Friday, March 19, 2010

Jack Stevenson: Totally Uncensored: The Evolution of Danish Erotic Cinema 1 (a lecture)

The Cinema and Sexuality lecture series of the Film Society of the Student Association of Helsinki University, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 March 2010.

Jack Stevenson is an American film historian, writer, collector, distributor, exhibitor, and organizer of film tours who lives in Denmark. He has just published Scandinavian Blue: The Erotic Cinema of Sweden and Denmark in the 1960s and 1970 (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, 2010), a witty, excellent and unique survey into an important turning-point in cinema, culture and society.

Jack emphasized the amazing difference of Nordic and American cinema. The Language of Love: in Denmark, school classes visited it. In the USA, it was distributed in porn cinemas. In London, there were anti-Swedish demonstrations on Trafalgar Square. Sweden became a hate object for the conservatives.

After WWII the Production Code was still strong, and besides, during the war time the War Office of Information suppressed "decadent" subject matter.

There is a long tradition of anti-Swedish attitudes among American conservatives. Time magazine equated Sweden and sin. Sweden was portrayed as a land where unmarried mothers were heroines. Hon dansade en sommar and Sommaren med Monika had dual distribution in both arthouses and grindhouses.

The tradition of Nordic open-mindedness was made famous by Swedes. Denmark caught up in 1962 with books like I a Woman and The ABC of Love (later filmed as The Language of Love). The film that started this was Weekend (Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt, DK 1962). Export versions of Danish films were sometimes harder, and films were later made in Denmark for export. These films were ignored by reviewers and they have been ignored in film histories.

I a Woman (Mac Ahlberg, DK 1965) was the first Danish erotic blockbuster, a mixture of art and exploitation. In the USA it was released by Radley Metzger, and there were 12 sequels.

The answer to the impending porn wave was Gift / Venom (Knud Leif Thomsen, DK 1966), a conservative and intelligent warning about the pornification of culture.

Jeg - en marki / I a Nobleman (Mac Ahlberg and Peer Guldbrandsen, DK 1967) was based on a true story of an impostor "Marcel de Sade" who hosted fashionable orgies in a large mansion.

A remarkable feature in Danish culture was that actors, directors and other talent that appeared in erotic films, including hard core films, had no problem in appearing in all other kinds of films and tv programmes.

Jag är nyfiken gul / I am curious Yellow (Vilgot Sjöman, SE 1966) was seized by the customs, went through the courts, and got immense press for five years. This kind of publicity was so attractive that certain American producers sent their films abroad in order to have them seized by the customs. A few theaters were packed for a year or two. It was a movie everybody knew, few saw, and most hated. It had an immense impact on American culture.

Foreign film directors started to come to Nordic countries to make films, for instance Joe Sarno. In his film Inga Sweden is depicted as a country where virginity is shameful.

Clips included: Amour (Gabriel Axel, DK 1970). - An American trailer show with Desiderio / Woman (IT 1946), Preludio d'amore / Shamed (IT 1946), Pigalle-Saint-Germain-des-Prés / No Morals (with Jeanne Moreau, FR 1950), Demain nous divorçons / Sexpot (with Magali Noël, FR 1951), Wanda la peccatrice / The Shameless Sex (IT 1952), Ogift fader sökes / Unmarried Mothers (SE 1953), and Hästhandlares flickor / The Time of Desire (SE 1954), presenting mainstream films as sexploitation. - Weekend (DK 1962). - Jeg - en marki / I a Nobleman (DK 1967). - Trailer: Jeg - en kvinde / I a Woman (1965) with Essy Persson. - Jeg - en oskuld / Inga (SE 1968) with Marie Liljedahl.

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