October 7, 2010

Naughty Netflix: Quiet Days in Clichy

Naughty Netflix: A CCLaP essay series

(Think that you can't rent movies at Netflix that contain legitimately explicit sexuality? Think again, my frustrated friend! In this special essay series, I look at a total of thirty mainstream films made over the last forty years, all of which contain scenes of such actual graphic sex acts as fellatio and penetration, reviewing them not in only in terms of the movie's quality itself but also the amount of sex it portrays, and whether this sex is any fun or not to actually watch. For more about how these movies were chosen, as well as the full list of all thirty titles, you can click here; and don't forget, these reviews are also mixed into the master list of all movies reviewed here, over at CCLaP's main movie page.)

Quiet Days in Clichy

The story in a nutshell: One of a dozen films of the early countercultural era to help profoundly change the nature of American obscenity laws, Jens Jorgen Thorsen's 1970 Quiet Days in Clichy is an adaptation of a minor later work by Henry Miller, which in a crude nutshell can be summed up as Tropic of Cancer 2: Paris Prostitute Bugaloo, yet another loose collection of tales about young nihilistic artists drunkenly wandering that city in the years following World War One, screwing and fighting and laughing and starving and screwing some more; and indeed, this movie version barely presents a through-following plot at all, instead existing as an aesthetic experiment in vignette-style storytelling, offering up some great shots of late-'60s Europe, lots of random humor, a glaringly timely soundtrack by Country Joe and the Fish, and more boobies than you can shake a stick at.

(There are longer, more explicit excerpts from this movie over at YouTube as well, for those who are interested.)

What I thought: I have to confess, mere weeks after first watching this film, I already seem to have largely forgotten its very existence, so slight and inconsequential as it is; in fact, despite its pedigree, you can pretty reliably think of this less as a feature film and more as an excuse to show two hours of prancing naked hippie girls, using a respected and controversial figure like Miller to bring some quickly-gained authenticity to their film in an era when such movies needed this authenticity to even get made, way before the invention of the "adult entertainment industry" when people were regularly arrested for even trying to watch films of this type. (And indeed, I think it no coincidence that most of the people involved with this production went on to make not more art films but rather an endless series of cheapie sex flicks, once the obscenity barrier was finally lifted and one no longer needed mainstream authenticity just to make a smut film.) As such, then, this is much more a historical curiosity anymore than a decent piece of entertainment unto itself, a fascinating relic from a time when artistic boundaries were rapidly expanding but certainly something that will actively offend Miller fans from its pure cheapness and non-reverence to the source material, and which no longer even satisfies as erotica because of its dated tameness (but more on this below). It's a bizarre cultural artifact that will interest film historians, but is not recommended to a general audience.

What makes it an explicit movie? Well, as mentioned, there are naked people on-screen throughout maybe 80 percent of this film's running time, and plenty of actual sex as well, although be aware that its verite filming style doesn't exactly qualify as explicit material -- instead it's mostly the same kind of soft T&A stuff you see on Cinemax in the middle of the night, with fleeting glimpses during lovemaking sessions at details you probably wouldn't see in a mainstream Hollywood production, but that you never get a good enough look at to give a definitive answer or not.

Is the sex actually fun to watch? Oh, it's fun, I suppose, if you consider the naturalistic and exaggerated style of sex during the countercultural era to be 'fun' (and seriously, why did hippies always do so much literal rolling around in bed during lovemaking, anyway?); but I'm not sure how erotic anyone is going to find it anymore, unless you're the kind of person who has a fetish for unshaved, kind of dumpy amateurs with ridiculously outdated haircuts and outfits, who are there not for either their beauty or sexual skills but because literally they were the only people the producers could find who would take their clothes off in front of a camera for money in 1969. Again, it's more of interest for historical purposes than to get legitimately turned on, although I admit that there's a kind of charming sexiness to the way that such scenes used to be presented onscreen before the rise of the home-video porn industry.

Strangest piece of trivia: Oddly enough, this was shooting in Paris at the same exact time that an entirely different (and more respected) crew was filming an adaptation of Miller's Tropic of Cancer on the other side of town; and with MIller himself living in Paris at the time too, he often spent his days that year bopping from one set to the other.

Worth your time? Not really

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:42 PM, October 7, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |