Inhibition (1976)

Un film di Paul Price. Con Adolfo Celi, Ivan Rassimov, Claudine Beccarie, Ilona Staller

After years of sexual humiliation at the hands of her sadistic husband and his friends, a wealthy heiress struggles to regain her sense of identity. To that end, not only does she become ruthless in business, but also delights in sexually dominating her young secretary, Anna. When she attempts to exert her sexual power over a blythe traveller, Peter Smart, he turns the tables on her, and she finds herself at the mercy of an unfamiliar emotion: Love.

Review: Long a staple of late-night cable and VHS rental outlets, the new millennium has, surprisingly, left Inhibition rather hard to find. This is certainly a shame, as the film is head and shoulders above most exploitation fare, and is a rather well-made character study, and an emotionally touching one at that.
Claudine Beccarie was, not unlike her character in the film, embarking on a new phase of her life when Inhibition was filmed. Having become one of the biggest stars of French pornography, and after achieving worldwide notoriety as the subject of the famed documentary Exhibition, Beccaire decided to leave that life behind and attempt to cross over into legitimate film. Inhibition was her first starring vehicle, and she aquits herself with a lightness and ease that she never displayed in her hardcore work (for which, even at the time, she professed never to have enjoyed.) She breathes the right amount of anger and pathos into her role, making her debut a memorable one.
Not content to simply make another T and A picture, director Paolo Poeti (under the name Paul Price) instead delves deep into the psyche of his leading character.
When we first meet Carol, she is seen as no more than your run-of-the-mill “rich bitch.” Her merciless taunting and belittling of her secretary (Ilona Staller, in an early, nicely subdued performance) followed by her successful seduction of the young woman, leads us to believe she is no more than a power-mad predator. It is not until midway through the film that we discover the reasons for Carol’s aggression and sadism.
Just as her consistent diatribes on how all men are users, abusers and degenerates threaten to make the audience lose any interest in Carol and her motivations, the film flashes back to a traumatic illustration of her husbands sick and twisted cruelty towards his bride. A younger Carol, in what seems to be a trauma-induced trance, is paraded nude in front of her husband and his friends, who have been engaged in a rape-themed orgy. As they, in turn, violate and humiliate Carol, her husband suddenly dies of a heart attack. At last Carol is free, and the rage she has held inside bursts forth, as she lashes out at all those around her.
Not knowing how to love, and seeing all relationships (romantic and otherwise) as games of dominance and survival, she manipulates her way through the cast of characters. Beccarie, perhaps drawing upon her own abusive past (she was raped by an uncle at a very young age) seems to understand who Carol is, and why she behaves as she does. Beccaire’s performance is nothing short of a revelation.
The most telling scene in the film, an example of Carol’s dysfunction, occurs when she seduces the man that Anna has been seeing. It is obvious that her enjoyment comes not from the sexual act itself, but that she has, in a perverse way, proven herself correct. Men cannot be trusted. They only care for what they can have sexually. She reaches climax just as she notices that Anna has caught them in their tryst.
The performances in the film are strong, especially among the three leads. Ivan Rassimov, as Peter, the one man Carol cannot break, cannot dominate, has a commanding screen presence. His character seems to see inside of Carol in a way no one else can. Rassimov and Beccarie are magic together, despite not getting along at all during filming, a testament to their fine acting.
The direction, cinematography and especially the music are all top shelf. While the film may seem like an exploitation standard-bearer on paper, it is obvious that all involved had loftier notions.
The film was, by all accounts, a success upon release. Inhibition should have been Beccarie’s springboard into mainstream motion pictures, but it was not to be.
When Inhibition was released in France, the local distributor inserted various hardcore scenes into the film, derailing Beccaire’s wish to be seen as a serious actress. Beccarie protested by going on hunger strike and in front of the theatre. Her efforts, while admirable, were in vain, and her career ground to a halt. She appeared in several Z-grade exploitation pictures (many of which in the “Nazispoitation” genre) before vanishing from public life forever.
While her dreams of a career outside of porn may have gone up in smoke, Inhibition will stand as a memorable picture, and a testament to what could have, and should have been.