Judge Christopher Kulik has never entered virgin territory, though he once corrupted the morals of a hooker.
Not all virgins are angels…and not all angels are virgins.
What aspires to be a raucous, randy romp instead turns into a direct-to-DVD debacle. Filmed in 2005, and never making it to U.S. theaters, Virgin Territory is finally released in America, courtesy of Anchor Bay.
Facts of the Case
The city of Florence is at the mercy of the Black Plague. Casanova-like lover Lorenzo de Lamberti (Hayden Christensen, Jumper) pisses off nobleman Gerbino (Tim Roth, The Incredible Hulk), forcing him to flee to the countryside. After Lorenzo falls out of a tree, he's rescued by a group of angels who believe him to be a deaf-and-dumb angel. Turned on by Lorenzo's attractive aura, the nuns become horny and wish to make love with him every chance they get.
Meanwhile, a group of young twentysomethings are escaping into the woods before getting married. One of them is Pampinea Anastagi (Mischa Barton, The O.C.), who wishes to marry to a Russian count (Matthew Rhys, The Edge Of Love), but her late father's debt is forcing her to wed the slimy Gerbino. After Lorenzo gets kicked out of the covenant, he dares to rescue Pampinea, who has been his lifelong crush.
Ostensibly based on Boccaccio's The Decameron, Virgin Territory suffers from a major identity crisis. Despite its playful attitude, it's not a comedy. There are a few laughs, but they don't feel intentional. Other scenes have a silly, sexual tone to them which would feel more at home in soft-core porn. There is no attempt at romantic comedy, and the serious notes are rather embarrassing. With no specific tone to speak of, the whole project feels like a medieval version of The Real World, sans exploitation.
I'm not exactly sure what writer/director David Leland (Mona Lisa, Personal Services, Wish You Were Here) was thinking when he conjured up this calamity. The film fails to be funny, sexy, romantic, or witty. There's an awkward narration by a church fellow (which has nothing to do with the central story) that feels like a tacked-on afterthought. Worst of all, none of Leland's characters are remotely interesting, nor have any recognizable layers or goals, other than getting laid or protecting their virginity. In short, the narrative is a head-scratching, incomprehensible mess.
Those looking for some juicy T&A are advised to look elsewhere. Some of the female actors do get naked, but the film comes off as a giant tease. It's like watching Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy without the sex or the comedy. But, if two girls stimulating cow udders sounds appealing to you, by all means go for it.
Filmed on location in Tuscany and Lazio, cinematographer Ben Davis (Layer Cake) has a keen eye for local color and detail. Much of the outdoor scenes are lovely in terms of the backdrops, even though it doesn't divert your attention much from the tiresome cast shenanigans. If anything, it's several steps above the Barbarian Queen and Deathstalker films of the 1980s.
Probably the most grating aspect of Virgin Territory is the music. I'm willing to forgive Ilan Eshkeri for his mediocre score, but the songs (courtesy of Ali Leland) uncomfortably consist of postmodern rock and rap medleys. Here again, this MTV vibe is not only misplaced but ill-conceived, turning an attractive period piece into a flash-and-trash spectacle with the juvenile mentality of Hannah Montana.
The cast is a mysterious hybrid of stage actors, former B-list stars, and a group of young angels who look like Melrose Place rejects. Christensen has the looks and the smile, but is ultimately miscast as the deflowering stallion, making one yearn for Cary Elwes in his prime. The usually flamboyant Tim Roth is woefully wasted, and even a cameo by David Williams (of Little Britain fame) is not as delightful as it should be. The worst of the lot is Mischa Barton, who looks way too contemporary as a 16th-century lady; she reminds one of the "historical babes" from the Bill & Ted films.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Anchor Bay's digital treatment of this forgettable excursion is better than expected. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen print is quite clean, with very little grain or scratches to spare. Colors are warm, black levels are solid, and no edge enhancement was detected. Audio comes off better with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, even if the music is an ordeal to listen to. English subtitles are provided.
As far as extras, we have a 12-minute "making-of" (see: promotional piece) with the standard set of interviews and footage of the crew. It's not particularly insightful. We also have three minutes of mostly incongruous "sexual" footage which might have been cut to avoid an NC-17 rating. An additional deleted scene showcasing more of David Williams is also included, as well as a costume design gallery (the best extra) and a trailer. Anchor Bay may have given more respect to Virgin Territory than most studios would, but the extras are not as nourishing as I hoped.
If you really want to see a worthy adaptation of Boccaccio's legendary epic, seek out Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1971 feature Il Decameron. Otherwise, consider yourself warned.
Guilty all the way.
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