Viva: The Far From Heaven of Sexploitation


Viva does for late-’60s/early-’70s sexploitation what Far From Heaven did for Douglas Sirk, only without the subversion. Guaranteed to delight erotica fetishists and porn semioticians (if any exist) alike, Anna Biller’s homage re-creates the colors, fashion, lifestyles, Hammond organ solos, and cheesy sex setups of the era without questioning the conventions. Sheila (Bridget Brno) and Mark (Jared Sanford) are the couple next-door, who laugh at nothing for outrageously long periods of time and frankly discuss their sex lives in public; Viva (Biller) and Rick (Chad England) are much more square. The untimely rupture of both marriages leads Sheila and Viva to explore at least as many cliches as Skidoo, from love-child nudist hippies to David Hemmings–aping Swinging London artists. About half an hour of this was enough for me—long before the orgy, LSD drugging, and hallucination animation, I’d gotten the joke—though Biller’s re-creation is not only right-on but rigorous; the early shots of suburban Cali in particular are so perfectly framed as to suggest a weird structuralist goof. For fans of the work of Charles Busch and other like-minded spoofs only.