Movies »Private Parts

private parts paul bartelPaul Bartel, the auteur behind the classically quirky low budget black comedies Eating Raoul and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, began his illustrious career with Private Parts, a good-enough 1972 psycho-sexual thriller. Made just before the director's odd touch was refined, Bartel is almost playing it straight here… Well, as straight as trans-gender soul swapping, water filled sex dolls, and decapitations can be played.

The movie's about a “teen” runaway (played by the of-age Ayn Ruymen, who can – and does – legally get topless on-screen) who takes refuge from her lousy hippie friends in her aunt's creepy run down San Francisco hotel, a place that houses a plethora of strange tenants including a leather loving priest, an old lady obsessed with a mysterious girl named Alice, and a photographer who takes voyeuristic photos for skin mags.

In many ways this movie is like Bartel doing Polanski, and in fact Polanksi covered similar territory a few years later with his own flawed gem, The Tenant. While Private Parts isn't as ground breaking as the work of Polanksi is, it's actually pretty hard to pull of a decent thriller and this one includes some arresting imagery and showcases the beginnings of Bartel's peculiar signature humor (if you're a fan of his more famous work, you may mourn the absence of laughs – and Mary Woronov). The plot is fine, though maybe the big twist is too easy to guess too early – but if you're not expecting a masterpiece, just some fun, 1970s off beat thrills, you're in for a treat.

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Posted on July 13, 2009

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