Severin Films // 1983 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 11th, 2010
"Swear on the privates of your favorite god!"
If you enjoyed Caligula, then Art of Love works as a logical sequel. In essence it is only about people having kinky sex while wearing togas or other Roman costumes, erotic episodes set in 8 A.D. in the capital of Italy, and crazy episodes that look vaguely historical since their sets look authentic for Imperial Rome. The editing is choppy beyond comprehension, the characters are barely sketched, the lighting is extreme, and the copulation is not all that sexy. The cast is made up primarily of little known Italian actors who are only recognizable as faces from other erotic works such as Blood for Dracula or Last Tango in Paris. Inserted in to the fever dream imagery is the poet Ovid who appears as a sort of narrator between lustful interludes. The film seems to have little point, but now and then the photography is arresting and strangely beautiful. What is interesting about Art of Love is the same thing that made Caligula intriguing. You can't figure out whether the man who made this film is a genius image maker who dabbled in pornography or a pornographer who just happened on pretty pictures.
What makes this DVD noteworthy is it marks the first time Art of Love has been released in the United States uncensored, and it is the completion of the "immoral" trilogy from director Walerian Borowczyk. The director came from Poland, but settled in France later in life to make mysterious erotic films and quirky animated shorts. On the back cover of the DVD box, British film legend Terry Gilliam (Brazil) is quoted as saying "Borowczyk was a twisted man whose films were infused with a unique cruelty and weirdness." The duo admired each other's early stop motion projects, and remained friends until Borowczyk passed away in 2006.
Severin's DVD treatment is bare bones and not particularly well preserved. Nicks and specks appear all over the ragged film print, and the soundtrack is a tinny bad English dub. Still, the colors are nicely preserved and it is the most complete cut of the film you're likely to find. There are borderline hardcore orgy scenes and plenty of lingering shots focusing on female full frontal nudity. Male naked parts are more restrained, but some floppy members make a cameo now and then. There are no extras save for a vintage trailer which is a shame since the film needs some explanation.
Perhaps this was simply a film made to exploit the brief time when cable channels and VHS rental stores sought out sexy period pieces to titillate viewers who wanted something naughty but still artsy looking. Art of Love does not have a great plot, but it does look good enough now and then to show off the skills of a guy who was at one time a pretty good painter. Walerian Borowczyk went on after this film to make Emmanuel 5, and he drifted further in to late night skin flick territory. Art of Love is for anybody who thinks Rome on HBO would have been better with less plot and more nudity. A lot more nudity and a lot less plot!
Guilty of being a kinked out mess of a film with some pretty pictures now and then.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Not Rated