Sex seems to be all the rage with festival and film museum programmers this year. Why, only a few months ago I was asked to introduce In the Realm of the Senses (a neat segue from the Oshima posting) at the new London Student Film festival as part of a sex-themed program that also included Shortbus and Pasolini’s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, and I pride myself in having been active in bringing Japanese eroticism to a number of otherwise more highbrow cultural institutions.
Those of a certain age probably can’t remember a time when porn wasn’t just a couple of mouse clicks away on the internet, and judging by the unhealthy obsession with all things pornographic of Channel Four’s documentary commissioning editors, it seems like there’s quite a few over-forties who missed the joy-boat first time round too. Truth is, if we’re talking in terms of the big-screen celluloid sex flicks that were a regular fixture in most cities’ dark undergirths during the 60s and 70s, most critics prudishly averted their eyes, although I do remember a former Monthly Film Bulletin writer regaling me with tales of woe about spending much of the 1970s frequenting all sorts of unseemly venues as part his job description, compiling full cast and credit lists of every single re-dubbed, re-titled, re-edited and heavily censored (this was Britain, after all…) softcore cheesefest from the continent.
Well, you’ll get no such snootery from me. As far as I’m concerned, if a film was released into cinemas, it’s part of cinema history, which is why I’m somewhat overjoyed the the BFI have taken the plunge into the unknown with their September season entitled, quite simply, Sexploitation, curated by someone who goes under the porn name of Julian Marsh III. Among the many rarities included are a number of Radley Metzger classics (Therese and Isabelle, Camille 2000 and Score), a Herschell Gordon Lewis/David Friedman double bill of Boin-n-g! and Scum of the Earth! from the days when such titles came with an obligatory exclamation mark appended, and a handful of goodies from Russ Meyer.
The BFI brochure were keen to point out the faded, scratchy quality of some of the prints being shown but, as any aficionado will tell you, that’s all part and parcel of the pleasure. More exciting is that one of the three directors the season centres upon, the legendary Joseph W Sarno, will be in town on October 1st to talk about his time in the industry, and the whole programme is going to be put into context with a screening of Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies, a documentary about this heyday of cinematic sleaze directed by Ray Greene, who will also be in attendance to answer any questions you might have, if you’re not too embarrassed to put your hand up.
You’ll find more details on the BFI website, right here.