February 22, 2006


This was a complex review to write as it was difficult to identify such words of praise for this underrated masterpiece; I have only felt similar passion for ‘The Wicker Man’. I first came across this feature film round a movie enthusiasts shop and thought it looked interesting but didn’t buy it. After reading further review and about the challenging subject matter it sounded too intriguing to deprive a look.

I purchased the DVD on recommendation and review and it was the one of the most powerfully erotic viewing experiences I had seen since The Wicker Mans’ birthday suit jig and some of the Guccione sequences in the uncut version of ‘Caligula’ which, is possibly the nearest thing we get to witnessing the real Roman events no matter how crudely executed.


Based on the renowned literary classic ‘L’image’ by Jean De Berg ( male non de plume for female Catherine Robbe-Grillett) ‘The Image’ is a psychological , emotional odyssey of sadomasochism.

Exquisitely crafted and breathtakingly shot the film focuses on a trio of characters who meet at a party for the first time. Author Carl finds himself initiated into the world of dominatrix Clair and her willing cohort Anne.

The film is sumptuously photographed featuring some of Paris’ finest features whilst juxtaposing this with the darker side of sexuality and no holds barred carnal study.


Radley Metzgers' 'The Image' (a.k.a Punishment of Anne) has direction, plot and cinematography so well orchestrated it will leave you breathless.

This very-faithful celluloid adaptation, focuses on three main characters Anne (Mary Mendum - in her debut movie role, jumping from stage to screen as she had appeared in the controversial ‘nude hippy’ musical 'Hair'). Anne has an angelic like innocence but as we venture further along the duration we discover this is a mere façade to her true character.

Clair (Marilyn Roberts) - is Anne’s older lover/sparring partner/ dominatrix, she appears the dominant one in the relationship. Clair is superbly played with grace, sophistication and pure unbridled sexual dominance. In some of the movies 'erotically charged' moments, the looks she gives the two others is worth a thousand words. This proved to me that an excellent actress doesn't always need to be vocal to communicate with the audience, and her fellow thesps in the movie. There is a unique connectivity between all three leads; this makes the voyeur, feel so privileged to be allowed into their alien-psychological domain.

Jean (Carl Parker) - is the handsome outsider novelist who is drawn to Anne’s beauty and also the 'alien' world of Sado-Masochist etiquette. Despite a small bit of misogyny we witness an intriguing performance by Parker who can also be spotted in Metzgers other take-on-taboo 'Score' (1972). Score was one of the first films to deal, openly and adultly, with bisexuality another ‘alien’ world to most cinema goers at the time. As achieved with ‘The Image’ good taste is never thrown in the bin for cheap mucky sensation.

The three protagonists embark on an odyssey of sexual awakening and we are privy to this, we witness this powerful transformation and how the three become so entwined and involved with their 'games' that the rest of the world shifts out of focus. As the minutes tick by so we near the superb twist at the end of the film, a twist of desperation and changing personas of the weak becoming the strongest and vice-versa.

I feel a lot to do with this is the chemistry between the three leads, the intensity shared can only be glimpsed in the film world on rare occasion, when you realise the actors are not just portraying a role, they are in fact living that role. Definite praise should be given to the person used to cast the leads; they accomplished a result with distinction.

It seemed as though whilst the film progresses you never lose the 'hooked' sensation due to the movie unfolding at an ideal tempo. What Metzger has achieved; is taking something often thought, by some, as a dark, repellent act of sexuality into a thoroughly rewarding exercise displaying the brutality of beauty. By witnessing this lifestyle we become more 'educated', providing a better understanding of the subject matter. Roughies (name used for a type of ‘rape porn’ popular in the early to mid 1970’s) were available for over a decade before this film was made.

They often sublimated sexual impulse amid gore, rape and claustrophobic dread; Metzger refrains from such crudities. Here we are in the world of the Nouveau Rich, the educated, the sophisticated and the bohemian liberal, surrounded with finery from modern Europe.

Although ‘The Image’ will not supply all the answers of S & M comprehension, it covers a great deal of common ground, without confusing the novice nor patronising the initiated.

For those of us who still have the outdated 1950's attitude of sex and sexuality, I would avoid this movie and perhaps your time could better be used going to church or therapy?

It would be a total injustice to this film to class it anywhere in the 'Pornography' bracket, yes it is graphic in detail but this is a necessity that only current French directors have utilised. If the action calls for hardcore segments - why should it not feature such? Is it better sometimes to show things as they really are than fluffing it up in order to pamper the bleeding heart brigade that offer ignorance and Victorian naivety as reason for fuss? Why should a minority be pandered to so realism and cinema verite is sweetened to almost saccharin moralism? You be the judge learned reader.

What we can see on display is psychological drama, ravishing visuals; impeccable witticism and the fundamental coupling of some of the most erotically charged pieces of sensualism ever committed to the screen. Beautifully weaved around our central characters, the web is an ingeniously accomplished piece of storytelling clashing cymbals of brutalism and beauty together without off balancing.

No this is not a bump n’ grind robotic show that dear pornography has evolved into or a collage of hirsute bodies writhing on technicoloured mattresses that we fondly remember. It is fathoms above anything so blandly orchestrated in contemporary pornography and less earthily vulgar from pornographies infancy til the end of its golden age. Therefore I conclude this to be way ahead of it’s time.

Attention to detail is never spared, the sophisticated culture of
Paris, my personal favourite city, adds to the sheer decadence, which one can simply revel in. I recently went to Paris and as well as feeling part of a city not just a tourist, I felt ‘the vibe’ that Metzger immortalised in his film. Even in the interior of Clare’s apartment we can see the usage of S & M colour (predominantly black and red) that strikes such a chord visually without venturing into anything tacky or vulgar.

I feel it is only the notoriety of this film that has kept this movie from being solicited out to the masses (a good thing or bad thing. I am undecided?).

The soundtrack is another feature worth noting, a classic 'porn wha-wha' sound fused with funk and classical grooves attend to every changing action. I was fortunate to obtain the DVD so as well as an absolutely pristine print there is an audio only option. To comprehend how the composer utilised this score for the varied situations and understand the way they enhance the mise-en-scene is a real revelation as well as being a joy to listen too.

I would imagine that there would have been such a fine line to tread whilst making such a movie between taste and down right smut. Not once did I feel the accomplished director step over this line, or if he ever did, due to the films stunning cinematography I guess I failed to notice.

I would urge anyone who is interested in film to give this a once over, whether your penchant for S & M is strong or not. It provides a visual delicacy for all audiences (with a liberal mind!) and a fascination from the very first minute to the very last frame.


1. The food sequence in the restaurant . Very witty, very ‘Ai No Corrida’, classic stuff .

2. The flower gardens at Bagatelle; stunning piece of filming – inspirational and extremely daring.

The Film; The Image (a.k.a The Punishment of Anne / The Mistress and the Slave)

The Year; 1975

Directed by; Radley Metzger

The Country; USA (locational exterior shooting in Paris, Interior shot New York and Long Island)

The Music; Stock Music (Unknown)

Available on DVD from ‘Synapse Films’. Region 1 only,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An Excellent review.Has convinced me that I must get hold of the DVD


6/07/2011 12:49 pm  
Blogger Laurence Niblick said...

It truly is a must see movie . It is possibly one of the best films ever made. A Bold, bold statement but a true must see !!!!

7/01/2011 10:39 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home