Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution is a stimulating film series coming to International House, January 10-February 15. Showcasing dozens of international shorts and many X-rated features from the 1960s and 1970s that explore sexuality and sexual identity, and defy social norms, these critical, provocative, and highly erotic films have challenged, delighted and scandalized audiences for decades.
The festival opens with the notorious I am Curious (Yellow), the 1967 Swedish film that is arguably more political and pornographic. Its sequel, I am Curious (Blue), closes out the program five weeks later. In between there are opportunities to see plenty of worthwhile films. Here are some highlights:
On January 11th, there is an extraordinary triple feature: At 5:00 pm, Pink Narcissus, James Bidgood’s visually ecstatic feature about a young male prostitute (Bobby Kendall) having flights of fantasy; at 7:00 pm In the Realm of the Senses, Nagisa Oshima’s notorious 1976 film that involves a couple caught up in the throws of passion. It climaxes memorably. Then at 10:00 pm, Deep Throat, the wildly successful blue movie that generated the term “porno chic” unspools. This film may be famous for Linda Lovelace’s talents as the title character, but Deep Throat contains one of the funniest lines in the history of cinema: “Do you mind if I smoke while you eat?”
Other highlights include I, a Man, by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on January 25 at 7:00 pm. This rarely screened film stars Tom Baker as a twenty-something stud who has various encounters with a handful of women he hopes to bed. While the handsome Baker gets naked at times—and the camera lovingly photographs his face, chest, and ass—I, a Man, is more talky than sexy. As Baker tries to seduce each woman, he has mixed results. Valerie Solanas (filmed prior to her shooting Warhol) appears in arguably the most interesting segment, set in a stairwell. She won’t let Baker into her apartment and their exchange is fascinating. If I, a Man has moments of tedium—it is a Warhol/Morrissey film after all—the film proves to be an interesting time capsule. Throughout, the film recalls Warhol’s Screen Tests, Blow Job, and other shorts he made, suggesting that he was constantly reworking his ideas on beauty and the body throughout his career.
Another classic film playing in the Free to Love festival is Wakefield Poole’s Boys in the Sand, the first crossover gay adult porno. A triptych of erotic fantasies, this wordless film, made in 1971, stars Casey Donovan in a role he would forever be associated with throughout his career. He stars in each short film, though his partners change each time. First Donovan appears as a nude Adonis who walks out of the Atlantic Ocean to have sex on the beach with Peter Fisk. As the guys touch and suck each other, Poole imbues the film with a tender sensuality. The second segment has Donovan in the buff and poolside, initially alone, but later with Danny Di Cioccio, who magically appears thanks to a mail order tablet. Their erotic couplings are artfully filmed in light and shadow, indicating this was classy queer porn. This episode is best once Di Cioccio enters the story; the first half of the vignette, with the naked Donovan writing a letter is a bit slow. The last episode features Donovan, naked again, this time inside having fantasies about telephone repairman Tommy Moore, whom he spies outside. Boys in the Sand has a dreamlike quality that may seem a bit dated today, but the beauty of Donovan and the film itself, is undeniable.
Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution
January 10th-February 15th at International House, 3701 Chestnut Street. 215-387-5125
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and film critic. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming book, Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Follow him on twitter @garymkramer.