This weekend, the International House in Philadelphia's University City will begin a monthlong series of films of the sexual revolution -- movies from the '60s and '70s that challenged censors and taboos about sexuality. "Free to Love: The Cinema of the Sexual Revolution" includes films that radically blended art, politics, and sex.
At the same time, an unrelated art space in North Philadelphia will be showing the underbelly of that revolution -- adult films from the 1970s, shot in Philadelphia, that evaded widespread cultural approval.
The series at the International House begins Friday with the Swedish film "I Am Curious (Yellow)," featuring the film's director playing himself filming the life and loves of a young, radical theater student.
Released in 1968, it created a firestorm of discussion for its radical filmmaking technique, its politically charged characters, and -- mostly -- for its sexually explicit scenes. "I Am Curious" (both parts - Yellow and Blue -- will be screened in the series) polarized movie-goers. Former first lady Jackie Onassis was curious enough to see it, while at the same time it was banned as smut in Massachusetts.
The series of more than 60 features and shorts also includes "In The Realm of the Senses" from Japan, "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" from Hollywood, and, from the underground, Jack Smith's "Flaming Creatures" and Robert Crumb's "Fritz the Cat."
PhilaMOCA (the Mausoleum of Contemporary Art) fills in the bottom end of the adult-film spectrum with a pair of films screening on Jan. 17: Al Goldstein's "SOS: Screw on Screen" (1975) and Ray Horsch's "Erotic Memoirs of a Male Chauvinist Pig" (1973). Each was shot (in full or part) in Philadelphia, and each attempted to bring pornography closer to the mainstream through humor.
"Erotic Memoirs" follows a recently divorced man talking into a tape recorder about his exploits. The plot consists of a series of sexual transgressions, some of so perverse a nature that nearly everyone in the audience will be uncomfortable -- all with an undercurrent of commentary satirizing society and marriage.
"The people who came to that screening came to see a satire, came to see a comedy. They liked it," said Horsch. "Subsequent audiences who came to see it as porn unanimously rejected it."
Horsch is a self-described sociopath. Forty years after the film was made, he said he has little concern whether the audience is entertained or not. But evidently someone wants to see "Erotic Memoirs"; it has been digitally remastered and released as a DVD by Distribpix, as well as the screening at PhilaMOCA.
Just last summer, Horsch was released from federal prison, his third stint in jail for drugs and counterfeiting. In addition to criminal ventures, he has for decades been photographing models in bondage, regardless if anyone is buying. (His books, he said, have been banned on Amazon.)
Horsch has been living so far afield of popular culture that the idea that there is something called a "Cinema of the Sexual Revolution" is foreign to him. He just likes sex.
"Sex is the crucible of our humanity. It's what drives everything. To say that one subject, and that one subject alone, is taboo -- is just silly," said Horsch. "This country goes to pieces when Janet Jackson shows a portion of her nipple for less than three seconds. That is ... juvenile. I can't describe it any other way."
"The Erotic Memoirs of a Male Chauvinist Pig" is not a good film. Horsch, now is in his 70s, would prefer not to be remembered for it. But it's a vision from the fringe of the 1970s sexual revolution that never made it into the history books.