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  Female Seventy Times Seven, The Frown Argentine Way
Year: 1962
Director: Leopoldo Torre Nilsson
Stars: Isabel Sarli, Francisco Rabal, Jardel Filho, Hilda Suárez, Blanca Lagrotta, Nelly Prono, Ignacio Finder, Alberto Barcel, Walter Santa Ana, Juan Carlos Berisso, Alberto Basualdo, Sergio Mulet
Genre: Drama, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: How did Laura (Isabel Sarli) get here, a prostitute in this brothel? How did she get that scar on her face? Will she ever get away? She seems to have no other choice, but has there been anything in her past that brought her to this dark place? As she has to suffer the attentions of another client in one of the rooms, she notices lying flat on her back that there is a hole in the ceiling, and it disturbs her so much that she decides she does not want to entertain any other man, maybe not ever, which will surely displease her madam. But what significance does the hole have - what does it remind her of that has unsettled her so? We must go back into her early days when she was living with her parents on the plains of Argentina...

Isabel Sarli was the major sex symbol out of Argentina, out of South America in general in fact, from the nineteen-fifties to the seventies, and it was all down to her husband who was so entranced with her voluptuous beauty that he wanted to share her with the world, so starred her in a succession of overheated melodramas where she would disrobe for the camera, often under a waterfall. Earning herself the nickname La Coca supposedly after her love of drinking Coca-Cola, she quickly caught on with the public in the face of moral indignation from the authorities, or perhaps because of it, but for The Female Seventy Times Seven, as it was renamed in English-speaking territories (originally Setenta veces siete), things were a little different.

Mentor and lover Armando Bo was not at the helm this time, it was a director with a more serious reputation offering an equally serious drama that emphasised Sarli's curious combination of Jayne Mansfield and Anna Magnani. Not that she often got to play in comedy, but suffering glamorously was something she did well enough, and oh how she suffered here in a story of a fallen woman and how she fell. This was notable for not featuring more of her usual cheesecake shots as the man in charge was Leopoldo Torre Nilsson who was not messing about, he evidently viewed her as more than capable of carrying dramatic weight, so to speak, but was this what her fans wanted to see, necessarily? Wouldn't they want her more accustomed kitsch?

In spite of the grim tone, there was an element of that here, but once the American distributor got his hands on it he decided that in spite of Isabel's low cut dress, there was not enough of the sexual content that she was known for to sell this, therefore added a bunch of specially shot inserts with anonymous performers, not that they took all their clothes off either, or if they did we did not see much. When someone thinks a film with someone like Sarli could only be improved by a threesome with rough-looking customers including a middle-aged man having his toe sucked, let's just say you’ve seen more erotic sequences in your moviegoing experience. Fortunately, these sections, supposedly in the other rooms of the brothel, did not take up too much time, though they were not in the spirit of Nilsson's aims.

The Female resembled a Spaghetti Western, only shot in black and white and dragged down with a European art film sensibility that did not quite convince. Laura was plainly in her predicament to be punished for the audience's satisfaction, but we were prevented from learning the true extent of her crimes until the point that the film was almost over, as she opted to leave her mother and father behind to go and take up with a sheepherder (Jardel Filho), who looked twice her age but appeared to be able to satisfy her. However, it was the same old Postman Always Rings Twice story familiar from Hollywood and beyond, so she became restless when a fugitive (Francisco Rabal) showed up and caught her eye; she pretended he was dead when the lawmen arrived, and then nursed him back to health as she allowed him to seduce her while the sheepherder slept nearby. We were supposed to be regarding her as a shameless hussy while also sympathising with Laura's wish for a better, or at least more exciting, life, hypocritical probably, but she was quite a magnetic presence. Music by Virtú Maragno.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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