Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Flavia the Heretic
This is what you get for bringing me into a world ruled by men!
Jarv’s Rating: One and a half Changs. Pompous, obnoxious but lovingly made shite.
What the hell was I thinking of. Seriously, how did I think watching this “Notorious” film would be a good idea? Gianfranco Mingozza’s film has been described as Nunsploitation, however this is utter crap. What it is, is a nasty and tawdry 1970’s issue film attempting to crassly pin feminist ideals on medieval Catholicism. Shameless tries to promote this film with “Witness the most notoriously graphic and nasty descent into the nunsploitation genre with Gianfranco Mingozzi’s unforgettable masterpiece of shock cinema.” Which is an utterly, erm, shameless description of the film, but an understandable one as it’s damned difficult to write marketing blurb when the key adjective is “dull”.
This won’t be a very long review, as it is an interminable film. Flavia the Heretic was apparently inspired by a real moorish sacking of an Italian town, according to its postscript, but it strikes me as remarkably tasteless to attach a shitey psuedo-feminist dogma onto a real massacre. Everyone knows that the catholic church were real bastards in the middle ages (not that they’re whiter than white nowadays) and it’s just not that interesting an idea to attack them. It can be done, The Devils, for example, does it much more effectively than this, but all in all it strikes me as a bit of a pointless exercise.
Anywho, Flavia (played by Florinda Bolkan) is sent to a convent by her dad for a life of quiet contemplation. There she witnesses several atrocities including a repellent rape and a really, really nasty torture of Sister Livia. She tries to run away, but is returned and savagely horsewhipped. Understandably, she’s a bit off men. Nevertheless on her next trip to town she witnesses the Muslims attacking and shacks up with head Muslim to take revenge on any man who wronged her.
What this amounts to is a completely surreal orgy scene, a couple of beheadings before she’s abandoned by her new husband and then gruesomely skinned alive.
This film is essentially really boring. Going over the plot outline makes it sound much more extreme than it actually is. I inflicted it on myself due to malingering curiousity over the film and nunsploitation in general. However, in reality, the only real nastiness only lasts seconds. With one exception- a horse is castrated, and this is by far the nastiest scene in the film. It appears, and I hope to god that this isn’t true, that this was a real horse, and done with no special effects. If this is true, fuck everyone involved in this film as it’s absolutely unjustifiable to actually hurt animals in the name of entertainment.
Furthermore, this is also an astonishingly boring film. With the exception of the orgy scene which is gloriously surreal and includes the truly bizarre image of a naked nun climbing into the hanging carcass of a cow, this film is not only dull but strangely coy. Sure there’s a shit load of nudity and whatnot, but it’s the usual massively bushed and generally unacceptably hairy Italian actresses of the time. However, we never actually see anyone shag, with the exception of the rape- there are two rape scenes, one heterosexual and then a homosexual gang rape- which is just crass and tasteless.
The other thing that really bugs me about this film is the writing, particularly the dialogue. Flavia witters on and on about “Men dominated me” and shit like that, which is epic in its dullness. Sister Agatha also has a good few ranty speeches along these lines before she’s mercifully put out of my misery.
So, is there any reason to watch this obvious horseshit? Erm, no, not really. The only possible reason I could give for sitting through it is that Florinda Bolkan is towering in the title role. It’s a really strong performance, but unfortunately for her, she’s not particularly sympathetic, being all poise and steel and lacking in empathy.
IMDB has 7 writers credit on this mess, and I honestly think that each of them spent 10 minutes writing a few worthy sentences on a beer mat and then some poor mug had to assemble this gibberish into a coherent film. Mingozzi is clearly not intrested in making an exploitation film- he’s making a self-important 1970’s historical art film. As a direct result of this he’s managed to make that all too common type of film: a deathly boring one.
Overall, I’ve given this 1 and a half changs, and that’s for Bolkan. I’ve now seen her perform brilliantly in several films that, if I’m being objective, are utterly terrible. I wonder if she ever actually made a good film, and if she did it must be even money that she’s atrocious in it.
I do have to say though, that “Flay me Baby one more time” strap line did make me laugh.
Until next time,