Color, 1973, 97 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Pim de la Parra
Starring Willeke von Ammelrooy, Hugo Metsers, Lex Goudsmit, Sylvia Kristel
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC)


Following Frank & Evaits fascinating Frank & Evarelease of Dutch director Pim de la Parra's erotically charged thriller Obsessions, Cult Epics returns to his filmography with Frank & Eva (sometimes bearing the sub-title, Living Apart Together). Made hot on the heels of the very successful and comparatively explicit Blue Movie (which de la Parra produced), this film brings back that film's exhibitionist star, Hugo Metsers (who would later headline Harry K├╝mel's terrific The Arrival of Joachim Stiller), for a sexy, seriocomic look at love and sex in the '70s.

"Dysfunctional" doesn't even begin to describe the relationship between car salesman Frank (Metsers) and his wife, Eva (Antonia's Line's von Ammelrooy). In the first five minutes he fakes a bloody gunshot suicide to get out of trouble for cheating on Eva, washes off a ton of fake blood, goes for a drunken joyride over the main titles, and bolts off after smashing into another parked car right in the middle of Amsterdam. Eva's understandably exasperated by his behavior, which even extends to failing to pay the utility bills thanks to the constant distraction of boozing it up at the local pool hall and getting into trouble with his older coworker, Max (Goudsmit). That said, she still loves him and tolerates his infidelities, but tensions erupt past the breaking point when she announces she's pregnant... and Frank isn't exactly ready for fatherhood.

The casting of Sylvia Kristel in one of her first films here (along with Because of the Cats) turned out to be a stroke of luck when she made it big less than a year later in Emmanuelle, which resulted in this film begin heavily Frank & Evapromoted on the basis of her alone. Though she doesn't have a particularly large role, Kristel does make a pretty indelible impression here, both in her one big nude shower scene and Frank & Evaexecuting a wonderfully sexy and funny pool game without removing a stitch of clothing. The film itself is a particularly interesting addition to the decade's cycle of films about women trying to deal with stunted man-boys, which reached its most shocking apex a few years later with Marco Ferreri's incredible (and still insanely rare) The Last Woman. It's really a showcase for Metsers and von Ammelrooy (a frequent screen pairing for a while), who manage to generate plenty of sparks whether fighting or tussling in bed; it's to the credit of both of them that viewers don't throw up their hands and give up on both of them by the halfway point. It also returns to de la Parra's fixation with voyeurism, complete with Frank peeping on his pretty neighbor via a convenient pair of binoculars, and though the sex is toned down a bit compared to Blue Movie (which really needs a respectable English-friendly release one of these days), the film is wild and freewheeling enough to hold its own all the way to the unrestrained, pretty twisted final scene.

Never given an English-subtitled release until Cult Epics' 2018 edition on Blu-ray and DVD, Frank & Eva has been tough to see in legitimate versions outside of Holland. The transfer here looks quite good and significantly Frank & Evamore natural and robust than Obsessions, with the open aperture 1.33:1 transfer not only looking quite pleasing but offering the largest amount of bare skin exposure as possible for its Frank & Evatarget audience. The DTS-HD MA Dutch mono track sounds clean and clear, with optional English subtitles. The film can be played with or without an audio intro by de la Parra (2m24s), who touts it as great entertainment because it has a lot of "sex and situations." He also turns up for a low-key audio commentary, which opens up with a relevant Paul Newman quote and then bounces through the novelty of shooting Dutch films at the time with direct sound, the cameos of both himself and his house, some other possible casting choices (Albert Finney!?), and the way his own real-life open marriage at the time impacted the film. "Up Front & Naked: Sex in Dutch Films" (12m3s) from a panel at the Eye Filmmuseum brings together van Ammelrooy, director Eddy Terstall, and film journalist Jan Doense for a discussion of eroticism at the time and its commercial necessity to get people to come see Dutch films. It's quite funny, with von Ammelrooy explaining how a sex scene demanded months after the fact for this film had to be pulled off under very challenging circumstances. Also included are trailers for this film and Obsessions, a gallery of international art and other promotional material (3m25s) accompanied by the theme song (which you'll get tired of hearing really fast), and a bonus gallery of posters for Kristel's films (3m32s) accompanied by a perky instrumental version of her most famous theme. A limited slipcase edition is also available with the much more provocative Japanese poster art.

Reviewed on June 1, 2018.