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SEXUALITY, EROTICISM, PORNOGRAPHY & REPRESSION IN FILM

Bob Stutsman

about 5 years ago

Note: Mature content – viewer discretion is advised – like that ever stops anybody!

Sex: everybody does it, or at least thinks about it, but put sex on film, and all hell can break loose…

I thought this topic might get some action. When considering the thread, The Female Form, I got to thinking about the topic of not only how the female or male form is presented in film, but questions of sexuality, nudity, what is pornographic and what is allowed in film. Explicit sexuality still seems to be a bit of a taboo subject for mainstream film. Because of our current rating system, filmmakers are reluctant to put anything in a film that might give it an X rating. Although pornography and pornographic images are everywhere, there is a fine distinction for what is allowed and not allowed in mainstream film.

Before the Hayes code, Hollywood film was becoming increasingly risqué and eroticized, to titillate its audience of the day. Pre-code films tended to push the boundaries of what was acceptable for the time. They seem tame now, but were risqué then. In fact, it was their suggestive content that brought the Hayes code into existence to appease the more conservative elements of society. Then, only a few daring European films, such as Hedy Lamarr’s notorious Ecstasy, which shows her face as she is having an orgasm, pushed the envelope of what was allowed. It was, of course, banned in the US. Sexuality had to be put into films with clever innuendo, as the films of Mae West and W.C. Fields demonstrate. I remember seeing a delicious Tarzan – of all things – movie where Jane was in a very sparse costume and Tarzan was wearing almost nothing at all, and lots was implied. Somehow, this seemed to be allowed (don’t remember the date or time of this Tarzan, but it was great). Nothing could be shown or alluded to of a sexual nature without this subterfuge. Eroticism was hidden, but could be alluded to in suggestive dialogue – that had to go over the head of the censors. The wonderful Thin Man films did a great job of this, and allowed ample boozing to boot.

In European film in the early sixties, certain taboos were being removed, such as female nudity. Soon, censorship relaxed in the US in the late sixties to allow the same. We had many films coming from Europe, especially France, with female nudity. Brigitte Bardot made a career by showing us her beautiful derriere. We all can remember a well-known shot of this exquisite derriere that Godard was compelled to add onto his film Contempt. It was OK to show a chaste female nude, always shown from a discreet distance and frontal, with no hint of any between the legs action. Men were not usually shot in the nude, because they could be seen to be sexually aroused. No one, seemingly, wanted an erect male member in their film, as this would be like a red flag to the censors. I was surprised myself when I saw Room with a View many years ago, that they actually had a scene, by a swimming hole, of male frontal nudity, and even had the bare men being observed by some giggly females. This was an attempt to bring the sexes into some kind of equality regarding frontal nudity. A few other films followed.

Bergman, true revolutionary that he was, introduced sexual content into his films of the sixties, such as Persona – which has a long explicit monologue about a sexual encounter and The Silence – where one of his female leads is seen masturbating (albeit, discreetly) and another watches a couple openly copulate in a movie theatre. Here was a mainstream director not afraid to deal with sexual material in a realistic way.

Even as erotic a film as Last Tango in Paris, which has lots of female nudity, did not have any equivalent male nudity. Brando is usually shown clothed or semi-clothed, with Maria Schneider prancing around for much of the time with full frontal nudity. At about this same time, films like I am Curious Blue, Yellow, or whatever, were coming out of Sweden, with both ample male and female frontal nudity. With certain court challenges in the US, an industry of more explicit films, given an X rating, became popular with a wide audience. Films like The Green Door and Deep Throat packed them in by showing explicit sexual activity without any pretext. Yet, these films were definitely considered ‘pornographic’ and these same sexual acts could only be alluded to or shot discreetly for mainstream fare.

