The Film (1.5/5)
What is it with ‘70s European movies and incest? Stay As You Are wastes the charms of its two leads, Marcello Mastroianni and Nastassja Kinski, in a tepid May/December romance made worse by an icky plot twist. It’s the story of Guilio (Mastroianni), a married, middle-aged architect who is infatuated at first sight with Francesca (Kinski), a woman he meets in Florence. The problem is, Francesca might be his daughter from a brief affair. The early parts of the movie deal with Guilio’s conflict over whether to tell the young woman he’s flirting with that he might be her biological dad; once he spills the beans, Francesca tells him that they shouldn’t let that possibility get in the way of their budding romance. Not only is that as much plot as the script - co-written by director Alberto Lattuada and Enrico Oldoni - contains, but the movie barely seems interested in exploring the transgressive aspects of its story.
While Mastroianni tries his best to make his character work, the material strips him of his trademark charisma; by putting the choice of continuing the relationship on Francesca, Guilio becomes a completely passive cypher. As for Kinski, she’s young - very young - and lovely, and this was at a time when filmmakers and photographers were eager to exploit her ahead-of-her-years beauty. But whereas a film like Tess is fascinating because Polanski is very aware of the character’s (and by extension, actress’) exploitation, here she’s just a prop for a middle-aged male fantasy. While I imagine the two actors could have easily had great chemistry, their love scenes here are limp and unimaginative, as if parading the young, naked Kinski around was enough.
And it’s not that I’m complaining, mind you, that the movie’s second have features plenty of lingering close-ups of Kinski’s beautiful nude body, but it’s also the point where the movie totally runs out of steam. There’s a moment where Francesca orders Guilio to bite her bum that is as close as the movie gets to eroticism, and even that is mostly goofy. You can almost see Lattuada shrugging by the movie’s end, as he achieved the goal of getting Kinski to disrobe and can only steer the movie to an arbitrary downer ending. Even for softcore porn, Stay As You Are is light on ideas.
Stay As You Are is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that would be disappointing by the standards of a public domain DVD, let alone a Blu-ray. Colors are washed out throughout, detail is weak, and the transfer is plagued with tiling, edge enhancement, dirt and other artifacts. English and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks are included; both are thin; the Italian is preferable for featuring the actors’ voices. Cult Epics’ releases are generally much stronger, and apparently it wasn’t possible to track down stronger elements; given that, though, I wish they’d done what Vinegar Syndrome usually does in these situations and offer the movie as a less expensive DVD only, as there’s nothing to be gained from watching this transfer in HD.
The most notable extra is Ennio Morricone’s score, not as an isolated track but as a seperate feature (still, I appreciate their including it). The theatrical trailer, as well as a trailer for Tinto Brass’ Black Angel, are also included.
I’d give Stay As You Are a slight recommendation for big fans of Kinski or Ennio Morricone completists. Anyone else should pass.