Quality filmmaking is not one of the strong suits in the erotic film genre, which places more emphasis on sexual acts over production value, characterization and story. 'Cheeky!,' unfortunately, is not much different. Every once in a while, certain movies of this type are actually well-made and can, on occasion, be appreciated for more than their stimulating visual cues. Only, they do so by surpassing the limitations of their genre, using elements of erotica to tell a grander story while also being mindful of graphic sexual depictions. Basically, the eroticism is the byproduct of larger issue within the plot, not the other way around where physical satisfaction and the arousal of the audience is the primary focus.
'Cheeky!' appears to be caught somewhere in the middle. It wants to tell a story about the long-distance relationship of one young couple, sprinkling it with concerns about infidelity, past affairs and, as far I can tell, something to do with making a commitment. However a mature couple so chooses to define that. But this being adult entertainment, the movie is also quite explicit and revealing, verging more on the softcore. Not only do several scenes show random encounters in graphic detail, but director Tinto Brass, well-known filmmaker of such controversial classics as 'Caligula' and 'Salon Kitty,' also uses the extreme close-up, making the camera show a good deal more than would be initially expected.
The whole thing is wrapped in a kind of goofy, lighthearted comedy showing Venetian Carla Burin's (Yuliya Mayarchuk) sexual misadventures throughout London while impatiently awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend Matteo (Jarno Berardi). Much of the humor is at the level of situational skits that only last a few minutes, some of which are I'm uncertain were meant to be funny because they were also a bit creepy and awkward. I'm thinking of one scene where Carla allows the owner of a photo-processing store to grope her while looking at negatives. There was nothing comical about the scene, but the music made it seem as if that were the intent. Personally, I think Brass is working his personal fantasies into the film, which probably could be said of the entire project.
Nevertheless, the Italian filmmaker keeps the story moving with an upbeat and animated pace that rarely slows down, even when things suddenly turn serious. While collecting a few of Carla's things before flying to London, Matteo accidentally discovers a racy photo of her, along with love letters from another man written when the couple just started dating. Angry and jealous, he promises to never see her again. Upset and distraught, Carla goes out to a swinger's party and does exactly what she just swore she doesn't do. Is this hilariously corny and melodramatic? Yes, but what else can we expect from an erotic comedy. Besides, it's just another opportunity to show the beautiful Mayarchuk in explicitly provocative poses for several minutes.
The person inviting Carla to the party, as well as other carnal depravities, is also the real estate agent (Francesca Nunzi) that rents her a loft supposedly overlooking the Thames. The two women get into some kinky stuff, and as with everything else, Brass tries to show their affair somewhat seriously. It's pretty clear he wants his film to be an earnest piece of entertainment while also pushing that softcore edge. How well he succeeds at it, of course, will depend on each viewer and their interest for watching in the first place. For me, it's a curiosity to see how far Brass — or any filmmaker, for that matter — will take their sordid subject matter before crossing the line. In 'Cheeky!,' Brass goes far enough to make me laugh and keep me entertained to the end. So, I suppose that's a win.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Cult Epics brings Tinto Brass's 'Cheeky!' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside the standard blue keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to a main menu with full motion clips and music.
'Cheeky!' gets cheeky on Blu-ray with this mostly strong but still pretty average 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Presented in a 1.78:1 frame (OAR is 1.66:1), the picture displays good contrast, but it can run hot in some spots and seem like its clipping in the highlights. Blacks are also in fine shape for the most part with several excellent moments, but shadows can come off a little too strong in some areas and obscure the finer details in poorly-lite interiors. Colors benefit the most from the jump to high-definition, as primaries are full-bodied and bold while flesh tones appear healthy. Details are well-defined though not very sharp and there are lots of soft, blurry scenes, but this may have more to do with the original photography than anything else. Still, the overall presentation is largely average with only a few excellent spots here and there.
Cult Epics offers this erotic comedy with only two Dolby Digital stereo soundtracks: one in the original Italian, the other an English dub. While the lack of lossless audio is disappointing, especially this late in the HD game, either legacy codec is surprisingly not half bad. The front-heavy mix displays a wide, welcoming soundstage with lots of discrete effects which are clear and convincing in the background. Dialogue is well-prioritized and intelligible while the corny, generic saxophone music fills the screen with a healthy, deep low-end. Dynamic range is excellent with cleanly-defined separation between the mids and highs.
It's not lossless, but it's good for what it is.
'Cheeky!' is not a movie for everyone, especially the prudish. From Italian director Tinto Brass, it's an entertaining blend of softcore eroticism and comedy. Although there are better films available for adults to enjoy, this contemporary erotic comedy isn't all that bad from a filmmaker that knows how to deliver smut. The Blu-ray arrives with strong video and good audio. Supplements are on the weak side, but for those with an interest in the genre, it's a decent overall package.