This Is Softcore: The Art Cinema Erotica of Radley Metzger

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August 7 - 13

The preeminent director of the Golden Age of Erotic Cinema and a pioneering American independent filmmaker, Radley Metzger is a fascinating transitional figure whose unique brand of sophisticated erotic art cinema created an almost utopian space between the cheap grindhouse sexploitation of the ’60s and the full-on hardcore porn of the ’70s.

Born in 1929, Metzger got his start as an editor, dabbled in commercials, helped with the dubbing of …And God Created Woman, cut trailers for Janus Films (notably some of their Bergman titles), and in 1958 made his first feature, Dark Odyssey, a drama about a young Greek immigrant in New York. In 1960 he formed Audubon Films with partner Ava Leighton. Their business plan? To import, re-edit, and distribute European sexploitation films. They released The Fast Set and The Twilight Girls that year, and made enough money to go to Europe on buying sprees, picking up and releasing a host of other titles, notably I Spit on Your Grave, and Mac Ahlberg’s I, a Woman, which proved to be a smash hit in U.S. in 1966). Metzger’s second directorial effort, The Dirty Girls (shot in 1963 and released in 1965), marked his emergence as a sexploitation film director—and he never looked back.

Commercially calculating, Metzger hit upon a formula that would make his films stand out from other sex films of the day: an eye for chic, glamorous beauty; a genuine sensuousness; a feel for the ’60s zeitgeist, an artful stylistic precision and control; glossy, strikingly upscale production values; and a predilection for Continental location shooting and casting—these were the hallmarks of the Metzger style. Moreover, he had a particular interest in “creating a total environment.” As he put it: “I created an idealized enactment of sex, as a unifying force between people … In the area of eroticism, I think it’s easier to involve the audience if you deal with rich people… So I had to keep everything upscale. It’s a kind of seduction.”

All of this distinguished him from the lowbrow vulgarity and earthy vitality of Russ Meyer (Metzger’s polar opposite in every respect) and the leering slapstick romps of Tinto Brass, to mention the director’s most notable softcore peers. Metzger would later cite French auteur Claude Lelouch, maker of heady, glossy melodramas and sex comedies, as his touchstone. But when his classy brand of sex film went out of fashion as the success of Deep Throat opened the floodgates to graphic sex on the movie screen, Metzger boldly reinvented himself as Henry Paris and crossed over into the hardcore-porn world, bringing his brand of high-quality filmmaking, superior production values, and passion with him. He successfully made five films in this mode, beginning with the 1974 The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, and achieving acclaim with The Opening of Misty Beethoven two years later. And having made his point, left the business behind, head held high.

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Coming Soon

Camille 2000

Camille 2000

Radley Metzger | 1969 | 35mm | 115 mins

Introduction by Radley Metzger on August 9.

One of the best and most visually inventive films from Metzger’s European phase is a retelling of Alexandre Dumas’s The Lady of the Camellias, the tragic story of doomed love between an eligible bachelor and a beautiful kept woman.

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Saturday, August 09

9:30pm

Tuesday, August 12

4:00pm
Carmen, Baby

Carmen, Baby

Radley Metzger | 1967 | 35mm | 90 mins

Metzger takes Prosper Mérimée’s 19th-century tale of an amoral gypsy temptress, updates it to Swinging ’60s Spain, and dresses it up with plenty of sex and visual style.

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Thursday, August 07

6:30pm
The Cat and the Canary

The Cat and the Canary

Radley Metzger | 1978 | 35mm | 98 mins

A dark and stormy night, a hideously disfigured madman escaped from a nearby asylum, a secret torture chamber—all the classic ingredients are in place for Metzger’s British-shot period remake of the 1939 horror classic.

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Monday, August 11

9:00pm
The Image

The Image

Radley Metzger | 1975 | 16mm | 89 mins

Q&A with Radley Metzger.

A man is drawn into a high-class world of dominance and submission in Metzger’s uncompromising and groundbreaking depiction of sadomasochism, not for the faint of heart.

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Tuesday, August 12

9:00pm
The Lickerish Quartet

The Lickerish Quartet

Radley Metzger | 1970 | 16mm | 88 mins

Introduction by Radley Metzger on August 8.

Illusion merges with reality in this enigmatic tale of a decadent family’s seduction by a beguiling female guest. Andy Warhol declared the film “an outrageously kinky masterpiece.”

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Friday, August 08

9:15pm

Wednesday, August 13

4:45pm
Little Mother

Little Mother

Radley Metzger | 1971 | 35mm | 90 mins

In this sexy tale of intrigue and ruthless ambition, Metzger fictionalizes the real-life saga of Evita Perón, seven years ahead of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical.

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Wednesday, August 13

7:00pm
Score

Score

Radley Metzger | 1974 | 35mm | 90 mins

Q&A with Radley Metzger on August 7, followed by a party co-hosted with Viva Radio.

Frustrated swingers on an extended visit to the French Riviera play host to a pair of innocent newlyweds for an evening that suggests a kinky, sex-romp reworking of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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Thursday, August 07

8:30pm

Wednesday, August 13

9:15pm
Therese and Isabelle

Therese and Isabelle

Radley Metzger | 1968 | 35mm | 118 mins

Q&A with Radley Metzger on August 9.

Abandoned at a high-class boarding school, Therese develops an erotic attraction with class-minx Isabelle, which results in succession of increasingly explicit Sapphic trysts.

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Saturday, August 09

6:30pm

Monday, August 11

4:30pm
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