Friday, 27 March 2009

Paul Raymond's Erotica

This is one of those films that, whatever its failings in other regards, is of inherent interest from a sociological perspective, with the experience of watching it in this form – as a British film with a French star dubbed into German – only enhancing its trash entertainment value.

The Paul Raymond of the title, for anyone who doesn't know, was an English music-hall type entertainer who became an impresario, pornographer and property magnate and, through the latter two, one of the richest men in the UK.

Yes, we are on location!

All these disparate elements come together here through the film’s central location, his Revue Bar – i.e. glorified strip club – in the heart of London’s Soho district.

The star of the film is Brigitte Lahaie, the French erotica / horror / porn star whose career includes both routine work in the latter field and more interesting excursions into the former territories via the likes of Jean Rollin’s The Grapes of Death and Fascination and Jesus Franco's Faceless.

Her role, as the roving reporter who takes a very personal involvement in getting the story, is broadly akin to that of Laura Gemser in the Black Emanuelle films, especially the more explicitly mondo-esque entries of the series.

Yet unlike these films, which frequently went all over il mondo in search of the (purportedly) weird and wonderful, all the action here is confined to the Revue Bar and nearby locations, conveniently including the offices of Raymond’s porn magazine publishing empire for some extra cross-media exploitation.

The first major problem is that we don’t have any distinction between reality – Lahaie’s adventures – and fantasy – the Renue Bar sequences – insofar as both are shot in the same style and even at times intercut to make them more ‘exciting’ and erotically charged.

Bearded or unbearded clam?

The second, and the more fundamental as far as the majority of the film’s wider audience – i.e. not film theoretical types but the target public – is that the film necessarily cannot deliver on its promises.

For whereas the rest of Europe, or continental Europe, embraced hardcore for better or worse during the 1970, the UK remained resolutely softcore, with a multitude of strange rules on what it was permissible to show. (And, more cynically, that the likes of Raymond were perfectly happy to see continue, as it meant they didn’t really have to compete with the wider world market.)

On the plus side, Lahaie still provides for plenty of “visual pleasure” if not necessarily jouissance, while the music is endearingly sleazetastic...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While this film may be soft-core, it is quite explicit. In particular, it goes beyond the usual bounds of British films of the time by showing parted female pudenda. In one memorable scene inside a meat lorry (presumably refrigerated--brrr!), a nude woman suspends herself from the ceiling, using the meat hooks as stirrups. Needless to say, no part of her gorgeous anatomy is left to the imagination!