Synopsis

Barbi is a beautiful but blasé suburban housewife whose handsome mate, Rick, is more interested in his career than in quenching his wife's sensual thirsts. When up-and-coming actor Mark and his open-minded wife, Sheila, move in next door, Barbi discovers they're more than willing to help her find the thrills she's been missing. Before long, Mark and Sheila part company, and when Rick finds out about Barbi's extramarital dalliances, he walks out on her. Free to do as she pleases, Barbi changes her name to Viva and teams up with Sheila to join the front lines of the sexual revolution, enjoying assignations with a dizzying variety of partners, including hipster artist Clyde, psychedelic naturalist Elmer, experimental theater advocate Arthur, glamorous lesbian model Agnes, and sexually ambiguous hair stylist Sherman. But will Viva's appetite for the ecstatic lead her into dangerous and unexpected places? —Mark Deming

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by karl-349 10 /10

Viva is much more than just another, "That Seventies Film"

I caught this film at it's Pre - World Premiere at a press screening at the Rotterdam Film Festival back in January of this year and I really enjoyed it, mainly because I have never seen anything quite like it before and don't expect that I will likely ever see anything like it again.

The first thing that swept me away was the set design / art direction: right from the get go I had the feeling I was back in the 70's except it wasn't through the usual played out typical Hollywood re-interpretation of what the seventies were supposed to have looked like, this film elicits a "Holy S*** the filmmakers must have gotten their hands on a warehouse full of actual items from the 70's" sensation (and apparently they did collect props for years). The films colors are absolutely dazzling, the look achieved in the film is almost as if the director was aiming to visually reproduce the feel of a Technicolor film as filtered through copious amounts of LSD.

The characters the actors were portraying often came off as mindless automatons, sort of stereotypical parodies of American archetypes if you will, the performances were often wooden to the point of disbelief – almost as if they were trying to overact in a very detached manner, it worked quite well and added to the overall sense of "disbelief" I had while watching this film. Some of the lines the actors deliver were so incredibly vapid yet delivered so deadpan that I could not control my laughter, sometimes the sets alone were enough to make me giggle.

While the film certainly parodies B flicks on one level, on another it truly works as a piece of calculated and subversive art by reversing the usual misogynistic dynamics of the typical exploitation film: we see the repressed lead character Barbi transform into "Viva" who becomes self aware and empowered by discovering and reveling in her sexuality ( the animated orgasm scene is pretty awesome, apparently Anna Biller also animated this sequence! ) thus I venture to guess that Anna Biller may have very well created the first "post-feminist 70's era B flick exploitation homage film" - anyone know of anything else out there like this? I would definitely recommend this film to fans of John Waters work as well as anyone interested in feminist or subversive art, hell, Anna Biller's art direction alone warrants at least two viewings. All in all I really enjoyed the film, I do wish I had been just a little bit fresher for the screening as per film festival requirements I had slept about four hours the previous evening and was still a bit hungover. I hope I get the chance to see this film again because I would not hesitate to make some phone calls and round up a posse, Viva is definitely a film experience that would make for some excellent post film discussion over drinks.

If I were to make a criticism about Viva It would be that I think the film could use a little more time in the cutting room to trim it up perhaps just a wee bit, given that I was watching a world premiere I will assume that what I saw was perhaps the "directors cut". Regardless, Viva really is an achievement on several levels and it should certainly solidify Anna Biller as one of the freshest new multi-talented directorial voices of today.

Reviewed by gonzoriffic-1 10 /10

Anna Biller = Genius

Never before has a modern film so perfectly succeeded in capturing the look, style and feel of the 70's Sexploitation classics. Anna Biller's "Viva" is an explosion of color, humor and schlock done to the nines, besting attempts made by far bigger-budgeted flicks like "Austin Powers" and "Grindhouse" in truly recreating a bygone era. It's a true skin-comedy epic that delivers everything the gorgeous promotional art promises, and will no doubt become a cult classic among those with a true affinity for well-done homage. I watched this with some friends and there were times when we had to actually stop the DVD because we were laughing so hard! The prostitution and nudist camp scenes are simply unbelievable. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Mr_Bombdiggity 6 /10

Interesting if not Entirely Successful

An affectionate send-up of 60's and 70's sexploitation schlock, Viva is the brainchild of star, writer, director, producer, editor Anna Biller. Word has it she also catered the film, drove the actors to set and held the boom while simultaneously acting in front of the camera. I'm only half kidding. But it illustrates a problem with the film which is that with one person assuming so many of the key creative roles there's the risk of a loss of objectivity in the creative process and fewer people to hold the tendency towards self-indulgence in check.

Watching Viva, I couldn't help but feel it would have made a great short. There's about thirty minutes of interesting material here stretched out over a two hour running time. Once you get what the film is going for in its beginning act with the intentionally stilted performances, the mod set design, the garish color palette, Viva holds few surprises the rest of the way. That isn't to say the film is without its pleasures. Biller has the look of those films down pat - the aforementioned set design, the cinematography, the hair and makeup are completely evocative of the type of film-making Russ Meyer, Italian director Pasquale Campanile et al. made their names in back in the day. The performances, though, are uneven. Biller is fine as the titular character but some actors (notably the actor playing the hair dresser) do everything but look straight into the camera and wink directly at the audience. There's an art to acting in this kind of satire (see the Planet Terror portion of Grindhouse.

All in all, an interesting addition to what seems to be an emerging trend of films that attempt to revive long dead genres apparently beginning with 2003's Down With Love and then gaining mainstream popularity with Robert Rodriguez's Sin City in 2005.

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