Roman Polanski described it as "the ribald adventures of an innocent girl". Critics called it "an amoral, depraved disaster". More than four decades after its controversial release, it remains the most butchered, debated and least-seen film of the Oscar-winning director's entire career. The succulent Sydne Rome stars as an oft-naked American girl lost inside a Mediterranean villa inhabited by priests, pianists, peverts and a syphilitic pimp (a deliciously bizarre performance by Marcello Masfroianni) while indulging in madcap acts of gang rape, sodomy and ping-pong.
Weird and irreverent sex farce
- What? review by JO
Film follows the adventures of an attractive young American woman alone in Rome. In the opening scenes she suffers an attempted rape and 'escapes' to a secluded Villa owned by an elderly lecher. She mixes with a depraved bunch of horny perverts and indulges in bizarre sadomasochistic ordeals with Marcelo Mastroiani. Admittedly the tiger whipping scene is one of the few highlights.
'What?' is a depraved movie which takes as much delight in treating Sydne Rome as a sex object as the characters do. I couldn't see the point to this film other than to gratuitously exploit the assets of the beautiful actress. It's more sick than funny. It showcases some major recurring themes in Polanski's work - particularly sexual obsession - but the handling is too light and irreverent. It's also not funny or witty enough to be considered a satire (but it seems to aspire to some sort of social commentary). There's no moral compass at all in this picture and the director seems to be filming his own perverted desires. Maybe that's the point. It's really like a warped, oversexed 'Alice in Wonderland' which soon grows tiresome. Worth it if you are an ardnent fan of the director.