Cinema: Nastiness, Italian Style

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Malizia is being sold, and in some critical quarters accepted, as a jolly little sex comedy—something on the order of Divorce, Italian Style. Obviously either the power of movie promotion to cloud perceptions or the number of people who find sadism funny has been seriously underestimated. But viewers who bear the title firmly in mind—it means "malice" and is as accurate as they come —may derive a creepy sort of pleasure from Director Samperi's adroit study in perversity.

His chosen victim is the maid (Laura Antonelli) supplied by an agency to keep house for a newly widowed father and his three sons. Her name is Angela and she indeed appears to be heaven-sent—beautiful, omnicompetent and a cheerful presence in a gloomy house. Dad is soon entertaining honorable thoughts of a second marriage while his middle son Nino (Alessandro Momo) is harboring impure thoughts and, what is worse, putting them into action. Basically goodhearted and rather innocent, Angela mistakes his occasional attempts to grab her for youthful high spirits and does not repulse them firmly enough. They form the basis for blackmail in which she is forced to cater humiliatingly to his voyeuristic whims. In true porn-movie style, these proceed up the scale from the mild to the wild, and since Antonelli is an astonishingly lovely creature, her misadventures have an inevitable, shall we say, subcultural interest?

On a slightly higher plane, one cannot help admiring Samperi's creation of a claustral atmosphere that makes believable both the boy's fetid sexuality and the girl's inability to escape his trap without destroying herself and his father. That she finally manages to do so, by reversing their roles, is also accomplished without suspension of belief. It even seems rather courageous and psychologically acute of her.

Malizia is overtly comic only in a few vignettes of family controversy. But people of very special—or very broad —tastes may find it intriguing in its nasty little way.