Invisibility was the destiny of Cavallone’s next films. Shot in Summer 1979 and released in May ’80, Blow Job – Soffio erotico (1980: once again a Warholian title, even though the original was supposed to be La strega ...展开nuda/The Naked Witch) was an extremely rushed production14. Shooting originally had to take place entirely in a villa near Riolo, in North-East Italy, near the city of Faenza15. But after one of the producers committed suicide during filming, Cavallone had to radically rethink the project, as he suddenly found himself with no money at all. The extreme poverty shows throughout the film, and it’s sad to see how the director had to work virtually with nothing. Yet the result is strangely fascinating. Technically, Blow Job is hardcore porn, since it does feature several explicit sex scenes. Nevertheless, it is the closest Cavallone came to make a gothic horror movie: at times, it almost looks like a thinking man’s version of a Luigi Batzella film (think of Nuda per Satana, 1974, for instance). Its complex, Escherian plot deserves a detailed summary.
The opening sequence is truly unsettling in itself: the first images show the park of a luxurious villa, with secular trees under a rainstorm, then a subjective camera enters a squalid hotel hall, accompanied by a gloomy music, like a sort of malevolent, eerie present: the film’s two main settings are introduced and shown as strictly complementary – a hint at what will follow. Cut to a naked couple in a room: actors Stefano Vicinelli (Danilo Micheli) and Diana (Anna Massarelli) don’t have the money to pay the bill. With an embarassed phone call, the hotel clerk asks them to pay the hotel fee and leave. Meanwhile, upstairs, a woman is menaced by someone or something unseen. She screams and cries for help, then jumps out of the window. The aftermath of her fall looks like an outtake from Joe D’Amato film, with intestines spilled all over the pavement. ("Hey," Stefano says, "it looks like somebody threw a bowl of spaghetti upside down!"). Stefano and Diana take advantage of the ensuing chaos and leave. At a racetrack, Stefano meets a scarred woman in her forties, Angela (Anna Bruna Cazzato), who helps him pick a winning horse, and in return asks them a ride to her villa in the countryside: she wants Dario to help her "pass the gate". During the trip they meet a trio of surreal characters, while Stefano glimpses – and it’s an impressive, eerie moment – a biker whose head looks like a skull. At the villa, a sinister-looking, equally scarred butler, Alphonse (Valerio Isidori16) awaits them. Then, even stranger things ensue. Angela puts a spell on Diana, who gets inexplicably ill; Stefano goes looking for a doctor and meets a young, beautiful woman named Sibilla (Mirella Venturini), who gives him a magic powder to cure Diana. Blow Job’s second half conveys a weird dreamlike quality. Angela and Diana leave Stefano alone in the villa and leave for a ball: in the middle of the night Sibilla comes out of a mirror and takes Stefano to a cave, where she hypnotizes him and they makes love. Cavallone was especially proud of the sequence, especially the 360° shots following Sibilla as she moves in circles around the man, like a predator.
Another beautiful, eerie moment is the scene where Stefano, in pitch black darkness, finds himself surrounded by a group of old men carrying candles who start waltzing around him; when lights turn on, a ball is revealed to be taking place in the villa’s huge salon: the dancers – many of whom wear grotesque masks – are reflected on mirrors all over a wall and Alphonse operates a bull’s eye on the participants. Apparently, Stefano is in two different places at the same time: in the cave with Sibilla and at the villa, with a naked Diana seemingly in a hypnotic trance, dancing with the invited in turn, regardless of him. The mysterious biker arrives, and turns out to be a woman with a skull mask: she starts dancing too – a tribal, primitive dance – and all those she passes by drop down dead, until she and Diana are the only ones left in the room. Diana gets mad at Stefano – she utters the same words as the suicidal woman at the film’s beginning – and falls out of a window. Stefano is left alone with Angela: it turns out that she and Sibilla are one and the same, a powerful witch who absorbs her lovers’ energy in order to reincarnate into a new body. Stefano confronts and apparently destroys them by breaking the salon’s huge mirror.
He then suddenly finds himself back at the hotel. The woman who has committed suicide is revealed to be Diana. Among the crowd, Stefano glimpses Sibilla and Alphonse, staring at him. This circular, enigmatic ending is a powerful, absurdist coup-de-theatre that somehow recalls the work of David Lynch in the way it shatters both the film’s narrative and the audience’s perception. As Sibilla repeatedly says, reason must be left aside in order to understand events ("Get rid of the brain. That’s what prevents you to see the cosmic dance we are playing"), while throughout the movie Stefano is told that he is not free, that everything was predestined since the beginning.
Blue Movie was a stark, grim and matter of fact view on contemporary world; Blow Job, on the other hand, is metaphysical and elusive, even escapist. It’s as if Cavallone lost interest in the everyday world and concentrated on his own spiritual side: the film is filled with striking literary references that vary from Carlos Castaneda’s writings to Aldous Huxley’s essay on drugs, "The Doors of Perception". As Cavallone stated, "the whole film was focused on the possibility of escaping from our own bodies, by modifying sensorial perceptions through the use of drugs or self-concentration." Yet, at one point Sibilla says: "The world is tired, its end is near, people have lost the will of life…." No wonder that the film’s main characters are desperately void inside. Stefano says: "I have many air bubbles in my head .. Many white air bubbles."
Blow Job is a fascinating oddity: puzzling, scaring, even darkly comical at times. As in Blue Movie, absurd off-screen voices are used as a commentary and a counterpart to the characters’ deadpan behaviour: at the racetrack, for instance, an annoying announcer keeps repeating that a boy got lost and is waiting for his mother: soon, it will be Stefano and Diana’s turn to get lost; there’s even room for one truly grim sight gag in the final scene as a cop picks up Diana’s offals from the pavement with his bare hands and puts them in a plastic bag, while indifferently talking to Stefano.
Despite its technical faults, continuity errors and miserable budget, Blow Job is technically more accomplished than Blue Movie and is perhaps the full expression of the director’s mystical and esoteric interests. But the filmic imagery is also extremely sharp, echoing Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (1950) with the recurring character of the skull/biker, and Buñuel’s Cet Obscure object du desir (1977) with the dual appearence of the witch. The result is one of the director's best.