From the early seventies on, we then had a distinction between discreet nudity and sexuality – always chastely shown – and outright pornography. With a few exceptions, this trend still continues. The French, bless them, have tried their best to try to bridge the gap with many films that have tried to be honest about human sexuality without using explicit pornographic content. The whole Emmanuelle series is a good (or bad) example. Yet, filmmakers today are restricted in what they can and cannot show. We allow any type of language, any level of graphic violence, but explicit sexuality is forbidden. We allow chaste nudity and obviously simulated sex scenes – always shot in the missionary position, so that nothing shows. Anything more explicit is still not allowed, without being slapped with an X rating and being equated as pornographic.

So how do we define pornography in film? Certainly many things are still taboo for mainstream cinema. We cannot have erect male members, open-leg crotch shots of females, or any kind of sexual activity that is obviously not simulated. Penetration or oral sex is right out, along with all sorts of other explicit material. It is OK to show couples copulating – simulated of course – as long as it is done discreetly, without any genitalia showing.

So, since the seventies, we have really not moved that far in terms of allowable sexual content for regular films. I am neither advocating or arguing against increased explicit sexual content in films, but simply wonder, with the huge open proliferation of pornography, on the internet and elsewhere, what are we afraid of when it comes to depiction of sexuality on film?

Is it better to keep things where they are, with a tacit eroticism allowed, or should we open the doors to filmmakers for a more realistic sexual treatment? In crudest terms: should we allow erect members and open crotch shots in scenes that deal with sexual activity in mainstream films? Would the current censorship system preclude this? Should genitalia be excluded or seen? Does it matter? If we allow such images, do we then kill eroticism, which is predicated on using the imagination to fill in the blanks. What do you thing?

Drew.

about 5 years ago

I definitely feel sex should be more accepted in film. When I talk to people about censorship in film they always agree that sex is better than violence but I soon realize after seeing more explicit films with them that they truly don’t feel this way. I have the feeling sex in movies often makes people uncomfortable for many reasons none of which make any sense to me. If a film calls for sex and nudity it looks almost stupid not to have it. And when people are inserted to block sexual acts such as in the theatrical cut of Eyes Wide Shut it is really just childish. It seems people (Americans) are uncomfortable talking about sex and this channels into how they react to films.

Then there is the issue of what is the line for pornography. But honestly is it really hard to tell? If the film is porn chances are the other aspects of the film are not taken very seriously. If the plot is cheesy, the acting is bad, there is no direction, and the film is filled with explicit content than the film is porn. The purpose of porn is purely the sex and to arouse the audience. Films that have sex have other goals. The majority of the films that are filled with sex are not sexy at all (Eyes Wide Shut, Last Tango in Paris, Boogie Nights). I think anyone who confuses films with explicit content and pornography is just plain stupid.

Almost everyone has had sex. The majority of people have never killed another human being. This is both the reason this issue is silly and also maybe the reason the issue exists. People don’t want to deal with something personal.

Filmy

about 5 years ago

I don’t know if it is right or wrong but sure feels good and better to keep things where they are with a tacit eroticism (male or female nudity) and draw a line similar to the way Godard does in Contempt or Wong-kar wai in Chungking Express, that way we still stand on the belief that eroticism is art and sex is personal.

Thorste​n

about 5 years ago

Drew, I think you nailed it. Watching something personal like sex makes the audience feel uncomfortable, being drawn away from that big fantasy machine called cinema towards the real life. Since sex is considdered something people rather do not do in public, they do not want to see it exposed. And they do not want to feel sexually aroused by viewing it while they are sitting in a packed theatre.

But another question is: why bother about making sex more explicit in films? What is the purpose of it? Would it improve the quality of the film? Can a story be told better with full frontal nudity and genitalia in action? What could be achieved artistically that could not be with the already existing means only?

Does the explicitly shown oral sex performed by Kerry Fox in Patrice Chéreaus Intimacy add anything to the film? I mean, I do not feel disturbed by this brief scene, it by no chance does tear the film apart – I just reckon that without it the film would be just as good.

