By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: A sex doll obsession.
Michel (Michel Piccoli) runs a successful dental practice, but finds that his life is empty and his marriage to his wife Isabelle (Rada Rassimov) is no longer working. He has cheated on her before, but those affairs left him with the same empty feeling, so this time he decides to take a different route by purchasing a life size sex doll that looks so real that she almost seems human. He takes her everywhere and even brings her along to a visit with his mother (Valentine Tessier) so she can meet his new ‘girlfriend’. The doll becomes the centerpiece of his very existence and he spends every waking moment he can with her until he sees footage, from a closed circuit camera that he has set-up in his house, of one of friends having sex with her while he was away. He becomes outraged at her ‘betrayal’ and decides that her punishment will be ‘death’.
The film, which can best be described as an early, distant cousin to Lars and the Real Girl, definitely has its share of unique and memorable moments. Writer/director Luis Garcia Berlanga does an admirable job of analyzing just what might happen if sexual fantasy gets taken to its most extreme level. The scenes showing Michel taking the doll to a clothing store in order to be measured and fitted with the latest fashions and marrying the doll in a makeshift wedding are by far the film’s two best segments.
However, it’s Michel’s scenes with his wife that I found to be the most unsettling. The scene where he fondles his wife’s naked breasts late at night as she sleeps while looking at a picture of the doll is quirky enough, but then later on, in the film’s most disturbing moment, she tries immersing completely into his sexual fantasy by pretending to be a sex doll herself in a desperate attempt to win him back.
What is initially considered the sexual substitute to the real thing soon becomes the preferable choice here and it reminded me of an article I read in a science journal a few years back about young men in their 20’s forced to be prescribed Viagra because they were no longer able to achieve erections with their wives/girlfriends because the proliferation of porn on the internet had somehow dulled their senses to real sex to the point that they found it to be a ‘turn-off’. Now, if you are a fan of porn then that’s great and I don’t mean to be appear like I’m trying to knock it, but I did find it fascinating that elements of that article correlated to what this film was showing and how successful this movie was at foreshadowing the phenomenon’s that we are now seeing in our modern day culture.
Although the film is adequately directed and more of a psychological study than a perverse sleaze feast it’s still not an overall success. The main issue is that the main character acts overtly freaky about the doll from the very beginning without enough backstory to tell us why and simply saying it’s due to a unhappy marriage is not enough. A far more compelling concept would’ve been to portray the main character as being more ‘normal’ by having him feel awkward about the doll and even a bit embarrassed only to grow increasingly more obsessed as the film progresses until his ultimate infatuation with it shocks even him.
Alternate Titles: Grandeur Nature, Love Doll, Tamano Natural
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: August 21, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes
Director: Luis Garcia Berlanga
Studio: Cinema International Corporation
Available: None at this time.