critique works like this as if they were "regular" films, finding fault or celebrating positives. This film does have some beautiful cinematography, courtesy of Rene Lefevre. Metzger's films were known for their photography, much like David Hamilton's films. The screenplay, by a pseudonym-bearing John F. Goff, is a nightmare of terrible dialogue ("It was a look of one viewing a rerun of a successful film one had directed oneself, whose plot couldn't possibly have any surprises."), and comically clumsy metaphors, such as Jean thinking back to Anne's public urination as giant water cannons explode behind him. Paris' many phallic monuments are also filmed in a certain way...

Rebecca Brooke is gorgeous in the lead role. Unfortunately, her character is treated subhumanly and the actress must engage in many an explicit sex scene with Parker. Parker's Jean is a blank. We never figure out why he joins in the humiliation of Anne, and his narration is both unnecessary and obvious. Roberts is also a bit of a mystery as Claire. While the two go about the business of mistreating Anne in public places, I wondered how we got here to begin with. I understand if Metzger wanted to keep the sex, and the relationships, anonymous, but this provides a coldness the film could not shake. Metzger's direction is imaginative, he was fond of shooting sexual situations vaguely blocked by objects in the foreground, but here he lets loose with sex and violence of the bondage variety.

"The Image" is just that- pretty pictures of pretty people whipping each other during sexual sessions. Its infamy is understandable, but not deserved.

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originally posted: 01/05/11 09:36:37
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  17-Mar-1976 (NR)
  DVD: 25-Jun-2002



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