new-picture8What could a feature film intended as a faithful homage to the sexploitation films of the Sixties and Seventies really want to say?  Christopher Raymond Brocklebank went to review Viva (2007) for

Few living in easy, dreamy southern California in the early Seventies  would concede that real life was like a non-stop Russ Meyer-fest, but what fun to believe it was. No paradise is to be scoffed at, not even a fool’s one. In Viva director, star, editor, set designer, screenwriter and all-round Renaissance woman Anna Biller has created a loving pastiche of the eye-bashing early Seventies world of American sexploitation flicks, and it’s nothing less than a labour of love.

It’s a truism that period films usually look more like the period in which they’re made than that which they’re trying to depict, but with Viva the opposite is true – it looks like it was actually shot in 1972, a trick helped to no end by Biller’s dedication to vintage 35mm film stock (unsurprisingly, digital technology is anathema to her). The film uses the one-size-fits-all sex-flick plot: bored and neglected suburban housewife strikes out alone in search of adventure and finds it in the form of orgies, modelling, prostitution, drugs, nudist colonies and hypocritical hippies.
Biller is a hoot as Viva (neé Barbi), flexing her eyebrows and pouting in that arch, cringeworthy, shocked ‘n’ dumb manner favoured by the actresses of the era and genre. She certainly makes one think on the advisability of reacting to every situation by going home, stripping off your Fred of Hollywood underwear on the shag bath-mat and sinking into the bubbly water with a glass of red wine and a Virginia Slim.

And what a sight the film is! The colour palette is astonishing: canary yellow, avocado, acid green, raspberry pink, blinding white, mocha brown, fizzy orange and electric blue. I’m surprised they don’t hand out heavily tinted Wayfarers to punters entering the cinema, the way they used to hand out X-ray specs for sci-fi flicks. Playboy looms large in the film (‘Everybody reads Playboy! Where else would I get my recipes from?’) and  Biller recreated many of the scenes in Viva from early Seventies Playboy photoshoots.


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