|Camille 2000 (1969)|
|Writers:||Alexandre Dumas and Michael DeForrest|
|Starring:||Danièle Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Roberto Bisacco|
|The Plot: Armand (Nino Castelnuovo) is a young man from a wealthy family who is newly visiting Rome from his home in America. Marguerite, also known as Camille due to her love for camellia flowers, immediately catches Armand’s eye. Seeking to learn more about this beautiful girl, he begins to follow her party habits and before long the two are spending a great deal of time with one another. Marguerite however isn’t the type to settle down, which is much to the dismay of Armand who wants her to be only his. These two lovers will have to overcome a number of obstacles along the way, most notably Armand’s father who would never have his son tied down to a woman of such low notoriety. Can their love make it through or will everything fall apart?|
About as polarizing a figure as you’ll find within the realm of cult cinema, directer Radley Metzger will produce very different reactions from every other person familiar with his work. Demonized as a purveyor of sleaze with no artistic merit but also celebrated as a cinematic-artisan and icon of sexual liberation, the relatively obscure filmmaker isn’t one without controversy. Crafting a style that was uniquely his own, Metzger seems to bring to life a general love of voyeurism and spruces the cinematic landscape up a bit with his European arthouse influences. As an American in Rome Metzger used Camille 2000 to make the ancient city his very own personal playground. Taking the famed French writer Alexandre Dumas’ “The Lady of the Camellias” and updating it with a very sixties appeal, Metzger explores many themes of love, sexual growth and the pains of monogamy. With this film Metzger directs an Italian piece of erotica that is more concerned with cinematic experimentation than it is with simple sex scenes. This is a fact that possibly turned off viewers during its initial release, but this same fact gives it new life with modern film fans who are interested in the world of cult oddities and sexual expression.
The lack of sex could very well be a key issue. Although touted as a piece of “erotica”, do not be fooled, this is much more than that. A film primarily concerned with human interactions and relationships, Camille 2000 does not work as a true piece of softcore smut. If you’re looking for titillation you would do much better in searching out whatever is playing on basic cable during a late night on any given weekend. While the movie certainly has its sexy moments and does deliver a heavy amount of nudity, the naked panting and caresses here are ultimately quite tame in comparison to some of the smuttier and enticing “sex films” out there. For me, this turned out to be an even more welcome surprise. With the focus less on sex and more on character, Metzger sheds his reputation and instead shows just why he is one of the more respected directors of Erotica out there. The fuel for his film is not simply the sex, but instead it is the characterization from the actors and the depths of imagination that the director chooses to plunge us into.
The one word that I find expertly describes the film has to be “lush”. I can think of few other words in my vocabulary that so eloquently describes Camille 2000 from an aesthetic point of view. Every real location used is magnificent and large. Mansions are utterly massive and the grounds that surround them are impeccably well kept with labyrinth-like shrubbery. Every interior room is decorated with bizarre and unearthly furniture, and the walls are painted as if they were done in a collage fashion. One wall may be decorated as if three separate designers had went to work on it. There may be a striped multi-color wallpaper for several feet, but in the middle of the wall it might change into a large crystal-like texture and then split off into something completely different. Sets are decorated with strange clear-plastic furniture as well as odd square boxes that emit light whenever the scenes are dim. Despite this being a film that deals with multi-faceted and realistic characters (to a degree), Radley Metzger isn’t afraid to delve into the realm of the surreal in order to create a breathtakingly beautiful piece of work.
Daniele Gaubert in the role of Marguerite, who goes by the nickname Camille which is where the title comes from, is stunning for so many reasons. Although she is most certainly a beautiful woman, her sexy and wise-beyond-her-years attitude adds a lot to the performance. The way she looks at the camera, her flirtatious batting of the eyes and general sweet demeanor makes her performance something to really hold onto. She has a very unique look to her and her exotic flavor certainly adds to the overall mystique surrounding both her, and the character. The cat and mouse, back and forth, game between the characters of Armand and Marguerite takes up a great deal of the film’s running time and could have been detrimental had I not been so heavily invested in their relationship. The character of Armand is endearing as an “every man” with very simple tastes in comparison to his counterpart. Although Marguerite seems to love Armand, her incapability at staying in a monogamous relationship is a real death blow. There is one shot in particular that sticks out where Metzger seems to quite literally say the same thing. A fantastic shot on a balcony where Marguerite finally concedes to a monogamous relationship with Armand, the two quickly embrace and kiss but within the background Metzger directs us to a funeral procession that is going on at exactly the same moment. It’s as if this sort of relationship is seen as either a death to Marguerite’s own sexual nature or simply a death of her former self. Then it also calls into play the inevitable doom that this romance seems to be pointing towards. Although I don’t want to spoil anything, Camille 2000 does not end on a happy note. It is ambiguous to a degree, but has an air of definitive sadness for many involved.
At times it is delightfully over the top and within others it is somber and dramatic, Camille 2000 is not a particularly “easy” film. High art mixed lightly with the erotic, this is certainly one to check out. If for no other reason than to see the absolutely stunning art design and fashion that decorates nearly every frame of the film. You can pick up the film now through Cult Epics, who have done a fantastic job at restoring the film and giving it new life in both DVD and Bluray format. I give the film a very solid four out of five.