Fotografando Patrizia (1984)

The sexual relationship between a successful woman and her brother, an introvert, hypochondriacal youth, who is also a pornophile.This softcore film features a depressed, pessimistic brother (Lorenzo Lena) who spends his days watching TV and looking at porno magazines, a fashion-designer sister (Monica Guerritore) with a boyfriend and her own sexual hang-ups, and incest…

The Italian sex film is an industry in itself.  Here’s one of the genre’s more interesting entries, from Salvatore Samperi, one of its key directors.  Fotografando Patrizia manages to transcend a conventional young-man-seduced-by-his-older-governess premise through slick direction and a truly perverse storyline that incorporates anonymous sex, voyeurism, infidelity, and even incest.  It’s a strange, disturbing and quite erotic film, watchable even by those outside the rain-jacketed crowd.

A sixteen-year-old boy (Lorenzo Lena) is confined to his recently deceased grandmother’s house after seriously injuring his neck.  His sexy twenty five-year-old sister, Patrizia (played by Italian sex star Monica Guerritore), is dispatched from her home in Venice to stay with him.  Things start out innocently enough, with Patrizia taking the lad on trips to the beach and keeping him company, but soon take a turn for the perverted.

Sex-mad Patrizia can’t keep her lustful thoughts to herself, and enthusiastically relates her more interesting sexual experiences to her naive little brother.  It’s not long before he encourages Patrizia to act out her erotic tales.  This she does, first by having an anonymous tryst with a man in a movie theater, and then moving on to some kinkier acts with a mild-mannered (though horny) college professor.  She even invites a blonde model home to further inflame her brother’s libido. Naturally, the sexual tension between brother and sister reaches its apex, but only after Patrizia runs off and marries a good-looking jeweler.  

Salvatore Samperi has been one of the Italian sex film industry’s guiding lights since the seventies.  Fotografando Patrizia is surely one of his better works (also worth seeing is his stunningly perverted 1976 historical fuckfest Scandal, a.k.a. Submission).  While by no means great, it strikes a careful balance between the all-out sleaze of Joe D’Amato (Eleven Days, Eleven Nights) and the classier approach of Tinto Brass (Caligula, The Key).  In keeping with the particulars of the genre he helped initiate, Samperi photographs all of this as if it were a perfume commercial (the cinematography is by the great Dante Spinotti), complete with some gorgeous Venice scenery that wouldn’t look out of place in a travel brochure.

Surprisingly, what’s most effective about Samperi’s approach is its subtlety.  The nudity, while abundant, isn’t nearly as plentiful as you might expect, and the onscreen sex is pretty scant.  Samperi’s low-key treatment of a morbid storyline packs a greater punch than just about anything else on the sex-movie market.