Shameless, Tasteless DVD Review
Written and Directed by Yakov Levi
2009, Region 1 (NTSC), 200 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 27th, 2009
Baba Alla as Herself
Canadian filmmaker Yakov Levi has been mining the Ukraine for talent over the last few years resulting in a series of outlandish experimental videos. Running with the opportunities provided by the economically bankrupt land, Levi employs criminals, prostitutes, drug dealers, junkies and countless others to appear in his projects at bargain-basement prices. Inspired by the early works of John Waters and Lloyd Kaufman, Levi’s flicks are a perfect fit for the ravenous Troma fans that support independent artists.
Shameless Tasteless: Trash Cinema from the Soviet Underground is a collection of seven short films that will easily shock the majority of viewers while providing a new fount of material for someone eager to empty their house of guests that over-stay their welcome. John Waters had Divine, Kaufman has Toxie and Levi introduces audiences to the most terrifying cinema starlet, Baba Alla!
Shameless (7 minutes) is a jaw-dropping experience that introduces Baba Alla as the oldest Ukrainian whore on the streets. She is everything a man could want and more, her talents are legendary even in hell. When three young studs find her working near an over-flowing dumpster, they begin daring each other to perform a series of increasingly disgusting sexual acts for small amounts of money. There is something hypnotic about Alla’s enthusiastic performance that will either destroy the viewer’s retinas or have them sharing the title with groups of friends.
Tasteless (8 minutes) is an unofficial sequel that features the return of one of the guys from Shameless, now a chronic masturbator looking for an escort while operating on a budget. The service sends a $2 whore for his enjoyment, but he is stunned to find that it is… Baba Alla! Now sporting a pretty blonde wig, Alla is more demanding of her clientele and insists that he dance with her before fucking her. She gives birth during the dance, but insists it is no big deal and encourages the guy to ignore the dangling newborn. Our hero kicks her out, but is left with the baby and told by the escort service to keep it. In the tradition of zany comedies, our hero must find a way to earn quick cash to support the child… comedy ensues.
The Ghost of Marquis-de-Sade (20 minutes) features three young lesbians pining for romance before holding a séance to invite the spirit of a historically famous lover. The girls unwittingly contact the Marquis-de-Sade and are surprised when they find themselves dominated by the horny spirit. The sexual escapades that follow are at times violent, but never strong enough to remove clothing.
Penisella (parts I-IV) (12 minutes) chronicles the despair of the title character who is a young woman blessed with good looks and a nice body, but she must also contend with being given a large pink penis, with a set of long, fuzzy balls. It is frustrating for Penisella to try concealing this awkward cock, and yet she must if there is any hope of finding the right guy. Each episode plays out in only a few short minutes, and the one-joke basis benefits from the brevity, but in the end the idea is well realized and ultimately entertaining.
Matroshka Dolls of Doom (17 minutes) finds three nubile women looking for fun at a deserted resort community. They stay with a kindly old woman (Baba Alla) at a house filled with Matroshka dolls. The girls discover three talking boy dolls that tell them that the woman is a witch who captures tourists and turns them into the figurines. The girls are shocked, but the imprisoned tourists are kind’a cute, so they strip down and dance before having sex with the dolls. The old woman returns and things get ugly.
Vanity Insanity (14 minutes) is a cautionary fable about a haunted mirror that possesses those that gaze too long in its reflection. Lena is a mousy lesbian in love with her roommate, Ksusha, but the object of her affection is only focused on herself. Sexual tension mounts as the mirror encourages extended masturbation sessions for both girls.
The disc concludes with the most audience friendly title in the bunch, The Killer Bra (20 minutes), an entertaining piece about well… a killer bra. This is the strongest of Levi’s work, and appears to have the most effort in that the story is linear, the performances solid and there is not a need for the excessive gross-out moments that carried the earlier titles. While the others opted for over-the-clothes action, Killer Bra offers generous amounts of topless women as well as some genuine laughs.
There is something appealing in this collection that is elusive at face value. The titles are poorly assembled excuses for juvenile humor, and as entertaining as explosive diarrhea. The camera work is resourceful (i.e. scenes that would benefit from a wide-angle lens are simply shot with the camera on its side!), but lacking any true sense of composition. The audio is either poorly dubbed or translated with subtitles that may be questionable in authenticity. Yet, all of these elements combine to create a unique voice in offensive comedy. Yakov Levi brings an energy to his films that force a polarizing reaction from audiences that many storytellers are simply unable to accomplish.
Video and Audio:
This collection of shorts was shot in various formats with several different cameras. Picture quality is generally adequate and filled with compression issues and macro-blocking. With the majority of the titles given a decent 1:33 full frame presentation, the final title (The Killer Bra) was shot anamorphic and is presented with an enhanced 1:78 aspect ratio.
Audio is a standard 2-channel offering that is neither special nor impressive, but the tracks are clean and offer the finest fidelity for Baba Alla’s haunting cackle.
This disc has such a crazy amount of special features that any Levi fans will be in for an unexpected treat. Many of the title specific extras will play automatically after the film ends, but can also be selected individually from a traditional set of menu pages.
The fun begins with commentary tracks on each of the short films revealing entertaining anecdotal information along the way.
In addition to commentaries, the films receive trailers, cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes, audition videos and slide show galleries filled with on-set photographs.
Samples from the Baba Alla comic book and board game are also offered for non-stop excess.
Two more short films arrive next, the first Karma Sutra (7 minutes) is a tale of lesbian hypnosis and the second Jack to the Max (9 minutes) shows that if a man masturbates excessively, his penis will leave him.
Additional videos appear on the menu in the form of short PSAs, lesbian make-out footage and some assorted odds and ends. Sadly there is no additional nudity to found here.
Lloyd Kaufman interviews Yakov Levi in a 4-minute piece that is informative, but too short.
While there is not a trailer for this particular title, the DVD includes coming attractions for additional Troma favorites.
Finally, true fans of Levi may take an extra moment to check around the menus for multiple Easter eggs.
While many people will shake their heads and eject the disc without completing even one title, others will watch repeatedly and push it on their friends. There is an audience for Baba Alla and the rest of Levi’s films, and those fans will be delighted by this unexpectedly loaded DVD.