Baba Yaga

Based on the S&M comics of Guido Crepax, Baba Yaga is a trippy blur between reality and dreamlife set in swingin' Milan. Made in 1973, it was one of only two feature films directed by Corrado Farina, which is a shame given that he is clearly a man with a vision (maybe not a budget, but definitely a vision). Valentina (model and Euro-starlet Isabelle de Funes) is an attractive fashion photographer who bears an uncanny resemblance to Louise Brooks, partying with models, artists and left-wing intellectuals as the film begins. As she stumbles back to her apartment late that night, after stubbornly insisting to her friends that she walk alone, she encounters a mysterious, elegant, older blonde woman (Carroll Baker of Baby Doll infamy) when she nearly hits Valentina with her Rolls Royce. She is clearly smitted by the young woman, and after insisting on giving her a ride home, she introduces herself simply as "Baba Yaga", takes one of Valentina's garters and disappears into the night.

The unusual meeting gives way to some bizarrely erotic dreams for Valentina, and these dreams are wherein lies some of the film's real innovation, and also, some real confusion.

Nazis, surreal boxing matches, hippies and bondage dolls that come to life a la Der Golem begin popping up so fast, you'll no doubt have to hit the rewind button more than a few times just to see if you missed something! But ultimately, it's the mood of Baba Yaga that is its strong point. It's not quite a horror film, despite the murders and violence, and it's not quite a sex film, despite the nudity and erotic overtones. Furthermore, it is unclear what exactly what underlying political message that Farina is trying to convey with his unsual, yet striking imagery. Creative cinematography, eye-popping sets and costumes, loads of cheesy dialogue, and a funky score by Piero Umiliani all make for great entertainment, even if the plot is mildly incomprehensible.