Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Monday, April 13, 2009

"The Good Old Naughty Days," silent erotica

Several years ago, I saw "The Good Old Naughty Days," a collection of silent French pornographic films, mostly from the 1920s.

I was foiled in my hope of seeing a period brassiere--the women didn't wear any, presumably because they were too much trouble to take off; ditto corsets, in the couple of pre-1920s films. Oh, well. I did learn that men's shirt tails then were a lot longer than I had realized. One only sees them tucked in, if you're looking at drawings and photographs in costume books. In more than one film, a guy had to yank his shirt tail out of the way so the action would be more visible.

This sort of film is better without attempts at dialogue. My friend and I joked the intertitles would probably say "Oh! Oh! Oh!" but in fact most of them either told you things like "and now the abbot shows up" or were funny, like the "Musketeer" one that had each act as a separate food course ("seafood," for example).

Incidentally, my limited French proved adequate to read intertitles in blue films. Go me!

Only two of the films showed men entirely naked, which I found interesting. I thought of possibilities: 1) these films were intended for men, who didn't want to see naked men; 2) these men didn't undress all the way at home, either; 3) those shirt tails were a fetish of the past (seems less likely, but who knows?). I was a little disturbed by one young guy (wearing a very fake old man wig and moustache) who was so skinny you could see his ribs clearly, every one of them--this distracted me into wondering if he was really poor, or had just jumped out of the trenches, or something. He was probably just skinny. That particular guy was hung like a horse, my friend pointed out, and this was true. Maybe he just burned a lot of calories in his work...he seemed to be having a good time.

In general, the actors had ordinary bodies. I couldn't tell if the women shaved their legs--most kept their stockings on--but I could see that most of them didn't shave under their arms, and the women might have trimmed their pubic hair but none of them shaved it. As I said, for most of the men one didn't get a good view of areas surrounding the genitalia.

There was one (very funny) cartoon of a Priapic little guy called Eveready whose penis would detach and reattach to humorous effect. It included man with donkey and accidental male-male anal penetration. One film with nuns also had a little white doggie who, when encouraged, licked the genitals of both a woman and a man (I and the audience couldn't stop laughing at that one). Things haven't changed much. Nuns, nurses, provocative partial clothing, awkward positions to display for the camera, money shots. People don't roll their eyes any more to display extreme lust, as one Theda Bara-lookalike attempted, however.

The short that most amused me was, essentially, "Madame Butterfly" fanfiction, which gave the opera a happy ending through lesbian geishas, a male/male encounter of hero with faithful servant that included both oral sex and anal penetration, and voyeurism (faithful servant masturbates to the threesome of hero and two geishas at the end).

The film I liked most was one the documentarians noted looked as if it had been filmed and framed by a professional. It was a male-female-female threesome, notable for the film quality (seemingly higher definition) and lighting. I liked the way bars of light from the windows fell over the people, despite the fact that they were so piled up it was difficult to see what they were up to. Very arty. And it was all very enlightening about the past.