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Thursday, August 12, 2010

JOY -- DVD review by porfle

"Mostly harmless" is how Douglas Adams might have described Italian director Serge Bergon's softcore sex flick JOY (1983).  He may have also added "mostly not all that interesting, either", although it's a pleasant enough film that's easy on the eyes and features several yards of Claudia Udy's bare skin during its running time.

After a pretty title song, we meet Joy as a little girl who catches Mom and Dad making out on a rug in front of the fireplace.  Years later she becomes a model whose preoccupation with casual sex and a glittery lifestyle masks a deep longing for the father who abandoned her as a child.  Seeking a father figure in her older lover, Marc, Joy soon realizes that they have widely differing expectations for their relationship. 

It sounds like a rich vein of dramatic possibilities for director and co-scripter Bergon to tap, but he barely bothers to even give Joy much of a personality let alone make us care a whole lot about her.  Perky and shallow, she's like a plastic sex doll that's been imbued with about half a soul.  Nothing seems to affect her very deeply even when she's seemingly preoccupied with Marc (who regards her only as an interesting diversion when he isn't with his other mistress) and, until a couple of melodramatic sequences near the end of the film, her life is mostly champagne and satin sheets.

A photo shoot in Mexico takes her on a beach frolic with a handsome young photographer, and when a billboard of her lying naked on the sand with the caption "Orgasm: A Woman's Right" leads to a national scandal, she cheerfully cashes in on the notoriety.  This leads to her being whisked to New York to star in an action movie, where she meets another older gent named Bruce (Kenneth Legallois) who not only introduces her to Tantric sex with his New Age friends but also begins a search for her missing father. 

All in all, Joy seems to lead a fairly charmed life and even her lemons turn into pink lemonade sooner or later.  Which means that JOY is a film with very little drama or conflict, and whatever entertainment value it has depends solely on how much you enjoy watching her having fun, being cutely petulant, or trying to turn guys like Marc into Daddy surrogates.  Of course, there's also the scads of bare bodies on display, with the blissfully uninhibited Joy flitting from one softcore sex encounter to the next (the "voyeur chamber" and "Tantric sex orgy" scenes are particularly interesting) amidst scenic locations in Paris, New York, and Montreal.

Director Serge Bergon (aka Sergio Bergonzelli) takes good advantage of those locations and the film has the slick look of a superior Skinemax flick, albeit with a very subdued color palette.  Attractive old-style settings rub shoulders with 80s-style Art Drecko, with some scenes boasting the chintzy opulence of a Pat Benetar video.  I often enjoy this sort of wince-inducing yet nostalgic retro-chic stuff and thus found the movie fun to look at most of the time, even while the story is about as surprising as a video fireplace.

As Joy, Claudia Udy is cute as a button and girlishly winsome, with a terrifically fit body.  As with the rest of the cast, her acting is adequate--not great, but good enough.  Aside from Joy, Marc, and Bruce, the other characters don't figure all that much into the story and we barely get to know them. 

The DVD from Severin Films is 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound.  The soundtrack is French with English subtitles.  An 11-minute interview segment, "Reflections of Joy", features a personable Claudia Udy circa 2010 as the now 50-year-old Canadian actress looks back on the film and her career in general. 

The plot heats up somewhat near the end with a disturbing visit to an S&M club and a harsh exchange between Joy and Marc, followed by a bittersweet sequence in which Joy revisits her childhood home.  Still, it's all so low-key that even the abrupt ending doesn't seem all that jarring.  And despite all the eye-catching nudity and simulated sex, the best way to describe JOY as a film is "pleasantly bland." 

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