Frivolous Lola AKA Monella (Blu-ray)
Blu-ray ALL - America - Cult Epics
Review written by and copyright: (25th April 2024).
The Film

Young Lola (Anna Ammirati) is engaged to be married to baker's son Tomasso (Max Parodi). While his father is distracted by his soon-to-be-daughter-in-law's derriere, Tomasso's mother has misgivings about the union of her precious son with the daughter of Zaira (Antropophagus' Serena Grandi) who came back to her village from her stint as a cruise line coat check girl with a baby and a husband in libidinous chef André (The Devil Rides Out's Patrick Mower) who the village biddies regard as "the devil himself" and may or may not actually be Lola's father. Lola is also having second thoughts about Tomasso whose desire to wait until after they are married to have sex is a source of growing frustration. Alternately intrigued and exasperated by the Bluebeard's chamber-like quality of her father's study where he and photographer friend Pepé (Matalo! (Kill Him)'s Antonio Salines) mull over photographic studies of the most expressive part of women's bodies, Lola starts to see her virginity as an impediment to experience of which she wants to be rid. She tells Tomasso that "virginity is only a crumb of bread, and the first birdie that comes along takes it away," and that he is beginning to look like a dodo (incidentally, Dodo was the name of the pathologically-jealous male protagonist of Brass' Alberto Moravia adaptation The Voyeur). She flirts with various men to make Tomasso jealous, but soon Lola wants to plunge headlong into joie de vivre, which means finding out whether she truly is her father's daughter… in one way or another.

Like director Tinto Brass' Serena Grandi showcase Miranda, Frivolous Lola is another explicit comic romp set in the Po' Valley. While a number of Brass' films are set in the Venice of his youth, the Po' Valley also has a biographical aspect in that the Venetian filmmaker spent part of his days as a student and met his future wife, writing and producing partner Carla Cipriani whose family ran a hotel where he roomed. Temporally, the film is set in a sort of pastoral ideal of the post-WWII pre-industrialized Italian countryside of lusty locals where moral hypocrisy is just background static. Lola is a bit of a change in Brass' oeuvre as a teenager discovering sexuality rather than a repressed or bored but voluptuously-built housewife. The Italian title is a Brass-ian play on words with "mona" being vulgar Venetian slang for female genetalia and -ella being diminutive – a point emphasized by the English subtitle translation of the film's theme song penned by composer Pino Donaggio and sung by Ammirati herself – and Ammirati comes across as cheeky and sassy even when saddled with a whiny voice on the English dub. Unlike All Ladies Do It's scrupulously (almost oppressively) faithful husband, Tomasso is depicted as hypocritical in regularly visiting prostitute Wilma (Francesca Nunzi) – an insert figure espousing the glory pre-war days of the brothels – while believing Lola's per-marital "virginity is an insurance policy" against him getting cuckolded (a notion Brass has espoused as defunct in the age of contraception along with age-old alternative of anal intercourse), suggesting that Brass was not simply reworking ideas from earlier works but attempting to better refine and express them as a philosophy. Despite a few "gynecological" close-ups and a sex scene between Parodi and Nunzi more fleshy and enthusiastic than the climactic consummation, the film feels less explicit than All Ladies Do It possibly due to the even lighter tone

After the setup, the film becomes rather episodic as Lola peeks in on the sexual peccadilloes of the older characters including a fantasy involving her mother aboard ship – after overhearing part of a bawdy recollection by André that she does not realize is about a different woman – what her father and his friend get up to in back room of bisexual wedding dress maker Michelle (The House of Witchcraft's Susanna Martinková) with amateur models ("What we want from her is far less than she's willing to give," cracks André) in which Brass exercises his editing flourishes to the overtly voyeuristic photography of Massimo Di Venanzo who replaced Brass' late former cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti. After a dance sequence in which Lola flirts with three American GIs – reprising Carla Boni's recording of "Mambo Italiano" from Miranda – the film's vignettes then shift towards Lola's own experiences fighting off a motorist who tries to rape her, urinating in the rain, a dark night of the soul confrontation with André (looking at her through the barrel of a hunting rifle as she had earlier spied on him through a keyhole), and a morning after nude swim in which she hallucinates Tomasso wearing her wedding dress and takes assertive action. While this structure works due to Brass' editing and the copious nudity, the film does suffer from too little Mower – who is far from embarrassed and actually seems as inspired a casting choice of a Brass insert hedonist as Frank Finlay in The Key – and even less of Grandi who are afforded only slightly more screen time as counterpoint to the young couple than Tomasso's bickering parents. Nunzi would have a larger role in Brass' follow-up Cheeky/Tra(sgre)dire which would also feature Parodi in a supporting role – indeed, soccer player-turned-actor Parodi would appear in most of Brass' later films including Fallo!, Senso '45 and Monamour – while Vittorio Attene playing a variation on his horndog sidekick character here with that film's beleaguered boyfriend character.


