(Deborah Caprioglio, Stéphane Ferrara, Martine Brochard, et al / Blu ray / NR / (1991) 2016 / Cult Epics)
Overview: A young country girl comes to town and works in a brothel in order to help her fiance get the money to start his own business. "Paprika" is the name given to her by the madam.
Blu ray Verdict: Tinto Brass writes and directs this grim comedy, loosely based on John Cleland's novel "Fanny Hill." In fact, Brass actually originally planned this film as a straightforward adaptation of Cleland's "Fanny Hill" novel, but after a number of years in development hell, he rewrote the screenplay and updated setting to 1950s Italy.
The basic story line is one about Peepa (Debora Caprioglio), a young girl, who, in a naive attempt to help out her fiancée with money problems, ends up being dragged head over heels into a world of prostitution and sleaze. So, based on that, sure my expectations for this film were quite low, but thankfully I was actually rather pleasantly surprised! Indeed, as much as the back cover art might outlandishly now proclaim that this is "Tinto Brass' Best Film", it is amazing to me just how underrated this film really is when it comes to the subculture of Brass.
Of course, it did feel that some of the gags in the film (the pervy Aristocrat, a Madam who is obsessed with baths, butt fetish admiral, an old businessman, who has a peculiar taste in "coffee," etc.) were slightly out of place, but in my opinion, the film managed to create a dark, cynical mood and kept it throughout. Some scenes are truly chilling, like in the very beginning where a physician warns the naive Peepa that her "two week plan" will stretch to forever, but she doesn't listen.
Indeed, the girl delves into the world of smut peddling, coins the nickname "Paprika" and gradually degrades herself to the lowliest level she can get herself in the world of the brothels. But the bit that really sent chills down my spine was when Paprika ended up in the sleaziest of whore houses and is confronted by a veteran prostitute, a mere shadow of a woman, nicknamed "The Urinal," who screams at her "YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT"!
Once again, Tinto Brass perfectly captures the personality of his female lead. At first, Paprika is happy and naive, then she gradually becomes disillusioned with her new "job." She still giggles and makes raunchy jokes, but the harsh reality keeps rearing its ugly head. All the men that seem to love her turn into her pimps, she gets brutally attacked by anal fetishist, her "co-workers" keep taking advantage of her, there is just no end to the humiliations that she goes through.
There is one particularly disturbing scene in a train, where we are not sure whether Paprika is being brutally raped or sensually pleasured. But the scariest factor is that the girl never learns her lesson. She continues on the rocky path, with no remorse or consciousness, slowly becoming a skilled and powerful woman of pleasure.
And sure, Paprika does go through some flings, but this no "Pretty Woman" and there will be no Richard Gere. The men take Paprika for what she is, a mere whore, unworthy of a long term relationship. Even the film's "happy ending," if you can call it that, manages to become extremely dark, but I will not spoil it for you. In closing, if you are in a mood for a realistic take on a life of a prostitute, laced with some interesting black humor, then you could do no better, or some might say no worse then this highly rated (in my opinion) 'Paprika' from 1991. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
New Restored High-definition Transfer
Lobby Card Video Gallery
Welcome to the Whorehouse (Featurette) HD 2015
The Blu-ray debuts on March 1st, 2016!
'Paprika' Blu-ray Purchase Link