Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If This Wasn't Streaming On Netflix, Would Anyone Remember It Existed?: NANA (1983)

(Italy, 1983)

Directed by Dan Wolman.  Written by Marc Behm.  Cast: Katya Berger, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Mandy Rice-Davies, Massimo Serato, Yehuda Efroni, Annie Belle, Debra Berger, Shirin Taylor, Paul Muller, Marcus Beresford, Tom Felleghy.  (R, 92 mins)

This review was originally published in slightly different form on the Mobius Home Video Forum in March 2011.

I remember NANA being in regular rotation on Showtime's "After Hours" late-night softcore porn schedule in the 1980s, but never managed to see it, largely because I was 11. It's spent nearly three decades in obscurity (only three user reviews on IMDb, two of which seem to be written by the same person) before appearing streaming on Netflix. One of several Italian-made Cannon productions from the early 1980s, NANA is, as the opening credits clearly state, "Loosely based on the novel by Emile Zola."  Loosely?  You can say that again.

Zola's novel dealt with Nana (played here by 19-year-old Katya Berger, daughter of Eurocult fixture William Berger), a bordello performer-turned-prostitute who uses and humiliates every man who crosses her path as she climbs the Parisian social ladder circa 1880. The "loosely based" film version has a similar setting, but moves it some years ahead, since there's cars and Nana appears in stag films by a "moving photograph" artist (Tom Felleghy). There's not much in the way of plot here, just Nana going from zero to bitch as soon as she figures out how to manipulate high society Parisian men who seem more than willing to let her do it. Among them are powerful banker Steiner (Yehuda Efroni), young student Hector (Marcus Beresford), and his father, the renowned Count Muffat (Jean-Pierre Aumont, way too classy for this kind of stuff, especially when Nana makes the whipped Count fetch a stick like a dog). When the financially-strapped Count declines her demand for more money, Nana goads journalist Faucherie (Massimo Serato) into seducing the Count's uptight, neglected wife (1960s Profumo scandal figure Mandy Rice-Davies).

Nana also explores her lesbian side by engaging in hot fling with Satin (Debra Berger), which is noteworthy because Katya Berger and Debra Berger go at it in a couple of explicit, fully nude love scenes, while offscreen, they're half-sisters with different mothers. I wonder if William Berger ever saw this. Anyone else a little skeeved out by that casting decision?  I can't recall this ever happening somewhere else.  Sure, they don't really look much alike (Debra looks a lot like their father and Katya does not), but still.  Can anyone imagine two half-brothers being cast in a relatively mainstream film that would require a nude sex scene between the two of them?

Pre-production trade ad.  Mary
Stavin and Kevin Brennan ultimately
weren't in the film.
In addition to pushing their Hot Sis-on-Sis Lesbo Action agenda, Golan & Globus tried their hardest to make this look pretty highbrow, and the widescreen print running on Netflix is superb. But the plot is as threadbare as can be, mainly an excuse for mostly tame but occasionally raunchy sex scenes. The most explicit really don't involve the main actors, as Golan & Globus tried to take a page out of the CALIGULA book and insert a few really graphic shots during a sequence where some nude women are hunted on the grounds of a posh shindig thrown by Nana. Once captured, the women have sex with the men in clumsily-staged copulation shots with often-visible genitalia while the film cuts back to the gleeful, bourgeois revelers watching them from a distance.  The main cast members watching in this scene (Katya Berger, Efroni, Serato, etc) are most likely just being told to react and probably have no idea just how explicit the other end of this haphazardly-edited scene will ultimately end up being.

Most bewildering about this opulent-looking but dull film is just how far it strays from Zola's novel. Zola ended the novel with the bitchy Nana dying of smallpox. In the Golan-Globus NANA, she takes off for India to meditate and gets a warm, applauding farewell from everyone whose lives she's ruined! And they lament that "Paris won't be the same without Nana!" Indeed. Directed by Dan Wolman (MAID IN SWEDEN), and written by Marc Behm, who had just scripted the 1982 slasher HOSPITAL MASSACRE for Cannon and in clearly better days, co-wrote CHARADE (1963) and HELP! (1965).  Yes, the classic Beatles movie.  Behm also wrote the novel Eye of the Beholder that became a memorably bizarre Ewan McGregor/Ashley Judd thriller in 2000. Music by one "Enio Morricone." Enio? Seriously? It's not like Ennio Morricone wasn't one of the go-to guys for film scores for nearly 20 years by that point.


NANA is so obscure that there isn't even a trailer on YouTube. There was probably never a trailer at all.  There's a few pieces of Morricone's score, but the only thing of substance I could find is this NANA-in-15-minutes compilation of scenes, taken from an echoey German-language print.  Hell, turn the volume off if you want. You'll still be able to follow it.

Oh, wait!  It only seems appropriate to watch this before any viewing of a pay cable softcore relic like NANA:


  1. I'm pretty sure I saw TV commercials for NANA when it had it's week-long run at drive-ins and hardtops in Ohio; I recall some sort of vaguely Eurotrashy male voice narrating the spot, speaking the title as "NAH-NAH". So there must be something out there.

    Have you actually watched this on Netflix since your original review? If so, how does it look? Is it typical of the MGM remasters of their Cannon library, or does it look like an old VHS transfer?

  2. Oh yeah, the pronunciation of "Na-naah" is extremely annoying. I haven't watched it since March of last year, but I assume the same print is still streaming. It was 1.78 and actually looked very nice. Not HD, but definitely not an old VHS transfer. I was surprised.

  3. Is this a movie we should all watch?


    Also, did y'all notice that Mark gave us an upscale Joe Bob Briggs moment? I think "often-visible genitalia" could become a real catchphrase for your site. Are "Little Girl, Big Tease" or "Honey" on Netflix? You could those next. :)

  4. Is HONEY the one with Clio Goldsmith? That was on Showtime constantly.

  5. Regarding the Katya Berger & Debra Berger lesbian scenes: Katya and Debra are actually not related by blood. Debra is the daughter of William Berger and his first wife, while Katya is the daughter of Hanja Kochansky and her first husband (NOT William Berger as most sources claim). Hanja and William's only child is Kasimir Berger. I don't know if Katya took the Berger name to further her career or if William actually adopted her. Trying to keep track of William's many wives and children can be a bit headache-inducing. He also has a couple of other children, including a daughter named Carin, who is (or at least used to be) married to Tobe Hooper. Which explains why Debra shows up in INVADERS FROM MARS, and William shows up in I'M DANGEROUS TONIGHT.

    Very cool blog btw! :)

  6. Thanks for the comments, Johan. It's funny--the info on William Berger's Wikipedia page (stating that he IS Katya's father) contradicts what's on Katya's Wikipedia page (that Hanja Kochnasky's first husband is her father). That she took the name "Berger" could indicate adoption, but at the very least, we're talking Debra and Katya being either half-sisters by adoption or stepsisters. Still pretty weird for nude lesbian scenes. But I'm not complaining...

  7. I agree - it's still very weird that they did those scenes. Katya's Wikipedia page is rather hilarious in that half the text is actually about Kasimir Berger! Kasimir is of course her half-brother and not her stepbrother as the Wikipedia entry claims but I think the rest is correct as it corresponds well with the info on Hanja Kochansky's official webiste www.hanjak.com. According to Hanja's list of credits she, too, appears in NANA in what I assume is a small uncredited role. Did you spot her in the film?