Saturday 27 August 2016

Mediterranean triangles… Games of Desire (1964)

The strangest things happen in the sunshine stillness of Greece.

This Franco-German co-production, directed by Hans Albin and Peter Berneis (who also wrote) is an off-the-beat kind of story with heavy American accented dubbing adding to the feeling of disorientation.

It has a daring premise for 1964… a hugely-successful husband, Ambassador Eliot Anderson (Paul Hubschmid), who keeps a beautiful trophy wife Nadine (Ingrid Thulin) whilst all the while only really being interested in young men, in this case their young assistant Martin (Bernard Verley), the latest of many, whom he hopes to seduce.

Ingrid Thulin
Nadine is pampered but frustrated and at nights heads down to the sleazy bars to pick up men for easy sex. She plays the part of a prostitute but gives away her fees to her maid or even back to the punters. Thulin is a class act and worked in many Ingmar Bergman films. Here she is easily able to convey the suffocation of her existence: loveless with her husband she sublimates her desire for commitment through physical couplings as de-humanised as possible.

But she’s not dead as a person – she enjoys friendly chats with Martin and gets him to talk about the photos of his former – female – lovers which she then offers to show Elliot: this might be one he can’t have.

Turning the intern?
But Elliot, convincingly played by Hubschmid is seemingly in total control and, even if things don’t go his way with this latest blonde boy, there’ll always be another or is he too denying himself love?

Nadine’s nocturnal adventures continue as she walks from her dock-side apartment to a strip club where sailors leer at a young woman, Elektra (Claudine Auger - a former Miss France who would also appear in Thunderball) as she strips on stage. The directors don’t hold back from showing the baying calls of the fevered sailors: both women are at the beck and call of men although both are unbowed.

Claudine Auger
One night the dancer’s brother, Nikos (Nikos Kourkoulos) storms into the club and beats Elektra’s boyfriend… he is heavily protective of his little sister but she's only concerned with extracting money to fund the relationship he so dislikes.

Nadine encounters Nikos after the quarrel and the two head back to her secret apartment for a heavily-edited encounter. She tries to give him his money back but there's something different about this proud man...

Nikos and Nadine
Their relationship continues and, after firing her maid for trying to blackmail her, ends up having to replace her with Elektra, who has done the same having spotted her brother's lover in her daylight guise...

But now things get even more complicated as Elektra sparks an instant attraction with Martin and on a yachting excursion the two begin a relationship, hidden from view in a secluded cove... Poor Eliot's astute enough to realise that he's lost the boy and for Nadine this development offers only further threat as the young woman gets more established in her world with the threat of revealing all to Nikos who thinks his lover is a professional girl and not a member of the elite, slumming it for kicks...

Trouble among the ruins
But Nadine's feelings for the dock worker are true and, at last she has found a relationship that counts. Will she get her chance at freedom when Eliot's alibi depends on it and Nikos knows nothing of her true background?

Dusty verdict: Games of Desire is a more salacious title than the original German Die Lady which more accurately reflects the focus on Nadine. There's a very strong performance from Ingrid Thulin who acts as strikingly as she looks - and that's not meant as a lazy sexist compliment (but she is incredible). The story is not up to the quality of her performance but it crosses into territory that was still controversial.

The incredible Ingrid
There's strong support from the rest of the cast, especially Paul Hubschmid as the Ambassador with control over everything save his own feelings and Nikos Kourkoulos as the man of strength and principle constantly dragged back by his scheming sister.

The music from Hermann Thieme is suitably groovy too and the settings are stunning - shame my copy isn't clearer!

Games of Desire is currently not available on DVD... it could do with a chance?

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