Viva

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Empty

A dead-on re-creation of the style of late '60s/early '70s exploitation films, "Viva" is as meticulously designed as it is ultimately pointless. Written, directed, produced and edited by Anna Biller, who also stars, the film well demonstrates the limitations of parody, no matter how well executed.

Recalling the efforts of such genre filmmakers as Herschell Gordon Lewis and Randy Metzger, "Viva," set in 1972 Los Angeles, depicts the sexual adventures of Barbi (Biller), a suburban housewife who is feeling more than neglected by her model-perfect businessman husband (Chad England). When her best friend, the buxom blonde Sheila (Bridget Brno), splits up with her own hubby, the two women decide to explore their wild sides via forays into free love, drugs, orgies and prostitution.

The filmmaker has clearly done her homework, as "Viva" apes the visual and aesthetic styles of its inspirations to an almost fetishistic degree. Shot in 35mm, the production boasts an eye-popping color palette; period-perfect production design, costumes, hairstyles, makeup and even body types; and a cheesy musical score.

With less fortuitous results, it also slavishly apes those films' atrocious acting, ridiculous plotlines and stilted dialogue. But while the originals have an entertaining camp value because of their sheer badness, "Viva" lacks the wit to provide it with its own distinction. And whatever laughs of recognition there are to be had soon evaporate because of the film's sluggish pacing and overlong two-hour running time.
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