If you’ve ever seen any of Tinto Brass’s work, you know he has a distinctive way with erotica. The most curious and unique element of his approach might be how there is a battle-of-the-sexes political angle to his work. Simply put, this is the philosophy of romantic relationships that he revisits time and again in his work: monogamous relationships are unnatural and women are naturally in touch with this in a way that men are not… so they must cheat and arouse jealousy in their men to reignite the desire of their relationships.
However sexist this might sound in theory, the results onscreen are more complex than you might think. For starters, Brass’ work is interesting in that females are often the lead characters and the story is told from their point of view. Monamour offers an example of this approach in work: the heroine is Marta (Anna Jimskaia), a wife who is fretting over the dulling down of her young marriage.
While attending a conference with publisher hubby Dario (Max Parodi), Marta finds herself pursued by horny artist Leon (Riccardo Marino) and falls into a secret affair. However, Dario becomes aware of her infidelity when he stumbles across her diary – and the stage is set for a finale where Marta has to either choose the unpredictable Leon or making things work with an angry Dario.
The result is the kind of film where the expected leering excess of erotica works hand in hand with some oddly progressive elements. Marta is simultaneously an object of lust for Brass’ camera – as usual, his camera focuses on his heroine’s derriere at every opportunity – but an agent of change in the storyline, someone who comes to term with the desires of the men around her, enjoys some pleasure without shame and then makes her own decision. Some viewers have problem with the ending, which could be interpreted as submission rather than liberation for Marta, but Brass couches it in a series of plot developments that make it clear that he thinks infidelity is the spice of romance.
Regardless of how you might feel about Brass’ sexual politics, Monamour is very easy to enjoy as an exercise in the stylized/fleshy pleasures of cinematic erotica. Brass has a spirited co-conspirator in Jimskaia, who indulges in a variety of sex scenes that are staged and framed by the director with the eye of a fetishist. That said, the sexiest moment in Monamour might be a moment where Jimskaia dances for her lover at a club while a band plays a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Mona.” She shimmies for all she’s worth, pulling aside her dress to bare both top and bottom as she creates the most uninhibited single-person dance number ever committed to film.
Simply put, Monamour is another fascinating entry in the Tinto Brass filmography because it might be the direct and in-depth exploration of his thoughts on the relationship between infidelity and passion. No matter what side of that argument you fall on, you’re likely to find this film to be a memorably overheated exercise in the cine-erotic.