Julia / Julia: Innocence Once Removed / Cynthia / Der Liebesschüler / Es War die Nachtigall / Die Nichte der O (1974) -**
It’s an experience I’ve had fairly often over the past couple of years. I’ll settle down to watch a film for what I think is the first time, and at some point during the ensuing hour and a half, I’ll see or hear something that makes me sit up and say, “Hey! I’ve seen this movie before!” Most of the time, that magic moment comes the first time I get a look at the monster, but I’ve also had lines of dialogue or even just the composition of a random scene trigger a spark of recognition. In the case of Julia/Der Liebesschüler, a little-known pre-stardom vehicle for 70’s European softcore queen Sylvia Kristel, it was the main title theme that did it. The song in question is a sort of proto-disco thing, with rather limp-sounding strings and electronic keyboard accompanying lyrics that don’t even make sense, apparently because they were written in English by someone who doesn’t actually speak the language: “Theeeeeeeeeey will stick together... Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiith your lover-man!” You can’t imagine how awful this movie’s theme song is, and once you hear it, it will remain forever lodged in some out-of-the-way corner of your brain, just waiting to come flooding back into your conscious memory. It is also a rather appropriate piece of scoring, because Julia frankly isn’t that much better than it overall.
Eighteen-year-old Paul (Ekkehardt Belle, from Schoolgirl Report, Part 5: What All Parents Should Know) is on the train from his boarding school (wherever that is) to his grandmother’s house somewhere in Switzerland. While trying to decide where he’s going to sit, Paul notices a compartment occupied by an attractive woman (she’d be beautiful if she’d just leave her fucking eyebrows alone), sound asleep with her blouse unbuttoned almost far enough to get her into trouble. Since the other seat in the compartment appears to be free, Paul sits himself down across from her, and sets his eyes to Maximum Ogle. Eventually the woman (Teri Torday, from Tower of Screaming Virgins and The Sweet Sins of Sexy Susan) wakes up, and she seems to be just the slightest bit annoyed with the attention. Paul gets up to go to the bathroom, and when he returns, he finds that his place in the compartment has been taken by a man about fifteen years older than him (Manfred Spies, of Schoolgirl Report 7 and Young Girls Like It Hot, Housewives Hotter Still). The boy’s cock-blocking is completed (like he had a shot anyway...) when the two of them leave the compartment together to have extremely noisy sex in the women’s toilet.
At the end of the line, Paul is picked up at the train station by his father, Ralph (Jean-Claude Bouillon), whom he apparently doesn’t get to see very much of between the man’s busy schedule and his own boarding school lifestyle. The reunion is not to be as simple as it initially appears, however, for Paul isn’t the only person Ralph has come to collect from the train. He’s also picking up his new girlfriend, Yvonne, and wouldn’t you know it, Yvonne happens to be the blonde woman Paul had hoped to spend the trip undressing with his eyes! Jesus— not ten minutes into the movie, and they’re already hinting at incest once removed. Truth be told, though, that would simply put Paul directly into the mainstream of his family’s sexual behavior. His grandmother (Rose Renee Roth, from Swinging Wives) never gets up to anything that we see, but she’s just about the only one. Uncle Alex (The Long Swift Sword of Siegfried’s Peter Berling) spends most of his time at Granny’s place sitting at his piano, hard at work on his latest pornographic opera, drawing inspiration from watching his wife (Gisela Hahn, of War in Space and Devil Hunter) engage in lesbian shenanigans (usually involving food) with Sylvana the maid (Dominique Delpierre, from The Hideout and Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay). His father, meanwhile, is quite open about the fact that he’s fucking Yvonne, despite still being married to Paul’s shrewish, belligerent mother (Christine Glasner), who happens also to be Yvonne’s boss. You’d think the kid would be more than happy to get away from that lot and take advantage of the chance to partake of normal, wholesome teenage lust with Julia (Sylvia Kristel, from Private Lessons and Red Heat), the beautiful daughter of one of Granny’s neighbors, who is quite hopelessly infatuated with him.
You’d think that, as I said, but you would do so mistakenly. You see, Julia is a virgin, and Paul has this big, ridiculous hang-up about virgins. The way he sees it, deflowering a virgin carries with it more responsibility than the attendant pleasure is worth; after all (or so our young hero contends), if that first guy doesn’t do a good job, he could wind up turning the girl frigid. So no matter how much time the two kids spend in each other’s company, no matter how transparently eager to do the deed Julia may be, Paul keeps giving her the cold shoulder at the last minute. Paul’s indecision opens up an opportunity for a mutual friend of theirs by the name of Gerald to try his hand at romancing Julia in Paul’s stead, leading to the usual simmering cauldron of jealousy. It doesn’t last long, though, because one afternoon, when all three teens are out zipping around the lake in Gerald’s boat, the two boys get into a fight which accidentally results in Gerald’s death by drowning.
Inadvertently killing his friend out of jealousy doesn’t exactly do wonders for Paul in the department of developing a healthier attitude toward sex. He withdraws from Julia almost completely, and at one point tries to rape Sylvana after seeing her and his aunt at play. This inexplicably gives Ralph the idea that he needs to bring both Paul and Julia along when he and Yvonne run off to spend a week in Verona. It looks as though the week will go by without bringing the kids any closer together, but then a man-to-man talk with his son gives Ralph a brilliant idea. The lad won’t go to bed with Julia because he’s afraid to accept the responsibility of claiming her virginity, right? Well then why not try to seduce the girl himself, so as to relieve Paul of that perceived onus? Meanwhile, why not send Yvonne to seduce Paul, too, so as to get him past the unspoken hang-ups that stem from his own virginity? The short-term consequences of this plan are, of course, disastrous, but because, in the parallel universe of Sick and Wrong that Julia inhabits, the two conniving adults really are doing Paul a favor, it all works out in the end, and the young lovers finally come together in a marathon coupling on Granny’s tennis court. And in the middle of a goddamned thunderstorm, at that...
The problem here is two-fold. First, there’s nowhere near enough sex in Julia. Second, what sex there is for the most part is so determinedly icky that it’s just about impossible to enjoy any of it. What we end up with instead is this totally twisted relationship drama, which the responsible parties seem to be taking entirely seriously even though they’ve left themselves precious little excuse for doing so. I mean, this is a movie that uses the accidental death of a relatively major character solely as an instrument for setting up a succession of ever sleazier sexual scenarios. A movie in which a father-son talk descends to such simultaneously hilarious and appalling depths as: “How old are you— eighteen? So you know all about birds and bees and all that. You’ve even had a little experience with sex, I’ll bet. But you can’t spend your life trying to rape maids.” A movie which was once distributed in its home country under the ludicrous exploitation title O’s Niece! I suppose Julia’s creators are to be commended for attempting to do something different from your usual softcore skin flick, but still... Gahh!