So Sweet, So Perverse

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The man and his car in front of the Arch of Triumph, I think. Establishing the hell out of being in Paris and definitely not Rome.

I didn’t read the synopsis of So Sweet, So Perverse before I pushed play last night. I found it on Tubi doing the “you may also like” function under some giallo or other, and thought that I had heard of this but not seen it. My point being that I didn’t know it was a remake of Diabolique, so I was actually surprised at how it went.

The first half of the movie follows a French guy named Jean. He’s very rich from owning a chemical company and has a mistress whose husband owes him money. He also drives a big yellow Pontiac which I think is a GTO. It’s very distinctive for one of these movies where everyone drives a Fiat or some other clown car you don’t know how they can fit their huge dicks into, and also figures into the story when Jean’s body has to be identified later.

Yep, Jean, to my surprise, is not the protagonist for the entire film. He meets his new upstairs neighbor, Nicole, and thinks he’s saving her from her abusive boyfiend Klaus by bonking her in a variety of locations, but really Nicole, Klaus, and Jean’s wife, Danielle, are plotting to kill him. And they do! Or do they? Anyway, Danielle has to identify a barbecued corpse in a yellow Pontiac, and now the second half of the film begins.

While I was still reeling from finding out that the main character of the film has died, it turns out that Danielle and Nicole are lovers, I think, and Danielle has realized that she is a lesbian and that’s why she wouldn’t let Jean GT her O. Which drove him to have affairs in the first place. It’s always the woman’s fault. Anyway, Danielle is now going crazy with guilt and Nicole is either trying to keep her calm long enough to get Jean’s money, or drive her nuts (because she and Klaus are sadists) and then kill her to get the money. The film goes from being a typical European film about tall doorways, bad wigs, fabulously tacky clothes, and sex outdoors, to a claustrophobic study of remorse. Danielle goes through hell in her apartment not knowing if Jean is alive or dead, and whether he or Klaus will kill her.

So Sweet, So Perverse was directed by Umberto Lenzi, but he’s not at his Lenziest here because of the obvious influence of executive producer Sergio Martino. It’s kind of arty, actually. There are a lot of shots of Danielle pictured as if someone was watching her through this curlicue wicker headboard on her bed as well as a matching screen at the foot of the bed. I’ve seen a lot of people in these noir pictures photographed with shadows of blinds on the windows falling across them as if to suggest the jail bars they’re going to be behind in the near future. But not from behind something twisted, with an elaborate pattern. This indicates that she is not only trapped but that we really don’t know how this is going to go. (Unless you’ve seen Diabolique and read the synopsis, apparently. I don’t think I even saw Diabolique, if I’m being honest, but I saw the 90s remake because my girlfriend at the time wanted to see it because lesbians. Someone jumped out of a bathtub or a lake or something, right?) But back to this film: I liked the camerawork and thought the second half of the film was effective as a thriller.

There was some crazy camera stuff going on in the first half, now that I think more about this, with the camera spiraling around while Nicole told Jean her sad tale of rough sex with Klaus. This probably symbolized her status as an unreliable narrator and foreshadowed the twists to come, though at the time I just thought it was archaic swinging sixties camera fun.

I especially liked a scene right before the climax of the film, in which a hotel porter was waiting for a phone call from Danielle on Nicole’s behalf. He is sitting in a small room watching a western, and the scene is on a saloon fight. It may even be a Lenzi or Martino spaghetti western. Not important. What is important is that he’s enjoying this very safe TV violence, while I swear to God a song that sounds like “I’ve Got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle” is playing in this film within the film; however, the scene in our film is cutting between Danielle in her final moments being stalked in her flat, and the porter’s pets, closeups of a bunch of what looked like cockatiels in a cage and a goldfish in a bowl.

With a title like So Sweet, So Perverse, or any title that describes the characters in the story, I like to try to figure out who is being referred to. I thought it was Nicole, at first. She seems helpless, if not sweet, to Jean, and then she turns out to be (at least in her own mind) some kind of Doofenschmirtz evil genius. But maybe the title refers to the two couples. Jean and Danielle are sweet in terms of being soft, because they are the marks, and both Nicole and Klaus are the perverse ones.

Regardless, the ending is one of those great gotcha moments where the bad people get on a plane for Rio, but they will never really outrun their fear of being caught. Will the detective Nicole mocked back in Paris follow her, and can she survive being rich and on the run with creepy Klaus? I’d love to see the vacation photos of those two.

As I said, So Sweet, So Perverse is free on Tubi. I would watch this again to pay more attention to the first half, because I actually thought Nicole was going to be the one murdered and that Jean would be blamed. Equally it could have been his original mistress, played by Helga Line who usually has a bigger part in these things. I missed out on most of the symbolism in the first half, anyway, and I would like to go back and catch it. So Sweet, So Perverse is worth a first look if you haven’t seen it, and it’s not the typical giallo I thought it would be.

If you want to hear the theme song from the film, here it is: