Friday, August 20, 2021

Census Bloodbath: Talk About A Brazilian!

Warning: Images in this post are NSFW. I have decided against censoring female-presenting nipples, and though no other body parts some might consider inappropriate are shown, the ones that we see are in, shall we say, compromising positions.

Year: 1983
Director: Adnor Pitanga
Cast: Rossana Ghessa, Anthony Steffen, Rinaldo Gines
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

We've already covered a Brazilian slasher in Census Bloodbath with Shock: Evil Entertainment, but that came out in 1984, so Momentos de Prazer e Agonia (which translates to "Moments of Pleasure and Agony," though there is no official English title for the film), in addition to being our final slasher of 1983, joins the ranks of the many first entries from new countries that we've seen this year. By 1983, the slasher genre had permeated every territory enough that more filmmakers understandably wanted to get in on the fun (read: money), but director Adnor Pitanga's particular vision was to use the trappings of the genre to spice up what is otherwise a fairly rote softcore lesbian movie. 

Fairly rote means there's also a lot of sex with men.

A quick caveat. While I did manage to snag a subtitled copy of this movie, the English subtitles were extremely literal translations that didn't adjust the grammar whatsoever, so some of the exact details of the story were lost on me, considering I don't speak Portuguese (see Champion Dialogue for my favorite bit of wacky translation).

Momentos de Prazer e Agonia follows schoolteacher Marília (Rossana Ghessa) as she... I dunno, just kind of exists. She is a city gal from São Paulo who has moved to the remote town of Rio Bonito and started dating local construction boss Rodolfo (Anthony Steffen, a spaghetti Western mainstay who played Django in several of those early films). She has the opportunity to partake in a lot of same-sex experiences thanks to Rose (Ismênia Kreis), a student with a crush on her, and the sudden arrival of Renata (Fátima Leite), a former flame from the city.

However, after about 45 minutes of sex scenes, a mysterious killer begins bumping off the women one by one, with a lot more sex in between, don't even worry about it. This killer is so mysterious it's obviously Rodolfo before he even picks up a knife. 

You said it, dude.

Obviously, this film's primary objective is to show as much sex as possible. So it's a little weird how skittish it seems to be about the actual act. It can't seem to decide whether to discreetly fade to black on an erotic situation that's developing, or just lean in with jackhammer ferocity. These opposing instincts meet in one glorious scene where Marília is helping Rose shower (she's quite bad at it, apparently). The camera pans away demurely... over to a mirror, where you can still see everything.

Maybe the actual problem is that it's a lesbian film for straight men, and the sex acts in those types of films never have a direct relationship to anything two human beings actually do with one another (unless all lesbians kiss one another's knees underneath a waterfall and they just aren't telling me). Other than those silly moments peppered in, the sex is obviously pretty boring for someone not interested in getting their jollies out of them. The film is much better when it's being saucily exploitative, like the scene where a woman runs away from the killer so hard that her boobs come flying out of her shirt, then she just happens to fall into some mud, like this is a scene from a Scary Movie entry.

Also this might be the funniest image in any film from 1983.

Most of the sex and the banter leading into it are shot capably, if a little too harshly lit, which frankly doesn't help it be interesting. The film is at its most charming when it's being inept. Take the music, which can't even decide what instruments it wants to be played on, let alone how it should tonally match a scene. Most of the sex is underscored with entirely inappropriate upbeat jazz or Suspiria-esque whispers and moans, but the score really starts cooking with gas when it brings out the motif that sounds like a recorder harmonizing with a kazoo. Or in the film's two most important narrative moments, which are underscored with a bongo/monkey noises duet and a delicate train whistle/referee whistle arpeggio respectively.

The kills kind of ride that line between fun-bad and generically functional. The first kill is entirely offscreen, but the eventual body reveal shows that she has not been covered in stab wounds so much as graded with a red pen like an essay. And I must give the movie this. There is a lot of business with a log splitting machine early on, and I didn't dare to dream it would actually pay off, but friends - it does. The gore gag looks like a flesh-colored pillow being punctured bloodlessly, but still, it's delightful.

Oh, also, I suppose I should mention that there's a grotesque moment where a chicken is slaughtered, and let's just say that PETA probably wasn't monitoring movie sets in Brazil in the early 80's. It's... a lot.

But despite having a higher body count than the similarly sex-fueled Killing of the Flesh, Momentos de Prazer e Agonia is just not interested in being a slasher movie at all. And yet it's better than quite a few of the other entries from 1983. God, what a grueling year it has been.

Killer: Rodolfo (Anthony Steffen)
Final Girl: Marília (Rossanna Ghessa)
Best Kill: C'mon. The log splitter thing. You set it up. You pay it off. Even if you don't have the budget to make it real gross, it's by a long shot the best thing in the movie.
Sign of the Times: Renata rolls up in a car so angular, it would take a week to wash every square inch.
Scariest Moment: With ten minutes left in the movie, a woman starts undressing and I thought dear god, not another sex scene. 
Weirdest Moment: When Renata is smearing shampoo all over Marília's boobs in the shower (as you do), there's just a giant house plant sitting right there behind them. In the shower!
Champion Dialogue: "I've been thinking a lot lately about the direction that I have given this poor life of events of mine."
Body Count: 4
    1. Rose is killed offscreen, presumably stabbed.
    2. Renata is hacked with a machete.
    3. Lucinha is slashed with a straight razor.
    4. Rodolfo gets a log splitter right in the abdomen.
TL;DR: Momentos de Prazer e Agonia is a softcore slasher made with basic competence so go for it if you like lesbian sex, I guess.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 1125

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