Viva is a homage to the sexploitation movies of the 60’s and 70’s. Written, directed and designed by Anna Biller who stars as Viva, it is a love letter to the movies of that mythical time of sexual freedom and exploration. I first heard about the movie on Adventures in Nerdiness and I was greatly intrigued. I was not disappointed.
The strangest thing about this movie is how incredible it looks. It perfectly recreates the vivid colors, the horribly bad wigs and and the fashions. It also manages to capture the bad acting of these movies with carefully crafted deadpan lines and forced laughter. Sometimes when movies try to recreate cheap movies, they come across looking cheap themselves. That isn’t a problem here as every single scene is just gorgeous and fabulous in the details.
As for the plot, it explores the life of a bored housewife named Barbie who is living in the middle of the sexual revolution. Everyone is enjoying the decadent life while Barbie has to try to squeeze affection out of her selfish husband. Eventually Barbie and her husband have a fight and Barbie becomes a prostitute in order to meet nice people. Trust me, it makes more sense in the movie. Every one in this movie is insane with lust or self interest and to Barbie, this is a better idea than being alone and miserable.
What intrigues me about this movie is how much it reminds me of present times. We have sex blogs creating this illusion that every sex blogger is having a weekly orgy of fun. It is a fabulous fun fictional world being created and there is a sense of being left out instilled in the readers. The reality is that pleasure for the sake of pleasure gets very dull and empty very fast.
It is amazing how much abuse Barbie suffers through. She gets drugged before every major sex scene. She gets raped at one point and every male tries to guilt her into sex at one point or another. Barbie stays upbeat for the most part and I think it is in part because the characters in sexploitation movies rarely suffer but mostly I like it was Anna Biller showing that Barbie just keeps fucking trying.
I have to admit that there was a scene towards the end that was very powerful. Barbie sings a song about being wanted and about surrendering to desire that was fucking amazing. It may be one of my top five favorite scenes of all time just for the desire that was generated in that scene. barbie is drugged at the time but you get a glimpse at how much she wants to just give in to desire and enjoy herself and how powerful that feeling is.
In the end Barbie learns a lesson about herself and actually gets a job in a musical. It is a much happier ending than I was expecting and I think it reflects how Anna Biller thinks of Barbie as a person who fundamentally deserves to win. As a viewer, i was thrilled that barbie was finally happy.
All in all, it is a great movie. Nudity of men and women abound. The scenes are beautiful and the accurate portrayal of the sexploitation movies is accurate right down to the bad acting. This kind of movie isn’t for everyone but it should be. This is the kind of movie I would love to show to students of erotica so they can understand a very strange period in our history.
I give it Four out of Five Pam Griers