I saw this film a few years ago for the first time a couple years ago and didn't quite care for it, but I've decided to give it a second look.
Joy opens innocently enough with a group of "high schoolers," among them a young Sharon Mitchel who plays the title role, who refuses to put out for her boyfriend, instead staying she wants to remain a virgin until marriage. However, when she gets home, she is promptly raped by two Mexicans, but upon the conclusion of the act realizes she just hasn't had enough (!) and begins "raping" men across NYC, resulting in a male "rape" epidemic...
The above synopsis might make this film sound misogynistic, a view I held until I rewatched the film for this review. I suppose this film is a bit misogynistic in concept but its rape infused pretext is actually a metaphor for something much more interesting. The general fear of touching on the part of America. Mitchel's character is initially sexually repressed but when she is [forcibly] liberated, she realizes the true "joy" of a free state of mind. Her resulting actions are not ones of violence, but rather of liberation as she and the other women who follow suite and begin "raping" men are also simply acting on the part of societal sexual liberation.
The film draws an interesting parallel between sexual frustration and violence when a newscaster states that since Joy's attacks began, NYC has been free of violent crime. The irony of this is that Joy's acts are supposed to violent crimes! The implication of this is that her deeds are not ones of violence but almost function as a public service. The film also presents a number of montages of people happily cuddling and kissing in the streets as a result of their new found unabashed desire to love in public.
The world the film implies Joy is creating is Utopian, free of crime and anguish where people are free to make love wherever they wish without the stigma of societal scorn. Relating to that is the film's reccuring displays of public sex which also reinforces the notion of doing away with random and prudish morals.
The brazenly liberal and possibly anarchistic politics with which this film is filled are furthered by the portrayal of the police force as the only people against what Joy is doing. It is also notable that (with the possible exception of the first sex scene) the only actual rape in the film is performed by a policeman. The irony of a policeman being the only one truly guilty of a crime is most telling of the film's agenda, as is the resolution of Joy's case on the part of Jack Teague, who plays Lt. Handcock. **SPOILERS**His telling her to leave town as a means of essentially maintaining the status-quo indicates a couple of things. First, a Utopian society where peace and love prevail over crime and violence would lead to no need for a police force. Second, it more metaphorically shows government's preference for it's citizens to be unhappy so because if people were completely happy and satisfied with their lives, there would be no need for any government.**END SPOILERS**
What's more is the absolute technical perfection with which Joy is shot. Credited to one "Harley Mansfield," the director's real identity remains a mystery to this day, although the most likely culprit is the great Chuck Vincent. The film bears many similarities to Vincent's comedies of the period and his love of New York locations. Furthermore, the block on which Jerry Butler kisses V. Hart in Vincent's Rommates is shot on here numerous times and Vincent's editor James MacReading cut this pic using a silly pseudonym. In any case, Joy is a wonderfully made and extremely well thought out underrated classic of the 1970s. See it!
Very good! I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the transfer of this film is. Although taken off a tape as evidenced by occasional dropouts, the color and the contrast is sharp. sadly, the film is zoomed a bit much, cutting off the edges of the picture. It is also presented open matte when it should be matted at 1.85:1. For these reasons, I'm deducting a couple stars.
Sadly no related extras. This would have been a very fine film for a commentary track or even a bloody interview with someone, ANYONE involved, if for no other reason than to shed some light on who is really behind this film.
Considering the nature of this film, I am happy to report ZERO cuts!
A fine and very underrated cerebral masterpiece that offers a lot more to chew on than meets the eye, but is sure to delight no matter how deep it is read into.