by Rebecca Burgan
In the wake of the new wave art house boom of the 1960s, sexploitation films and art films mimicked each other’s aesthetics to market to a wider audience. American auteur Joseph W. Sarno (1921-2010) produced a prolific catalog of softcore films in the '60s and '70s. Hoping that the hardcore genre was short-lived, Sarno found his niche in the arty sexploitation world, where dramatic lighting, complex sensitive characters, and female sexuality dominated. His technical skills and quick production time set him apart from other directors in the genre, whereas those with a comparable technique would have gone on to mainstream films. He directed his actors to express their anxieties and passions through realism, capturing gritty sexual emotion in its immediacy. He was a master of sexual cinematic verisimilitude.
Sarno’s films emphasize women’s relationships and women’s pleasure, whereas the men are more objectified as instruments to help achieve the female orgasm—a fairly fresh feminist notion at the time. Visual focus during orgasm was often directed at facial expressions rather than a tight zoom on some tight penetration. The sincerity of the sexual experience is revealed more intimately by the face. Gustav Machaty's 1933 Czechoslovakian art film, Ecstasy, starring Hedy Lamarr, was still pre-Code but was banned in America and in Germany by Hitler. Audiences watched Lamarr’s titillating nude body traipse through the woods and skinny dip in the lake, leading up to a moment of sexual ecstasy revealed only through a close-up on her pained face. The director employed an inspired technique of realism to achieve the right expressions from her—poking her rump off screen with a safety pin. The film was banned because of her scandalously debauched motivation for pleasure: cheating on her gross old husband. The censors decreed, you had to be married to revel in such pleasure and make faces like that. More intimate and revealing than a nude bathing scene, the close-up disturbed the Production Code censors in America, who considered even a safer, morally balanced edit of the film to be too indecent for audiences. The film was basically buried, and Lamarr was only allowed to work again if she cleaned up her act.
by Rebecca Burgan
Records Collecting Dust, a documentary film about the music and records that changed our lives, premieres in San Francisco at Balboa Theatre on January 29th! Written and directed by San Diego based musician and filmmaker Jason Blackmore, Records Collecting Dust documents the vinyl record collections, origins, and holy grails of alternative music icons Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys, Alternative Tentacles), Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag, SWA, Wurm, SST Records), Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Off!), John Reis (Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu), Lisa Fancher (Frontier Records), and over 30 other artists.
Starting June 12th, your Thursday nights are spoken for. San Francisco's historic Balboa Theatre brings you a summer full of exciting music documentaries, each selected for its depth-of-coverage about music crafted by strong, independent artists.
Balboa Theatre's Summer Music Documentary Series opens on Thursday, June 12th at 7:30pm with Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost), a fly-on-the-wall documentary that does indeed follow Bobby Bare Jr., son of country music legend Bobby Bare, through the sometimes lonely and disconnected turns of life on the road.
From then on, each Thursday night will bring a new film, covering a distinct vista of the global musical landscape. Many of the films are considerable in their scope, tackling the history of entire movements or genres of music. A few are more narrowly focused, giving the viewers a glimpse of one important band or musician. The selection ranges from histories of reggae and punk rock to a portrait of a globe-striding klezmer band.
Check out the full line-up and get your tickets HERE:
Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost)
Thur 6/12: 7:30pm
5 Sides of a Coin
Thur 6/19: 7:30pm
At the beginning of documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, we’re introduced to the titular character when the misanthropic elderly man bashes his biographer in the face with a cane. Filmmaker Jay Bulger gets out of the car to show us his bloody nose, and from there we’re whisked back through not only the story of Ginger Baker, famed drummer for Cream, but also the story behind the creation of the film.
Bulger bills himself as a writer for Rolling Stone in order to get an interview with the reclusive Baker — this is a lie. However, the article Bulger comes up with once he meets with Baker in his South Africa compound does get published in Rolling Stone, providing the catalyst for the film. The brash Bulger, and his interactions with Baker, become a hilarious side story to that of Baker, the red-headed wild man who helped pioneer rock drumming as a member of Cream, with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Baker’s unique, African and jazz-influenced style would go on to be widely used in hard rock and heavy metal in years to come. But Baker’s personal life is beset by drugs, family issues, several wives and money problems.
However, Beware of Mr. Baker is no predictable “VH1 Behind the Music” story, nor is it a sob story. It’s more a celebration of a life thoroughly lived, and of a character whose lust for life and for drumming supersedes his ability to live normally and care for anyone else. It’s riveting viewing, even (and perhaps especially) for those unfamiliar with Baker. The film’s editing, full of animated bits, stock footage and interview footage, jump-cutting and fading with psychedelic aesthetic, is nothing short of brilliant. It also includes enlightening, often funny interviews with the likes of Clapton, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Lars Ulrich and Neil Peart.
The project was initiated by Edward Morris, co-founder of the Canary Project and Green Patriot Posters, and Dmitri Siegel, director of marketing for Urban Outfitters. They partnered with Loudsauce, the first crowd-funded media buying platform that allows art and social causes to take their messages to the streets, replacing the normal slew of soul-crushing advertising with something both interesting and societally beneficial.