“Private Vices, Public Pleasures” is an erotic piece of historical fiction made by prolific director Miklos Jancsó. “Private Vices, Public Pleasures” follows the story of a sexually liberal heir to the crown of a European country during the late 19th century. His radical ways and fragrant disobedience brings on impending doom for himself and the ones he loves.
“Private Vices” is a strange and unique film in part due to its long shots, abundant sexuality, extravagant nature, well-chosen setting, historical significance, and full frontal nudity. “Private Vices” is a nonstop party for a majority of its run time, showing us the acts of sex and liberation in a forbidden time, but “Private Vices” never forgets to show the political motivations of the heir and his wishes to disobey his father. Lingering in the shadows, waiting for our sexually free, is the harsh punishment from the conservative old guard. The set up makes for an odd film coming off partly as an erotic piece, but holding weight due to its artistic merit and political storyline. Historical documents state the strained relationship between father and son over whom to marry was a reality but, after that, “Private” takes many liberties with its details and possible conspiracies. The artistic eroticism comes across in one scene where the cast, in slow motion, are shown jumping on a trampoline to the beautiful backdrop of the woods. The film's true impressiveness comes from its choreographed naked dance number brought on by a drug induced state where the cast and several extras put on an extended dance number. This isn’t the only scene with this sort of focus; “Private” has many scenes that play out like this. The scenes are expertly rehearsed and done in one shot, it’s a very impressive feat, but at the same time some audiences will feel they have worn out their welcome. The film's sexuality cannot be ignored; made in Italy with a seemingly unlimited attractive cast, they bare it all, leaving nothing to the imagination. This plays directly into the thinking of our characters; they believe that to be naked is to be free and nothing will bind them from it. A somewhat shocking discovery for 1976 was that one of our lead characters is a hermaphrodite and partakes in a couple sex scenes, one of which is sensual. Nearly everything in the film has a grandiose style to it, giving the whole ordeal a somewhat fairy tale feeling. This, along with the historical aspects, makes for a strange, grounded mixture of the two and ends up becoming a truly unique experience.
“Private Vices, Public Virtues” made for an interesting first visit and has earned its place in film history. The new Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro features 3 new interviews with film historian Michael Brooke, the writer Giovanna Gagliardo, and actress Pamela Villoresi. The film can be watched in English or Italian and is rounded out by a trailer.
Limited, numbered edition!
Exclusive slipcover! (Click on image below for details)
Booklet with a brand new essay by Max Weinstein and Joe Yanick!
World exclusive region-free Blu ray
Brand new HD transfer from negative
English and Italian language tracks with optional English subtitles
Interview with Michael Brooke on director Miklós Jancsó
Interview with actress Pamela Villoresi
Interview with screenwriter and assistant director Giovanna Gagliardo
A retail version of this disc without the slipcover or booklet will be available in October with an SRP of $29.99
Miklós Jancsó (1921-2014) was one of the giants of European art cinema. He had been making films in his native Hungary since 1958, but in 1966 he exploded onto the world scene at Cannes with THE ROUND UP. The international critics had never seen anything like it. Combining cinematography with choreography, Jancso films crowds of soldiers on horseback, peasants, and partisans as they perform a ritualistic dance of love, life and death on the bleak Hungarian plains. Ostensibly a costume piece about the 1848 revolt against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the film was widely interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on the aborted 1956 Hungarian uprising against Soviet Russia.
Over his next five features he developed and refined a hypnotic and fluid technique via long, sweeping camera moves and crane shots. Filming in color, his productions became like dazzling "happenings", combining music, dance, naked bodies, horses, men in uniform and spontaneous bursts of singing into a seemingly eternal tracking shot. His films were widely screened at festivals and in art house cinemas. His was a name to drop, an influence to quote.
Then, in the early 1970s, Jancso moved to Italy and began working with new collaborators. Times were changing. It was a post-1968 world and a new explicitness was being seen onscreen, coupled with a certain sense of betrayal about the ideals that had seemed so achievable only a few years before. PRIVATE VICES PUBLIC VIRTUES, made in 1975, reflected both these factors.
The story is based on the famous Mayerling incident where Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria was found dead beside his 17 year old lover in an apparent joint suicide. However as with his earlier productions, the director only used history as a jumping off point. The film is pure Jancso. The long tracking shots are there, the horses are there, the naked bodies are there, as are the snatches of folk music and group singing.
The main difference between this film and his more acclaimed earlier works is that it features a host of increasingly bizarre sexual incidents. When it screened as an official entry in the 1976 Cannes Festival and viewers caught on to some of the shocking things that it contained ... well, let's just say that it caused a scandal and in some ways Jancso's reputation never recovered. Like Borowczyk before him, he was almost written off as a one time great film maker who had strayed too far into porn and lost his artistic mojo.
In fact PRIVATE VICES PUBLIC VIRTUES now plays like an overlooked masterpiece. There really is nothing like it in world cinema. The controversy long behind us, we can see that this is one of those rare erotic productions where the point of the film lies in its excess. There's nothing gratuitous about it. Known in Germany as THE BIG ORGY (Die Grosse Orgie), this amazing piece of subversive 70s cinema has never been well treated on home video - pirated, cut and generally not given the respect it deserves. This new release from Mondo Macabro, a world Blu-ray exclusive taken from the original negative, will bring this forgotten classic of world cinema back into the spotlight. It's a film that once seen cannot be forgotten, and it deserves a place in the home of all adventurous film lovers.