• Private Vices Public Virtues

    Released by: Monda Macabro
    Released on: August 22nd, 2016.
    Director: Miklós Jancsó
    Cast: Lajos Balázsovits, Pamela Villoresi, Franco Branciaroli, Therese Ann Savoy
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From MondoMacabro

    The Movie:

    Miklós Jancsó’s filmed take on the Mayerling Incident is set some time before the First World War and revolves around a set of bourgeois characters. The first is Crown Prince Rudolf (Lajos Balazsovits), heir to the Hapsburg Empire. He lives at his massive estate with his step-siblings Sofia (Pamela Villoresi), a Duke (Franco Branciaroli) and the beautiful Baroness Mary Vetsera (Therese Ann Savoy). Both Mary and the Duke were born out of wedlock, the product of their philandering father, Emperor Franz Joseph, and his extra-marital exploits.

    Needless to say, none of these characters are particularly enamored with their patriarch (at one point Rudolf spits on his depiction in a family portrait and during one of the orgies some of the participants wear a mask bearing his visage!), and to get back at him, Rudolf orchestrates one highly debauched orgy after the next, often times with plenty of incest involved. The hope here is to create enough of a scandal that they’ll embarrass the Emperor and eventually overthrow him. Of course, this doesn’t quite go as planned but for most of the film’s running time Rudolf and company sure seem to have a good time trying.

    Private Vices Public Virtues is essentially a film of bacchanalian contrast in which we see the younger members of Hungary’s upper class push back against the more militant establishment. Although they do this with wild orgies and taboo busting sex, it’s made pretty clear that this done at least partially out of protest and not just for the physical pleasure the participants so clearly derive from their activities. Jancsó films all of this in lurid detail, spending plenty of time with his camera pointed below the belt so to speak, and offers up almost as much full frontal male nudity as he does full frontal female nudity. There was obviously intent to shock audiences here – the incest angle would be controversial, of course, but there are other kinks explored here too. Homosexuality, bestiality, hermaphroditic encounters, group gropes and other less orthodox couplings are all given screen time in the film, almost as if we’re supposed to feel as if the establishment these characters are raging against might feel.

    At the same time, if Jancsó celebrates the exploits of the younger generation and seems to side with their intent to force change, he does not paint them as without folly. Some of what they do is set to children’s nursery rhymes, which not only gives things an unseemly vibe, but would seem to suggest immaturity and nativity on the part of the participants. The romanticism inherent in the very nature of rebellion is pushed aside at times in favor of what is essentially sexual anarchy. However, even if things clearly do get out of hand here, Rudolf and his cohorts are at least wholly committed to forcing change and in turn freeing society from conservative mooring.

    The cast do fine work. There’s not a bashful performer to be found here, pretty much everyone involved in the production gets naked at some point. Lajos Balazsovits is great as the Caligula-esque leader of the troupe, while Pamela Villoresi and Franco Branciaroli are quite good as his familiars. Therese Ann Savoy, instantly recognizable from Caligula and Tinto Brass’ Salon Kitty, is as beautiful as ever in this picture, though her role will certainly surprise some viewers. As an interesting aside, one of the female bit part players is Ilona Staller, seen here in her younger days before she’d take on the name of Cicciolina in the eighties and rise to prominence as one of Italy’s most famous adult film stars. Like Miklós Jancsó she too was born in Hungary. In the late eighties she was actually elected to the Italian Parliament and made the news before the first Gulf War for offering to have sex with Saddam Hussein in exchange for his backing out of Kuwait (it didn’t happen).

    While you can’t look past the fact that parts of the film are certainly intended to titillate, this is clearly more than mere exploitation fodder. Like the films of Walerian Borowczyk, there’s more to this picture than naked frolicking even if that’s where the visuals tend to lead us. It works as a sort of counterpoint to Pasolini’s infamous Salo. Where the Italian director depicted fascism as sexual perversion, Jancsó’s characters seem more interested in using said perversion to overthrow fascism. This is made all the more interesting when you consider that the film was an Italian production that the director wrote with Giovanna Gagliardo. The film is beautifully shot and makes fantastic use of its locations, while the score from Francesco De Masi adds an unusually morose, albeit beautiful, tone to much of the proceedings.


