Arts Cinema and Copulation
posted by June 11 at 14:27 PMon
As yet to be made is a great movie based on a novel by Vladmir Nabokov—Rainer Werner Fassbinder came close with Despair, and Kubrick’s Lolita is weak because it’s unfaithful to Nabokov’s screenplay. The Russian had this to say about the horrible movie that was made out of Laughter in the Dark.
I have [seen it]. Nicol Williamson is, of course, an admirable actor, and some of the sequences are very good. The scene with the water-ski girl, gulping and giggling, is exceptionally successful. But I was appalled by the commonplace quality of the sexual passages. I would like to say something about that. Clichés and conventions breed remarkably fast. They occur as readily in the primitive jollities of the jungle as in the civilized obligatory scenes of our theater. In former times Greek masks must have set many a Greek dentition on edge. In recent films, including Laughter in the Dark, the porno grapple has already become a cliché though the device is but half-a-dozen years old. I would have been sorry that Tony Richardson should have followed that trite trend, had it not given me the opportunity to form and formulate the following important notion: theatrical acting, in the course of the last centuries, has led to incredible refinements of stylized pantomine in the representation of, say, a person eating, or getting deliciously drunk, or looking for his spectacles, or making a proposal of marriage. Not so in regard to the imitation of the sexual act which on the stage has absolutely no tradition behind it. The Swedes and we have to start from scratch and what I have witnessed up to now on the screen—the blotchy male shoulder, the false howls of bliss, the four or five mingled feet—all of it is primitive, commonplace, conventional, and therefore disgusting. The lack of art and style in these paltry copulations is particularly brought into evidence by their clashing with the marvelously high level of acting in virtually all other imitations of natural gestures on our stage and screen. This is an attractive topic to ponder further, and directors should take notice of it(The Sunday Times, 1969). Has sex on the screen improved since then?