Film Scouts Reviews

"Delta of Venus"

by Karen Jaehne

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What made Anais Nin think she was the first woman in history to like sex? Is that what France does to writers? Turn them into umbilocentric (navel-gazing) wankers?

This movie by Zalman King, director of such cinematic milestones as "9 1/2 Weeks," "Wild Orchid," and "Two Moon Junction," has a self-importance utterly unaware that it's little more than wannabe French frou-frou tarted up as the story of a woman who goes to Paris to become a writer as wildly overrated as Henry Miller.

Now I'm going to get off the fence: I hate everything about this movie. It's like going to Bloomingdale's for aroma therapy.

There's a not-very-well-kept secret among movie people that there ain't a mistake a writer can make that can't be covered up by Nazis-the gravy of cinematic cuisine. This story depends upon them to cast a shadow of impending doom across the petulant people of Paris who loll around cafes eyeing each other with erotic intent while plotting their next literary coup.

Audie England is physically adequate to the nudity required for the role of Elena (read Anais), who must lose her virginity and acquire a veneer of sophistication to keep up with the Jonesoises, Francoises and bourgeoises who think the Marquis de Sade is a philosopher rather than a very successful dirty old man.

The sex is all heavy-breathing and petticoats and an occasional "tasteful" shot of Elena stark naked and wondering what could possibly happen next...? She gets screwed on tables, staircases and in a cathedral without smearing her makeup or convincing the audience that it's much fun.

A novelist named Lawrence (Costas Mandylor) becomes her patron in order to channel her writing talents into soft porn, and her agent Marcel (Eric Da Silva) gets the credit. Thus Elena writes about her own "awakening" among the smart set of expatriates including a Spanish artist (Rory Campbell), an enigmatic and sensual chanteuse (Raven Snow) and her ethereal lesbian lover Ariel (Emma Moore). Why do they all seem to have wandered in from cable porn? Why do hot trembling labia give way to political rallies, red-flag-waving commies and black-shirted fascists without much conviction that either sex or politics matter?

Ah yes, War is engulfing us, bombs bursting in air, hopes shattering like champagne glasses tossed in fireplaces, as our self-discipline collapses into chain-smoking.

This movie lacks an emotional center that lends credibility to the characters; it fails as erotica because the actors seem disembodied from the acts they are performing. The boulevards of Paris look like the virtual reality of a perfume commercial. Delta of Venus may as well be an airline from another planet.

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