Monday, May 11, 2015

Brandon Christopher - Taboo: The Beginning of Erotic Cinema (2004)


Traces the first fifty years of adult films, contrasting the variety and explicitness of French films with less explicit but technically-superior U.S. productions. In Europe, from the early years of cinema, women and men engaged in sex on screen. In the U.S., the production code of 1930 as well as Puritan values gave rise to striptease films featuring bare breasts. As U.S. adult films became more mainstream, they showed even less; in the late 1940s and 1950s, the striptease and fan dance gave rise to films of women fighting and women in bondage, often with little bare skin exposed. A narrator guides the viewer through a montage of film clips and social history.
The great myth of erotic cinema is that its creation came about in the 1970s, with stars like John Holmes and films like Deep Throat, but nothing could be further from the truth. As soon as movie cameras were invented, people began using them to make pornographic films- the earliest of which can be traced back to the 1920s.
Here is a brief history of pornographic films- from silent-era sex on the bumper of a Model T Ford to Bettie Page gyrating in Technicolor- from soft-core to hard-core & anything goes - TABOO: THE BEGINNING OF EROTIC CINEMA is a collection of vintage erotica from it's very beginning to its unforeseeable end. This is an interesting collection of French and American erotic films.

This documentary is a decent introduction to erotic and burlesque cinema, presenting major figures, periods, as well as rare footage. However, there is too strong a focus on American erotic cinema, particularly the relatively staid 1950s period. Moreover, there are claims made regarding American cinema that really aren't backed up with footage. The major comparison with American cinema, upon which many of these claims are based, is French cinema. However, there isn't much information on French erotic cinema past a cursory introduction (primarily French erotic film through the '20s). There is some interesting information on the contrast between the French and American erotic filmmakers. The French were bold and liberal, the Americans gearing more towards cheesecake & striptease. It is worth watching for all of these rare vintage clips, and it does help to shatter the myth that there was no real erotic cinema until about 1970. I have seen some of the vintage erotic films out there and the quality is erratic. But the footage here seems clearer and there's even some insight into Mr. X, the mysterious filmmaker from the 1930s. This documentary could have had the potential to have been so much more in-depth given the subject matter, but unfortunately ends up relying almost solely upon clips from erotic/pornographic films from the dawn of cinema to the modern era.