Monday, March 19, 2018

The Art of Loving - Story of Michalina Wislocka [dir. Maria Sadowska]

Michalina Wislocka (Magdalena Boczarska) was a Polish Gynecologist / Sexologist who in the 70's put out a taboo-breaking book of sexual advice called The Art of Loving (known in its English edition as A Practical Guide to Marital Bliss). She wrote it out of frustration of having to deal with a huge number of unwanted teenage pregnancies and botched abortions, and battled a double-whammy of culturally (and sexually) repressive socialist regime and orthodox church to get it published. Wislocka herself had an off-the-beaten-track personal life, coexisting in a threesome with husband Stach (Piotr Adamczyk) and best friend Wanda (Justyna Wasilewska), which eventually led to domestic conflagrations and the severing of ties.

Art of Loving moves back and forth between three major time-lines: the 40's, when she was in her unusual marital arrangement with Stach and Wanda, the 60's where in the course of providing her services across the country she meets and has a passionate affair with the sexually liberated but caring family man Jurek (Eryk Lubos), and the 70's where as a middle-aged rebel she pushes hard against an obdurate openly hostile bureaucracy to publish the book that would eventually go on to sell 7 million copies and revolutionize the intimate lives of the common Polish people.

The film is written to be a crowd-pleaser, with Wislocka presented almost as a haloed saint of sexual liberation. While her personal issues (especially with bringing up the children she and Wanda bore with Stach) are touched upon, they are forgotten after a point to focus on portraying her as a champion of secular love. The sex scenes in the film are portrayed with glamorous angles and soft focus, and all the naked flesh (female and male) seems to have been vetted for its photogenic quality. The back-and-forth between time-lines gets tiring after a while and one feels that at least one of the periods should have been shortened and referred to in hearsay rather than actual time-jumps. The Art of Loving is beautifully shot with pretty color schemes, and manages to be an inoffensive though not very emotionally engaging entertainer.

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