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  Maladolescenza Growing Pains
Year: 1977
Director: Pier Giuseppe Murgia
Stars: Lara Wendel, Eva Ionesco, Martin Loeb, Xylot
Genre: Horror, Drama, Sex, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Young teenagers Fabrizio (Martin Loeb) and Laura (Lara Wendel) spend their summer holidays playing in the woods. Indulging a morbidly perverse streak, Fabrizio is prone to tying Laura to a tree so a snake can crawl along her body, or else has his vicious German Shepherd chase her through the forest. Nevertheless, Laura remains devoted and the pair take their first, fumbling steps towards sexual maturity, becoming lovers. However, Fabrizio becomes captivated by doll-like, blonde beauty Sylvia (Eva Ionesco) and invites her to join their sadistic games. They make Laura their maidservant, don animal masks and chase her with bows and arrows, and force her to watch them having sex. Inevitably, things come to a nasty end.

Well, how did you spend your school holidays? If all this sounds quite sordid, perhaps it is to a certain extent, yet Maladolescenza is equally artful and unsettling. Writer-director Pier Giuseppe Murgia deliberately excludes the adult world as the forest becomes a dark fairytale setting for psychosexual angst. Like a number of European psychosexual dramas - and Larry Clark movies for that matter - this gets hysterically overwrought over its thesis that adolescence turns kids into monsters. It also betrays a certain bourgeois suspicion of sexual curiosity, blondes and kids in general, but conjures a surprisingly lyrical atmosphere of morbid romance, eroticism and horror.

The explicit nudity and sex scenes come disturbingly close to child porn, although they serve the story and are portrayed in manner more darkly poetic than exploitative. Viewers might be more disturbed by the sight of a real bird being pierced by arrows when Sylvia and Fabrizio play target practice. It remains something of a mystery why these girls are drawn to Fabrizio (introduced asleep in darkness like a Caravaggio nude), since he comes across as a neurotically self-absorbed little twerp, prone to violent mood swings and hissy fits. He has some unintentionally funny outbursts, such as when he sets his dog on Laura, then scolds it for chasing her, then screams at Laura for making him yell at the animal. Both canine and girl look confused. Yet aspects of Fabrizio’s psychological cruelty ring true, even if we never really figure out what’s going on inside his head. Which may be appropriate as events become as confusing and troubled as adolescence itself.

Of the three leads Lara Wendel went on to a career in Euro-horror including roles in Rings of Darkness (1979), You’ll Die At Midnight (1985) and most famously Dario Argento’s giallo masterpiece Tenebrae (1982) although Eva Ionesco is equally impressive as the preteen femme fatale. It is unsettling to ponder that Ionesco likely landed her role because she was the most prominent paedophilic porn model of the Seventies. The fact that there even was such a thing back then is upsetting enough. From the age of five she was the favourite muse of her mother, the famous Romanian photographer Irina Ionesco. Encouraged by her mother, Eva began appearing magazines in erotic and provocative poses becoming a sensation in art-porn at age ten and giving Louis Malle the inspiration for his most controversial film, Pretty Baby (1978) starring another underage sex symbol Brooke Shields. More happily, Ionesco parlayed her notoriety into a more mainstream movie career proving herself an accomplished actress. She eventually turned writer-director with the autobiographical My Little Princess (2011), a scathing indictment of her coldly manipulative mother.

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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