The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 March 2005

Gimme the Delhi special

Andrea Harris is tempted to say "Hooray for Bollywood":

[A]s I was watching the videos (all culled from the huge pool of Bollywood musicals) it occurred to me that movies coming from a place where you aren't even allowed to kiss a girl, much less undress and go at it like pistons in the engine of a Pontiac Sunbird (that is being filmed under spotlights with zoom lenses to a "hot jazz" soundtrack) and where each shot of pretty dancing girls seems by law to also require regular shots of a staidly bopping turbanned and sari'ed grandpa and grandma watching from the side, are about a thousand times more erotic than the steamy, razor-shaved-to-slide-under-the-high-end-of-the-MPAA-rating-guide products of soulless Hollywood.

Rather a lot of participants in Hollywood love scenes appear to be inspired mostly by Brian Wilson's "Little Deuce Coupe": they're stroked and bored.

I guess I am saying we need more, not less, rules, because from where I am sitting grownup things like pleasures were both more exciting when they were hedged around with moats and dragons and armed guards, and were taken a lot more seriously before the era of Let It All Hang Out turned into Let Janet Hang Out Her Tit On Daytime TV.

Well, I'd say we could probably use some unwritten rules, the sort that don't wind up in court, the kind that used to govern our public conduct before the cultural arbiters came up with the idea of celebrating the deviant, the norms being tools of the patriarchy and all those other Bad Things.

One of the most fiercely erotic scenes I've ever seen on screen was in Silk Stockings, a 1957 remake of Ninotchka with Cyd Charisse as the stern lady Communist seduced by French finery and/or Fred Astaire. When she swaps out her sturdy socialist underwear for the silken delights of the City of Lights, you see scarcely any flesh at all, but then you don't have to: you know what she's feeling. Were they to film this today, they'd have the camera in so close you could see every digitally-retouched vein, with all the warmth of a speculum just out of the fridge.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big First Amendment fan, and where it says "Congress shall make no law," I'd like to think they mean it. But I'm weary of middle-school innuendo being passed off as actual examinations of human sexuality. There may indeed be folks for whom going at it like pistons in an engine is the highest form of expression, and I certainly wouldn't want them to be suppressed, but I can think of no reason why they should be celebrated either.

Posted at 7:55 AM to Almost Yogurt , Rag Trade

I fear there's only one route to those rules.

In an early scene in Joyce Rebeta-Burditt's wonderful novel Triplets, a television executive has just decided to "go candid" with an entertainment reporter, and goes into a long exposition about the deterioration of TV. When he's certain he's heard it all, the reporter interjects:

"But where does that leave the public?"

"Right where they've been all along," the executive replies. "Sitting in front of their televisions with an insatiable taste for shit."

And so it is with the movies. The public might make some displeased noises about the soft-porn and the blood & guts, but they continue to support it with their patronage. It's impossible for Hollywood to conclude from such behavior that what they're pumping out is other than what the movie-consuming public really wants. And until off-axis filmmakers who make sexually modest, non-gory movies start to make serious inroads at the box office, so it will remain.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 2:02 PM on 8 March 2005