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The Italian sex film is an industry in itself. Hereís one of the genreís more interesting entries, from Salvatore Sempari, one of its key directors. THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE manages to transcend a conventional young-man-seduced-by-his-older-governess premise through slick direction and a truly perverse storyline that incorporates anonymous sex, voyeurism, infidelity and even incest. Itís a strange, disturbing and quite erotic film, watchable even by those outside the rain-jacketed crowd.

The Package
     THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE arrives via the British video outfit Jezebel, the ďevil sisterĒ of the popular Redemption label. Redemption distributes obscure horror movies with colorful and distinctive packaging (their releases include films by such respected horrormeisters as Jean Rollin, Mario Bava and even Clive Barker), but the Jezebel line keeps it afloat. Jezebel re-releases forgotten (and, more often than not, forgettable) British and Italian sex comedies with the same beautiful packaging that characterizes the Redemption videos.
     THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE is something of an anomaly in the Jezebel series: a pretty good movie. Itís a product if the lucrative Italian sex film industry, which has turned out respected auteurs like Tino Brass, but is mostly responsible for those terrible soft core flicks that often show up late at night on cable TV. Most of them are instantly forgettable. TDSOL, made in 1986, is not--itís actually extremely difficult to shake off.

The Story
     A sixteen-year-old boy (Lorenzo Lena) is confined to his recently deceased grandmotherís house after seriously injuring his neck. His sexy twenty five-year-old sister Patrizia (played by Italian sex star Monica Guerritore) is dispatched from her home in Venice to stay with him. Things start out innocently enough, with Patrizia taking the lad on trips to the beach and keeping him company, but soon take a turn for the perverted.
     Sex-mad Patrizia canít keep her lustful thoughts to herself, and enthusiastically relates her more interesting sexual experiences to her naive little brother. Itís not long before he encourages Patrizia to act out her erotic tales. This she does, first by having an anonymous tryst with a man in a movie theater and then moving on to some kinkier acts with a mild-mannered (though horny) college professor. She even invites a blonde model home to further inflame her brotherís libido. Naturally, the sexual tension between brother and sister reaches its apex, but only after Patrizia runs off and marries a good-looking jeweler. In the happy(?) ending, she decides to keep her now thoroughly corrupted little brother on as an extra-marital lover.

The Direction
     Salvatore Sempari has been one of the Italian sex film industryís guiding lights since the seventies. TDSOL is surely one of his better works (also worth seeing is his stunningly perverted 1976 historical fuckfest SCANDAL, a.k.a. SUBMISSION). While by no means great, it strikes a careful balance between the all-out sleaze of Joe DíAmato (ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS) and the classier approach of Tinto Brass (CALIGULA, THE KEY). In keeping with the particulars of the genre he helped initiate, Sempari photographs all of this as if it were a perfume commercial (the cinematography is by the great Dante Spinotte), complete with some gorgeous Venice scenery that wouldnít look out of place in a travel brochure.
     Surprisingly, whatís most effective about Sempariís approach is its subtlety. The nudity, while abundant, isnít nearly as plentiful as you might expect, and the onscreen sex is pretty scant. Sempariís low-key treatment of a morbid storyline packs a greater punch than just about anything else on the sex-movie market.

Vital Statistics

Globe Films/Dania Film International/Jezebel Video (UK)

Director: Salvatore Sempari
Producer: Pietro Innocenzi
Screenplay: Riccardo Gniome, Edith Bruck, Salvatore Samperi
Cinematography: Dante Spinotte
Editor: Sergio Montanari
Cast: Monica Guerritore, Lorenzo Lena, Gianfranco Manfredi, Gilla Novak, Saverio Vallone

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