"Till Marriage Do Us Part," a subtitled Italian import, is an unpretentious -- and rather unamusing -- turn-of-the-century bedroom farce that seems better suited to a six-page color spread in Playboy than to a movie screen. Soft core-orama. It seems to exist largely as an excuse to photograph Laura Antonelli in the nude, and as such will satisfy both kinds of Playboy readers -- those who look at the pictures, and those who claim to study the articles but really just memorize the pictures.
The 1975 film -- released now following Antonelli's success in "The Innocent" and "Wifemistress" -- poses this question: "Her husband is her brother. Her chauffeur is her lover. Her best friend is her seducer. What's a girl to do?"
Take her clothes off.
(Four and a half, really. The first time, less than one minute into the film, is so brief that you barely have time to say -- "Did you see that?" -- before Antonelli is fully clothed again.
Five times: Even at four bucks a ticket, that's only 80 cents a throw. And we're talking fox, we're talking first time.
The plot? In a word, sex. Virtually every line is about sex. Certainly every major character, including the woman who plays her best friend, wants to take a roll in the hay with Antonelli. (The chauffeur literally does.) This is not such a bad idea, but it doesn't really require subtitles
We first see Antonelli in a white slip as she gets ready for her marriage. She has been raised by the nuns, "blessed with total purity, beauty and innocence." Hoo boy, what a setup.
Alberto Lionello plays her husband. He plays it for 97-minutes in what appears to be a fake beard and mustache, and with such sad eyes and long ears that he may win an Oscar as Best Supporting Bassett Hound. Just before he is about to consummate their marriage he gets a phone call informing him that Antonelli is actually -- oh, no -- his sister. A significant downer.
What else can they do but stay married and live platonically? They take a honeymoon trip to Paris, where they meet Henry -- played by Jean Rochefort -- who looks a like a weasel with a degree from a barber college. For weeks Henry attempts to seduce Antonelli -- her voice says "No, no," but the plot says, "Yes, yes." Then, at the moment of truth, she tells him that she is still a virgin and he backs off, saying it's not worth the effort.
Frustrated beyond reason, Antonelli finally finds a man to give herself to -- her chauffeur, played by Michael Placido. (She finds herself strangely attracted by his body odor; the mal odoro theme of Italian farce.) At first she plays hard to get. And she is hard to get: In the seduction scene, on a bed of hay in a peasant hut, she is wearing so many layers of gauzed clothing she looks like a white sale at Bloomingdale's. He rips at her clothes, tears at her clothes, cuts off her clothes. The boy is nothing if not aggressive. I don't recall subtitles for this action.
The play straw dogs a couple more times before she tires of him and testifies against him in a trial. Then she goes back to her husband/brother for a while, before catching the chauffeur in the act with a peasant girl in that very same hut. Oh, the pain. She threatens to go to Africa to cure lepers, but changes her mind and goes instead to study at the feet of a poet guru. It is here that she has her brief, gratuitous lesbian encounter.Having felt nothing but pain and degradation for all her sexual experiences, she returns once more to her husband/brother and chastity.
By this time she has taken off her clothes four times, thus sustaining interest in the movie.
She and her husband/brother finally agree to take a fling at incest -- what the hell? -- and then kill themselves for their sin. But, scant seconds before they are about to commence, the plot turns again. There has been a grave mistake, and their identities are not what they seemed.
Other things happen after this, but I remember only that Antonelli was not naked anymore, and that fact took precedence over whatever silly turns the plot was taking. Anyone interested in specifics is referred to the subtitles.
Ah, subtitles. There are three types of moviegoers who see movies with subtitles. One -- people who want to see good movies regardless of what language is spoken on the screen. Two -- intellectually pretentious people who brag about going to native Guatemalan retrospectives where they discuss the subtle shadings of mud. Three -- people who wander in by mistake. My own personal preference in subtitles is the captioned news for the deaf; if I wanted to read a movie I would enroll in Evelyn Wood.
For those who come exclusively to see Laura Antonelli, the subtitles may present a slight problem. In a comedy such as this, there is no reason to laugh until you read the punch line, but to read the punch line you must take your eyes off Antonelli. When she is clothed this is an act of stupidity. When she is naked it is an act of treason. When she is not even on the screen why would you be watching the movie?