Male menopause, Italian style: Nino Manfredi gets the itch in his so-so sex farce "Portrait of a Woman, Nude," a movie we've already seen before in various filmy disguises. In French, it was "The Gift"; in English, it was "10."
The male is always the same -- mated, miserable and middle-aged. And so is the cure -- a no-strings fling with a ravishing young thing like Clio Goldsmith or Bo Derek -- after which he goes home to his main squeeze and lives happily ever after, or until the next life crisis. Thus, "Portrait" unveils a gorgeous newcomer to administer the medicine -- Eleonora Giorgi, who's charming in a dual role as Manfredi's wife and mistress. Now that's a little different.
Giorgi, as Laura, salvages her marriage by masquerading as a prostitute who reawakens husband Sandro's slumbering libido. He is bewildered, as are we, by her charade, which is set against the surrealism of Carnival in Venice. No one is ever unmasked, what with the sputtering script and chaotic characterizations. But the point seems to be that you never really know everything about anybody -- not even if you've been married to him or her for 16 years.
Manfredi, who also directs and cowrites, gives a slightly comic but sluggish performance that falls far short of his work in "Bread and Chocolate," the film for which he's best known here.
The passionless pair fuss and fight in the tiresome way of Italian film couples and finally agree to separate. He moves into a photographer's bohemian household where he sees a life-sized photo of what seems to be a familiar fanny. Could it be his wife's? But the photographer says the model is a hooker named Riri who's shy about showing her face.
Riri (Giorgi) is a dead ringer for Laura except for her hair color and personality. She's razzle-dazzle in gold glitter and purple marabou, a red-headed wonder girl who becomes Sandro's mistress, quickly putting an end to his seven months of sexual fasting.
Sandro can't sort it out. Is Riri really Laura? Is Laura Riri? We're as confused as Sandro, left to muse over yet a third lookalike, this one a brunette at a masquerade party for people dressed up in World War II period costumes. "Who are you?" he asks. "Does it matter?" she asks. And that's where "Portrait" leaves us, up a canal without a gondola. PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN, NUDE -- With English subtitles, at the Outer Circle 2.