The Film (4/5)
The filmmaker Miklos Jansco was well known for his period pieces in his native Hungary throughout the 1960's. In the 1970's he began to shoot films outside Hungary in Italy. These films are considered largely less successful then the films he lensed in his home country, and for the most part have fallen into obscurity. His 1976 Italian shot film, Private Vices, Public Virtues, however, may be the exception to that. It was a popular film from the moment it screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. It is an absolutely stunning affair that feels like a shocking blend politicized blend of 70's Borowczyk, Pasolini, and Fellini.
The film is a quite liberal interpretation of the Mayerling Incident of 1889 in which the Crown Prince of Austria Rudolph transformed a piece of property outside of the capital into a hunting lodge, and then committed an act of murder-suicide with his Mistress Mary Vestra. This incident in its historical context would change the order of royal succession to Franz Ferdinand and lay the groundwork for what would be the first World War in 1914. The historical event which took place in 1889 lacks any sort of concrete documentation outside of suicide letters which were unearthed in 1926 confirming the act for what it was.
Jansco's interprets the event as a massive days long sexual orgy including drink and drugs as a political statement. The film shows Rudolph parading around in the nude from the first moments, and having sex with everything from his hermaphroditic mistress to the mounds of hay on the Mayerling estate grounds. He sends his estranged wife away, and the soon after the party/orgy begins. A yellow powder is introduced into champagne, and partygoers are encouraged to let their desires run free, so long as their images are taken with a camera which will be sent to the royals to show the debauchery that is going on. This will be their final statement and rebellion.
Private Vices, Public Virtues is an extravagant costume piece that is packed with wall to wall nudity and sexuality. Jansco is absolutely free with the characters sexuality, and depicts gay and lesbian relationships, hermaphroditic sex, amongst other things. Not being up to date with Hungarian and Italian politics in the 70's I wondered frequently if he was trying to make a statement about the governments of his time. Regardless, the film was endlessly entertaining, and I feel would become even more so on repeat viewings as the layers of depth hidden in this very visual film would become peeled away. The performances are quite excellent throughout, and fitting to the roles being played. The film was simply a gorgeous visual affair, and I found myself drawn to the screen for all the film's running time. One certainly hopes that Mondo Macabro's Blu-ray release helps bring this one back from obscurity.
Mondo Macabro present Private Vices, Public Virtues in a splendid 1080p 1:85:1 1080p transfer from the negative. The Blu-ray looks outstanding for the most part with excellent, and stable colors, fine detail, and a healthy, but non-obtrusive grain field. 2 audio options are present DTS-HD MA tracks in both Italian and English. Both tracks are quite solid with dialogue and score coming through crisp and clear.
There are 3 separate interviews present one with Michael Brooke, another with Pamela Villoresi, and the last with Giovanna Gagliardo. There is also a theatrical trailer.
I've said this in probably multiple reviews of their products before, but Mondo Macabro never ceases to amaze me in finding the coolest, weirdest, and most wonderful films from around the world, Private Vices, Public Virtues easily continues that tradition. The film is a wonderful erotic costume piece, that is both bizarre and beautiful. The Blu-ray looks and sounds outstanding, and has a nice slate of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.