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Viva (Unrated Version) 
Written by: on February 4th, 2009

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 2007
Director/Editor/Writer: Anna Biller
Cast: Anna Biller, Jared Sanford, Bridget Brno, Chad England, Marcus DeAnda, John Klemantaski, Paolo Davanzo, Barry Morse, Cole Chipman, Robbin Ryan, Carole Balkan, Andrea Lain, Johnny Holiday, Veronica Alicino, Sam Bologna, Barry O’Rourke, Germán Legarreta, Mark Wood, Rob Scott

DVD released: February 24th, 2009
Approximate running time: 121 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95

Synopsis: Bonnie Smith’s husband likes to go away on ‘business trips’ by himself and leave her alone and neglected. When he goes off again she samples the free-swinging culture of the mid-seventies and transforms from mild mannered housewife into ‘Viva’ – a Russ Meyeresque vixen.

This is a homage and a parody of 70’s lifestyles, fashion, movies, and wigs. Sort of a cross between Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and a Russ Meyer opus (especially Vixen). It is always interesting, sometimes surreal, and often quite funny. The nudist colony sequence contains bodacious full frontal nudity by a large collection of both sexes, but mostly the nudity is infrequent and actual sexual activities are more implied than depicted.

The lead, Anna Biller, quite resembles Tura Santana (Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!), and has a great figure to boot. Most impressive are her talents as auteur: writer, director, and star of the film. She was quite canny in her choice of period and setting, and by emulating Russ Meyer rather than Orson Welles sets a goal that she effectively attains.  And though it is intentionally campy, it still boasts a level of competence that keeps it firmly away from Ed Wood territory.

Most of the supporting performances are rather broadly played which suits the caricatures they portray. Bridget Brno, as Bonnie’s best friend and way bad influence, is lovable throughout even during her Jayne Mansfield bubble bath number (song!?). The seventies styled art direction is a character in itself, maybe not as outlandish as some Blaxploitation features, but certainly capturing the same groovy vibe. The funky score starts off in lounge mode, but horns transpose into guitars once Viva manifests herself.

The DVD:

This is a fine anamorphic release and the intense colors are well represented with no bleeding. The audio is clear though dialog seems to be post-synched. Too bad there are no subtitle or close caption options so that everyone can be in on all the great lines. Extras include the theatrical trailer, a slide gallery, and an interview with Anna Biller.

VIVA is available separately in a shorter R-rated theatrical version. Since it is well paced and doesn’t outstay its welcome, this un-rated version seems the way to go.

Also see our pre-release review of Viva here.

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