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A (slight) relaxation of censorship at the turn of the 1970s triggered a decade where the softcore sex comedy was one of the few surefire commercial bets for British cinema.
Most were neither sexy nor funny, and this one isn’t particularly erotic either, but it does cast a keenly satirical eye on how the sex-film business was run at the time, with wide-eyed ingénues on both sides of the camera and a plot that contrives multiple adaptations of the notoriously filthy poem to please different backers: hardcore porn, a gay western, a kung-fu musical and a family-friendly compromise.
Lots of interesting additions came in this week, with the Hanif Kureishi-scripted gay love story My Beautiful Laundrette topping the votes.
With the cheeky antics of Carry On Camping, the boundary-pushing explicitness of 9 Songs, and Black Narcissus’s nuns in the Himalayas all vying for space in the top 10 this week, it goes to show that the erotic British film comes in many different forms.
Ashley Horner’s celebration of erotic obsession sees young lovers Noon (Nancy Trotter Landry) and Manchester (Liam Browne) not only indulging in a great deal of graphic sex but also trying to preserve their sexual feelings through photography and a recorded ‘orgasm diary’, scenes depicted with an unselfconscious spontaneity that’s unusual for a low-budget British film.
But when Manchester exhibits Noon’s nude self-portraits in a gallery without her knowledge, the film explores thornier questions about exploitation and objectification that apply to almost anyone tackling similar subject matter, at least if they do it as a collaborative enterprise.
There are no direct equivalents of Borowczyk, Brass, Franco or Radley Metzger in British cinema (the hardcore pornographer Ben Dover has different priorities), and serious British films about eroticism remain as rare as the more exotic butterflies on display in Strickland’s film, despite the considerable relaxation in censorship post-2000 – Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs (2004) being the British film most notorious for taking full advantage of this.
So the following 10 films are at least as much illustrations of social and historical trends as they are defining examples of cinematic eroticism in their own right.
Or indeed by the effect that it had on its audience?
After all, it’s arguable that the appeal of 1940s Gainsborough melodramas was far more genuinely erotic than that of the inexplicably long-running Come Play with Me (1977) and its fusion of ancient music-hall routines with only very mildly titillating nudity.
When the British Board of Film Censors (as was) agreed to pass a serious documentary about naturism in the mid-1950s, this gave an immediate green light to numerous similar “documentaries’ by shamelessly opportunist producers who took care to adhere to BBFC guidelines (“Breasts and buttocks, but not genitalia [would be accepted] provided that the setting was recognisable as a nudist camp or nature reserve”). Lawrence creations bookended the 1960s: the obscenity trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1963 (the year in which Philip Larkin alleged that sexual intercourse began) and the international hit that Ken Russell made of Women in Love, thanks not least to one of the most notorious scenes in all British cinema, in which Alan Bates and Oliver Reed engage in full-frontally naked wrestling on a rug in front of an open fire to underscore their characters’ latent homoeroticism.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating