January 14, 2014

Free to Love: Week Two

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After a very successful opening weekend, with films as varied as the erotic Japanese arthouse In the Realm of the Sesnses to the underground queer epic Pink Narcissus, Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution rolls on! The second week of screenings contains some of the most rare and infamous films in the series, as well as a number of special guests who will be present. Once again, many thanks to the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, without whose generous support this exhibition would not be possible.


On Thursday, January 16th we welcome back filmmaker/curator M.M. Serra (who curated a program of films in July as a preview of this series) to introduce a shorts program of experimental artist films from the collection of the Film-Makers Cooperative. As Executive Director of FMC, Serra has a vast knowledge of experimental film history and she will be able to provide in-depth historical context and interpretation of the films and filmmakers shown. Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures is one of the most infamous examples of films that blur lines between art and pornography. A ghastly, otherworldly hallucination of a demented orgy, Flaming Creatures was seized by police in New York and banned from being shown at the Third International Festival of Experimental Film in Belgium. Just as visually astounding, but rather personal than theatrical, Carloee Schneemann’s Fuses was a diary film of her sexual relationship with her lover, which the artist manipulated and collaged by hand. Scott Bartlett’s film Lovemaking was a winner at the 1970 Erotic Film Festival in San Francisco, a major event of experimental and erotic cinema. Schmeerguntz, made by Gunvor Nelson and Dorothy Wiley, takes an approach of demystification to sex and the body, often with hilarious results. And Kurt Kren’s 6/64 Mama & Papa: An Otto Muehl Happening is a document of one of the Austrian artist’s legendary “body actions,” free-form performances that are still some of the most extreme actions ever performed in an artistic context.


Friday, January 17th sees an ultra-rare screening of Freedom to Love, a 1969 film by Drs. Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen. Pivotal figures in the sexual revolution, the Kronhausens were psychologists who, in addition to making films, wrote the best-selling book The Sexually Responsive Woman, curated and anthologized collections of erotic art and testified in landmark court cases on behalf of erotic art and literature. Eric Schaefer, associate professor at Emerson College and author of “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!”: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959, will introduce the film, helping the audience understand its mixture of documentary and exploitation scenes and why it’s a prime example of a “white coater,” a sex film whose “educational” content helped it avoid censorship. The archival 35mm print of Freedom to Love was loaned from the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Gift (Saturday, January 18th at 5PM) is a Danish drama film full of controversial imagery. When censors in Denmark opposed a scene in which the characters watch pornography, rather than remove the scene the director appealed to place a white cross over the offending scenes. He knew this would inflame Danish audiences who would be opposed to censorship. Released in the united states as Venom, the film is just one of a number of Scandinavian films that were imported, dubbed and recut to fit onto the American drive-in/exploitation film circuit. Film collector Jack Stevenson (whose book Scandinavian Blue: The Erotic Cinema of Sweden and Denmark in the 1960s and 1970s details this period of film history) presented his 35mm print at International House in 2010 and we’re happy to present an encore screening during Free to Love


Following Gift, at 8PM, is a film recently rescued from obscurity. The Telephone Book is a 1971 independent film that all but fell off the map until the last few years. The story of a sex-obsessed woman who falls in love with a mysterious obscene phone caller, the film (cited as a mixture of Putney Swope, Who Are You Polly Magoo? and sexploitation films) has been lovingly restored by Vinegar Syndrome, the company founded in early 2013 to reissue horror and exploitation films on DVD. VS is run by staff at the film restoration house Process Blue and in addition to digitally restoring and releasing the films on home video, they cinemas provide higher-resolution copies for exhibition, in this case a 2K DCP (digital cinema package). Surely The Telephone Book hasn’t looked this good since its original 35mm screenings! Producer Merv Bloch will be on-hand to discuss the film. Preceding The Telephone Book, Lisa Crafts’ short 1976 animation Desire Pie will be a treat that is completely different than the animated film that will close the evening’s screenings.


Rounding out the second week of Free to Love screenings is one of the most anticipated films of the series: Fritz the Cat (10PM). The first X-rated animated film, Fritz is based off of the underground comic by R. Crumb (who famously was dissatisfied with the film’s sexual and political content). Director Ralph Bakshi was determined to create the film as an independent feature after Warner Bros. asked him to tone down the sex and cast celebrities as voice actors. Hedging his bets against the studios, Fritz the Cat remains the highest-grossing independent animated feature of all time and a milestone of adult animation. Bakshi would later find mainstream success with films like Wizards and The Lord of the Rings but the impact of Fritz the Cat can’t be understated. Presented in a rare 35mm archival print from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Moving Image Archives

Stay tuned for more Free to Love next week with Aussies gone wild, a whole lotta Warhol and filmmaker Radley Metzger (The Opening of Misty Beethoven, The Lickerish Quartet) in person with a screening of Score! And look out for the Free to Love catalog and DVD available soon!