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IN THE BEACH HOUSE [Casotto] (1977).

Jodie Foster might have two Oscars, but during her teenage years, she popped up in plenty of cinematic stinkers -- from Disney kiddie-dreck to ultra-obscure EuroTrash. One of her silliest gigs was this Italian sex-farce ensemble, with Jodie playing a pivotal supporting role. Almost the entire film is set inside cabana No.19, a large public changing room along a stretch of beach, as various eccentric groups come and go throughout the day, and sometimes cross paths. Director Sergio Citti is best known as Pasolini's longtime assistant director, as well as the co-writer of SALO, but don't let that connection get your hopes up. History has proven that most vignette-themed films are a mixed bag -- some stories are interesting, others ordinary -- but in this case, ALL of the episodes are consistently dull and pointless. A macho soldier stuffs his speedo in order to hide his pint-sized penis; a peep hole allows us to watch the naked girls' swim team in the adjoining cabana; a strange old man with a double penis slips on his trunks; a widow (Mariangelo Melato, star of the original SWEPT AWAY) and her husband's mistress seduce a chastity-belt-wearing insurance agent (Ugo Tognazzi); and two horny guys on the prowl, Gigi and Vinnie, deal with mercenary dates. 14-year-old Foster doesn't make an appearance until a half-hour in, playing Teresina, who's accompanied to the beach by her grandparents and a "pinhead" nephew who's so stupid he can't find the ocean. Jodie sport a tiny blue bikini, and her family desperately tries to lure in a potential husband for sweet little Teresina, since this jailbait teen is knocked-up! Catherine Deneuve is also wasted in a three-minute cameo, playing a dream-temptress in one of the only scenes outside of the cabana. Thank god, a rainstorm finally unites all of the characters and puts an end to the audience's torment. Citti hired several of his old SALO crew members, including art director Dante Ferretti (GANGS OF NEW YORK) and cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST), but they have little to do in this one-set mess. The script by Citti and Vincenzo Cerami (who co-wrote Benigni's LIFE IS BEAUTFUL) is deadening, and its idea of humor is to have two badly-sunburnt lovers attempting to have sex. There's fleeting full frontal nudity from most of the supporting cast (not Jodie, of course), but it's never titillating, and the only funny moment is in the final minutes, when an annoying little dog is finally dispatched! It's a perplexing and painfully idiotic 10-car-pile-up of a movie.

© 2003 by Steven Puchalski.