Cult Epics | Available from Amazon | Review
by Jonathan Plombon
As convoluted as THE LICKERISH QUARTET is, and Roger Ebert certainly pointed it out in his original review, it's still a delectable piece of surreal family drama sandwiched between two slices of bare-chested erotica. It flourishes in its own logic and makes its own broken rules. In short, it's superb.
A rich, eccentric family consisting of a husband (Frank Wolf), his wife (Erika Remberg), and the wife's twenty-something biological son (Paolo Turco) watch a stag film. During the viewing they become increasingly enamored by the lead actress (Silvana Venturelli) whose values they critique harshly. Afterwards, they visit a nearby carnival and recognize the blue-movie starlet in a motorcycle stunt show. An invite later, the actress joins them where the father attempts to screen the adult movie for her.
From that point on, Radley Metzger (who also directed the hardcore classic THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN) plays surreally with the audience's expectations and the characters' motives and decisions.
The actress takes turns seducing each family member individually while Metzger parallels the encounters by slicing in imaginary stag films that provide glimpses into each person's intentions and outlooks. While the actress demands much of the attention, she isn't the focal point. Her background isn't explained, her reasons are clouded, and her sexual encounters with each family member reflect their desires and not hers. She's merely the vehicle for expression, like the father's point to prove to himself and his doubting wife that he's not impotent.
Each scene of engaged intercourse sweetens a viewer's sight like the most sugary of eye candy. The radiating peach of Venturelli and Turco's sun-soaked skin contrasts against the mellow green field. Venturelli and Wolf frolic in a modern library where dictionary definitions coat the ground. During the appropriate moments, she flings her arms to "masturbate" and he rolls around on his back while "ecstasy" can be read behind him.
As the family's already loose structure disintegrates, the real show begins: the insecurities, the jealousy, the cover-ups. They all make up the conflict and Metzger doesn't hand deliver much of it. It's conducted by using a montage of fantasies which doesn't tell a story so much as it provides the viewer with the uncomfortable feelings of living in a dysfunctional family where everyone has something to say but none can say a thing about it.
The DVD includes a short eleven-minute making-of featurette, which is wonderful even for its condensed length. Owners can also review censored sex scenes that had that were cut to make it into various territories.
Confusing, nonsensical, beautiful, and thought-provoking: THE LICKERISH QUARTET embodies every cliché that's ever been reserved for a pretentious art film and still manages to exceed with visuals and underlying truth about human condition. And at 88 minutes, it zips by without overstaying its welcome.
THE LICKERISH QUARTET is marevlous.