Unreleased in the United States on video, Frivolous Lola was another Cult Epics' DVD debut which featured a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer of the uncensored Italian version in both English and Italian when the only other alternative was Arrow Films' U.K. DVD of the English export version which ran four minutes shorter. Cult Epics subsequently upgraded the film to 16:9 in separate unrated, uncensored Italian version and unrated English version (actually the export version) while Arrow Video in the U.K. upgraded the uncensored version of the film to Blu-ray.

Cult Epics' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray - also available in a 4K UltraHD/Blu-ray combo - comes from a brand new 4K restoration of the uncensored original 35mm camera negative which runs four minutes longer than the export version. The first Cult Epics DVD was framed at 1.66:1 while the anamorphic versions and the Arrow Blu-ray were framed at 1.78:1. While Brass' subsequent films – with the exception of the HD-lensed Monamour – are explicitly labeled as intended to be framed at 1.66:1 in the end credits, Frivolous Lola's wider transfers actually revealed the older 1.66:1 master to be peripherally cropped rather than opening up the top and bottom. While hairlines do occasionally skirt the top matte, the compositions remain symmetrical. Plenty of backlighting and diffusing techniques are utilized throughout the film giving it a soft look even in close-ups, and there are a couple scenes in which the filtering is practical like Lola's wedding veil in front of a still camera lens or the fight scene between Tomasso and Gianetto in which they hurl handfuls of flour into the air in front of sunlit windows. The image can be sharp when Brass wants it as whenever he gets intimately up close to various female orifices above and below. The grading is a bit uneven, not looking as overly bright as the earlier masters but a bit flatter in the darker - looking ever so slightly more defined in 4K compared to the Blu-ray - blue-lit sequences which look a bit more aquamarine than nocturnal.


Audio options include English and Italian audio tracks in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo. The film was mixed in Dolby Stereo and the 5.1 tracks are not so much remixes as rechannelings of the four channel stems within a discrete soundfield so music and atmospheric effects get a bit more depth while directional activity is largely confined to the front channels. All of the tracks sound relatively clean, with the Italian mix perhaps just sounding better because of the superior voice casting of the leads (even though the English track features Mower's voice and some performers familiar from English dubbing of Italian exploitation films). In order to synchronize the export version's English track to the longer version, it is a composite that occasionally reverts to Italian with English subtitles for a line or part of a line. Presumably because it features music, Cult Epics elected to leave Lola's bicycle ride sequence to her theme song fully in Italian without her English-language retort to a fellow cyclist who slaps her exposed rear as well as her "Make way!" as she rides between two priests while doing the splits. Optional English subtitles are available for the English track – which includes translations of the theme song lyrics – along with subtitles for the spots where the English track reverts to Italian.


The 4K UltraHD disc includes the film and the film's Italian theatrical trailer (2:17) in along with the English trailer for All Ladies Do It (3:21) in 4K as well as the film's audio commentary by film historians Eugenio Ercolani and Nathaniel Thompson in which they debate whether the film is the last of Brass' "golden age" titles or just the last of the nineties ones with which he cemented his brand. Ercolani discusses the importance of the fifties setting to Brass and his wife, as well as the links to Miranda, as well as how atypical Ammirati was of Brass' female leads and the state of sex symbol Grandi's career at this time. Thompson describes Lola as a sort of Bugs Bunny-like "agent of chaos" combined with Lolita while also characterizing the film as more innocent. Thompson also notes that of the three films Donaggio scored for Brass, this is the least "score forward" with an emphasis on fifties pop music (while also noting Donaggio's origins as an Italian pop singer). Ercolani notes that the film was successful but that popular interest in Brass had started to wane at this point after some attempts to get away from the formula as well as the flop of P.O. Box Tinto Brass. He also discusses Ammirati, noting that unlike some Brass actresses, she has continued working as an actress and had done nudity but did not capitalize on her sex symbol image.

The Blu-ray includes the UHD contents along with an interview with director Tinto Brass (25:51) recorded in 2004 in which he notes the atypical nature of the film's protagonist, taking inspiration from the conversations with his niece Lulu, and initially meeting Ammirati when his wife nearly knocked her over with their car and recollecting her when he needed an actress who could ride a bicycle.

The disc also includes a photo gallery (1:40) as well as additional Brass trailers for Paprika (1:11) – actually a teaser consisting solely of music and a montage of still images – P.O. Box Tinto Brass (1:05), and the documentary Istintobrass? (4:13).


The first pressing comes in a slipcover, a reversible cover, four Italian lobby card reproductions (with the UHD combo only), and 20-page booklet by Eugenio Ercolani and Domenico Monetti which features the essay "A Committed Brat: The Career of Anna Ammirati" which includes discussion of her acting training, the shoot of the film, her opinions on the film and Brass, and her subsequent work in Italian film, television, and theatre.


Tinto Brass' Frivolous Lola is another explicit comic romp from the "Maestro of Erotica" that contains references and connections to his earlier work but also seems like evidence of his attempt to refine his eroticism into a philosophy.


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