X-Rated movies used to be different. Back in the late 1960s/early 1970s, mainstream Hollywood movies received an X-Rating if they dared to show male and female genitalia, if they dared even further to show said genitalia in action, and if they did the unthinkable and provided “a homosexual frame of reference” (Eee-Gad!). So declared the MPAA*, upon bestowing an X-Rating for John Schlesinger’s 1969 film, Midnight Cowboy. Another ground-breaking work, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange, was also rated X, but both seem rather tame today, as far as explicit sexuality goes. In fact, sexuality in both cases was far from the point, or rather, the plots, which covered heady themes of alienation, collapsing societal values, violence, and assimilation.
But the most famous X-Rated movie of its day was the 1967 Swedish art-house film, I Am Curious (Yellow). Its director, Vilgot Sjöman, was influenced by the French New Wave, and like the New Wave, his film abandoned Hollywood conventions. Instead, it featured jump-cuts and a non-linear narrative. It combined documentary elements with fictional characters, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. And yes, it had sex, such as nudity, sexual intercourse, and the scene that was most disturbing (to the male censors), that of the female protagonist kissing a man’s flaccid penis. Arrggh! The penis must never be flaccid! It must be constantly erect, ready to take over the world! Jawohl! But limp dicks and sexuality aside, I Am Curious (Yellow) was above all else, political. It explored themes of equality, including gender equality and class struggle. It blasted Franco’s fascism in Spain, and it promoted non-violence (with a cameo role by Martin Luther King, Jr., who happened to be in Stockholm at the time of filming). And it told the story of a young woman coming to terms with her own sexuality in the midst of the Sexual Revolution. Quite a lot for any movie, let alone one that’s X-Rated. And what this, and the other movies mentioned above, did was pave the way for a freer, more naturalistic style of film-making. An art form for the masses, unafraid of nudity and sex and a frankness of emotions (no matter how dark and disturbing), which until then had been sanitized or hidden away.
*The Motion Picture Association of America
I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW)
½ part Liquore Strega
½ part Yellow Chartreuse
½ part Domaine de Canton
½ part Beefeater Gin
½ part Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
¼ part fresh-squeezed Lemon juice
dash of Hella Bitters Ginger Lemon bitters
Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist and nudity.