It doesn’t matter what cinematic genre you’re dealing with: the difference between trash and treasure is often a matter of vision. Even the softcore sex comedy can be an artistically impressive experience if the filmmaker guiding it has a distinctive and unique intepretation of what such a film can be. Tinto Brass is one such filmmaker and Cheeky! shows his skills nicely. Even though it’s one of his lighter works, it overflows with clever touches that are informed by a distinctive and personal philosophy about its subject matter.
The plot of Cheeky! seems simple enough: Carla (Yuliya Mayarchuk) is a lusty young Venetian lady enjoying a time abroad in England. She battles her strong sex drive while searching for an apartment for her boyfriend Matteo (Jarno Bernardi), who is due to join her soon to continue his studies. However, her new home is full of temptations — including manipulative real estate agent Moira (Francesca Nunzi) — and Matteo struggles with intense romantic jealousy. When Matteo discovers some old love letters from a past suitor of Carla’s, he starts pushing her buttons — and this begins a lusty journey for both lovers that leads them to a new way of thinking about sex and romance.
Cheeky! is overheated from its opening frames: Brass infuses the film with a playful, thoroughly lusty sense of sexuality, allowing his camera to linger on the cast’s erogenous zones — particularly the derrieres of his actresses — and sets it all to a jaunty pop score from Pino Donaggio. Appropriately, he also packs the film with nudity and sex, often skirting hardcore territory, but does so with the kind of florid visual aesthetic that genre film fans would associate with a vintage Argento film. Mayarchuk embodies the film’s central spirit of libidinous desire nicely, with Nunzi offering a fun supporting performance as a conniving temptress and Bernandi essaying the wounded male ego in a convincingly Italian way.
However, what makes Cheeky! truly interesting is the way the second half of the film expresses its own unique philosophy about sex, jealousy and relationships. Without giving too much away, Brass has his heroine and her lover come to an interesting understanding of these concepts that sees them as part of a necessary cycle rather than as battling forces. It’s the kind of thinking that could only come from someone who has immersed himself in a lot of thinking about lust and its driving elements — and it gives the film an unexpected sense of substance beneath its freewheeling pursuit of carnal visuals.
In short, Cheeky! dishes up sex with a joyful abandon — and it also boasts a carnal philosophy that makes it memorable long after the viewer’s temperature has reverted to normal.