Baba Yaga: le recensioni

(Gardner Christensen, in occasione dell'uscita della videocassetta Luminous Film and Video Wurks, 1999)

If you'd collected as many movies as I have -- ah, scratch that, I've thrown away more than you've ever seen -- you would find yourself just as fed up with modern movie critics I am. I don't know what's worse: their toadying up to the corporate studios still wealthy enough to even make movies in the current blockbuster-or-nothing era; their devotion to production values over content and to sentimental masturbation over anything genuine; or their bullshitty, borrowed-from-a-magazine adulation of what's SUPPOSED to be "edgy, raw, disturbing, twisted," blah, blah, blah. Have you noticed how they all stick together with no mind of their own?

Well, I've kept silent long enough. My disgust and alarm leave me no choice but to act, and for the sake of the long-abused moviegoer, NOW I'm gonna review whatever DAMN movie I want. My focus: What my colleagues would call "exceptionally sleazy" titles from the forgotten past, protected by obscurity from the taint of the tastemakers' pronouncements and largely ignored by the public.

A beautiful young woman in nothing more than a black bra and panties is escorted by two female Nazis to their general, who is seated and stroking a white long-haired cat. The woman strides toward the general. She silently disrobes, then jumps into a yawning pit ...

This is just one of many fantastique dream sequences from the motion picture Baba Yaga, written and directed for the screen by Corrado Farina. The character of Valentina was drawn from the Guido Crepax comic "Valentina"; the slapped-on film title refers to the centuries-old folktale of an evil witch who dwelled in a chicken-legged hut in the forests of Russia.

Valentina (Isabelle De Funes) is a professional photographer whose life is changed forever by a chance meeting with the vampy, enigmatic Baba Yaga (Carrol Baker). After nearly running Valentina over with her luxurious, hearse-like sedan, the somewhat Dietrichian Baba Yaga claims their meeting is "preordained by forces that control our actions" and quickly exhibits an obsession with our heroine.

The feeling is mutual: When Baba Yaga invites Valentina to the house for some fun, she is so enamored of her creepy-cool witch's digs she starts an impromptu photo shoot. A sexy, life-like doll catches her eye, and in a sudden surrender of inhibitions she begins masturbating to it. Baba Yaga makes a gift of the doll, which Valentina takes home to her studio.

One by one Valentina's models start dying. As the body count rises, Valentina (in a nod to Blowup) makes a terrible discovery: the photos she develops show the doll coming to life and stabbing her models. As her dreams and reality blur into one another, Valentina realizes -- maybe too late -- that Baba Yaga has evil powers.

I highly recommend this movie -- it has a winning combination of magic, mystery and weird Nazi dreams. Valentina has to be the coolest chick I have ever seen in a "horror film"; her hair is that of Louise Brooks, her outfits and furniture are in the best taste. The cinematography is consistently detailed and accomplished; even Valentina's photos are excellent. Corrado uses all the right angles, flashbacks, and selections from the Crepax comic books, fusing them into some hypnotic montage sequences. In fact, several of Crepax's beautiful ink drawings are present in the film. The editor should have won an Academy Award for the fast, flawless pacing. In my opinion, this is one of the great "lost" films.


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