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IT WAS ALL too much. As soon as I got home, I unnerved myself from two months of Cambridge with a bottle of wine and ten hours' sleep. As soon as I regained consciousness I grabbed a copy of Portnoy and tried to forget about the vagaries of scholarship I'd been pursuing and bury myself pleasurably in the contemporary experience.
Well, that ruined masturbation. Slain at the altar of the muse. As if that weren't bad enough for one vacation, or maybe because it was, I momentarily forgot that enough is enough and found myself in a block-long line waiting to see the notorious I Am Curious (Yellow).
I learned pretty quickly that I like to mingle sex and art only rarely. Art is powerful as long as it transcends the everyday. Without distorting reality it catapults it into a higher plane of sensation. Certain sublime moments in life can simulate the best art (or vice-versa). And certainly a divine fusing of sex and art, like. Mollie Brown's solliloquoy, raises both to an incredibly exciting level.
But it is terribly difficult to combine sex and art without suffering. Ever since Judge Woolsey's historic decision on Ulysses, the moneymakers have been trying to imbue pornography with "redeeming social value." Unfortunately, this usually makes for bad pornography and bad art.
I Am Curious is the latest in the succession of cruel teasers. Its redeeming social content is a mindless and disjointed commentary on the failures of the welfare state and the resolute conservatism of most people you happen to meet on the street. The level of social probing reminds me of the fist stages of adolescent alienation in suburbia.
The film is about a director making a film in which his lover, Lena, stars. There is the predictable confusion between what is real and what is being filmed, and finally film and real life merge when the leading lady jilts the no-longer interested director for the very interested leading man.
The movie makes a half-hearted and half-hearted attempt to portray the shallowness of sensual liberation in unliberated society and especially the problems of shooting sex in the movies. The lovers are obviously unexcited by screwing before palaces, in trees, streams, and fields in more positions than anyone except Albert Ellis knew existed.
BUT MY AFTERNOON in snatchland wasn't a total loss. I learned two new positions. Which brings us precisely to the point. As long as pornography must masquerade as art and display redeeming social value it will not be able to do what it can do best. What good pornography can do best, besides titillate, is educate. As long as public schools refuse to instruct people visually in the arts of sex, pornographic films will perform a vital function of introducing people to the appearance and interesting use of sexual organs.
If our imaginations hadn't been castrated by eleventh grade health teachers, Garbo clothed and smoking a cigarette would be enough to turn us on. In fact eroticism in art derives as much from what is suggested as what is shown--those of us old enough to appreciate eroticism have already found out by hook and crook what everything looks like and don't need very much of it unbared on the screen to heighten the impact.
Of course none of this means that movies should be censored or directors shouldn't show all they feel necessary. It merely means that it takes a master to combine elements of transcending art with a genre which insists on spelling everything out. So why ruin pornography with redeeming social value? Because I Am Curious would have been a better film if all the redeeming social value was left out and all that remained was a lot of snatchshots and strange positions.
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