High Art & Low Morals – Rediscovering ‘Nana, the True Key of Pleasure’ (Italy 1983 – 92 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - December 29, 2014
High Art & Low Morals – Rediscovering ‘Nana, the True Key of Pleasure’ (Italy 1983 – 92 mins)

Not as shocking as its reputation may have it, the erotic drama ‘Nana, the True Key of Pleasure’ is loosely based on Émile Zola’s classic 1880 novel ‘Nana’. A pretty good movie, it has numerous soft-core and borderline explicit moments, but it also has a certain charm and even elements of comedy amongst all the sexy shenanigans.

Set in a 19th Century Parisian bordello, the minimal plot revolves around Nana (Katya Berger), a young stage performer who soon turns to high-class prostitution. Using her looks and cunning, she seduces both men and women in order to improve her social status as a cocotte among the elite.

Looking younger than her 19 years, pretty German-born Katya Berger, is very good in the title role. Mixing innocence with much knowing, Berger temps and teases all those around her, including Yehuda Efroni’s rich banker, and Marcus Beresford’s smitten student; Hector. Not shy with nudity, Katya also has lesbian scenes with the beautiful Debra Berger. Katya’s handful of previous roles included Marco Ferreri’s art-flick ‘Tales of Ordinary Madness’, and Joe D’Amato’s video nasty ‘Absurd’ (both ’81). Still debonair at 72, French icon Jean-Pierre Aumont is ideally cast as a Count who becomes involved in Nana, although Aumont sometimes looks uncomfortable amongst all the naked goings-on. Sexploitation favourite Annie Belle also appears, as does scandal-hit Sixties model Mandy Rice-Davies, as the Count’s cheating wife.

Some of the films humour comes from the stage entertainment in the bordello. One particular act consists of a behind the screen silhouette show which, to the crowd, appears to depict a couple engaged in various sex acts, but in reality the couple is merely miming the act while a performer off-stage provides the vocals. There’s also a hunting scene for the rich, but involving naked women instead of animals, which result in the movies most explicit moments.

Jerusalem-born writer-director Dan Wolman, had earlier directed the Christina Lindberg exploiter ‘Maid in Sweden’ (’71), and would later concentrate on making movies in his native Israel. Ennio Morricone provided the score in what would be one of his busiest years, which also included Tinto Brass’s explicit drama ‘The Key’ (‘La chiave’).

With its international cast, beautiful costumes and majestic settings, ‘Nana, the True Key of Pleasure’ is an interesting mix of erotica and high-art, and with stunning photography by renowned cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi, it’s certainly lovely to look at.

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