Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jacques Scandelari's Victims of Vice (1978)

Jacques Scandelari's scandalous Victims of Vice (1978) is an always sleazy slice of life of after-hours Paris. Young, beautiful, and bright-eyed Micheline (Odile Michel) hooks up with hairdressers, Patrick (Patrick Olivier) and Peggy (Marie-Georges Pascal), only to have her curiosities turned into degradation and possibly murder.
Okay, alliterative adjectives aside, I couldn't resist, Victims of Vice cannot really be taken seriously as an expose of a hidden sex scene in underground Paris nor can it be taken seriously as a police procedural drama. Patrice Valota is Boris, a sergeant on the vice squad, and the homicide squad puts him on the case after the film's opening murder of a beautiful blonde woman, shot with a shotgun, wearing only a raincoat. The victim had a unique drug in her system, one which initially causes heightened orgasms but eventually causing irreparable brain damage. Perhaps they could later receive treatment in Jean Rollin's Night of The Hunted (1980). In any case, Boris is more enthralled with Annie (Florence Cayrol), a dancer at an upscale Gentleman's club. The first two-thirds of the film treats the viewer to Micheline's journey into her new sexual experiences from menage-a-trois to exhibitionism to eventually being "given" to M. Vaugoubert de Saint-Loup (Jacques Berthier), a wealthy businessman who has a curious sexual appetite.Jacques Scandelari made his last film in 1979, around the death of the Sexual Revolution, and fittingly, Victims of Vice is a chronicle of sexual escapades designed more to titillate the viewer than to create a coherent drama. To Scandelari's credit he excels at the photography, lighting, and atmosphere. I've seen little of his work, and his most notable film is seemingly De Sade 76 (1971). The small performance by Marie-Georges Pascal, as Peggy, is welcome, as she was wonderful in Jean Rollin's terrific Grapes of Death (1978), in which she shared screen time with Patrice Valota. In a creative twist, Boris asks Annie to go undercover to entice M. Vaugoubert de Saint-Loup. Annie executes the task masterfully. In the best sequence of the film and the film's sexiest, Annie turns the tables and submits Saint-Loup with a powerful showing of her sexuality. This sequence follows a somewhat funny series of jokes, wherein every time Boris attempts to initiate a little loving with Annie, there's a loud knock on the door, usually Boris's partner to pull him out onto the street. The last third of the film stands out but doesn't save it. Micheline is truly a victim, but Victims of Vice doesn't give you any reason to think so. All of the interesting themes remain hidden, but the flesh certainly doesn't. Like or unlike Micheline, Victims of Vice is only for the curious.

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