JOY (1983)
Director: Sergio Bergonzelli
Severin Films

No doubt looking to capitalize on the success of EMMANUELLE, director Sergio Bergonzelli, perhaps best known for helming the delirious IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH, took French author Joy Laurey’s series of erotic novels, adapted them for the silver screen and delivered one Hell of a tawdry tale. Filled with impressive set pieces, excessive nudity and a protagonist with more baggage than the Atlanta International airport on a holiday weekend, JOY follows the sexual exploits and ever developing “Daddy Issues” of a young fashion model whose lust for life is shadowed only by her horrible taste in men.

Growing up without a father figure has profoundly impacted Joy’s (Claudia Udy, SKULLDUGGERY) life. From the day her father abandoned her and her mother, Joy has been trying to fill a void, usually with men. Regrettably, multiple sexual partners have yet to help Joy find solace in her life but she isn’t about to let a string of bad choices stop her from making even worse ones. One evening while touring an art gallery with her boyfriend of the moment, Joy catches the eye of Marc (Gérard-Antoine Huart, THE BLOOD ROSE), an older gentleman who with very little effort convinces the slender model to ditch her beau and spend the rest of the night with him. So begins a tumultuous relationship between Marc and Joy built solely on their sexual compatibility. Marc is looking for a promiscuous girl who is up for anything and Joy could not fill that order any more perfectly. Be it flaunting her privates in an exclusive, upscale performance art gallery or serving as an underground sex dungeon plaything, Joy is up for just about anything.

As much as Marc loves having a living sex toy, he is also interested in engaging conversation which is why he keeps a girl on the side. Unhappy with sharing her man with another woman, Joy looks for escape in her work. Traveling to an absolutely breathtaking Mexican beach, Joy poses for a series of adverts that prove to be a firestorm back home in France. With her nude picture on billboards all over Paris, Joy becomes an instant hot topic and is thrust into the spotlight as the new face of feminine confidence and beauty. Traveling to New York, Joy’s new found celebrity continues to open her up to new opportunities such as a staring role in director George Miller’s (No, not that one) new action crime drama but fame and fortune are not enough to make Joy feel whole. She still longs for a male companion, even one who is a royal douche bag.

Looking back at the 1980s, I don’t so much feel a sense of nostalgia as I do sympathy. Why didn’t somebody tell us how ridiculous we looked? The bad 1980s hair and fashion faux pas in JOY all but prove my point as to why we are all better off for putting the whole decade behind us but it also fascinates as a time capsule of excess. Filmed in Paris, New York, Toronto and Mexico, JOY features set pieces both bizarre and inspired, however, they all share one thing in common, they are usually filled with eccentric, often pompous background players. Extras span the gamut from an impoverished looking artist spouting pretentious poetry while wearing panties on his head to a leather clad dominatrix. Such an interesting cast of side players keeps JOY from ever getting boring even if you want to slap one or two of them, Marc included for acting so holier than thou, and help to keep the film's run time (110 minutes) from feeling weighed down.

As JOY’s titular character, Claudia Udy, who would continue to disrobe for the camera in such films as NIGHT FORCE and OUT OF CONTROL, never fails to amaze at her willingness to be filmed in an compromising situation. A leggy blondie, Claudia clearly has no qualms about nudity and for the most part does an amicable job portraying a confused woman still reeling over the loss of her father. Claudia delves into some pretty dark places as Joy, at times placing herself in sexual situations that would cause pause for even the most open-minded individual. The pictures opens with Joy having a fun, sensual tumble in bed with Marc but their sexual shenanigans quickly escalate, ending with the “Secret Orgy Dungeon” sequence, presented here for the first time in America, in which Joy takes on four guys at once while Marc watches. This sweaty scene proves as a counterpoint to a previous scenario in which, while in New York, Joy witnesses a tantric yoga orgy providing the viewer with both the potentially enlightening and psychologically damming aftermath of group sex. Of course I could be overanalyzing it and both scenes are present simply as a way of showing as much flesh as possible. Yeah, it’s probably the latter.

Presented uncut and uncensored, JOY is on hand in 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The print source looks damn near flawless with a hardly a blemish to be found. Colors are bright and appear accurate and detail is sharp despite many scenes being shrouded in shadows. The Dolby 2.0 French language dialogue track is clean and clear as is the accompanying optional English subtitles. The only extra is an 11-minute interview titled REFLECTIONS OF JOY that allows star Claudia Udy to relive how she became involve with the project, what her father though of the script and the time she bonded with a sea turtle. (Jason McElreath)