Hardcore scenes tend to distract from the rest of the movie because they simply have the power to arouse audiences (well, the whole porn industry has built an entire business model on this fact), so filmmakers would rather stay away from it.

Nowadays, even (non-erect) male nudity is not seldom seen. Naked people in film do not add up to any scandal any more. If it is possible to show nudity and faked sex scenes, I see no need to hold the details up to the camera, too.

In short, I do believe that today the absence of hardcore sex in mainstream movies has little to do with morals and much with plot efficiency.

Robert trapped in nowhere

about 5 years ago

I agree with Thorsten for the most part. Culturally and biologically, explicit sex tends to have a distracting nature. Of course, there are times when it’s inevitable (I’m think of a movie like Fat Girl, which isn’t pornographically explicit, but necessary to the film).

And while I’m not for censorship, sex is like violence in that it’s all about what you don’t see, and not what you do see. Early films tend to be more erotic than modern explicit films.

Besides, I’d say most films today that feature nudity and sex do so to sell tickets.

Drew.

about 5 years ago

I definitely feel the issue might become that every new movie would have unneeded hardcore sex which is pointless. Sadly some people wouldn’t feel it was fair if the studio/MPAA sad ok Bertolucci your movie needs the nudity for the story, sorry Mr. Bay Optimus Prime’s dick really is unnecessary.

BRAD - E

about 5 years ago

Our society will be outraged about Janet Jackson’s breast flashing, the network will get fined and the news media will drag the event into the ground. Yet, online porn thrives. Personally I think it is a joke how prudish we are about sexuality. Granted children should not be exposed. I think we all would be happier if we were less oppressed and more open about sex. In context to film I have no issue, films like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Don’t Look Now and even Forgetting Sarah Marshall used sex and sexuality to great advantage. As a society, I think we all would be alot happier if we got laid more and did not hide the fact that we are horny. We are animals after all.

witkacy

about 5 years ago

Thanks, Bob, for starting this thread and for starting it with such a thorough introduction…

This topic is fresh for me because my last public movie-going experience was Watchmen; and it wasn’t the silly & typically chaste “sex” scene that made an impression, but rather the squirmy, giggly audience response to Dr. Manhattan’s dick. (I was so disturbed by the penis disturbance that I was slightly less distracted by the usual peripheral glare of opening/closing cellphones.) A kid sitting next to me made a great show at one point – to shore up his hetero bona fides, and to make it perfectly clear to his little friends that he’s No Homo – of using his hand to block his vision of the offending CG-generated dick. And only imagine that these squirming, modest folk are the ones who’ll pay for an R-rated movie—that is, that they’re not of the censorious, abstemious churchgoing cohort. I was made to feel, once again, that in the U.S. of the 21st century we’ve budged not one bit out of our barbarity, in this regard…

But with regard to explicit sex in a feature film, I don’t think it’s essentially “distracting” as Robert said – not at all. John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus is for instance a very affecting film, and is thoroughly hardcore. There are many parts of the film which are deeply intimate in ways that catch you off-guard (e.g. when James talks about his start as a hustler). Chéreau’s film Intimacy is also deeply affecting and not in the least sunk by the explicit sex in the film. Oshima of course laid down a gauntlet, with In the Realm of the Senses; and again I fail to see how the range of sex and finally bloody sexual mutilation in that film weakens it. Same with von Trier’s great film The Idiots (which for its two seconds of onscreen unsimulated fucking was miserably distributed in the U.S.). Same I think with Breillat’s Anatomy of Hell.

The matter of audience “distraction” at the sight of certain body parts (and the erotic charge of any particular part of the body varies of course between cultures) isn’t a matter of cinematic narrative form. There isn’t an aesthetics of modest privacy or forbearance or tasteful concealment: those were always concerns of barbarians disturbed generally by art’s potential to depict our frank experience. Cocks were smashed off of priceless pagan statuary because spectators were disturbed. The Puritans closed and then demolished Shakespeare’s Globe Theater because they were disturbed. And let’s not forget that as recently as the 20th century (!) copies of Joyce’s Ulysses were interdicted because, among other things, some people were disturbed by the occurrence of “shite” and by Molly sitting on the toilet.

