The ‘Free to Love’ film series highlights the sexual revolution

Gene Wilder falls in love with a sheep in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)," one of the films in the sex-themed "Free to Love" series. Credit: MGM
Gene Wilder falls in love with a sheep in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask),” one of the films in the sex-themed “Free to Love” series.
Credit: MGM

Sex, the film curator Amos Vogel wrote sarcastically in the 1970s, is “the most dangerous image known to man. Though it portrays the most universal, most fundamental, most desired human act, it mustn’t be shown.” Not much has changed, even as mores have loosened, as obscenity laws have dropped, as homosexuality, in some countries, has been decriminalized and (relatively) accepted. In fact, in some ways society has backslid.

“I noticed there was this strange resurgence of really extreme radical right wing attacks on things like Planned Parenthood and birth control,” said Jesse Pires, head curator of “Free to Love,” an ambitious film series that runs through mid-February at International House. “There was this phrase, ‘The War on Women,’ that was suddenly being bandied about. It reminded me of this era 40 to 50 years ago. I thought a lot of those arguments had been settled.”

The series seeks to re-open those discussions by looking at the fertile period of cinema during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The Production Code, which had kept Hollywood clean since 1934, had died. Along with profanity and realistic violence, sex had entered movies and the mainstream. “Regular” people were seeing underground cinema.

“It’s crazy to think there was a time when Time Magazine was writing about ‘I Am Curious (Yellow)’ and other controversial sex films,” Pires says, referring to the legendary Swedish quasi-documentary that became a surprise hit thanks to its realistic depiction of sex, including a girl planting a kiss on a flaccid penis. Upon its release it was targeted by many critics, including the liberal-minded Roger Ebert, who called it out as a scam job on a lustful nation. But time has been kinder to it, seeing it as a playful look at a in many ways repressed nation, and one that refreshingly treats sex as a casual mainstay of life.

That film — and its companion piece, “I Am Curious (Blue”), released the subsequent year — bookend the series. In between it seeks to be broad and representative. Those who remember a time when suburban couples flocked to X-rated films can see “Deep Throat” (Jan. 11) or Radley Metzger’s softcore “Score” (Jan. 24). The latter not only features the customary girl-on-girl pairing, but guy-on-guy — this at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental deficiency. Other films explore the subject deeper, so to speak, including the radical German film “It is Not the Homosexual Who is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives” (Feb. 8) and the rare, polysexual Australian film “The Set” (Jan. 23).

Along with other obscurities, such as the New York underground film “The Telephone Set” (Jan. 8), the series includes major milestones, like “Flaming Creatures” (Jan. 16), Jack Smith’s avant-garde legend that was once banned and whose screenings were raided. On the other hand there’s “Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice” (Jan. 25), which Pires describes as “Hollywood’s sanitized version of the sexual revolution.” In the mix are also comic portrayals of sex, like “Barbarella” and Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)” (Feb. 14), featuring giant, rampaging mammaries and Gene Wilder in love with a sheep.

Apart from acting as a portal to a more freewheeling time, “Free to Love” is meant to refect on our own era. In this series Pires sees “this notion about having a healthy attitude towards sex and embracing diverse sexual practices — this belief that sex can contribute to a better society. There was this feeling that people were looking at the times — race riots, the Vietnam War — and saying, ‘We need to imagine a more utopian vision for our society.’ There’s this Freudian idea that if you’re suppressing sexual desires, that will come out in really dark and destructive ways.”

If you go:
Through Feb. 15
International House, 3701 Chestnut St.
215-387-5125
www.ihousephilly.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…