Body Love (1977)

Probably the most widely heard adult film of all time, Body Love has been known primarily as a best-selling soundtrack album (to a movie few confessed seeing) by ex-Tangerine Dream electronics whiz Klaus Schulze. On a personal note, my older brother, who was heavily into bands like Kraftwerk during their late '70s reign, owned a copy and I often stared mesmerized at the tastefully naughty stills reproduced on its back cover, fantasizing about what this movie could possibly be like. So successful was the record, that Schulze actually released a follow-up album entitled Body Love 2 though entirely unrelated to Braun's landmark dirty movie now lovingly restored to pristine perfection in French company Blue One's DVD version (PAL, but including an English language track) as part of their awesome 3 disc Lasse Braun collection, along with his acknowledged masterpiece Sensations, the cobbled together yet essential French Blue and no less than thirty (30) of his legendary loops !

An Italian born in French Algeria, Alberto Ferro traveled to Scandinavia in the late '60s to benefit from relaxing censorship laws by producing pornography under the Nordic pseudonym of "Lasse Braun", working from France, Germany, Holland, Italy and even the ridiculously restricted England throughout the next decade until widespread notoriety and carnal collector adulation landed him on American shores. How's that for an international career ?! Strangely, the star that had shone so radiantly over Europe seemed to fade stateside after a strong start with American Desire and an intriguing mid-'80s six picture deal with long gone Vidco that yielded a few choice nuggets with in descending order of excellence Young Nympho, Secret Mistress and Flasher. Finally unspooling before the tired eyes of this old porn hound, Body Love represents the Old Master at the top of his game however. Shot simultaneously with the far more melodramatic Love Inferno at dilapidated Groeneveld Castle, a facility rented out by Town Council at nominal fee to artists in search of rest and inspiration, in the oh so prim 'n' proper Dutch village of Baarn (where they obviously had no idea what was going on), Braun employs his bare bones narrative as yet another forum for spouting his often questionable philosophies on free love and the benefits of pornography in long-winded diatribes. These are handled with surprising aplomb, in the original French version, at least, by a cast equally at ease with emoting as ejaculating.

On the day of her eighteenth birthday, wealthy Martine ("Lolita Da Nova", actually popular French singer and member of rock formation Les Rita Mitsouko Catherine Ringer) is instructed by her father the Baron (lanky Jean-Gérard Sorlin, also in Jean-Claude Roy's Velvet Tongue) that she will be deflowered at an orgy later that day. Oh, those wacky blue bloods ! While she has only known physical love with her own gender (cue live-in maid and popular softcore starlet Gilda Arancio from Swedish Torgny Wickman's The Intruders, making an all too rare explicit appearance), Martine's dad and stepmom (striking amazon Gwenda Farnel from Claude Mulot's Pussy Talk 2) while away their idle existence playing kinky sex games. This provides a scorching semi-rape scenario complete with lots of strange symbolism with the wanton Baroness tagteamed by working class ruffians Louison Boutin from Alan Vydra's sumptuous Sex Roulette and dirty blond ruffian Raymond Ximay, a sequence Braun would reference in his first American film with Veronica Hart thoroughly mauled by Roy Stuart and Dave Ruby, as my estimable Internet buddy Casey Scott – a Ruby groupie, if ever there was one ! – so helpfully pointed out to me.

Intrepid reporter Jack Gatteau, a familiar face to anyone versed in French fornication films, is drawn into the family's decadent little universe when Martine allows him to partake of the charms of their obedient slave girl (startling one shot wonder Gemma Giménez) who's being kept in a trailer on the premises in another highlight of teasingly escalating eroticism. With each scene a perfectly realized tableau in its own right, the group climax can't help but feel, well, just a tad anti-climactic by comparison ! Kicking off with a bit of hokey transcendental meditation, a sign of the times which will surely amuse other oldtimers such as myself, it does offer glimpses of obscure starlets like dirty blond Micky Love (the devious daughter in law from Gérard Kikoïne's haunting Private Nurse) and matronly Cristel Lauris (who played the pimping mom in Claude Bernard-Aubert's unsettling Submission) along with notoriously bisexual Carmelo Petix as the butler and the ultimate elderly roué Tony Morena from Mulot's enjoyable Little Schoolgirls. Group gropes are notoriously hard to get right, definitively putting to rest the old adage that bigger equals better, and Braun did them better than most, never more so than with Sensations' unforgettable final scene which made perfect sense within the confines of that film's narrative, but it's nearly impossible to sustain heat with a crowd vying for attention.

Its action restricted to a single location rather than the whirlwind tour of sprawling Amsterdam circa 1975 offered by his signature work, this narrowed scope inevitably restricts Body Love from achieving similar dizzying heights. On its own comparatively minimalist terms however, it works a charm. Ravishing Ringer, still fresh to the industry in wake of her debut in the previous year's naughty La Fessée (The Spanking) by Bernard-Aubert, incidentally also making his explicit maiden voyage, proves a pleasingly deft comedienne, making a meal out of the clichéd character of the virgin awaiting initiation. Her scene with Gatteau, another underrated thespian with a legit theatrical background who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, is particularly good. Tongue in cheek dialogue delivery mixes with subtle ironic glances for maximum effect, making the scene work both as the threadbare setup it represents on the surface and a simultaneous humorous reflection upon it. As with most of Braun's efforts, it's beautifully photographed, credited to one "Peter Focus", but presumably not without considerable input from the director himself.

Directed & written by Alberto Ferro (as Lasse Braun). Produced by Manfred Metz for Love Film Productions. Photographed by Peter Focus. Music by Klaus Schulze. Edited by Bent Rohweder & Ina Daman. Starring Catherine Ringer (as Lolita Da Nova) (Martine), Gwenda Farnel (as Glenda Farrel) (Glenda), Gilda Arancio (as Gilda Stark) (Gilda), Jean-Gérard Sorlin (Baron), Jack Gatteau (Journalist), Gemma Giménez (Slave Girl), Tony Morena (Voyeur), Louison Boutin (Bill), Benoît Archenoul (Ben), Carmelo Petix (Cleaner), Cristel Lauris (as Christine Louis), Chantal Virapin, Jean-Claude Baboulin, Evelyne Manta (as Frédérique Souchier), Bent Rohweder, Micky Love (as Michèle d'Agro) & Richard Ximay (Party Guests). Running time : 82 minutes.

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The coveted disc that made me want to see and learn more...