Naughty doesn't begin to describe it suffice to say that the anonymous stars of the pioneering hardcore shorts collected here could, with some de riguer cosmetic enhancement, step right into modern-day adult movies. Given the rate at which mainstream silent films have been lost to neglect and nitrate decay it's a marvel that any early stag films survived; these 12 were made over a 25-year period and squirreled away in the inadvertent archives of a "very respectable" French family. Uncovered in the attic, they were handed over to the Centre National de Cinematographie probably with a sigh of relief and a dusting off of hands. The film's documentary content is minimal and limited to intertitles; it's a showcase, not a history of the blue movie, but it's still educational. The tamest short involves a half-nude woman brushing her hair; the raunchiest is a toss up between the naughty-nun orgy (complete with small dog) and an obscene riff on Madame Butterfly. Several, notably Miss Butterfly (1925) and Massages (1930) are strikingly well staged and photographed; Butterfly features elaborate costumes, highly designed intertitles and ends on a stylish close-up of a twirling paper parasol. The mix includes the notorious animated Buried Treasures (1925), whose style recalls both the inky simplicity of Max Fleischer's early Betty Boop cartoons and the straightforward smuttiness of Tijuana bibles. It chronicles the misadventures of a lustful and none-too-bright fellow with an oversized member, and is simultaneously utterly juvenile and endearingly cheeky. Overall, the biggest surprise isn't how graphic these shorts are and they are truly graphic but the absence of the narrow focus and distasteful sheen of meanness that oozes off much 21st-century pornography. Overall the tone is refreshingly cheerful; everybody seems to be having fun. The standard narrative tropes are already firmly in place: randy schoolgirls (one, serving detention in a corner, wearing a truly surreal pair of donkey ears), lusty maids and masseuses, unsuspecting husbands-priests-school inspectors stumbling onto scenes of delightful lesbian debauchery. But the variety of acts undertaken within individual shorts is eye-opening: gay and straight coupling, voyeurism, equal-opportunity oral sex, masturbation, the bit with the dog truly something for everyone. Above and beyond the prurient-nostalgia appeal, these films evoke an agreeably prelapsarian landscape of desire.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Naughty doesn't begin to describe it suffice to say that the anonymous stars of the pioneering hardcore shorts collected here could, with some de riguer cosmetic enhancement, step right into modern-day adult movies. Given the rate at which mainstrea… (more)