When I first saw the cover for WHAT?, I wasn’t sure what to think. I’d always heard this film was a comedy, but the nude woman on the cover made me think it might be something else. Interestingly, I was wrong. The movie does contain nudity, but it’s not the primary focus. Yet, I’m still not quite sure what to think about the film. It’s a weird jaunt into comedy for sure, but it does have some comedic merit. I won’t go so far as to say it’s a great film, but I did find it entertaining for the most part.
If you are not familiar with WHAT?, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films:
Roman Polanski described it as the ribald adventures of an innocent girl. More than four decades after its controversial release, it remains the most butchered, debated and least-seen film of the Oscar-winning director’s entire career. The succulent Sydne Rome stars as an oft-naked American girl lost inside a Mediterranean villa inhabited by priests, pianists, perverts and a pimp (a deliciously bizarre performance by Marcello Mastroianni) while indulging in madcap acts that even include ping-pong. Hugh Griffith (Tom Jones), Romolo Valli (Boccaccio 70) and Polanski himself co-star in this surreal and sexy comedy, now finally restored to its original running time from a vault print reportedly stolen from the wine cellar of producer Carlo Ponti!
There’s no denying director Roman Polanski is an icon in cinema. He’s directed some excellent films, and he continues to showcase a wide diversity of interests when it comes to his projects. But still, I have to wonder what the inspiration for this film was.
WHAT? looks good onscreen, and the HD transfer is nice. The picture is not perfect, but it rarely is when dealing with films this old. Still, it’s not grainy, which is a huge plus for me.
The acting is pretty good, with several notable actors and actresses giving decent performances. Sydne Rome plays the main character, Nancy, and foreign screen legend Marcello Mastroianni plays a pimp named Alex. They are supported by an interesting cast, although nobody really gives a standout performance.
The plot of WHAT? is a curious blend of surrealism and raunchy comedy. I laughed a few times, but mostly I just wondered if there was an actual plot. Pretty much, the characters spend the film going from one odd situation to another, but there’s no overarching storyline that encompasses everything. Don’t get me wrong: this is not necessarily a negative. But if you’re looking for a story, you might want to look elsewhere.
I won’t deny that I enjoyed the movie. But I can guarantee it won’t be for everyone. Still, if you want a bit of nonsensical, zany humor, give this movie a try. It is available now.