We’ll always be plagued by our Comstocks, Lord Chamberlains, and Bowldlers in the form of the MPAA and the like, the barbarians who’d like to bring art to heel. But it’s incumbent for the sake of cinema’s maturity and its value relative to the other arts for audiences also to develop and to mature. And I say this without any hope that it’ll happen very soon…

Harry Long

about 5 years ago

Just as with any subject, sex can be handled well or not in a film. One can have the sleaziness of XXX porn where the sole purpose is to depict the goings-on in a mnner strictly designed to arouse the viewer to masturbate to orgasm. Or one can have the same degree of graphic depiction as in SHORTBUS where the scenes do add to our understanding of the characters. There will always be artists who can use a tool well and hacks or incompetents who can’t and sleazemerchants who take advantage of the tool.
And yes, a lot more honesty about sexuality in films would not be a bad thing.

Col. Dax

about 5 years ago

This is a complex issue and not one so easily defined as, “…anyone who confuses films with explicit content and pornography is just plain stupid,” or that those that don’t necessarily want to see explicit sex in films are barbarians. There is a part of American culture that is very repressed, but in the end sex is a private matter. It’s use in film should be treated realistically to be used to it’s fullest effect (as with anything in film, really), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be explicit. Suggestive sex is fine, too. I seriously doubt many people would be as comfortable with sex if it was shown realistically, in fact. I think if the average everyday couple were seen having explicit sex in film that there would be a much smaller number of people heralding it as a necessity, and something that shouldn’t make us so uncomfortable. It’s extremely easy to say I have no problem with explicit scenes when the actors are the Bardot’s, and Wahlberg’s of the world. Pretty people having sex is something every single person wants to see.

I’m not saying explicit sex is something that should be shunned, indeed, it’s something that should be welcomed in a film that calls for it (In the Realm of the Senses comes to mind), but it’s not something that needs to be in many films. I’m perfectly happy with sex being suggested in films, it’s more fulfilling anyway. Like Drew said earlier, “the majority of the films that are filled with sex are not sexy at all.” Take the singular sex scene in the wonderful Maborosi, the sex is completely suggested, and the scene is about as erotic, and arousing as any in all of cinema.

witkacy

about 5 years ago

It may be that the super-utilitarianism of porn – it’s direct, it’s quick, it’s free or else when sold it’s marketed more efficiently than anything else online – has obviated graphic sexual content in feature films, for the people who would even be looking for the experience. You can sooner find whatever very specific or peculiar sexual spectacle you want than you can find the right brand of jelly or beans in the supermarket. The virtue of the best non-porn feature films is that they are never so susceptible to commercial categorization and direct marketing.

Robert trapped in nowhere

about 5 years ago

Just a quick word about my calling it “distracting.” I agree that in movies like Shortbus or In the Realm of the Senses, where sexuality is at the very core of the film, that it is not distracting but essential and involving.

And I also agree that the distraction factor isn’t an aesthetic judgment but a cultural one. Culturally we’re bred to notice someone naked before someone clothed. This is in part because of our puritanical/sex-obsessed paradoxical nature.

Matt Parks

about 5 years ago

For the sake of pinpointing where in the the repression comes in to the process, just wanted to make a bit of a distinction between films as shot by filmmakers and films as they actually arrive at theaters:

It’s actually fairly common for films to receive NC-17 ratings as delivered by the filmmakers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NC-17_rated_films

but most of these films get recut, often due to contractual obligations to deliver an R rated film, because NC-17 historically are viewed as box office poison.

