Wednesday, 5 March 2014



Who could have imagined that a film of European intrigue, a legendary seductress, espionage, English actors putting on funny accents and approximately 489 shots of Sylvia Kristel's boobs could be so crushingly glum and uninteresting? Don't get me wrong, I'm not against screen nudity, but even the most perfectly structured jugs on Earth aren't enough to support a full-length feature film. At least the Emmanuelle films had tinkly Pierre Bachelet lift music scores and soft-focus travelogue footage of exotic South East Asia to enjoy once the magic of Kristel's breasts had worn off.

Mata Hari supposedly tells the true story of infamous Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod (Kristel) working for German and French intelligence during the First World War, and, if we are to judge from the absence on Hari's Wikipedia page, her largely fictional love triangle with a French officer (Oliver Tobias) and a German officer (Christopher Cazenove) while foiling the fiendish Hun's plot to blow up Notre Dame Cathedral with the French Government inside. At least the bit at the end when she refuses the blindfold is apparently true.

In between there's orgies, erotic cabaret, convoluted scheming, a scene where Mata Hari has to run across No Man's Land dressed as a nurse, and much discreetly photographed humping. None of it's remotely arousing and none of it's even particularly well done. Why is that? Well, the first thing you see is the interlocking hexagonal logo of Cannon Films and screen credits for Golan and Globus. I have a nostalgic soft spot for Cannon, as they used to run my local cinema back in the late 1980s, but even so you'd be hard pressed to honestly claim that more than a few of their numerous productions were actually any good. Much of it was utter tat and Mata Hari is one of the tattiest.

Presumably the idea was to make another apparently prestige softcore porn movie after Kristel's version of Lady Chatterley's Lover: all period cars, cumbersome underwear and tasteful shagging with a couple of recognisable name actors in there to prove it's a proper film and not just for the grubby raincoat brigade. It didn't work there and it doesn't work here either. Maybe it would have been in bad taste to turn it into a romping sex farce, but treated with the soft-focus respect of a proper serious film, it's dull, miserable and dead on the screen.


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