Monella (1998 Italy)

The uncut and uncensored Italian version of Frivolous Lola (if you prefer it in English) was another classic Tinto Brass soft-core erotic comedic-drama that possessed a light-heartedness that only Brass can achieve so effortlessly. Grubby and tedious as this all is, there is a certain panache in the way it has been constructed. It looks beautiful, like the scenes set in Sicily in The Godfather, it has that same woozy, sultry sensibility. A veneer of quality that the film may not deserve, like a Caravaggio painting with a cock crudely drawn on it. If the best scene in a film is a woman urinating in the rain, should it be considered a failure? Not really. NSFW…

Monella is the story of a strong-willed woman, set in Italy in the 1950′s, who is coming of age into her sexuality and learning what she wants, how she wants it, and when she wants it. She is decadent in her actions and never misses an opportunity to flaunt her assets in this raucously rude drama comedy. She will do it with anyone that she finds can appease her sexual desires and fantasies. The focus of her lust is her fiancé, Masseto (Mario Parodi), a bread baker that works for her family’s bakery business, who is more traditional in his values and not the exhibitionist that his marriage counterpart is. From the opening moments of Monella, in which the titular character rides her bicycle around a busy town square where every gust of wind lifts up her dainty summer dress to reveal her buttocks to the on looking townsfolk, we are aware that Tinto Brass as a fetishist fascination with the female derrière.

If there were any one film that fully demonstrates what Tinto Brass is about as a director then Monella must surely be it. The voyeur is fully catered for here. Brass directs the film with the same casual breeziness that Anna Ammirati brings in her portrayal of Lola, his camera as enquiring as Lola and just as playful. Much like his other work, Brass isn’t afraid to let his camera show you everything in the fullest detail but here it doesn’t feel sleazy or sordid, instead the soft focus of the camera and Lola’s easy-going personality giving the film a light-hearted feel that makes the gratuitous nudity all the more acceptable and easier to explain if you’re unexpectedly caught watching it by somebody who doesn’t fully appreciate the art. Monella recalls the raunchy comedy of Benny Hill but with Brass’ eye for a detailed close-up.

It’s quite odd seeing British television regular Patrick Mower amongst all of the saucy goings-on but he does bring a certain flair to the film, although his initial scenes with Lola are quite uncomfortable until certain revelations come to light. But the star of the show is Anna Ammirati, who simply shines in every scene she’s in, echoing Béatrice Dalle in Betty Blue but in a more approachable and obtainable way and without the madness. Overall, Monella/Frivolous Lola is a wonderfully engaging film that may put some people off by being so sexually explicit but if you understand Tinto Brass and his style of filmmaking then there’s nothing here that will offend as it is all done with a sense of fun, the director not daring you to look but inviting you to join in and become a part of Lola’s journey. Nothing wrong with that. This dvd plays better in Italian lingo, as the English dubbing of Anna Ammirati is irritating.

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