Monday, June 16, 2008

Movie Review: The Exchange Student

Lupus Pictures (released in 2004)

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
English girl, Czech cane

Victim Appeal:
Are you kidding? This is the first film appearance of Niki Flynn. Not only does this mean that the victim appeal is off the frigging scale, it also makes "The Exchange Student" an important historical document. If you are a fan of hers, you should definitely see this (in the unlikely case that you haven't already). If you are not a fan, then there is something seriously wrong with you and you are different and strange. All your spanko friends think that Niki Flynn is awesome. You have no sense of taste. Get away from my blog.

While the birth of the werewolf is the main attraction here, that is to take nothing away from Denisa Petráková and Eva Šulistová, two brave and pretty girls who turn in good supporting performances.

Gratuitous Sadism:
There is a healthy amount of sadism here, both in the physical and the psychological department. Niki, playing the title role of an English student at a 1930s Czech school, receives the brunt of it. As the movie opens, she meekly enters the headmaster's office where she has been sent for corporal punishment. Little does she know that the guy hanging around there is actually an insurance agent waiting to sell a policy! When he realizes that she is mistaking him for the headmaster, the inventive salesman decides to brighten up his day a bit and canes the girl himself.

Later on, she encounters the deputy director who repeats the chastisement - after all, the headmaster is not around and only the proper authorities are allowed to wield the cane, so the student's protests "("But I've already been punished!") fall on deaf ears. Tough luck. But she also finds a sympathetic ally: when the deputy director learns that the exchange student got in trouble for fighting with other girls who were constantly picking on her, the bullies end up getting their own share of CP action.

Niki gets 25 strokes from the insurance agent turned fake headmaster, and another 12 from the deputy director. The other two girls receive 40 strokes each. The canings are severe, as per the usual Lupus standard, but not ridiculously so. Satisfying welts all around.

Best Reactions:
When it comes to the reactions to the actual punishment, I'd have to pick one of the supporting girls, the blonde "bully" student. Her tears and cries of pain, delivered in the semi-restrained manner I so love, are a solid delight.

However, in terms of acting / reacting to the situation, Niki takes the prize. The buildup of her first caning scene, with the insurance agent, is especially memorable. Her meek deer-in-the-headlights look turns to sheer terror when the agent orders her to take not just the panties, but all her clothes off: "I can't, Sir! Not in front of you! It wouldn't be proper!" Needless to say, the pleas are futile. Later on, another surprise lies in store when she learns that she will get 25 strokes instead of the standard English 6 of the best. Niki protests with a desperate "No, six! Sest! Sest!", and again, her delivery of the scripted dialogue is so effortlessly in-character and intense that it truly elevates the scene.

Best Line:
"All dress must down!" The salesman, explaining the intricacies of the Czech punishment ritual to a rather stunned exchange student. When she doesn't comply immediately, he reiterates: "All! Must! Dress! Down! And now! And schnell!"

Nice Psychological Touch:
There are two aspects of the story which I enjoyed immensely. First, the cunning insurance agent pretending to be the headmaster. Which is a devious little prank in itself, and moreover, he savours every minute of it - forcing the student to strip down completely, ogling her body with unashamed glee, dishing out a rather draconian thrashing. What could be sweeter than the abuse of power? Why, the abuse of pretended power, of course. Afterwards, inspecting her bottom, the salesman cheerfully remarks: "Stripes are really in this year!" Knowing full well that the girl doesn't understand him, anyway.

What I like about this plot twist is how the empathy works both ways. On the one hand, we identify with the agent. Sure, he plays a dirty trick, but who wouldn't? Every CP enthusiast in the world would be tempted, certainly with a girl like Niki. Besides, selling insurance is dull as dishwater, so who wants to begrudge the guy a little fun. On the other hand, even as you giggle at her misfortune, you can't help but feel sympathy for the poor exchange student, too. Especially when she has to go through the ordeal again with the deputy director. Not fair, is it?

But in the end, all this is counterbalanced, to a degree, by the two bullies receiving their well-deserved punishment. Since I'm a fan of comeuppance scenarios, that is the other aspect I particularly liked. Not only does the exchange student get to watch while her tormentors are caned. Afterwards, upon the orders of the deputy director, they kneel in front of their victim and apologize for the pain they have caused. The student, her troubles avenged, sits above the contrite girls in quiet contentment and savours their humiliation with a smug grin. At last, justice has been served.

How Good Is It Really?
Lupus Pictures always deliver good work, and this is one of their finest efforts. The customary love of detail and intensity are all there. The story proves that, with the help of a few creative ideas, you can do something fresh and inspired with a fairly standard schoolgirl setting. In addition to the aforementioned plot twists, we get a flashback sequence of the exchange student being tormented by the other girls, with her talking to the camera. That was a wonderful little gag which brought me flashes of Annie Hall. At the end of the movie, there is even a bit of political satire with Hitler, Chamberlain and the Munich conference.

In short, "The Exchange Student" bristles with ideas, and the chemistry between the players is great, too. Niki Flynn gives her debut, which in itself makes the film worth watching. Compared to her other collaborations with Lupus, this is probably the lightest (in terms of severity) and most light-hearted one (in terms of story). I know, it's a bit of an oxymoron, but what I am trying to say is this: even if you happen to be one of the gentler spankos out there, who doesn't get all misty-eyed and gleeful watching a werewolf-style caning, you should still give this movie a try. It's a classic and there is no excuse for not having seen it.

What You Learned:
"The Exchange Student" is responsible for my long-held erroneous belief that Niki is English. A classic confusion of actress and role that was finally cleared up for me when we became penpals (she's American). And one of the first things I learned then was that it wasn't such a bad blunder, actually - she told me that many people think she is Czech, and that she gets charming emails complimenting her on her English!


Anonymous said...

I do agree - it's certainly one of the best Lupus movies ever :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, a great film that put Ms Flynn firmly on the spanko map. I suspect that the satire is there in some of the other films, too, although likely to be lost on viewers who don't speak Czech. (e.g. The class sneak who shares the christian name of President Havel's rather unpopular second missus, the stroppy student, Benesova, who hums the Internationale, and gets the headmaster singing it, and also has the surname - in feminine form - of a prominent interwar politician.)

Anonymous said...

Just found your great blog and will come back often. My, how I love to bend over for a severe caning on my bare bottom... just love it... from the pain, to the pretty velts... always make me so aroused... mmmmmmmm just can't get enough... ;-)

Take care,
tina of Sweden

Anonymous said...

Ah, fond memories. Thanks for such a lovely and kind review, Ludwig. But don't think your honeyed words will get you out of that 30 strokes you've got coming... ;-)

Ludwig said...

My "honeyed words" are exactly what the movie deserves, nothing more, nothing less. I pride myself on being an impartial reviewer. Doesn't matter if you are a friend of mine - if you are in a crappy movie, I'll say so.

Well, actually... What I'd do in such a case is, I wouldn't review the flick in the first place. I'd much rather spend my time on the ones I like.

As for your tree... err, threats: thanks so much for reminding me of my impending comeuppance (as if I could forget). One thing is for sure, though: I'm not going to scream hysterically like you did in the movie reviewed above. Sorry, but I'm not squeamish, you know.