Frivolous Lola is a fun, light sex farce that could have only come from Europe. Directed, written and edited by Italian director Tinto Brass, it’s in the lighthearted tradition of his other movies which border on soft-core erotica. This is the man that directed Caligula, after all.
The 1998 Italian film is one of those European features which deals explicitly in graphic sexuality, an erotic comedy with appealing characters. There is no conceivable way the MPAA would pass this film uncut with an R-rating in America; Hollywood simply does not produce this type of movie intended for mainstream audiences. International audiences will know this film by its Italian title, Monella.
Frivolous Lola is the story of a frustrated young woman in the 1950s, a virgin engaged to be married to a baker. Lola is enticingly played by Anna Ammirati in a lively and vivacious performance, the best thing about this movie. Her fiancé is Masetto (Max Parodi), a young baker that wants to save the start of their sexual relationship until after they get married. The seriously flirty Lola has other ideas. Masetto’s continual refusal to have sex with her causes serious problems for the insatiable Lola, desperate to lose her virginity as soon as possible. Lola is a cat in heat and needs her itch scratched very soon, or someone other than Masetto might claim her as a prize.
André (Patrick Mower) is Lola’s mother’s lover, a man that might possibly be Lola’s own father. Only Lola’s mother, Zaira (Serena Grandi), knows whether André is Lola’s father or not. André happens to be everything Masetto is not, a worldly man with a wealth of experience and an air of mystery around him. Lola discovers that André is some sort of nude photographer, which eventually becomes a critical part of the narrative.
Lola is a character of contradictions. She is a virgin, but practically throws herself at the men of her small Po Valley town, comfortably walking around in various states of near undress in public. She cruelly teases Masetto, both in public and private. Lola is clearly frustrated with his vow to keep her chaste and pure before their marriage. She begins to fantasize about André’s photography sessions, which lead her down a path of unfulfilled sexual tension. Masetto has been keeping a secret of his own that helps to explain some of his own behavior.
Tinto Brass moves the film along at a decent pace, never lingering too long on the ludicrousness of each set-up he has constructed as an outlet for Lola’s developing sexuality. His camera does have a fetish for Lola and her underwear, looking for any excuse to highlight it. If you are familiar with Tinto Brass and his prior work, you’ll know what to expect from Frivolous Lola. You can’t think too hard about the plot. It is largely there to plausibly connect scenes together, often using Fifties’ Rock music in a playful manner. The real reason to watch Frivolous Lola is Anna Ammirati and her eye-catching turn as a young woman mad with lust. This is an erotic comedy with a bigger focus on sex than the comedy.
Note: Frivolous Lola on Blu-ray can be purchased direct from Arrow Video
This is not a film transfer suitable for release on Blu-ray. It does present the film uncut for the first time in a widescreen transfer on home video, but the picture quality is quite poor at best. British distributor Arrow Video licensed this “HD Master” from Cine citta‘ Digital Factory in Rome. I use air quotes around HD Master because there is little in this transfer that looks much better than a poorly-done video transfer done in standard-definition. Let’s get a few things out of the way before we go into more serious problems.
Frivolous Lola’s original cinematography is some of the softest seen since the height of soft-focus shooting in the 1970s. Romantic soap operas are sharper and less diffuse than Frivolous Lola. The intention appears to have wanted to turn the film into a timeless, dreamy state. If that was the aim, the goal was achieved. The movie did not have a big budget and the softly-lit cinematography in its hazier scenes were intentional, so I am not scoring it this low due to those reasons.
The video transfer itself has real problems beyond some unusual choices for the cinematography. There are periodic contrast issues with the hazier scenes. Entire scenes are completely blown out with brightness levels far beyond normal, resulting in washed-out colors and weak black levels. The problem is fairly tough to accept considering some shots look more normal, showing a more acceptable contrast range and stronger color saturation.
I also have a tough time believing this transfer was struck in the last twelve years. The poor resolution and detail are highly indicative of an ancient telecine made possibly for the movie’s first DVD release. There is no overt DNR, but glowing halos in some scenes are prominent, especially in the latter half of Frivolous Lola. Presented in 1080P, fine detail is no better than upscaled SD material.
A positive is that this combo set is the first home video version to present the film uncut in a widescreen format. The Blu-ray transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Some listed sources have the native theatrical aspect ratio in the 1.66:1 format, a common ratio for European exhibition. Arrow Video has locked the Blu-ray to Region B.
Arrow Video includes two soundtracks for the Italian production. It is always a tough matter to determine the native soundtrack for Italian films, often the English dub is just as much the official soundtrack as the Italian recording. I gave both options a fair hearing and preferred the Italian option. The British voices found on the English soundtrack sound a bit out of place in an Italian sex comedy set in the 1950s.
The Italian soundtrack is a decent 2.0 PCM option from the original Dolby Stereo mix. The English subs do an excellent job of telling the dialogue in the Italian soundtrack. One quibble is the English subs leave some of the French dialogue untranslated, though it only affects a couple of scenes. The English soundtrack is also in 2.0 PCM and includes English SDH subtitles as an option.
Frivolous Lola has a playful musical soundtrack, highlighted by several recognizable Rock hits of the 1950s. Anna Ammirati also sings the theme song, a playful ditty with ribald lyrics that have to be heard to be believed. The range of either soundtrack is limited but not particularly unpleasant. The dialogue is easily understandable and the Foley work is surprisingly effective in some of the more important scenes.
This combo set has the movie on both a Blu-ray and DVD, in Arrow’s trademark clear case.
Original Trailer (02:20 in upscaled HD)
Italian-language Opening Credits (02:25 in upscaled HD)
Italian-language Closing Credits (01:38 in upscaled HD)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly designed artwork by The Red Dress
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic David Flint, illustrated with original archive stills
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.