Vixen!

Certificate: 18
Running time: 70 mins
Director: Russ Meyer
Starring: Erica Gavin, Garth Pillsbury, Harrison Page
Genre: Drama
Country: USA/Canada

Meyer Monday continues with arguably one of his best cinematic offerings as a young Canadian woman plays sexual cat and mouse with men and women alike in the picturesque mountain resort.

Where Mondo Topless painted itself as a documentary on the “art of the topless” Vixen! is a more accomplished piece of cinema with a narrative and surprisingly several messages it needs to get across.  Russ Meyer’s fascination with boobs and titillation is one of universal knowledge and understanding but Vixen! deals with several bigger picture arches.   The cinematography of Vixen! is actually remarkably well put together and more surprisingly still incredibly relevant to modern day film making.  Several of the sequences in conversation are intercut with exerts of nudity as Erica Gavin (Vixen) or Vincene Wallace (Janet) roll around in nature all the while continuing on conversations that temporally and spatially don’t belong there.  Steven Soderbergh would showcase how he, along with Nicolas Roeg, is a natural born master of this manipulation of logic with The Limey but it’s an incredibly surprisingly and sophisticated device and one that you would not expect from the King of Jubblies.

Erica Gavin is incredibly complex and alluring as Vixen, she’s a character of many contradictory sides and to her credit deals with the narratives demands extremely well.  Garth Pillsbury (as Tom) is little more than a narrative furthering character who’s scenes are sadly of little importance but his status as a Meyer regular demonstrates the level of trust the director has in his performer.  Stand out performance belongs to Harrison Page (as Niles, the African-American biker).  Page is one of the few actors who would make a sizable step up (in Hollywood terms)  post-Meyer era and even the tirade of repetitively racist scenes aren’t enough to dampen the shining star that he is.

There are some great things about Vixen! many Meyer’s weaving of a strong political message into a genre of film that would not traditionally carry much below the surface but it’s stance on the use and abuse of the African-American youths to fuel the Vietnam war is impressively handled.  Sadly it’s not all good, ignoring the giant leprechaun stereotype that is Michael Donovan O’Donnell’s O’Bannion (not to mention his occupation) there are a few issues of note.  The first and probably the largest is how incredibly unlikeable Vixen is.  Not only is she staunchly and promiscuous (the second being a necessity and arguably forgivable) racist but she is also activities participating…nah initiating an incestuous relationship with her brother.  The problem with this storyline is not the issue of incest, several brilliant films have dealt with this as a narrative arch but it’s rather Meyer’s dealing of it.  These sequences are shot and mapped out, no different than the rest of Vixen’s sexual conquests, there’s no underlying message and abuse of directionless upbringing or anything really – it just meant to excite and is completely unnecessary.  Meyer’s verbal depiction of Niles is also highly problematic.  Granted it can be argued that the characters but there’s simply too many references to Niles sexually brutalising Vixen for comfort, though thankfully Meyer redeems both himself and the film by not giving into the baser representations – which reminds me of Nude Nuns with Big Guns and it’s troublesome representation of African-Americans.

Though the narrative is simple and the final act extremely rushed and not all the character transformations are believable…at all, Vixen! is still an interesting, relevant and surprisingly complex piece of cinema that’s equal parts pleasing and problematic.










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