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Radley Metzger had a parallel career as a New York-based distributor who specialised in catering for the arthouse and sexploitation markets, ideally simultaneously.
The films he directed were made with a keen eye on what was permissible at the time, ranging from glossy but softcore adaptations of the classics (Carmen Baby, Camille 2000) to what are still regarded as the artistic high points of the mid-70s ‘porno chic’ explosion (especially The Opening of Misty Beethoven).
The cheeky British sex comedy, French erotica, the Japanese ‘pink’ movie – all flourished during a time of relaxing morality. Films from Hollywood’s erotic cycle of the 1980s and 1990s (Nine ½ Weeks, 1986; Wild Orchid, 1989) feature scenes of almost absurd abstraction: full of floating white curtains, bad saxophone music and lots of unconvincing heavy panting, they’re some of the most neutered sex scenes in recent cinema.
Despite the widespread feeling that we’re all now desensitised to sexual imagery, the media attention for films such as Nymph()maniac in 2014 or Fifty Shades of Grey in 2015 proves there’s still something about sex in the cinema that gets us all a bit hot under the collar.
In 1967’s Belle de Jour, Catherine Deneuve plays Séverine, a frigid bourgeois wife, who makes all excuses to avoid sexual contact with her respectable husband, at the same time harbouring wistful daydreams about being whipped by brutish coachmen.
The premise concerns a bored middle-aged couple and their surprise encounter with a young woman who’s the living spit of an actor in a stag film that they’ve been watching to unsuccessfully spice up their marriage.
But when they entice her back to their ostentatious château to show her the film, the actress’s face is no longer visible, while her double proceeds to seduce everyone (including the wife’s grown-up son) in turn – most memorably in a library whose floor is decorated with dictionary definitions of sexual terms.
Dubbed ‘the godfather of gay porn’, Peter de Rome began his erotica career in the 1960s shooting Super 8 films for private viewing.
Typically for films of the time, however, it’s Joan who’s punished for her sexuality rather than her lover.
The expressive lighting and exaggerated performances – and the raging marital accusations and bread-knife brandishing that goes on behind closed doors at No.