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Attraction (1969)

Also known as: Black On White; Barbara The Yes Girl; The Artful Penetration Of Barbara
Director: Tinto Brass
Tagline: A psychedelic pop art experience.
 Plot: What plot? Tinto Brass, well-known director of Eurotica (including the infamous Caligula) began his career as an “underground” filmmaker, which back in the ’60s meant ripping off Jean-Luc Godard and Andy Warhol willy-nilly, then mixing in some off-brand rock ’n’ roll and trippy lightshow effects. Attraction is ostensibly about a young woman (Anita Sanders) who spends the day roaming through London, alternately following and being followed by studly black dude Terry Carter. While she contemplates a little afternoon delight, her mind races, preoccupied by all the issues confronting a fashionable lady of the late ’60s: war, religion, social mores, paranoia, standards of beauty, racial conflict, drugs, and all the other impediments to her getting her groove on.

All in all, Attraction is an ambitious (some might say pretentious) undertaking for Brass, and he isn’t exactly up to the task. The movie opens with a voice murmuring, “Who is in charge?” followed quickly by a distant shouted rant that consists of pseudo-meaningful utterings like “But what about violence? What about love? What about Ho Chi Minh?” While music by the Procol Harum spin-off band Freedom plays on the soundtrack, Sanders walks through the park, looking at hippies and gurus and muttering, “I don’t know. But then, who knows?” From there, we see Sanders head into the city and into her own mind, while Brass works in panels from Guido Crepax comics, newsreels of human atrocities, mimes, street graffiti that reads “U.S. Out Of Vietnam Now!” and more topless women per screen-minute than Russ Meyer at his randiest. If Brass’ goal was to de-eroticize the female breast by intercutting nude studies with Holocaust footage, then consider that goal achieved.

Key scenes: The Freedom songs in Attraction don’t just pay lip service to love-generation buzzwords, they practically serve as Sanders’ internal monologue, as in this montage of hippie kitsch and erotica, set to a song that prominently features the lyric “Can you believe that you’re a toy for other people’s pleasure?”

[The following clips are NSFW.]

As the scene goes on, it adds suggestive shots of lipstick twirling upward, followed by the eye-slashing image from Luis Buñuel’s “Un Chien Andalou.” Then it segues directly into a sequence where Sanders witness speeded-up hairdressers grooming classy ladies who turn into cows. Later, Freedom returns to score Sanders’ thoughts as she imagines a typical married couple squabbling in a dingy flat. “Is this the thing they were waiting for?” 

But is her own life much better? Contemplating a more upscale relationship, Sanders (or more accurately, Brass) conflates ad slogans, female seductiveness, and news reports about sexual assault:

So yes, Attraction can be pretty heady. But don’t get too uptight, man. Stay mellow with the movie long enough, and the hippies will break out the body paint, as hippies always do:

Can easily be distinguished by: Asses. This is a Tinto Brass film, after all, and while he may make bare breasts mundane, he always lavishes special attention on the derrière.

Sign that it was made in 1969: Uh… see “Plot” and “Key scenes,” above. There isn’t a single frame in Attraction that could’ve been shot any year other than 1969.

Timeless message: If you’d been alive in London in 1969, you would’ve totally gotten laid. But you would’ve been bummed about it.

Memorable quotes: During a scene at a spa, a voice on the soundtrack cheekily intones, “The medium is the massage. That’s the message.” And as the spa ladies loll about in the buff, Sanders’ stream-of-consciousness voiceover says, “Who knows why people who are afraid of pubic hair are the same people who hate Negroes, Jews, homosexuals, beatniks, and hippies?”

Available on DVD via Cult Epics.