aka DIARY OF FORBIDDEN DREAMS
aka FORBIDDEN DREAMS
(Italy/France/West Germany - 1972; US releases 1973, 1976, 1979)
Directed by Roman Polanski. Written by Gerard Brach and Roman Polanski. Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Sydne Rome, Hugh Griffith, Romolo Valli, Roman Polanski, Guido Alberti, Roger Middleton, Cicely Browne, John Karlsen, Richard McNamara, Henning Schlueter, Gianfranco Piacentini, Elisabeth Witte. (Unrated, 114 mins)
Roman Polanski's most obscure film as a director was made between a pair of masterpieces: his brilliant 1971 adaptation of MACBETH, probably the best screen version of that particular Shakespeare play, and his 1974 classic CHINATOWN, one of the essential films of its decade. To say that Polanski lost his way in between those triumphs is an understatement. WHAT? is a semi-improvised and self-indulgent fiasco, trying to be an exercise in comedic erotica with bawdy and absurdist humor, but testing the patience of even the most devoted Polanskiphile. 21-year-old Sydne Rome, an Akron, OH native who's still active on Italian and German television and whose entire career has been spent in Europe, stars as Nancy, an American hitchhiking through Italy, narrowly escaping a gang rape (played for laughs, as one of the rapists, waiting his turn on Nancy, tries to have his way with one of the other guys) and hiding out at a posh, seaside villa inhabited by all manner of wealthy, high society perverts. After one night in the villa, Nancy's shirt disappears, thereby allowing Rome to spend much of the film topless, wearing only bellbottoms and a dinner napkin tied around her neck. Most of Nancy's time is spent with Alex (the legendary Marcello Mastroianni, in possibly the worst performance of his career), also known as "Coco the Mashed Potato," a syphilitic and possibly gay ex-pimp and sadomasochist prone to dressing in a tiger costume and asking Nancy to whip him before she finally gives into his open-sored charms. Nothing much happens other than Nancy walking around the villa in various states of undress and interacting with other guests, including Polanski as a creep named "Mosquito" talking about his "big stinger," and Romolo Valli as the lecherous Giovanni, who introduces himself to Nancy by going down on her while she's asleep. Eventually, Nancy meets their host, the villa's gravely-ill owner Noblart (Oscar-winner Hugh Griffith, who had just done another Eurosmut film with Pier Paolo Pasolini's THE CANTERBURY TALES), who begs her to bare her body to him before he dies.
|1976 re-edited version
|1979 re-release of the 1976 version
|1986 VHS release