Monday, May 15, 2017

Witchy Woman (with a great name)

If you can find a name that's more fun to say than "Baba Yaga," then I suppose I'll have to change the prosed title of my future kitten. 

Quick Plot: Valentina is an independent-minded photographer living in Milan. After leaving a party and turning down the shockingly restrained sexual advances of George Eastman, she nearly gets hit by a car when trying to save a stray dog (INSTANT CHARACTER LIKABILITY ESTABLISHED). Out of the car emerges a mysterious, sexy blond who goes by the totally common name "Baba Yaga."

Before you can realize the actress playing Baba Yaga is none other than the evil grandma in Kindergarten Cop, Valentina begins to have strange, eerie dreams about bottomless holes, witchy seduction, and for less clear reasons, Nazis. 

Real life doesn't get any more normal, especially after Valentina visits Baba in her antique-filled home. It's there where she finds what has to be one of my favorite film dolls, and guys, that's REALLY saying something.

Baba gifts the porcelain leather-clad dominatrix to Valentina, who soon has even stranger nightmares as one of her regular models becomes ill at the sight of it. It doesn't take a genius to guess that Baba Yaga is some form of ancient witch keen on making the beautiful Valentina into a companion. 

Written and directed by Corrado Farina, Baba Yaga was based on a series of European comic books, which most likely explains why still images are used throughout in a sort of panel-ish way. It certainly fits the kind of story that involves a doll coming alive to assist a centuries old witch. There's some wonderfully weird sexiness to be found in Baba Yaga, but it takes a good deal of patience to enjoy. Despite boasting George Eastman and a whole lot of bizarro dream sequences loaded with nudity, this is a film that takes its time to toy with atmosphere rather than story. Not much happens, and when it does, it happens quite slowly. 

I didn't love Baba Yaga, and had I been in a different mood, I honestly might not have liked it THAT much. A movie with a dominatrix doll should instantly top my list of "HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE?" classics, but this one was more, "oh, so that's where they're going with that." Enjoyable, but far from dominatrix doll mind-blowing.

High Points
Second only to the trying on clothes montage, fashion shoot montages never fail to make me scream "FASHION SHOOT MONTAGE" at my scream with glee

Valentina is a refreshingly awesome lead, taking full control over her sexuality, making political stands through her art, and, you know, saving a dog from danger

Low Points
Sadly I don't know that the odd atmosphere was quite captivating enough to fight through some of the film's overall boredom (and yes, I realize I say this about a film that includes two topless women boxing in a dream sequence)

Lessons Learned
Snoopy is, in his own way, quite anti-establishment

Fog can be a huge turn-on for some women

Few henchwomen are quite so loyal--or breakable--as reanimated porcelain dolls

Like most releases from Blue Underground, Baba Yaga comes fully loaded with interviews and other special features, so collectors will certainly get their money's worth with a purchase. That being said, this movie is not for everyone. The pacing is slow but doesn't necessarily build up to a grand climax, and while there is certainly some pretty neat imagery, I don't know that all of it adds up to a truly satisfying conclusion. This is the kind of film I'd like to revisit some time down the line to see if it sticks better on second viewing. 

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