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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Erotic > Europe > Italian > Dutch > British > Class Division > Gay > Romania > Food > Japan > Cecilia (1982/Blue Underground Blu-ray)/The Debut (1977/Cult Epics Blu-ray)/Mothering Sunday (2021/Sony Blu-ray)/Poppy Field (2020)/Sexual Drive (2021/both Film Movement DVDs)

Cecilia (1982/Blue Underground Blu-ray)/The Debut (1977/Cult Epics Blu-ray)/Mothering Sunday (2021/Sony Blu-ray)/Poppy Field (2020)/Sexual Drive (2021/both Film Movement DVDs)

Picture: B/B/B/C+/C+ Sound: B-/C+/B-/C/C Extras: B-/C-/C-/C+/C- Films: C+

Up next are more dramas with erotic content, et al....

We start with Jess Franco's Cecilia (1982) with Muriel Montosse as a 'desperate housewife' lonely and unhappy with her marriage, et al, so she lands up in situations to make up for that. A beautiful older woman, the film is not as bad as so many such productions that are usually cynical exploitation releases, but Franco is a horror/action/genre filmmaker, so this is unusual for him to do any such film.

With that said, he handles it more maturely and consistently than expected and some of the moments even ring true, yet it can only work so much and it is not as if we never saw anything like this before. Still, it looks good, the locales are nice and the cast is a plus, so it is worth seeing for those interested.

Nouchka Van Braken's The Debut (1977) is another kind of famous high concept sex film that you would especially see in Europe, though more cynically so from the U.S. market, as young (and underage or 'barely legal'!) gal (Marina De Graaf) discovers the joys of sex when she gets involved with an older man (Gerald Cox) who is at least not a rapist or sick pervert, but having a female director makes this a step above how bad something like this could get and several above some underground exploitation (or worse) that would warrant and FBI investigation.

The honest portrayal of teens and school is a plus and here too, the film looks very good and is thoughtfully shot. Eventually though, the young former virgin gets a little annoying and that is when the film starts to fortunately wind down, yet that behavior too is why these relationships are a bad idea no matter the law? The film is attempting to do Lolita with a female perspective and that has a little validity, spending most of its 95 minutes well. Ironically, it seems to come from a more innocent time.

Eva Husson's Mothering Sunday (2021) has a maid in 1924 England (Odessa Young) having a secret sexual affair with the likable Paul (Josh O'Connor) that is nice, pleasant and they seem to really like each other, but there is that class division issue and that also means they likely will not be able to run off with each other, considering his family, some serious money and all. Yet we also see her in a later decades writing about the events and herself involved with a man of color, so is the earlier story fiction or not?

This is made more complicated when the era she is in might not be now, while 1924 apparently has a family who has already lost some members way too young (the parents well-played by Colin Firth and Olivia Coleman) so this is usually compelling viewing for most of its lavish 104 minutes, yet it eventually is all over the place and is likely to confuse the viewer. Glenda Jackson also stars and it is worth a look for those interested.

Edgen Jebeleanu's Poppy Field (2020) is about a Romanian police officer named Cristi (Conrad Mercioffer) who is secretly homosexual and finally catching up intimately with a male lover who happens to be Muslim. That tells us right there that he has a knack for unusual situations, as that is a religion that is especially hostile to men like them, but things get stranger when he has to go to a movie theater where moralists have such down a lesbian art film where the two females can procreate!

This should not have top take so long, but the paying customers get sick of the protesters and Cristi unexpectedly identified a gay by one of the guys there, but he would prefer he just shut up instead of almost putting him on the spot. He tries to resolve that quickly, but that just makes things worse and odder, including conflict with one of the police officers.

The film becomes a 'stuck-in-a' film with too much fo the action in the now-empty movie theater as the screenplay tries to examine homophobia, sexual oppression and has us wonder if any of his fellow cops are also secretly gay or just gay-baiting, possibly homophobic cops. A few moments work, but the film gets stuck a little too often. Also, the cover suggests far more sex and nudity than the film has, which makes me wonder why they did not come up with a more accurate cover. That might have broadened their potential audience.

Finally, Yoshida Kota's Sexual Drive (2021) is trying to tie a few things together and not always doing them well. You have three stories, which would otherwise make this a trilogy film, yet the stories are loosely related by sexual situations, with what looks like some actors playing more than one role. Then they add food and how it may have some connection to erotica on several ways, but even that is handled with mixed results.

Then the actual sex or sexiness is not very memorable and the addition of any kind of humor also falls flat since the narratives cannot even work, though we get a character that also tries to connect them all. The title does not even work, as we really learn nothing about it and the result rings false overall despite some professional efforts on the part of the cast. One of the odder releases we've seen of late.

All three Blu-ray releases just happen to have 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition presentations and look about as good as they can, though Sunday has slight styling differences for different storylines and the other films can show their age a bit, but have fine color, detail and depth for the format otherwise.

Sound is a little bit different with the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Sunday dialogue-based and a little quieter than I would have liked, Cecilia offering French and a lesser English-language dub in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mixes that show their age and the French sounding as good as it ever will and Debut offering both Dutch PCM 2.0 Mono and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes that show the age of the film and its budget. Both have flaws, but I thought the DTS was a little smoother, though you might like the rawness of the PCM more.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Poppy and 1.78 X 1 image on Drive look about as good as they can in the older DVD format, so expect soft shots here and there, but as good as expected for DVD. Both feature lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in their respective languages (Romanian & French with some English, Japanese,) but Poppy adds a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 that makes only a slight difference sonically and all are a bit on the weak side, so be careful of volume switching and overly high playback levels.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers in all cases, with Debut adding a Photo Gallery, Poster Gallery and 1977 newsreel connected to the film's release, Poppy adding a Making Waves featurette where the Director is being interviewed at the Hungarian Film Festival and and George Dogaru's short drama A Normal Guy (14 minutes) which is more sexually graphic than the feature film it is included with and Cecilia adds its own stills gallery, plus:

* ABERRACIONES SEXUALES DE UNA MUJER CASADA: Jess Franco's rare original cut in Spanish with English subtitles

* Sexual Aberrations of Cecilia: Interview with Director Jess Franco

* Amoral Fantasies: Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco"

* and Franco-Philes: Musings on Madrid's B-Movie Maverick: a feature-length documentary examining the career of Jess Franco.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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