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Old 06-17-2005, 08:25 PM
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Default Image, The




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: August 13, 2002

Released by: Synapse
Release date: 8/5/2001
MSRP: $24.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes



Pornography has long been dismissed as a tasteless and disrespectable genre. Most naysayers agree that the films are devoid of meaning and only serve as a superficial, voyeuristic escape its viewers. Taboo at the time, and still today, Radley Metzger's The Image transcends the pornography stereotype, and has been regarded as one of the few films entailing extreme sexual content that is both artful and expressive. Although boycotted by many feminists upon its release for its depiction of sadomasochism towards women, the film has been able to surmount its 1975 release and become well respected among film enthusiasts. Synapse Films has taken the time to release The Image on DVD with a fresh Special Edition label, so let's take a look what all the fuss is about.

The Story

inline Image The Image at its core is about a relationship between three sexually driven characters. Jean, a suave and hansom middle aged man; Claire, a tart and bitter woman; and Anne, a quiet and beautiful young lady. As the film begins, Jean eyes the voluptuous Anne from across the room of a cocktail party. Intrigued by her beauty, he approaches her, but to little avail. It seems that Anne is busy with Claire, serving her and obediently listening to her demands. Jean, being a friend of Claire's, asks to become acquainted with the mysterious Anne, and Claire obliges. They go for dinner, and then to a garden the next day, and Jean realizes that there is more to Anne's relationship with Claire than what appears so.

inline Image Anne is a sadomasochist who derives sexual pleasure from Claire's enforcing and cruelty. The first of such acts of pleasure occurs in the garden when Anne is forced to sexually caress and finger a rose bud in front of both Claire and Jean. This lustful act only escalates, as Claire forces Anne to urinate on, and rub herself with, the rose bud. The day at the garden ends, and Jean is left with the subconscious image of Anne and the rose bud in his mind. He approaches Anne again, but she again gives him the cold shoulder. Claire, gaining knowledge of Anne's coldness, forces her to be punished in front of Jean, officially including him in what has now become a passionate love triangle.

inline Image Anne becomes a servant to Jean, performing fellatio and other sexual acts whenever and wherever he pleases. Their sexual encounters occur everywhere from parked cars to telephone booths. Jean even brings a bystander into the mix as a ménage a trois ensues in a lingerie shop. Anne continues to be the object that both Jean and Claire vent their sexual impulses upon until a final act committed in the "Gothic Chamber." It is here where the three exert primal rage in whipping and torture, and eventually reach an epiphany, forever changing their relationships together.

inline Image The Image is a highly expressive, and surprisingly tasteful erotic picture, and is much more than your prototypical "skin flick." At its core it is a film about relationships, and how these people satisfy their erotic desires. Jean uses Anne as an object to supplement his sexual fetishes and dominate. Claire also uses Anne, but as a way to mask her sexual desires. She is cruel and domineering to the young girl, using that anger to submerge her longing sexual desire. Anne, conversely, allows her sexual fantasies to be fulfilled through the punishment and domination given by Claire and Jean. These characters are all different and intriguing, and Metzger draws particular attention to their differences, heightening the erotic effect of the film.

inline Image The theme of primal passion is reinforced rather admirably by Metzger's subtle Freudian symbolism. There are numerous shots of both erect buildings like the Eiffel Tower as well as the ever-sensual rose bud. The latter symbolizes both the female genitalia as well as blooming sexual desire, while the former represents obviously the penis and man's domineering nature and heightened authority. These shots help reinforce Metzger's themes and elevate the film above the vast majority of the pornographic films of the 1970's.

inline ImageThis is intended to be a very erotic picture, and it most certainly is, thanks in part to George Craig's wonderfully edited score. With smooth guitar riffs and tender violin strokes, the lovemaking scenes are given an erotic and romantic aura. The other scenes are treated with soft piano and harp strokes and lend the film a welcomed comfort. Some of the latter torture scenes border on disturbing however, and at times the score can be almost too empowering.

inline ImageAs disturbing as the "Gothic Chamber" scene gets, it is offset somewhat by a few of the film's quirky touches. Metzger, a long time film enthusiast and scholar, injects the film with many references to movies, regardless of whether they belong or not. He clearly shows a passion for cinematic expression, and his respect for movies gives the film a realistic quality. There are also a few hilarious puns in the film that are neither obtrusive or out of place. They help relieve and relax the viewer from what can be a very involving sexual film.

Although there are several lengthy and graphic shots of both male and female sex organs, they are done tastefully and never in excess. They reinforce the erotica onscreen, not exploit it. The plot may seem on the outside as minimalist and needless, but underneath it is a layered study of passion and relationships. Metzger is a classy filmmaker, and although the material he is dealing with is controversial, he has handled it in a very capable manner. This is more than just a good pornographic film; it is an imaginative and symbolic motion picture. It is not easily accessible material, but it is still a recommended cinematic achievement.

Image Quality

inline ImageSynapse presents The Image in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and "the image" looks pretty good. The flesh tones are fairly accurate, and the rest of the colors are nicely saturated. The red buds of the roses in the background look defined, although not quite vibrant. The print is generally clean, save for a few minor blemishes here and there. There is one noticeable defect however, as a blue scratch occupies the center of the frame at around the 56:45 mark. It is only on for about 15 seconds, but it is a noticeable distraction. Still though, considering the age and budget of the film (which, like all porn movies, was miniscule), this is another trademark quality transfer from Synapse.

Sound

The Image is presented in both a new Dolby Stereo Surround 2.0 track as well as the original mono track for purists. Both tracks sound very good, with the stereo track having noticeably more punch. The stereo track also sounds clearer, and the sound stems are still in great condition. Seeing as this film was dubbed, the dialogue is very sharp and audible. The excellent score also sounds great, although the overall tracks are still fairly flat. This is more or less a flaw of the original materials however, and as it stands, the sound on this disc is more than acceptable.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Although labeled a "Special Edition" on the back, there isn't a whole lot of substance to this Synapse release, but what is included is of high quality. The biggest supplement is an isolated music score, and as I said early in the review, this is a fantastic soundtrack. It is very clear and sounds just as good as the score included in the film. There are noticeable gaps of silence throughout the track, but it is definitely worth a listen. It should also be mentioned that The Image is presented uncut and uncensored for the first time on home video, so kudos to Synapse. They not only presented the film uncut, but also took the effort to track down the original camera negatives of the film directly from Radley Metzger.

Also included on the DVD are the less substantial, but still interesting trailers for Radley Metzger's other films, included in the "Director's Filmography" menu, which is otherwise just a listing of his other films. Excellently written, two page linear notes are also included with the discs packaging. While the supplements may be slight, they are of great quality, proving that Synapse truly cares about their films. It is unfortunate that retrospective documentaries were not produced and included on this release though, as it would have been nice to hear Metzger's intentions.

Final Thoughts

The Image is an intensely erotic film about a threesome and the various social positions of its members. The film has some inspired symbolism and assured direction, which make this more than just a pornographic film. The audio and video transfers are well done, and the isolated musical score is a real treat. The disc could have benefited from some more original extras, but even without them this is still a fine DVD. This is definitely not a film for everyone, but if you are looking for something erotic and intellectually stimulating, then look no further.

Rating

Movie – A-
Image Quality – B
Sound – B
Supplements – B

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 31 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter stops
  • English 2.0 Surround
  • English Mono
Supplements
  • Isolated musical score
  • Theatrical trailers for Radley Metzger's other films
  • Linear notes
  • Director filmography

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