|Isabella Deiana In Cosi Fan Tutte (All Ladies Do It)|
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Considered by many to be the master of erotica, Tinto Brass is a director whose work can usually be summed up in a single sentence: beautifully shot, but often awkwardly scripted musings about sex with a particular focus on women's bottoms. Since he stepped away from more conventional cinema after 1988's thriller Snack Bar Budapest, Brass has embraced a satisfying career as an art-house director whose work is equal parts art and smut. The debate concerning his career will last long past interest in any one of his pictures minus Caligula which remains a fascinating cinematic trainwreck that is not the fault of the autuer, and perhaps Salon Kitty which, some thirty-odd years later, still impresses. And somewhere among his many love letters to the female derriere is 1992's Cosi Fan Tutte.
Released as All Ladies Do It in English speaking regions of the globe, this sex-comedy is described as a riff on Mozart's opera of the same name about a wager between engaged men with a third man that believes all women are fickle and none can be eternally faithful. With that conclusion as his guide, Brass casts the gorgeous, feline and very, very Italian Claudia Koll as Diana, a bubbly married woman that simply isn't excited enough by her nebbishy husband. In particular, Diana craves some intimate attention in some, ahem... tighter spaces... and that doesn't mean sex in a closet. With her husband tired of her shenanigans and requests, she breaks the bonds of her marriage to seek out that which she most desires, ending up in trysts with several men including a waiter and a priest. This descent into a hedonistic lifestyle is usually handled by the likes of Zalman King as the makings of dark, romantic tragedy, but when married with Brass's light-hearted, non-Catholic-yet-still-European sensibilities, the result is an almost sunny exploration of a woman learning to find herself in the arms of several other men when her husband fails her.
Alas the very explicit nature of the erotic content is jarring when contrast against such flighty comedy, and the overall tone of the proceedings seem confused as Diana's "longing" feels less soulful, than it does superficial. She looks at sex the way an undereducated and hormonal 18 year-old might look at it: as something fun and without any consequences. And when there are consequences, they're generally swiped away by a giggle and a skip into the next sordid sexual scenario. As a result, the movie flutters by without demanding viewers' attention, anchoring interest only via sleazy closeups of pubic hair and wandering fingers that do little than provide fodder for the argument that Brass is nothing more than a smut peddler.
If that were the case, and the filmmaker's primary objective is to fill Cosi Fan Tutte with erotic imagery, then he only half succeeds. While Claudia Koll is an absolute vision unclothed, as are just about all of the many other naked (or half-naked) actresses featured in the picture, her couplings are often too crass to arouse. The result is a movie that oscillates between base sexuality and peppy comedy, a pair that simply does't mesh well together.
For her part, Koll handles her role dutifully when she's not overacting the heights of sexual ecstasy. Likewise, her shapely co-stars Ornella Marcucci and Isabella Deiana giggle and purr their way through their nude/sex scenes while the actors featured in the movie are either straight-up perverts or impotent bores. The performances have little to do with the talents' capabilities, however as it seems Brass is in total control of his pallette, his intent a bit befuddling. Was the goal to create a smut-filled comedy or was it to address the need for the world to allow women to possess sexual urges outside of "the norm?" If it was the former, then the filmmaker succeeded. If it was the latter, then his tone and his own objectification of his female cast undermine his message.
Flesh fans and European cinema enthusiasts will probably want to give a Cosi Fan Tutte a spin, but neither may be fully satisfied. More than likely, those who are into unconventional, uneven films will be the picture's most ardent admirers. Casual viewers used to Hollywood's chaste approach to sexuality, however will want to steer clear.