So perhaps it has nearly as much to do with cutting out a huge part of the potential audiences for a film as it does with actual prudishness?

witkacy

about 5 years ago

No, Col. Dax, I’m not suggesting that anybody who doesn’t want to see explicit sex is a “barbarian”! The idea couldn’t be further from my mind. Yes, I believe in barbarism and philistinism – dirt-ignorance, by any other name – but I don’t think that being cultured or literate or worldly involves having the stomach for cursing, sex, whatever. There are a hell of a lot of books and films without a bit of provocative content but which no cultured person can safely skip (I’m thinking for instance of Jane Austen). Many of my favorite films are family-friendly and absolutely without sexual content (I love Carroll Ballard, and Bill Forsyth, for instance). By the same token, I would not make a general recommendation for any & all to see Shortbus, Anatomy of Hell , etc.

I would, however, be quick to label as a “barbarian” any male old enough to buy a ticket for Watchmen who titters & squirms at the sight of a naked male character onscreen in a totally non-sexual context. We’re so puffed up, here, with our own putative cultural superiority over the people of benighted places like Afghanistan, that we see nothing of our own barbarity…

Bob Stutsman

about 5 years ago

Thanks to everyone who has posted so far for their insights and perspectives. I am glad we have posters who can take on this topic seriously and reflectively. Generally, my own perspective is that explicit sexuality is only necessary in films where it adds to or helps us understand the story it is telling – as the excellent examples of films mentioned above. As I have yet to see some of these, I can’t comment on specific films until I have seen them. One thing I would hate to see is a return to any more repressive and censorious treatment of sexuality than we now have. When I recently re-watched Midnight Cowboy, for example, the film box claimed it is the only X-rated film to ever be awarded a best picture Oscar. Unless my copy was somehow censored, I couldn’t find anything in the film that merited an X-rating. Yet, one tiny scene, perhaps essential to the story, could still give any film an X-rating – as obviously happened to Midnight Cowboy. A film such as Last Tango in Paris, which is, after all, about a casual sexual affair, had great difficulty with censorship in its North American release, but was eventually shown. I saw it at the time, and hopefully, I saw a complete version, not one censored or with scenes deleted. I think everyone would agree that we don’t want scenes deleted or doctored just to achieve a wider release. Von Trier’s The Idiots is an excellent example, as I, for one, have yet to see the film due to its limited release – and we all know why that is. I am against all forms of hypocrisy and repression when it comes to any sexual content in films – period.

Saying that, I don’t think it at all necessary to move suddenly to more explicit sexual content for every film out there. For most films and filmmakers, the status quo is probably fine, as long as scenes aren’t cut just because of censorship issues. I don’t think every major actor out there would be comfortable with explicit, un-faked sex scenes over simulated ones. As Drew and others have mentioned, sex is personal and not something many, outside of the porn industry, would be comfortable doing ‘in public’ or in front of a camera. I respect the privacy of actors as much as anybody and don’t want anyone to have to do scenes they are personally uncomfortable doing. I don’t want any kind of double standard re male and female nudity or depictions of sexuality of any kind, favouring one type of sexuality over another. Let’s be frank and open, so that we don’t get into those situations of the Janet Jackson absurd fiasco, as if the glimpse of a breast represents the downfall of Western civilization – come on! Hypocrisy is everywhere, especially in North America. This type of hypocrisy and false modesty needs to be exposed (pun intended) for what it is – repression and Victorianism – pure unadulterated prudishness.

