The Movie Waffler DVD Review - <i>Viva</i> (2007) | The Movie Waffler

DVD Review - Viva (2007)

Shameless Film's reissue of director Anna Biller's love letter to Russ Meyer. 

Directed by: Anna Biller
Starring: Anna Biller, Jared Sanford, Bridget Brno

The Movie:

Anna Biller’s love letter to the work of Russ Meyer and the nudie cutie pics of Doris Wishman is a curious beast. It gets the milieu perfect; the amateur hysterical acting, the prurience with just a hint of moralising to get it past the censor, and the smell of newly upholstered plastic furniture. As retro as flares, shag carpeting and Babycham cocktails, it’s thrift story kitsch darling, not second hand store. Great though this ersatz homage looks, it feels so inert. Like a soft core art house installation. One to stroke the chin and ponder the smart vivisection of the tropes of this most maligned of genres.
The director, Anna, plays Barbi, who lives in the kind of polyester seventies suburban enclave, with her too good to be true husband Rick (England), that is now a by word for repressed horror thanks to the work of David Lynch. Anna is unsatisfied with her husband, who appears to want to spend more time skiing and working away than satisfying the needs of his wife. Fending off the libidinous advances of her next door neighbour Mark (Sanford) (who is perfectly insane, an alcoholic sex pest with curiously camp characteristics) and his wife Sheila (Brno), Barbi decides to widen her sexual horizon and begins a picaresque (or is that peekaboo) journey of erotic pleasures with Sheila that ends with them becoming prostitutes and Barbi changing her name to the titular Viva. Sheila takes to her new role with gusto, intoning “I’ve always wanted to be a prostitute, it sounds so romantic” before trying to get her claws into a rich 80 year old sugar daddy. Viva wants something a little more romantic, a soul mate. What she gets is a fabulous furry freak out at a nudist colony, and a British photographer, who if he was any camper would have to change his name to Butlin's.
It all sounds like great fun, with such lines as “You're not only a whore but a filthy lesbian” being ripe for music sampling, but it is all just a little stodgy. A rather indulgent two hour run time doesn’t help; there’s a nifty 80 minute satire that could be dug out of this material but Biller has too much reverence for the films she is homaging. It seems a curious trend in modern cinema for directors to take the aesthetic of the films showing at the drive in and the 42nd street fleapit cinemas and retool it for modern audiences. Grindhouse, Hobo With a Shotgun and even Gus Van Sant's Psycho create stultifying museum pieces that may have made more sense if all these old disreputable classics were now not freely available. They’re selling Soylent Green and passing it off as sirloin steak.
What Viva does have is a clear love for this type of cinema and unlike some of the movies mentioned it is a genuinely low budget amateur effort made with love, rather than some A-lister slumming it to be trendy for 10 minutes for a bunch of depressingly slappable hipsters. Overlong and preserved in aspic it may be, this is worth watching just for the irrepressible performance of Jared Sanford; I salute you with a Dewars on the rocks, you magnificently crazed sleazy bastard. Strictly for the cognoscenti, but Biller may be one to watch in the future. 

Nothing significant to report. You get Biller wandering around the set for 10 minutes, setting up shots and performing whilst narrating  in a voice that seems as though she is under the influence of strong sedatives. A trailer, some exclusive set photos and the intriguingly titled Yellow Sexomania (turns out it’s just a bunch of trailers of other films for a shall we say "discerning" audience).

Jason Abbey