The Film (4/5)
Alice is a sweet seeming bohemian living in an apartment lined with wallpaper made of erotic images in early 1970's New York City. One day she receives a dirty phone call from a man, who may be the best dirty phone caller in the city. This call gets her proverbial juices flowing, and she becomes obsessed with tracking down the man for her own pleasures. She begins hunting him across the city, where she runs into other strange people including a porno star, and a baby cart wielding lesbian.
The Telephone Book is an interesting, fun, and bizarre entry into the artsploitation genre of the early 70's. If one were to gauge the film by the synopsis one might picture it as a simple 70's softcore film, and obviously there are sexual elements at play here, and if that is what a viewer is looking for. They will get it, but they also might be disappointed if that is all they are looking for. The reason being is that The Telephone Book while playing in the same territory as an erotic film has a lot more variety and depth to it, and has more to do with the art films of the period than it does the sexploitation films. The film stylistically speaking bares more of a resemblance to an early to mid 60’s French New Wave picture from the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, or Eric Rohmer than other erotic films of the period.
If I had to cite an obvious series of influences on the films style it appears like a more polished, and eccentric version of Paul Morrissey's Trilogy of Flesh, Trash, and Heat combined with the more narrative leaning 60's Warhol films (Chelsea Girls, etc). The Warhol influence goes so far down into the films casting with Warhol regulars such as Ondine as the films Narrator, and Ultraviolet appearing in the film itself.
The direction from Nelson Lyon takes an assured hand with such eclectic material, and helps to offer a steady pacing and helps to bring the films unique vision to the screen. The film uses nice sharp, and simply gorgeous black and white cinematography for a majority of the films running time, before concluding with an animation sequence that would fit in a bizarro world version of Schoolhouse Rock.
The Telephone Book is the latest weird and wonderful release from those exploitation archaeologist over at Vinegar Syndrome. It combines a softcore framework, with an art film sensibility, and a fantastic anything goes atmosphere. .
Vinegar Syndrome present Nelson Lyon's The Telephone Book in a 1080p transfer that preserves the films original 1:85:1 aspect ratio. This is another stunning Blu-ray transfer from those amazing restoration specialist at Vinegar Syndrome. This primarily black and white transfer was sourced from 35mm film elements, and yet looks as pristine and crisp like it had come from the negative. The contrast is sharp, detail is excellent there is a good healthy bit of grain. Simply put, this transfer is gorgeous, and considering the obscure low budget nature of this production that is saying something.
The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track in English. This track suits the film quite well with dialogue and music coming through nice and clearly. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
The main extra on The Telephone Book Blu-ray is a commentary with producer Merv Bloch that is informative and interesting. The other extras on the disc include trailers, radio spots, and a still gallery.
The Telephone Book is a wonderful find in the world of early 70's artspolitation cinema. The film is sleazy, weird, and has a Godard-esque playfulness to it as times that I certainly appreciate. The A/V restoration from Vinegar Syndrome is absolutely fantastic, and the extras while slim really add to the already excellent package. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.