On to another correlated topic: does explicit sexuality in any kind of film take away from erotic content? One of the posters mentioned one of my favourtie films above: Unbearable Lightness of Being. This film has lots of nudity (mainly female) and some simulated sex. All are artfully handled and done to be erotic without being explicit. I saw the film in a theatre, with adults, and no one was giggly or making silly gestures or comments – fortunately. The audience I was with, my wife, and the couple we were with, could all handle it. I thought the film arousing, as I did Last Tango in Paris when I saw it in a theatre, and everyone seemed to be able to handle the erotic content then, too. When I saw a pornographic film in a theatre – of virtually ‘no redeeming social value’, as it used to be defined – it was with some young male friends who were titillated and in a theatre with mostly empty seats and men in overcoats. You get the picture. It was very unpleasant and unstimulating. There was nothing erotic or at all rewarding in what we were watching. Yet, it was explicit, all right, and very poorly acted and filmed. It was an experience I did NOT want to repeat, whereas seeing a film as good and well-made as Unbearable Lightness of Being was completely enjoyable and exhilirating – and had members of both sexes in the audience. What I am saying is that eroticism in films, by appealing to that side of our sexual imagination, can be far more rewarding and stimulating than graphic porn.

Yet, I would never take away the right of any filmmaker to show what they need to in any film, even if that required explicit sexual content. Perhaps the bottom line is, we need to use discretion and balance in any depiction of human sexuality, but recognize that this very personal form of self-expression needs to be far removed from censorious and prudish condemnation. The great Bergman would agree – thank goodness for the French, Swedish, and other more enlightened societies.

Great discussion folks, let it continue.

BRAD - E

about 5 years ago
What really makes me laugh is when the MPAA deems a film too explicit for theatres and a studio ends up cutting it, only to have a restored ‘unrated’ edition released months later on DVD.

Wouldn’t you think that the film would be more accessible on DVD? And why is it all of the sudden not objectionable?

Thorste​n

about 5 years ago

just to make another list ;-)
so far i can count 6 recent films with hardcore scenes: the already mentioned Shortbus, Intimacy and Idiots; and Romance (C. Breillat, with pornstar Rocco Siffredi; Anatomy of Hell I have not seen – is it explicit, too? Breillats newes, Bluebeard, surely is not), Baise-Moi (a brutal rape), Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas, with a fellatio in the final scene).

This are the ones I know of, and they are not many. So I do not think the whole topic is much of an issue. In all of the examples, except maybe Battle in Heaven, the explicit sex makes totally sense with regards to the topic of the film. But for example the wonderful Cloud 9 by german director Andreas Dresen deals with sex and older couples, but does not show more than nudity. So there are always other ways to make a point.

Harry Long

about 5 years ago

>>When I recently re-watched Midnight Cowboy, for example, the film box claimed it is the only X-rated film to ever be awarded a best picture Oscar. Unless my copy was somehow censored, I couldn’t find anything in the film that merited an X-rating.<<
And yet the film is the same one that was initially given an X rating. Like another initially X-rated film, EASY RIDER, the rating was later relaxed to an R without any changes. X was intially meant asa legitimate designation for truly adult material & by that I mean thematically, not just the amount of flesh or number of uses of the f-word. The porn industry which, for obvious reasons, never submitted their films to be rated (or almost never – some of the early attempt to legitimize porn [DEEP THROAT, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES, BOYS IN THE SAND, L.A. PLAYS ITSELF…] may have been submitted to the MPAA) soon found merely self-tagging their produc as X didn’t differentiate itself enough & so came up with the triple X.
Much later the MPAA was trying to re-legitimze the single X rating and tried talking the distribution company for CRIMES OF PASSION (Vestron?) to release it as an X. Ken Russell kept trying to edit it down to an R & the MPAA kept telling him that it wasn’t any particular scene that was X, it was the premise of the film & if Vestron insisted on making it an R, they’d ruin the film. Fortunately I have the DVD that has the silhouettes on the wall sex scene (though how that made for an X is beyond me) and don’t have to see it ruined.

BRAD - E

about 5 years ago

In the case of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, it was made with nothing but respect for the viewers and was made for adults. Phil Kaufman and the actors did set out to make a film about sex. It is about sexual freedom, infidelity, voyeurism, intimacy and how it affects them politically and emotionally. The film really captured the essence of the book in my opinion. Since it was not a mainstream film I think it was able to be filmed as it should.

