Passion Flower Hotel

[a.k.a. Boarding School, Virgin Campus]
Dir: Andre Farwagi
Star: Nastassja Kinski, Gerry Sundquist, Gabriele Blum, Fabiana Udenio

Trash City
Top 50 Film
I was somewhat nervous about re-viewing this. In some ways, it's just a distaff version of something like Porky's, a sex-comedy about teenagers seeking to get laid in 1956. But time has likely changed me more than the movie, for over twenty years have passed since this first exploded onto my frontal lobe. It's one thing to watch a movie about nubile virgins [all of whom are over 18... Yeah: about that...], who set themselves up as prostitutes for the neighbouring boys' school, when you yourself are not much older than them. Fast-forward two decades, and I kept expecting that bloke from To Catch a Predator to come in for a chat ("Why don't you have a seat over there?"). Fortunately, there's no real reason for concern: while remaining marvellously trangressive in its central concept, which is still appalling by modern standards, most of this is so innocent in its approach, it would be hard to be truly 'offended'.

Certainly, some marvellous cinematography, from Richard Suzuki (who did Emmanuelle a few years earlier) and a great Francis Lai score, move this significantly up the ladder of art - though I could probably have done without the moments when teeters on the verge of becoming a musical. There is less nudity in this than I recall, despite the opening shot of a naked breast, which has to be one of the best - or, at least, most attention-getting - in cinematic history. There's a shower scene, and Kinski getting her groove on with her opposite number from the boys' school (Sundquist) at the end, but in the middle, there's a lot more skimpy lingerie than anything else, so the film has to skate by on charm, and it just about does.

Of course, pretty much everything that can go wrong, does, both for the girls and their prospective clients - both of whom are operating under a neo-Stalinist educational regime, and it's from these desperate attempts to relieve sexual tension that the comedy is mined. It's gentle stuff, warm-hearted rather than hard-edged humour, but I laughed out loud [this must be the first brothel with a safety demonstration before take-off] and was more amused than I expect. And, of course, you've got Kinski. 'Nuff said. She hates the film, having said in 1981, "I wish I had the money to buy it up and burn it." I'd say it was among the least of her cinematic crimes, and compared to the early works of some other stars, is a very minor trangression. Also appearing: a future Miss World (Blum), Alotta Fagina from Austin Powers (Udenio) and the guy who'd play Uncle Frank in Hellraiser (Sean Chapman). Truly something for everyone.

[September 2010]

Guilty as charged
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