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
Love is complicated stuff. You can keep your Love Actuallys and Sleepless in Seattles—these movies don’t sugarcoat relationships and explore them in raw and fantastical ways. Here are 15 we’re into, in no particular order.
Harold & Maude (1971)
“What could be better than a black comedy romance between a suicidal teen and a feisty 79-year-old widow? NOTHING. It’s one of the best stories ever. I never feel like killing myself after seeing this movie!” – Super Cooper
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
What is Purgatory, exactly? Writer/director Goran Dukic imagines it as a slightly shittier version of real life, except no one can smile and your car seat might have a black hole in it. Such is the setting for an unlikely story in which suicide victims seek love in the interim afterlife.
|Musical guests Dan Bern, Tim Flannery, and Chuck Prophet|
Tired of our rainless winter and ready for baseball season? Then head down to San Francisco's beautiful Vogue Theater for The Hot Stove Movie & Music Festival, a unique weekend of baseball movies and songs, February 6-8th. Yes, peanuts and crackerjack will be available. Plus, the festival features an equipment drive (with donated equipment going to Cuba!) via Baseball Without Borders and a portion of all proceeds from the festival will be donated to the Urban Sports Alliance to help rehabilitate Crocker Amazon Baseball Fields in San Francisco.
This line-up is bases-loaded:
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6:
7PM: BULL DURHAM
This 1988 romantic comedy is widely considered the greatest baseball movie of all time. Loosely based on the minor league experiences of writer/director Ron Shelton. Starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. Followed by a rousing in-theater conversation with writer/director Ron Shelton!
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7:
NOON: THE SANDLOT (Kids $5 for this matinee)
2PM: THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976)
4PM: A Live Performance by TIM FLANNERY (former Giants 3rd Base Coach)
6PM: GHOST TOWN TO HAVANA
A filmmaker in his sixties - an inner city coach's son estranged in his youth from his now-deceased father - spends five years on ball fields in inner city Oakland and Havana, following the lives of two extraordinary youth coaches and their players.
Followed by a rousing conversation with director Eugene Corr!
8PM: A Live Performance by CHUCK PROPHET and DAN BERN!
If you've seen this year's brilliantly heady sci-fi thriller Under the Skin, you know that a huge part of the film's capitvating power owes to its visceral soundtrack.
Also, check out our new "What's In My Bag?" episode with the author, Michel Faber!
San Francisco’s historic Balboa Theatre continues their run of screenings of the most amazing rockumentaries of all times this Fall with Thursday Night Rock Docs.
This Thursday, October 16th, don't miss Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, which was shot on Thanksgiving Day of 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Hailed as one of the greatest concert films of all time, this film commemorates The Band’s final performance (as a quintet) after 16 years on the road. Keep and eye out for Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and Neil Diamond. Shot with multiple 35mm cameras by the likes of Vilmos Zsigmond (The Deer Hunter), Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider), and Michael Chapman (Raging Bull).