There was a period of time during the late 60’s into the mid 70’s when Hollywood was able to produce films with sexual expression. Films like “Midnight Cowboy”, “Last Tango”, “Shampoo”,“Don’t Look Now”, “Women in Love” are example of then-Hollywood films that had non-exploitive sexuality that was enhanced by the characters and situations. The 1980’s (Reagan era) began a wave of ultra-conservatism that started to effect how sex was treated in film and society.

witkacy

about 5 years ago

Thorsten – add Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs to the list.

Harry Long

about 5 years ago

>>The 1980’s (Reagan era) began a wave of ultra-conservatism that started to effect how sex was treated in film and society.<,
I’m not sure it didn’t begin a few years before that. A more conservative mood to the country that allowed for th election of Reagan.

BRAD - E

about 5 years ago

True. I think it began around the mid-70’s, after Watergate and Vietnam.

The only sex acceptable in mainstream film was in a cartoonish representation.(Porky’s, Animal House, etc.)

Thorste​n

about 5 years ago

Ah, yes, Witkacy, how could I forget 9 Songs. Liked it quite a bit.
Also coming to my mind: La vie de Jésus by Bruno Dumont. His later Twentynine Palms has a brutal sex scene but not explicit if I remember correctly.

Jake Howell

about 5 years ago

The difference between porn and normal cinema is that normal cinema uses sex to drive plot, and porn uses plot to drive sex.

Matt Parks

about 5 years ago

Brad—I suspect that the “unrated” version on DVD has the opposite effect that NC-17 does at the box office. There’s definately a dichotomy in what people are willing to consume in private vs. what they’re willing to consume in public.

Thorste​n

about 5 years ago

Jake, I would not count that under “recent films”.
Also I have not seen it. Is it really explicit or is it just like Tango in Paris?

Another one I forgot: The Brown Bunny

BRAD - E

about 5 years ago

Matt – You are right. It is why porn really took off once the VCR age hit. All of the sudden it was a way to view pornography in a private manner without the exposure of being caught in public. Logically I do not think it makes sense, but I have always questioned reasoning of many things. And ‘unrated’ DVD’s have turned into a marketing goldmine for studios. So I guess it works out all the same.

Eli Goodspe​ed

about 5 years ago

I believe sex is used either for exploitation purposes to sell movies or to illustrate underlying themes of masculinity, female empowerment or the complexities of the sexual dynamic in modern society. Sam Peckinpah did this brilliantly with “Straw Dogs,” Kubrick with “Eyes Wide Shut” and Pasolini with “Salo.”

Kenji

about 5 years ago

The prudishness over a natural and universal act compared with the screen obsession with violence is some sort of indictment of the modern world, i think. So sex becomes a different sort of obsession, plugged everywhere in society, yet the act itself usually pushed into seedy porn films of no artistic merit while we shy away from or are still surprised to see male members on screen in “regular” films. Baise-Moi directly addressed- well, confronted- sex, violence and gender issues, making a point of inverting the common roles and rules. Now i don’t think it’s too much of a generalisation to say female directors may be rather more interested in showing sex on screen- whether to make a political point or simply as integral to life and the film plot, whereas with male-dominated cinema we’ve had so much Rambo-type violence. Of course there are exceptions. Breillat has been strongly influenced by In the Realm of the Senses.

witkacy

about 5 years ago

I agree with Harry – I would say that the Reagan/Thatcher era was marked not by sexual/moral censoriousness; rather, that era was marked by cutthroat capitalism, deregulation, and far-right-wing political entrenchment (shoring up military juntas, dictatorships) and covert warfare (the Contras)…

I’m a big fan of British cinema of the ’80’s, and would say that, if anything, the presence of Thatcher and ascendancy of the Conservatives goaded filmmakers to push boundaries: see, for instance, the two films Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frears made together, My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (the latter is OOP)