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NANA [a.k.a. Nana, Girl of Pleasure; Take Me, Love Me] (1970; Video Screams).

An artifact from an era when US "adult" theatre-owners tried to class up their act in hopes of luring in more mainstream crowds, this loose, modern-day, Swedish/French interpretation of Émile Zola's 1880 novel was initially rated 'X', and while its story is still centered around a driven young woman who uses and destroys men in her quest for fame and fortune, the characters and details have been substantially updated. Directed by Mac Ahlberg -- who kept American "art theatres" packed with steamy imports like I, A WOMAN and FANNY HILL, before shifting his career to cinematography on features ranging from CHAINED HEAT to THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE -- the entire film is absolutely gorgeous, with garish color cinematography by Andréas Winding (LA PRISONNIÈRE, RIDER ON THE RAIN), exceptionally groovy production design (gotta love those revolving circular beds!) and wild costumes (remember when real men wore paisley shirts and ascots?)... It opens at a fabulous nightclub happening, with our blonde title minx (Anna Gaël, from Radley Metzger's THERESE AND ISABELLE) making her on-stage debut, serenading the crowd in slinky, breast-baring attire. Effectively utilizing her innate sexuality, "common whore" Nana is soon the toast of the town -- celebrated by hip society, participating in topless photo shoots, twisting rich male admirers around her finger, and discarding them once they're tapped out. Wealthy Von Falke (Keve Hjelm) gives Nana various posh places to live; she pressures obsessed, married government official Count Haupt (Lars Lunøe) into snagging her the starring role in an upcoming movie; while Nana is eventually torn between the powerful older men who can provide her with the lifestyle she desires and her actual feelings for innocent, broke-ass younger lover George (Gérard Berner). As Nana becomes an increasingly willful, obnoxious brat, there are several heavy moments involving her adoring suitors as well, whether it's exposing them as cuckolds or leaving a trail of broke, humiliated and suicidal men in her destructive wake... Gaël superficially succeeds in the role, constantly disrobing and making Nana's overpowering desirability vaguely believable, but she brings zero complexity to this man-eating sex kitten. Thankfully, English actress/singer Gillian Hills (who'd earlier appeared in BEAT GIRL, BLOWUP and THE OWL SERVICE, and helped popularize the French tune "Zou Bisou Bisou") makes a delightful contribution as Nana's close friend Tina, with the two eventually sharing a quietly sensual bedroom sequence that casually slips into full-blown, '60s-style trippiness. Also look for Danish starlet Helli Louise (Joe Sarno's DADDY, DARLING) as a regular at Nana's parties. Although the story is rather leaden and obvious, with genuinely erotic moments at a minimum, what makes this outing stand out are its lush visuals, as Ahlberg punctuates the film with Nana's spectacularly tacky musical numbers, often accompanied by scantily-clad male back-up dancers in loin clothes or leather chaps. FYI, it also has a slightly more upbeat ending than Zola's book, since Nana no longer dies horribly from smallpox.

© 2019 by Steven Puchalski.