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Viva (2006)



In 1972, suburban America was a land of hard working husbands with stay at home wives throwing dinner parties to try to keep themselves busy and entertained.  Social drinking was the norm, the sexual revolution had hit the mainstream and movie theaters were filled with sexy, cheesecake films.  Although things have certainly changed since then, you'd never know it from seeing Viva!  In an amazingly detailed recreation of the classic exploitation films of the 60s and early 70s, Viva takes you on a wild trip following Barbie Smith, a young and naive suburban housewife swept up in the stream of popular culture while trying to find herself.  Unlike many of the films that Viva pays tribute to, there is actually a poignant story of exploration here hidden beneath the surface of buxom babes, male chauvinism and flowing alcohol.

Anna Biller wrote, directed, produced and even stars as the voluptuous Barbie Smith in the film.  As a tribute to exploitation films, Biller and the rest of her cast really nailed the stylized acting, over the top gesturing and overall vibe of the classics.  Although the entire cast was really great, I have to make special mention of actor Jared Sanford who played Mark, the swinging husband of Barbie's best friend (who liked to quote advertising slogans for manly products like cigarettes and alcohol).  Sanford was no less that amazing in his line delivery and gestures.  The craft of film acting has changed dramatically since the early 70s, but it's been a very gradual change, so most of us never really thought about it.  However, seeing Sanford act in this film, I was constantly catching those subtle changes that made his acting identical to that of a B-movie actor from the period.  He really made me smile and I was truly impressed!

Although the acting was all very good, what really floored me the most about Viva is the absolutely incredible attention to detail in creating the look for this period piece.  Every single set (and there were a lot of them) was meticulously designed and decorated down to the smallest detail in outlandish but realistic and period correct colors and styles.  In many scenes, the costumes even matched the set colors!  Much of the music seems to have actually been from the time period with the exception of a few musical numbers that I believe were done specifically for the film.  Magazines, bottles, cars, furniture and fabrics were all either actually from the 60s and early 70s or custom designed to look like they were from that time.  The psychedelic, avant-garde and pop artwork was nothing less than extraordinary.  The extras in the background were dressed and groomed with just as much detail as the principal actors with pastels and polyester in almost every scene.  There was even a psychedelic, animated hallucination very reminiscent of The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" movie.

Although the exploitation film is not the kind of film that calls for any gore, there was certainly plenty of nudity and sexuality.  Biller herself appears nude throughout the film.  There were many  baths which were shot identically to the photos from the pages of a vintage pin-up magazine.  There was a humorous scene at a nudist colony, an interracial lesbian scene, lots of drugs, prostitution, and even an orgy.  The film also includes a hilarious scene with a Barbie, a gay hairstylist and his straight neighbor!   I don't know what the budget was for the film, but I do know that they really made it work!  If you love the old exploitation films of the 60s and 70s, or even if you just appreciate the art of film, you should really check out Viva!  For more information, visit the website here:


Gore-o-meter rating: 0 out of 5
(no gore. not that kind of movie.)

Skin-o-meter: 5 out of 5 (all the skin you'd expect from a 70s exploitation film!)