Judge Christopher Kulik submitted this review from rehab.
The story of a girl, her pimp, and her knight in shining armor!
In 1981, German film director Uli Edel (Last Exit To Brooklyn, Body Of Evidence) made Christiane F., which depicted a 12-year old girl on heroin and PCP. I've never seen it, but evidently it got high praise and put Edel on the map. Since it was a big hit, it's no wonder other filmmakers scrambled to repeat its success, and one was exploitation master Rino Di Silvestro (Women In Cell Block 7). Sleazing up the story as much as he could, Silvestro—under the pseudonym Axel Berger—created an over-the-top, grungy saga which contained everything from graphic sex to extreme drug use. When the back of the DVD case refers to Hanna D. as a "filth-fest," you know it's not sugar-coating what's on display.
Innocent Hanna (Ann-Gisel Glass, Salut Cousin!) is a 16-year-old girl who's been using her body for some time to support her and her unstable mother (Karin Schubert, Bluebeard). In order to get some quick cash, she journeys to Vondel Park, a haven for prostitutes and heroin addicts. After she is hounded and chased away by the other hookers, Hanna is picked up by a cyclist (Fausto Lombardi, Only You), who's taken aback at her ethereal beauty. He insists on becoming her pimp, promising to rake in tons of money for the both of them. However, he also insists on her taking heroin, which soon takes a toll on her physically. Later, she meets the handsome, stable Alex (Sebastiano Somma, Hannibal) who falls in love her. Will Hanna be able to escape from the clutches of her pimp to be with her dream man?
Filmed in Italian, but dubbed in English, Hanna D. is a god-awful mess on every level imaginable. There is so much here which screams ineptness, it's a real wonder the film was able to find any sense of cohesion in its mind-numbing storyline. Logical transitions are non-existent. Most of the acting, particularly from Schubert, is nauseatingly bad. The film seems more interested in showing different ways a person could take heroin (whether it's through the arm, the head, the eye, or under the tongue) instead of us learning about the characters. There's also no shortage of simulated sex scenes, with lots of full-frontal nudity, mostly provided by Hanna herself. I should despise Hanna D. for all it represents and shows for the sake of exploitative entertainment.
While I was watching it, however, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Silvestro (who also wrote the script) may be out to shock, but he succeeds in his own disturbing way. When Hanna finds herself in prison, there is a girl working for her pimp on the inside who has managed to smuggle drugs in her anus. There's a sequence late in the film which shows Hanna's "rehabilitation" from her drug addiction, emphasized by her coughing up chunks of violet-colored vomit. Amidst all of this unpleasantness, Silvestro injects a fairy-tale subplot involving Alex and Hanna's relationship, punctuated by sweet, karaoke-like love songs on the soundtrack! There are also certain moments where it's impossible not to laugh. The final showdown between Alex and pimp, for instance, is so funny it has to be seen to be believed.
This is all I'm saying: Hanna D. is an absolute must-see for fans of trash cinema, as it uses every rule in the book, breaks them, and then pisses all over them. Somehow, it's intentionally goofy tone allowed me to survive the ordeal, as it's easy to take all the bad performances and warped dialogue as tools for extreme exaggeration.
Also, I take my hat off for Ann-Gisel Glass who's a real trooper throughout this mess. She speaks very little, yet Glass still manages to raise the eyebrows and widen the eyes to their extent with her utter fearlessness. I can't quite sympathize with her character but, by God, does the actress give it her all in convincing me she's a hardcore heroin addict. It's no surprise she became an in-demand star in her native France afterward. Ironically enough, her onscreen mother Schubert got into pornography a year later to support her own drug habit.
I must give props to Silvestro for his excellent use of Amsterdam locations. The scenes in the real Vondelpark are weirdly lovely, even with all the ugliness on display. The many shots of the streets are vivid and full of life as well. All of this atmosphere comes through almost flawlessly in the 1.85:1 anamorphic print supplied by Severin, who have fully restored the film from the original vault elements. The film is 25 years year old, and there is astonishingly very little grain. The flesh tones and black levels are both quite immaculate. The 2.0 mono track is more than acceptable. The dialogue is easily heard throughout, and the love ballads are given the proper amount of attention. All in all, I have absolutely no complaints about the A/V details.
There is only one extra, but it's a great one. We get to meet writer/director Silvestro in "The Confessions of Rino D," a whopping 42-minute interview in which he talks about everything from production and casting to his outrageous indulgences when it came to telling the story. Silvestro is respectfully candid and open about the whole experience, and production photographs are also provided while he's speaking. Sadly, this was no doubt his final interview, as he passed away on October 3, 2009.
The film is found very guilty for its shameful elements. However, Glass is
free to go for her audaciously memorable performance, and Silvestro is free to
rest in peace.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
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