Color, 1978, 104m.
Directed by Alberto Lattuada
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Nastassja Kinski, Francisco Rabal, Ania Pieroni, Mónica Randall
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Something of a legend in celebrity skin circles, this disco-era Italian erotic drama was one of the earliest (and most uninhibited) starring roles for a young Nastassja Kinski, who had just come off of Hammer's final horror production (To the Devil a Daughter) and the afternoon TV staple, Boarding School. The daughter of the notoriously volatile Klaus Kinski, she was paired up here with the great Marcello Mastroianni, with both of them delivering their performances in English (but looped later by other voice performers). From there it was off to stardom for Nastassja as she went on to star in Tess the following year, with a string of high-profile Hollywood and European productions to follow including Cat People, Unfaithfully Yours, and infamous big-budget spectacles like One from the Heart, Revolution, and The Moon in the Gutter.
Here Kinski is cast as Francesca, a young woman from Florence who still hasn't experienced basic pleasures in life like the Uffizi but seems to "get along fine." She crosses paths one afternoon with Giulio (Mastroianni), a married architect from Rome, whom she initially rebuffs. However, a strong flirtation quickly ensues as the much older man is confronted with the lax attitudes of the young people around him. On top of that his home life is a mess thanks to a pregnant daughter that makes them all "a frigid wife, a whoring husband and now a pregnant daughter and an abortion for a finale!" Francesca reminds him of a woman he loved and lost years before who has since passed away, and to his great discomfort, he grows to suspect that she might be his daughter. Francesca repeats her mother's claim that the father was a doctor, but apparently the woman was prone to making up stories... which leaves Giulio in the tricky spot of deciding whether to pursue an affair with a beautiful woman who might be his own offspring. Anyone who has seen stills from the film already knows where that leads, as the second half of the film finds him grappling with his conscience in the midst of a highly unusual romance.
Entitled Così come sei in Italy, Stay as You Are is one of the most high-profile directorial efforts from Alberto Lattuada, who made a splash in the early '50s with films like Variety Lights (which he co-wrote and co-directed with Federico Fellini) and the acclaimed drama The Overcoat. The rest of his career was quite erratic, but it featured some worthwhile efforts like the quirky comedy Come Have Coffee with Us and bizarre dramas like Fraulein Doktor and Cuore di cane. His peculiar sensibility is definitely in evidence here as he mounts a soapy romance with a distinctly perverse angle as the viewer is pushed to sympathize with an adulterous cad having a fling with his potential daughter, an approach that would never work in mainstream cinema today. It's a testament to Mastroianni's star power that he manages to make the character even remotely palatable given his behavior through the entire film; it also doesn't hurt that Kinski is at the height of her beauty here, with Lattuada's camera worshipping her with unabashed enthusiasm. There's also a surprising amount of off-kilter sexuality in the film, such as Mastroianni trying to find a place to consummate his lust only to find his apartment taken over by a naked orgy and a bizarre bit of mischief involving bodily fluids that comes out of left field.
For horror fans, one of the biggest scene stealers here will be a young Ania Pieroni in her film debut; her big entrance as Cecilia, our heroine's roommate, is one of the most jolting moments in the film as she meets Mastroianni by stripping down and complaining about how she won't crash out at the train station because she's "scared of all those horny men, you know the ones who buy magazines and sit and masturbate in the toilet." The striking actress would soon go on to appear in two Dario Argento films (as the Mother of Tears in the music conservatory scene in Inferno and the snippy, shoplifting first murder victim in Tenebrae) and as the ill-fated babysitter Ann in Lucio Fulci's The House by the Cemetery. On top of that you get a lush score by Ennio Morricone that finds the composer in full melodramatic mode, which has not surprisingly remained a staple on CD and vinyl since its initial release.
Originally released in American theaters by New Line in 1979, this film has been strangely obscure on home video despite its cable play in the '80s. A 2015 announcement by Cult Epics for releases on both Blu-ray and DVD turned out to be a cause for rejoicing for fans of the film, but expectations should definitely be kept in check here. Purchasers of the DVD will get what they expect, but the Blu-ray is an upscale of a dated standard def source complete with tiling, video noise, edge enhancement, and pretty much every other bugaboo of older SD masters you can think of. Per the distributor, they have hunted the film down for years and done the best with all that exists; considering the label's admirable track record with most of its other releases it's definitely not optimal but at least hasn't undergone a full-scale smear job like the infamous LVR Italian transfers on other Blu-rays that are flat-out unwatchable. It's a worthy film and should be supported, but be aware of the limitations of what you're getting. Audio is presented in both the familiar English dub (exactly why Mastroianni and especially Kinski didn't provide their own voices is a mystery), which remains in synch with the main actors' performances but features pretty grating vocal performers with flat American accents, and the Italian track with optional English subtitles. That one sounds more appropriate and poetic, but it obviously never synchs up with the dialogue; try 'em both and see which one you prefer. Extras include a lengthy quasi-trailer, a bonus trailer for Black Angel, and a nice option to play the entire Morricone score track by track.