    Private Vices Public Virtues is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition picture taken from a new scan of the film’s original negative. The 1.85.1 widescreen transfer looks a little rough during the opening credits but once we move past that, it’s quite impressive. Colors look nice and lifelike not just in the sunlit outdoor scenes but in the interiors as well. Black levels are nice and deep but there are no problems with crush. Detail is generally quite good here although some scenes are shot to look a bit soft. Skin tones look good (which is important because this movie has an insane amount of nudity!) while the image remains surprisingly clean. There’s some great here, sure, but very little actual print damage worth noting. Compression artifacts, noise reduction and edge enhancement are non-issues. All in all, this is a very nice transfer.

    Audio options are provided in both English and Italian language choices, both in DTS-HD Mono, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The English track might have a bit more power behind it but both options are clean, clear and properly balanced. The horns used over the opening credits sound pretty punchy, the dialogue sounds natural and both tracks are free of any noticeable hiss or distortion.

    The bulk of the extras are provided in three featurettes, the first of which is a sixteen minute long interview with Michael Brooke on director Miklós Jancsó. He speaks about how the director’s films were shown in London, sometimes at a theater run by Hungarians or at the Academy, meaning that his films were actually quite accessible in the decades past. He then goes on to discuss the man’s decades long filmmaking career, his features, his documentaries, newsreels and other projects. Brooke talks about the shift in Jancsó’s work in the sixties, how Hungarian politics tend to be reflected in his work, his ability to ‘marshal large numbers of people’ in his films, his visual style, and then, of course, his thoughts on the feature contained on this Blu-ray disc (the only one of his films to be shown on the Playboy channel!). There’s some welcome critical insight here and some astute observations about the film’s effectiveness and its creativity, making this an interesting and valuable addition to the disc.

    The disc also includes an interview with screenwriter and assistant director Giovanna Gagliardo entitled The Last Revolution. This thirty minute piece, which is in Italian with English subtitles and was created by the good people over at Freak-O-Rama, allows her to talk about how they tried to turn the Mayerling story ‘upside down’ with their take on the events. She talks about Jancsó’s work ethic, working alongside him on location in Croatia and Slovenia, and what her relationship with him was like. She talks about the real world events that inspired the picture, language barriers that were encountered during the making of the film, how she had to rewrite some of the dialogue each night so it would be ready the next day for the shoot, what was and what was not improvised on set, and how a lot of things actually came together quite easily during the making of the movie compared to other films that she worked with Jancsó on. She worked on at least a half a dozen films with Jancsó and so she knew him quite well – there are a lot of great stories contained herein.

    Actress Pamela Villoresi is interviewed in The Praise Of Lightness, a nineteen minute piece also crafted by Freak-O-Rama. She too speaks in Italian (with English subtitles) about her time on the set, noting that the world was changing when they made this what with the rise of feminism and the tearing down of social mores. She talks about shooting this picture at nineteen years of age, her initial trepidation after reading the script, the themes that the film explores, and how many people said after she appeared in this picture that she had worked in pornographic films. She notes how her opinion of the film has evolved over the years, some of the details of her character, the vibe on set during the shoot, what it was like working with the other cast members featured in the picture, rehearsing for a lot of the long takes that Jancsó used in the film, the choreography of some of the scenes involving large crowds and dancing and the importance of having dinner together every night! She looks back on this pretty fondly and, as you’d guess given how the movie plays out, she’s got some interesting memories to share.

    Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, static menus and chapter selection – and of course, the ever expanding Mondo Macabro promo reel.

    Note – this review is based on a test disc but Mondo Macabro has mentioned that finale retail versions of the limited, numbered edition of this release will come with an exclusive slipcover as well as an insert booklet containing a brand new essay by Max Weinstein and Joe Yanick.

    The Final Word:

    Private Vices Public Virtues will definitely push a few viewers’ buttons but it’s a well-made and thought provoking film. Shot and composed quite artistically, the film features some gorgeous cinematography, brazen performances and a great score. Mondo Macabro brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time in grand fashion with a beautiful presentation and some fascinating supplemental material.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Seriously looking forward to this one. Looks so odd and out there. Nice review.