Directed by Tinto Brass in 1991, Paprika tells the story of Mimma (Deborah Caprioglio), a simple country girl who decides to help out her cash strapped boyfriend by working as a prostitute for two weeks at a brothel in the city. Run by Madame Collette (Martine Brochard), the place caters to an upscale clientele and soon Mimma is given the name Paprika by her new boss.
As you could probably have guessed at this point, Paprika beings to really enjoy her new life and her initial two week excursion soon becomes an extended trip throughout the brothels of Italy. However, when the government decides itâ€™s time to put an end to all of this, she has to figure out if she wants to head back to the small town and boyfriend she left behind or take advantage of all that life has shown her during her stint as a working girl.
Ridiculously stylish in the way that all of the best Tinto Brass movies are, Paprika is well paced and never overstays its nearly two hour running time. The compositions are fantastic, with cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti (who also shot Caligula and All Ladies Do It for the director) really earning his keep this time around. Of course, the score from none other than Riz Ortolani doesnâ€™t hurt things either, amping up the tension during the filmâ€™s many sex scenes but also managing to heighten both the dramatic side of the story and the comedic elements as well. The top notch production values also extend to the locations used for the various encounters peppered throughout the film and the costumes, particularly the ornate, sexy outfits worn by Paprika and her various co-workers. The film, in many ways, does look like the product of the early nineties that it is in regards to the day to day fashions on display, but Brass clearly has a thing for â€˜classicâ€™ style lingerie and the movie is all the better for it.
As to the cast, Deborah Caprioglio makes a fine lead. Sheâ€™s quite a beautiful woman and she fills out those aforementioned outfits in every way that youâ€™d want her to but manages to do so without looking uncomfortable or making it feel forced. Her acting is solid and also quite natural while supporting efforts from a likeable Bonnet and an aging but still very sexy Martine Brochard round out the core characters quite nicely.
The story is occasionally a little melodramatic and there is an element of real world darkness that affects the last half of the film and may take away some of the light, sexy thrills that fans want from a picture like this, but at the same time it makes the story more than just another â€˜small town girl goes hookingâ€™ story. There are real repercussions for Paprikaâ€™s actions and while the film is hardly a message film, injecting a bit of reality into the film now and then helps to ground it.
Paprika arrives on Blu-ray in a very nice AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and looking vastly improved over the previous DVD release from Arrow in the UK (it never did get a domestic release until now). Detail is considerably better here, you'll notice a lot more in the close ups and in the medium and long distance shots and flesh tones look much more natural and lifelike than ever before, but it does have to be noted that much of this film was shot very soft â€“ temper your expectations accordingly. Texture is more readily apparent in the clothing and in the sets used throughout the film while color reproduction is more natural and well defined than it ever was on DVD. There's the expected amount of fine grain as you'd hope there would be, but very little in the way of actual print damage, dirt or debris to note.
The Italian language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track (sadly, no lossless option is offered) is well balanced, clean and clear. Rremovable English subtitles are included. Thereâ€™s little to complain about here as for the most part everything sounds quite good. A bit more channel separation in a few scenes might have opened things up a little more but as it stands this stereo track is a pretty active one and the score in particular sounds quite nice.
Cult Epics have supplied, as the primary extra on this release, a new featurettes called Welcome To The Whorehouse. This is basically a nineteen minute long interview with Brass himself who, with his trademark cigar permanently glued to his mouth, talking about the different actresses he worked with, the story, and more. Itâ€™s an interesting piece and a nice addition to the disc.
Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Tinto Brass titles available from Cult Epics, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
Paprika goes into darker territory than you might expect it to or want it to at times, but Brassâ€™ penchant for the trademark eroticism that is so integral to his work is in fine form here. The cast all do fine work, the movie looks gorgeous and the story is as interesting as it is arousing.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!