Color, 1973, 100 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Fernando Di Leo
Starring Maurice Ronet, Lisa Gastoni, Jenny Tamburi, Pino Caruso, Barbara Marzano Raro Video (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), (DVD) (Italy R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The career of Fernando Di Leo has become even more celebrated and internationally acknowledged since his death in 2003, with much fascination coming from the two unique strands in his work consisting of accomplished crime films and unusually perceptive looks at human morality and sexuality. The latter came to a head with his extremely shocking and heavily censored To Be Twenty, not to mention a sort of hybrid between the two threads with Madness.
Right in the middle of Di Leo's crime movie apex he also made this heated slice of Sicilian erotic melodrama, released in English as Seduction and featuring art house staple Maurice Ronet (Purple Noon, Elevator to the Gallows) as Giuseppe, a man returning to his hometown to sort of his late father's estate. Upon arrival he connects with old buddy Alfredo (Caruso), who has some pretty prehistoric views about gender relations, and Caterina (Gastoni, later in the more extreme L'immoralità), a former crush who's now a beautiful middle-aged widow. However, his attempts to build a relationship with Caterina are stymied by the aggressive seduction attempts of her teenaged daughter, Graziella (Tamburi), who progresses from shoving her feet in Giuseppe's crotch on the sofa to getting him into bed. Of course, it's just a matter of time before hidden secrets explode out in the open and leave Giuseppe in a very uncomfortable situation.
Well acted and pretty tasteful given the potential ickiness of the Lolita-inspired subject matter (Tamburi was twenty at the time, and the nudity isn't overly exploitative), La seduzione isn't a typical Di Leo film on the surface but does feature his signature hand-held camerawork, vivid use of color, and tendency to inject humor at unexpected points in the narrative. (The ending is pure Di Leo, too, but it won't be spoiled here.) The three leads all make the material feel weighty enough, and the sunny, sweat-inducing locations make for a very vivid setting. Perhaps the most valuable player is frequent Di Leo composer Luis Bacalov, who really cuts loose here with a fantastic, percussive score that turns the first sofa scene into a scorching set piece without a stitch of clothing being removed.
La seduzione first appeared on DVD in Italy in 2004 (long, long discontinued) and finally arrived on American shores with separate Blu-ray and DVD editions from Raro Video in 2017. The HD scan is one of the label's better ones, as far as Italian-sourced unrestored transfers go (that odd artificial texture you usually see is still in evidence), and with film grain in evidence and good detail of aspects like hair and fabric, it's mostly free from the excessive waxiness that plagued some prior releases. The DTS-HD MA Italian or English options can only be switched via the menu, and both sound fine; the film was shot with the actors speaking a hodgepodge of languages (apparently heavily accented English in some scenes and Italian or French in others based on lip reading), but the Italian one is preferable as it sounds more natural. The English-language version was also heavily cut (losing a ton of comic relief with Caruso in particular) so that track switches to Italian with subtitles numerous times, which can be pretty disruptive. The disc comes packaged with a liner notes essay by Bret Wood, and ported over from the Italian DVD is its sole video extra, "Erotic Notes" (31m47s), with Di Leo, cinematographer Franco Villa, Tamburi, and producer Armando Novelli, which covers the casting process (including consideration of Ornella Muti as Graziella), the implausibility of casting Ronet as a Sicilian, the script issues that could have landed the filmmakers in jail without any revisions, and plenty more.