Tuesday, 10 November 2009



If ever you needed proof that porn was essentially boring, here it is. Alright, it's not a porn movie as such, but despite having more boobs and bums and dangly bits than you can shake a stick (or anything else) at, Viva is mainly chronically dull stuff and drags on for a crippling two hours - about 40 minutes longer than necessary. It's nicely photographed, which is not something you can say about porno as a rule, but that's really not enough.

The essential premise is that two bored housewives in the Los Angeles suburbs experiment with sexual liberation when their dunce husbands leg it: looking for adventure, they find it in prostitution and while one happily teases a geriatric millionaire for diamonds and furs, the other adopts the name of Viva and goes all out for it. But are they happy? Viva gets involved in a swinging counterculture scene culminating in an orgy where everyone's happily parading around either in togas or completely starkers.

What Viva does have to commend it is a fantastic look: not just the wonderfully ghastly fashions and interior design, but the gaudy, overlit photography that makes it look like an early 70s film. It's gorgeous to actually sit and look at but, having gone to all that effort with the hair and makeup and atrocious shirts, having accumulated all the grotesque set decorations and all that period lounge music (some genuine, some modern but in that style): why make it so dull? The acting is so stiff and "reading aloud" it must have been a deliberate decision on the part of writer-director-star-editor-producer Anna Biller (who also did production design, costume design and played the organ on the soundtrack, and probably made the sandwiches as well). Unless the intent was to make a loving tribute to the sleazy grindhouse sex/trash films of the time with acting and attitudes to match (the comedy camp/gay Hollywood hairdresser, the Free Love hippie nudists, some of whom, to be honest, have no business taking their clothes off in public). As a drama it's just horrible and way overlong - and to make matters worse it's got a handful of terrible songs in it - but as a recreation of the garish, outlandish excesses of 1972 California it's fairly interesting, if a bit eye-scorching. It's just rather a pity about the naked people getting in the way.


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