|Daniele Gaubert and Nino Castelnuovo x3 in Camille 2000 (1969).|
A couple of weeks ago I noted that it’s a great time to be a Jacques Rivette fan: the work of the late French filmmaker is more readily available in the U.S. than it has ever been, which means that his early films, many of them forty years old, are being discovered and talked about as enthusiastically as the latest films out of Cannes and Venice. Something similar has been happening with the films of Radley Metzger. Even though Metzger’s exploitation-film pedigree precludes him from the same sort of attention given to a highbrow figure like Rivette, he has come into his own as an underground auteur these last several years. Boutique video labels like Cult Epics and Distribpix have led the charge by issuing lovingly restored Blu-ray editions of many of Metzger’s major works, and a handful of the films are now streamable through the subscription sites Mubi and Fandor. Such efforts have resulted in Metzger’s emergence as a key figure in 1970s exploitation cinema and pornography—an area of film history that is itself currently undergoing critical re-evaluation.
It’s thanks to Mubi that I was able to check out Metzger’s Camille 2000 (1969), an Italian soft-core adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux Camelias (!) starring Nino Castelnuovo (!!) of Umbrellas of Cherbourg fame. Set in an ultra-modern, swinging-sixties Rome, Camille charts the doomed love affair between a romantic naïf (Castelnuovo) and the troubled, emotionally unavailable mistress of a wealthy duke (Daniele Gaubert). The film is studded with elegant, funny set pieces, like a prison-themed sex party at Marguerite’s villa, and the art direction and costumes are endlessly entertaining: Marguerite's boudoir is all white and clear plastic, right down to the inflatable furniture, and she even sports clear plastic cuffs and a matching collar while taking in an opera (see below). Hard plastic could be said to symbolize Metzger's aesthetic: shiny, artificial, slick, chic. In many ways Camille, shot on 35mm in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, looks even classier and more polished than later (if superior) films like Score and The Opening of Misty Beethoven. In any case, it’s far hipper than that other adaptation of Dumas’ novel—Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.