Has there ever been a more overwrought, exhibitionistic vaudeville designed to celebrate the loss of virginity than John Derek’s 1984 potboiler “Bolero”? Concurrent with the actor cum writer/director’s other exercise in spousal exhibition, his rancorously sexualized version of “Tarzan the Ape Man”, “Bolero” is less a coherent motion picture than a flimsily veiled excuse for the shooting of on-location photographic magazine spreads. The title of the film is meant as a double entendre of sexual footnoting, both as a derivation of the name of his wife and star Bo Derek and as a reminder of the source of her initial fame (and thus the male Derek’s excuse for exploiting his better half to resuscitate his career), the 1979 Blake Edwards film “10” in which her love scenes were scored with the erotically rhythmic Maurice Ravel composition Bolero. By the film’s attention to past glories (if Edwards’ typically pandering, oafish farce could be considered glorious) and desperate attempt to capitalize on them, “Bolero” becomes embarrassingly blatant at setting a surprisingly degenerative standard in erotic cinema by witnessing how low even the mangiest might dig to subterranean levels. There are hints that the carnality of the film may have been partially inspired- beyond the filmmaker’s baser self-interests -by sources as disparate and disconnected as erotically charged images of silent film star Rudolph Valentino, the photography of David Hamilton (who directed his own exercise in carnal surrender with “Bilitis”) and certainly Lady Godiva of Coventry (naturally bereft of historical context as well as garb), though the film’s slick. greasy nature may have just as likely found its genesis with the perusal of a Tijuana Bible.
To experience sexual bliss for the first time, graduating students “Mac” (Bo Derek) and Catarina (Ana Obregón) announce that they intended- fueled by a lust for the cinematic image of Rudolph Valentino -to travel the exotic locales in order to replicate their pop culture fed fantasies of romantic ardor; emboldened by the rather naive assumption that any starry-eyed illusions given seductive attraction in the guise of overheated exotically located romantic melodramas will find realization as soon as one crosses past a customs desk. However, no amount of soft focus can disguise the fact that these are mature women playing these inconsistently conceived ingenues (who are alternately naive and given to unfettered provocative solicitation) with a dim vacancy of performance that, presumably, is meant to represent giggly naivete but comes uncomfortably close to undiagnosed mental retardation. Seldom have so obvious examples of well traveled bodies been placed in the service of masquerading as the chastely innocent.
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