(A.k.a. LE JOURNAL EROTIQUE D'UN BUCHERON; EROTIC DIARY; LA FORET AUX MILLE DESIRS)
Jean-Marc (director/co-writer Jean-Marie Pallardy) tries to wake his dad, prominent professor Muller (Jacques Insermini), one morning. But the professor has lost his zest for inventing things, and has no urge to get out of bed. That is, until a French maid enters his room - then he soon springs into action, enjoying an athletic bout of rutting with the pretty blonde.
Elsewhere in the house, Jean-Marc and the family butler continue to answer Muller's telephones - they literally never stop ringing. One call in particular has them wide-eyed: the President of the Republic rings to advise that Muller is about to receive the Nobel Prize.
But Muller is tired with people constantly wanting a piece of him. He just wants to fuck. And so, upon receiving an epiphany while staring into a painting of a tranquil countryside setting on his bedroom wall, he flees across the open fields behind his 4,000-acre stately home.
Making his way through the woods, Muller soon finds pretty girls to fornicate casually with, before furthering his journey until stumbling across his idea of Heaven on Earth - a remote woodland community that he inspires to live in a state of free loving.
Jean-Marc, frantically searching for his father, is tipped off about Muller's new residence and journeys out to witness it for himself. There, he meets with his liberated father - now known as "the Lumberjack" - and learns how Muller has fashioned a hedonistic "paradise" for older men to wallow in.
Unconvinced, Jean-Marc is invited to stick around for a while and observe some of the good work the commune engages in. Which pretty much involves several episodes that detail middle-aged men copping off with hot young French fillies (a group of dignitaries enjoying dinner while women fellate them beneath the table; some meek dominatrix games, and more).
Jean-Marc remains opposed to this lifestyle, until his eye is caught by the demure brunette Isabelle.
Unfortunately, Government officials are not far behind Jean-Marc. They're desperate to locate Muller and bring him back to society in order to present him with the Nobel Prize and inspire him to begin his scientific work once more. They are understandably not keen on the notion of Muller being seen as a dirty old man who hooks other dirty old men up with promiscuous young ladies ...
"I make bawdy films; a little peek here, a little peek there" - so says Pallardy in the excellent career retrospective on this disc, referred to in greater detail below. LUMBERJACK certainly lives up to this statement, as the above synopsis no doubt implies.
One of three films directed by Pallardy that were released in 1974 (the others were GUNFIGHT AT THE OQ CORRAL and THE ADULTERESS), LUMBERJACK offers some keen exterior shots of the sunny French countryside as a backdrop to a tale that fuses gentle humour with soft scenes of sex and nudity.
Note the words "gentle" and "soft". This film is indeed a tame relic of the early 1970s, a film that meets Pallardy's own description of "bawdy" with innocent ease. Quite what it offered at a time when hardcore pornography was on the verge of crossing over into the mainstream, is difficult to contemplate in this day and age.
But films like Pallardy's have endured over the last three decades and still boast small cult followings of their own to this day. This is no doubt because, for all their flaws (in this case, an uneven pace and some slack editing), there is an agreeable nature about them. In LUMBERJACK, for example, even a later scene that suggests rape fails to elicit a mean spirit.
Pallardy's films also provide an ample flow of gorgeous young women stripping for the camera, engaging in zestful - albeit staged - sex scenes with men who, in the real world, would never be able to shag them.
The storyline here (co-written by Sophie Verdaud) is a simple, threadbare one. It allows Pallardy to dispense with logic and focus instead on serving up the inoffensive sex set-pieces with satisfying frequency. However, such an episodic approach soon makes the film feel a lot slower than it actually is.
It's difficult to gauge the performances, as the disc presents the film in an English-dubbed track. I think it's safe to say, however, that we're not being robbed of any Oscar-worthy monologues.
The film's most interesting aspects are it's attractive photography, the eye-pleasing female cast members (including Willeke van Ammelrooy, a Pallardy regular possibly best known to horror fans for her role in the 1983 Dutch film THE LIFT) and the odd surreal vignette - which, at their best, display visual comparisons to Luis Bunuel's French work.
The film is presented uncut in a healthy-looking non-anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer. Detail is fairly sharp and colours are bright, despite sometimes wavering in tone. Pallardy provided the elements used here, so it's fair to assume that this is the best the film will most likely ever look.
English audio is presented in a decent 2.0 mix. Some dialogue is quiet and muffled, but these incidences are not common enough to become problematic. Minor hiss is however evident throughout, although dialogue is discernible at all times. There is no optional original French audio, which is a shame - especially considering the director's involvement in this disc. The English dubbing isn't too bad, to be fair - but it's always preferable to have the original language to hand.
An animated main menu opens the disc. Although there is no scene-selection menu, the film can be navigated through by way of 7 chapters.
Extras on the disc begin with a sterling 61-minute career-encompassing interview with Pallardy, entitled "The Erotic Journal of Jean-Marie Pallardy".
This excellent documentary finds the white-haired director speaking to the off-screen Nicolas Felgerolles in relaxed manner about his career at length. He chats affably about how he was a farmer prior to breaking into the industry via short films, and about how most of his films were financed by Italians.
Pallardy is honest enough to talk about the bits of his films that don't work, as well as blaming his own direction for some of the actors' less impressive performances. Elsewhere, Pallardy explains why he shies away from hardcore sex ("I don't want people to smell all of the nauseous odours of sex") and reveals that the only message behind LUMBERJACK is that city life is crap, and it's much more fun living in the countryside.
Interspersed throughout the enjoyable, well-edited and entertaining featurette are windowboxed clips from several Pallardy films, including LUMBERJACK, UNSATISFIED, MY BODY BURNS, NAKED AND LUSTFUL, A VERY SPECIAL WOMAN and AN EROTIC JOURNAL OF A LADY FROM THAILAND (which affords the opportunity to enjoy some naked Brigitte Lahaie, as well as listen to Pallardy's own memories of first meeting her).
The interview segments of the documentary are presented in anamorphic 1.78:1. The whole documentary boasts French 2.0 audio with optional English subtitles. Remote access allows you to flick through the featurette by way of 9 chapters.
While the documentary is almost worth the price of the disc alone, there is more on offer.
Next up we get original trailers for MY BODY BURNS, LUCKY LUCKY & THE DALTINES, GUNFIGHT AT THE OQ CORRAL, EROTIC DIARY OF A LUMBERJACK and TRUCK STOP. All are presented in non-enhanced widescreen with French audio and no subtitles.
A number of deleted scenes follow, split into 3 chapters and presented in non-anamorphic 1.66:1 with French mono audio and no subtitles. The condition of the material here is unexpectedly good. Each scene contains additional or extended sex footage, including some realistic threesome clips.
Finally, there's a superb gallery of stills from Pallardy's personal archives, offering 100 photographs over the course of almost 13 minutes. There is a lot more softcore footage to be enjoyed here, as the gallery runs the course of several Pallardy films. However, it would've been nice if this well-edited feature was accompanied by audio of some description.
All in all, Le Chat Qui Fum has given the film a very solid uncut release. It's a crying shame that the original French audio track hasn't been included on the main feature, but I suppose we should be grateful to see this film available on such a good-looking and generous English-friendly disc.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Le Chat Qui Fum|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|