(a.k.a. FLAVIA, LA MONACA MUSULMANA; FLAVIA; FLAVIA LA DEFROQUEE; FLAVIA THE REBEL NUN; FLAVIA, PRIESTESS OF VIOLENCE; FLAVIA, HERETIC PRIESTESS; THE HERETIC; THE MUSLIM NUN; THE REBEL NUN)
I've reviewed FLAVIA once before for SGM, and my synopsis of the film (below) is lifted from that review:
The setting is 15th Century Italy. As a young girl, Flavia wanders through a straw field during the aftermath of a bloody battle. A handsome soldier rises from the human debris and gives her a charmed smile. Clearly flattered, Flavia's flirting is cut short by her father's arrival on the scene as he raises his sword and decapitates the rival soldier in front of her.
With the air filled by dry ice and its quietly disturbing build-up, it could be argued that the above opening is the most atmospheric scene of the entire movie.
To curb her youthful lust, Flavia's (Florinda Bolkan, DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING) father banishes her to a nunnery. It's here that she witnesses a visit from the infamous Tarantula sect, who whip the nuns into a frenzy of simulated sex and hallucinating images of Christ-like knights. The Tarantula scene is bizarre indeed, filled with striking (albeit tame) images, all shot with undeniable finesse by director Gianfranco Mingozzi. Most effective is the sight of the nuns laid in crucifixion postures on a marble floor. Simple, but provocative.
Flavia escapes the convent and stumbles waywardly out into the outside world, through some beautifully shot Italian countryside. Again, though, she bears further witness to the evils of man …
Resting at a nearby farm, Flavia is shocked when she spies the farmer raping a young lady in the pigpen. When her attempt to thwart the rape by throwing a rock at the farmer proves unsuccessful, Flavia flees the scene. Moments later the farmer catches up with her on his horse, and propositions her - surmising that she only reacted so violently to what she saw because she was jealous.
Flavia survives the farmer's advances, however, and instead is captured and taken back to the convent to witness more brutality perpetrated against women by men. With the help of her friend, Sister Agatha (Maria Casares) and an invading army of Muslims, Flavia decides it is time to show the women-hating males and sexually confused nuns a thing or two …
FLAVIA is a film I'd always wanted to see uncut, back in the golden days of searching high and low for bootleg videos of films never made available in the UK.
I never managed to get hold of FLAVIA back in those times, and the more it eluded me the more it's status was elevated in my mind. When I finally did get to see it, courtesy of Synapse's R1 release from a few years back, I was underwhelmed.
In my original review I berated the film for being misogynistic, slow and poorly dubbed. And it is.
But having had this opportunity to give it a fresh viewing, I must say FLAVIA has grown on me. I found it's a pace a lot more agreeable this time around, taking in the sumptuous cinematography each time the storyline lulled. And the poor dubbing of peripheral characters is alleviated by the fact that it's preferable to watch an English language version of the film, as both Bolkan and Higgins delivered their dialogue in English.
As for the violence - it's still a catalogue of sexual atrocities committed upon women by men. But, I suppose, this is largely true of how life was back in those times. And Mingozzi at least films it with an eye towards aesthetics. He doesn't wallow in the gore - most of what you see (nipple-slicing, flaying, burning of flesh) appears very briefly on screen.
And I still love FLAVIA's more absurd moments, such as the aforementioned Tarantula scene, and the bizarre image of a naked woman climbing into the gutted carcass of a cow … oddly artistic.
Given FLAVIA's reputation for it's unflinching sexual violence (it's actually quite tame in many respects), I for one didn't hold out much hope for it's chances when I heard Shameless would be submitting it to the BBFC.
But the great news is, FLAVIA has been passed fully uncut and uncensored.
The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio which, despite being listed as anamorphic on the back cover, is not enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Images are a tad soft, and colours are pretty faded. But - Synapse's print was faded too, so I assume that's the way the film always looked? Although not enhanced, Shameless' transfer doesn't suffer from the annoying letterboxing at the start and end of the film, like the Synapse presentation did. And although the picture is slightly soft, it is a good job in general, with minimal grain and no artefacting.
The English mono audio track is loud and clear throughout, with no problem of hiss or dropout.
A scene-selection menu is on hand, allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.
The only extras on the disc is an original trailer for FLAVIA, and trailers for other Shameless titles. On this occasion, these include KILLER NUN, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, MANHATTAN BABY and VENUS IN FURS.
There's also an odd, 1-minute selection of stills from THE NUN AND THE DEVIL and STORY OF A CLOISTERED NUN, advertising these two Argent titles.
It's worth noting that the disc comes with double-sided cover artwork. The alternate cover is lovely - a reproduction of the original Italian poster artwork.
FLAVIA THE HERETIC may disappoint first-time viewers, being unable to quite live up to it's reputation of wall-to-wall sadism. But for those who know what to expect, it may serve you well to watch this again. I certainly came away thinking far more highly of it this time around.
And it's great to see the film fully uncut, in it's original ratio and sporting a decent transfer. Another good job from Shameless.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Shameless|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|