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MUNICH — Imagine Steve Martin’s Bowfinger making a film based on the unshaved illustrations in the original edition of “The Joy of Sex,” and you have a pretty good idea of what “Pornorama” is all about. It’s not as broadly comic as “Bowfinger,” not as brilliantly caricatured, and not as tightly edited, but at least there are some cute sex scenes and a young love story.
The most interesting aspect of “Pornorama” to American audiences, and the main reason that it will likely be an attraction at festivals if not the arthouse circuit, is its European attitude toward the human body in general and sex in particular. The film is set in late ’60s Germany, when a long tradition of nudism was mixing with both a ban on smut and an explosion of perversely clinical sex education films (which were, thanks to the ban, consumed salaciously).
“Pornorama” features a crucially funny scene in which the baby-faced director Bennie (ably portrayed by Tom Schilling) watches a medley of such “explanatory” films to get ideas for his own movie. Unfortunately, the possibilities inherent in that scene are never really explored, and the movie becomes a less caustic and captivating twist on “Bowfinger,” including the endearingly oddball crew and the star who doesn’t realize what the film is about.
In a direct comparison, the contrast becomes crystal clear: When Bennie needs tears from his Italian bombshell heroine (played exceptionally well by Valentina Lodovini), he sets up the makeup girl offscreen with a big onion and a grater. When Bowfinger needs fear from his hero, he dresses his dog in pumps.
“Pornorama” remains genial as opposed to biting, leaving the audience somewhat more cheerful than when they came in as opposed to gasping for air between laughs.
The production values are high with hippie-era Munich lovingly recreated, if a bit tongue-in-cheek, by production designer Bernd Lepel and costume designer Natascha Curtius-Noss. A soundtrack by top German producer Mousse T., while inauthentic to the period, gets the viewer’s attention.
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