French director Alain-Robbe Grillet's film "Gradiva" has been released by the Mondo Macabro DVD group and it is another excellent example of the unusual international cinema that they have made available to the North American audience. At its' heart "Gradiva" is a pretty esoteric movie made by a director noted for his idiosynchratic and off-beat creative efforts in both film & literature. The film draws its' 'inspiration' from the 'Orientalist' movement in art that flourished during the 18th & 19th centuries in response to European's 'discovering' the exotic world of the middle east. In this artistic genre painters often depicted erotic scenes that catered to the public's fascination with 'alien' eastern concepts such as the harem and slave market. One of the seminal Orientalist artists to bring this vision to the 'west' was the French painter Delacroix. He journied to the middle east and produced a series of 8 'famous' sketchbooks, full of the exotic imagery that he saw during his travels - apparently 2 of these sketchbooks have been 'lost' and it's upon this circumstance that Grillet built his film's premise. The plot revolves around a modern day British art historian who is in the middle east doing a thesis on Delacroix when a mysterious antique dealer approaches him with the information that he has the missing sketchbooks and they are full of explicitly erotic images that depict a particular beautiful blonde woman (Gradiva). It turns out that the art scholar has already been having 'visions/dreams' that feature this same woman and he sets off on a mission to get to the bottom of the story. This leads him into a surrealistic world of private clubs that recreate the erotic worlds of the Orientalist fantasies - most of which are centered on the slave girl theme... so there is a lot of B&D imagery throughout the film... girls in chains, whipping scenes, et al and a lot of female nudity. The photography is lush as Grillet does a credible job of capturing the quality of the light and canvases of the Orientalist paintings that he apparently loves. The overall tone of the movie is decidedly dream-like - constantly blending fantasy with reality until they become practically indistinguishable, which appears to be the director's 'point'... if indeed there is one! Ultimately, the film seems a bit of an excuse for Grillet to indulge his personal 'sado-erotic' predilections and, if you like that sort of thing, then this movie is a delight for the eyes! The two principle female leads are gorgeous and constantly displaying a lot of flesh with all around decent acting and production values. Personally, I am a big fan of Orientalist art so I found this foray into 'bringing it to life' to be very entertaining and would recommend it highly. The film is in French w/ English subs - 'extras' include some written bio notes on the actors & director.