Friday, April 23, 2010

Lauri Lehtinen: Eurotica: Middle European Erotic Cinema (a lecture)

A lecture in the series Cinema and Sexuality organized by the Film Society of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 23 April 2010.

Following the sexual liberation of the 1960s there was a boom of popular sex films in Middle Europe.

In Germany, sex education films such as Helga films and Oswald Kolle films became popular. Schulmädchen-Report: Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten (1970) was the first in a series of 12 schoolgirl report films. Report was the keyword in various series about housewives, workplaces, and dancing lessons. The films were traditional folk comedies with sex added. They were usually not story-driven or character-driven but episodic in format. Holidays were a favourite framework: in the Alps, in Bavaria, in Hamburg, in Munich. Typical Sigi Rothemund titles were Drei Schwedinnen in Oberbayern (Tukholman tuliset tytöt Tirolissa) and Die schönen Wilden von Ibiza. Franz Marischka made five Tickle Me (Lass jucken, Kumpel) films. Eberhard Schröder directed six Hausfrauen Report movies. There were six-seven films in the Josephine Mutzenbacher series, where the milieu is a brothel. Nobody was offended, sex was happy, folksy comedy conventions were followed. Sylvia im Reich der Wollust / Freude am Fliegen, inspired by Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, was based on the tension between dream and reality: the dream comes true. German light sex entertainment flourished until 1977. Then hard core became dominant.

In Switzerland, Erwin C. Dietrich was a prolific producer-director-writer of sex films. Jesus Franco directed some of his most prominent sex films there.

In Italy, art directors such as Bertolucci, Pasolini, Ferreri, Wertmüller, Cavani, and Antonioni were quick to take advantage of the new freedom. In popular cinema, there was copycat mentality. There was a cycle of Canterbury films and films about ancient Romans. Following The Night Porter there was a cycle of concentration camp erotica. Films called "Sexy" were popular pseudo-documentaries. Mondo films were more cruel and sarcastic. Some films delved into Krafft-Ebing and a Peeping Tom approach. Rino di Silvestro dabbled in squalor. There was more quality in the films of Salvatore Samperi and Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty, Paprika, Miranda, La chiave).

In France, Max Pécas specialized for a while in soft core erotica. Walerian Borowczyk also profiled himself in erotica. There were sometimes difficulties with the generous politics of French film subsidy. Sex films obey the conventions of film narrative with difficulty. The budget of Emmanuelle was half a million, the revenue was a hundred million. Based on the 1959 novel by Emmanuelle Arsan (Marayat Andriane) it became a cultural phenomenon of the Me Generation. The director, the photographer Just Jaeckin, created a special visual look, a cross of Rembrandt and Playboy, and Pierre Bachelet composed a fine theme song. The imagery was warm and soft. Emmanuelle elevated the quality of popular erotic cinema with its excellent cinematography and melodic music. The films of another photographer turned director, David Hamilton (Bilitis, Tendres cousines), tended to be static. In the second Emmanuelle film (Emmanuelle: l'antivierge) only the producer family Siritzky and the star Sylvia Kristel remained. The fluency and tension of the first Emmanuelle film were missing. Just Jaeckin continued with other films (Histoire d'O). In the tantra massage sequence of Emmanuelle: l'antivierge Sylvia Kristel met Laura Gemser, the intelligent Indonesian actress who actually resembles the real Emmanuelle Arsan. The Italians launched a Black Emanuelle series with Laura Gemser and with Joe D'Amato as director. In these films, Emanuelle is an independent photo journalist who as a double agent has access to dangerous milieux around the world. Peeping Tom mentality reigns. Joe D'Amato is a compulsive entertainer, almost oppressively so, managing to find an entertaining approach even to torture scenes. Even in such circumstances Laura Gemser emerges as a true movie star with dignity and mystery. Laura Gemser is Indonesian, but besides, there was also a real black Emanuelle. As well as a yellow Emanuelle, Emanuelle in Tokyo, in England... In the third entry of the Siritzky Emmanuelle cycle, traditional sex morality was reinstated. In the fourth entry, Emmanuelle was incarnated by the Swede Mia Nygren. Further there were virtual reality and science fiction approaches. There were seven cinema Emmanuelle films in the Siritzky series, and television movies later. Black Emanuelle was actually the more consistent of the series. Emmanuelle radiated the eternal light of the sun, she was immortal, and in this escapistic entertainment there was no growing old.

Sex entertainment that is not the hardest available does not sell. The age of an abundance of free content began. Yet mechanical satisfaction of desire can be boring.

Clips included: Alpenglühn im Dirndlrock (Tango nahkahousuissa, Sigi Rothemund, DE 1975). - Sylvia im Reich der Wollust / Freude am Fliegen (Tuo mainio pukki lentävässä koneessaan, Franz Josef Gottlieb, DE 1977). - Das Frauenhaus / Blue Rita (Jesus Franco, CH 1977). - La chiave (Erotiikan avain, Tinto Brass, IT 1983). - Je suis une nymphomane (Erään nymfomaanin päiväkirja, Max Pécas, FR 1971). - Je suis frigide... pourquoi? (Miten himo tulee nuoriin naisiin, Max Pécas, FR 1973). - La Bête (Peto, Walerian Borowczyk, FR 1975). - Emmanuelle (Emmanuelle, Just Jaeckin, FR 1974). - Emmanuelle: l'antivierge (Emmanuelle 2, Francis Giacobetti, FR 1975).

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