here’s something in the British psyche that equates the French with a certain elan in the rumpy-pumpy department. Put two tongues together and you don‘t just get kissing but — voila! — French kissing, while a major discovery in any schoolboy’s life is when he twigs that a. shall we say, French letter has sweet Fanny Adams to do with the cross-channel postal service.
So far as the movies are concerned, it’s the same deal. From Jeanne Moreau to Brigitte Bardot, from Sylvia Kristel to Beatrice Dalle, over the years the Gallic screen has produced a bumper litter of that trouser-rumpling feline known as the “sex kitten’. It’s no wonder then that we long-suffering movie critics frequently find ourselves accosted by slaverin g idiots who want to know ifwe see a lot of ‘them French ﬁlms’, a query inevitably accompanied by a deeply knowing look of the
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British cinema-goers are already dusting off their shabby macs for the UK release of steamy French movie The Lover. Trevor Johnston
talks dirty with director J EAN-J ACQUES AN NAUD while Alan Morrison takes an A to Z look at sex in the cinema.
nudge-nudge-knowhorramean variety. And certainly, while a minimal band of aesthetes
-; and cineastes will turn up for that crucial
Robert Bresson triple-bill at the local arthouse, it’s always the likes ofAnd God Created Woman or Emmanuelle that captures the smut-hungry imagination of the wider public at large.
Actually, it’s precisely this self-sustaining myth of preternatural naughtiness surrounding our garlic-chewing, beret-wearing brethren that the UK distributors ofJean-Jacques Annaud’s The Lover are hoping to exploit. With not a little enterprise, they’re releasing this sensitive and rather worthy literary adaptation (Marguerite Duras’s autobiographical 1984 novel of the same name carried off the prestigious Prix Goncourt, roughly equivalent to our own dear Booker prize) throughout Britain’s high street picture palaces in the hope that UK punters can be persuaded it’s the very latest, ahem, French
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screen scorcher and so flock to it in droves. Set in colonial Vietnam in the late 1920s, The Lover charts the course of the steamy but ill-fated affair between a fifteen-year-old French schoolgirl from a down-at-heel French family and the thirtysomething son of a wealthy property-owning Chinese family. It’s done the film‘s British box office chances no harm at all that the young lady in question is played by Middlesex (l) native Jane March — herself a legally more acceptable but still pretty scandalous seventeen. Director Annaud may profess that the former model and movie debutante possesses exactly the right blend of ‘strength yet fragility, authority yet shyness‘ for the film’s testing central role, but the major brouhaha in the tabloids has focused not on Ms March’s acting abilities but on the rumour that The Sinner From Pinner ‘actually did it‘ with co-star Tony Leung. We‘ve heard the same old phooey before, maintaining that Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange left a wet patch on the kitchen table during The Postman Only Rings Twice, or that Carrie Otis and Mickey Rourke did more than the lambada together in Wild Orchid, but such brazen hype can only ever be the most arrant poppycock — on a film set surrounded by lots of beer-gutted techies,
MD DOD CREATED WOMAN (1956) Or more speciﬁcally, Roger Vadim created a sex symbol out of pouting Brigitte Bardot. Continental sex kitten runs from man to man in St Tropez wearing skimpy towels, tight little numbers 0r - if you watch closely- nothing at all. European female sets the standard for the rest to follow . . .
BOLERO (1984) . . . and this is the best thatthe States could come up with. JohnDerek casts wife Bo as a virgin straight out of school who has the bots for anything in trousers. Heavily'hyped after her 10 success, at least she did more for sales of Ravel than Torvill and Dean. Watch Out for her first conquest licking honey from her navel (Kinky Food Sub- enre, see also under ‘L’, ‘N’).
\, M (1979) A few red faces in the British theatre luvvies club when Penthouse editor Bob Guccione’s $15 million sextravaganza hit the screens. Necrophilia, incest. depravity of almost mythical status - it’s got the lot. The serious stars —
McDowell, Gielgud, O’Toole, Mirren - now claim the explicit
scenes were cut in after they had
finished shooting. Over 50 minutes were cut for the American release. DEEP THROAT (1972) Say ‘aaah‘. Inﬂuential XXX porno was used to test the obscenity laws in the US and did ﬁnally make it into some legitimate cinemas. Inventive storyline has Linda Lovelace as a woman with a clitoris in her throat- you can guess the rest. EMMANUELLE (1974) Back to the French to lead the way. Important crossover from soft-core porn to commercial cinema has Sylvia Kristel as a sexually liberatedwoman in Thailand. Photography is sensual; Kristel makes an erotic lead. Under the ad slogan ‘X was never like this’ . it built the template for countless sequels and rip-offs. Latest instalment Emmanuelle‘7was unveiled at Cannes, with Kristel back in the starring role.
FLESH GORDON (1974) From the sublime to the ridiculous. Superhero parody has Flesh going to the planet Porno to do battle with the evil Professor Wang and his devastating sex rays. Recent sequel highlighted the upfront assets of the Cosmic Cheerleaders. Basically, a late-night
giggle for drunken students that makes Barbarella look like Citizen Kane.
GLEN OR GLENDA (1952) Edward D. Wood, the man who brought you the worst movie of all time in Plan 9 From Outer Space, tries his hand at a semioautobiographical account of transvestism. Documentary-style movie is well-meaning enough, but Wood’s ineptitude has reduced it from serious examination of sexuality to snigger-inducing campness. Narrated by Bela Lugosi, of all people.
HENRY AND JUNE ( 1990) Henry (Tropic of Cancer) Miller and writer of naughty short stories Anais Nin both use Miller’s wife June as the catalyst for their writing and love lives. The slow-burning eroticism is so pervasive and persuasive that we don’t even snigger when Henry bonks away without taking his hat off.
IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976) Finally deemed ﬁt for the eyes of British cinema-goers, Oshima’s masterpiece contains full frontal scenes and more than convincing acting, making the audience wonder where art cinema ends and voyeurism begins. Watch out for the scissors at the end - it wasn’t only the celluloid that got snipped.
JE VOUS SALUE, MARIE (1984) Or Hail Mary, as it’s English language title goes. J ean-Luc Godard’s translation of the Virgin Birth toa Swiss petrol station caused such a storm of controversy - nudity and religious parallels do not, it seems, go hand in hand - that even the Pope took time out to condemn the French New Waver.
THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977) A collection of TV, movie and advert spoofs from John Landis and the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team
IOThe List 19June—2July 1992