Naive Armand (Nino Castelnuovo) arrives in Rome for the purpose of learning the family business, but is rapidly sidetracked in his romantic pursuit of Margeurite (Daniele Gaubert), a beautiful yet distant woman who is the “kept woman” of an elderly duke and a cruel count. Margeurite lives a lavish life of parties, drugs, and sexual adventure, covering up the fact that she is dying of a wasting illness of the fictional sort that keeps ladies mysterious and wan without ever looking truly ill. Her illness has led her to embrace a cynical “seize the day” manner of living, but Armand’s love for her begins to soften her reluctance to connect with him. The two lovers attempt to run away together, but outside forces intervene, leading to a tragic conclusion.
What’s problematic about the film is that, while it’s chock-full of sex scenes, there is very little chemistry between the two leads. Gaubert is truly lovely and the camera *adores* her, but Castelnuovo spends the vast majority of the film alternating between puppy-love and kicked-puppy. The attractive pair doesn’t really generate heat during their on-screen encounters–Armand adores and Margeurite sulks. This is particularly frustrating, because the entire story hinges on the fact that both characters divorce themselves from their natures (he: businesslike, she: noncommital) due to their overwhelming passion for one another. Perhaps the performances were overwhelmed by the aesthetics of the film. While the mise-en-scene is crafted within an inch of its life, the performances are perhaps a bit weak to counterbalance the extreme look of the movie.
The psychedelic look of the film is pretty amazing throughout, and accounts for the majority of the film’s appeal. Lush settings, outrageous costumes, beautiful people, energetic camera work, and an ultra-hip score are the centerpieces of the film. Conceived as a set of still pictures, the movie dazzles. I’ve provided a gallery of screen captures on Flickr to share some of the amazingly groovy styles of “Camille 2000.” Artificial materials such as plastic and mirrors abound, with prefabricated cubes providing the central visual element throughout. Armand and Margeurite make love on reflective surfaces, producing a kaleidoscope of flesh. When Armand first meets Margeurite at the opera, her dress is partially composed of cubes of transparent plexiglas. Ambitious, mobile camerawork is a mixed blessing throughout, working when applied to the many party sequences, but feeling a bit forced in two key scenes. The depth-of-field zoom technique used during one love scene felt a little sea-sick and went on for a bit too long, and the unsubtle, forced transition between Armand’s ruined birthday and the empty yacht after Margeurite has departed was downright cringe-worthy. The soundtrack by Piero Piccioni is a finely-crafted blend of jazz, psychedelic, prog-rock and traditional themes that enhances each scene and provides a plush backdrop for the on-screen fashion parade.
“Camille 2000” is wonderful when viewed as a historical and aesthetic document, but falls short as a compelling romance. Recommended viewing for eurotrash enthusiasts, but probably best skipped by a general audience.