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Although the free love and peace of that previous decade faded away, they left behind a far more open attitude towards the portrayal of physical love, desire and passion. This is most evident on screen, with ever-more explicit scenes of nudity and sex rife in the cinema of the 1970s. Actors were suddenly willing to bare all for their art, or at least in some cases, whilst directors increasingly looked to push the boundaries of ever-more lenient and accepting censors.
The power of suggestion was no longer the ultimate erotic device, with bare flesh, gasps of breath, furrowed brows and exploitative scenarios now the go-to devices for those looking to convey the most intimate acts between men and women, women and women, and men and men.
Keen to prove this point, I’ve had a think about some great erotic movies produced between 1970 and 1975, which, when compared to work unveiled just a few years earlier, would make even the most liberated feel a mixture of embarrassment and shock… or disgust, depending on which of the following we’re talking about.
It’s better not knowing anything…
Whilst many think of ‘On the Waterfront’ or ‘The Godfather’ whenever Marlon Brando is mentioned, for the sake of this article, I see him as more of an older guy who sleeps with young women, as opposed to a rebel or mafia don.
The movie is controversial to this day, thanks to the claims of his co-star, Maria Schneider, then a 19-year-old French hopeful, who later said the most infamous sex scene in the movie wasn’t originally scripted, but instead added through coercion.
If you want ‘steamy 70s’ then this is a good place to start.
Wanting to be Marlon Brando is vanity…
Let’s face it: the idea of middle-aged men locking themselves away in a rural French villa with the fundamental goal of eating so much food they eventually die doesn’t sound like it’s going to be particularly hot. And in many ways, it isn’t.
However, the not-so-small subplot involving their hiring of an equal number of prostitutes to accompany and pleasure them during their final days turns the story into a tale of sexual excess and gluttony so utterly debauched and kinky, the Romans are likely looking on it with envy from their orgy-fueled heyday.
An acquired taste (pun intended).
I screw better than God…
From the director who would later bring us ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Basic Instinct’ – along with some other films that didn’t star Sharon Stone – comes this sexually charged take on an age old premise.
You know the one: Dutch sculptor (Rutger Hauer) meets girl (Monique van de Ven), the pair fall in love, her family see him as an aging lothario, they get married anyway, but jealousy and one disgusting vomit scene create a rift that proves impossible to overcome.
Comparable to Arthur Hiller’s tragic ‘Love Story’ in the melodramatic finale, it’s artistic, steamy and worth watching, irrespective of what your libido thinks.
Based on the novel by Dominique Aury, which itself turned plenty of heads when first published in the 1950s, O’s story is one of subservience, masochism and the desire to please her lover at her own expense.
Taken by her boyfriend, Rene, to what can only be described as a ‘sexual retreat’, she joins a veritable Harem of females who are trained – by both men and women – in the ancient art of doing what others ask, and being available to gratify 24/7.
It’s also a tale of abuse, as the aforementioned Rene is actually using poor O to repay his own debts.
Idiot, did you really think we would kill you? Don’t you see we want to kill you a thousand times, to the limits of eternity, if eternity could have limits?
Easily amongst the most shocking films I’ve ever seen, legendary practitioner Pasolini uses the idea of an Italian country home – filled with fascist libertines, male and female concubines – as a metaphor for the fall of Mussolini’s dictatorship.
With that in mind, it might actually be the most important work on this list. As with almost all the rest here, this outing defines fetishism, going so far as to overstep the majority of viewers’ boundaries on decency and acceptability.
There’s physical and mental torture, the force feeding of human waste, and more handcuffs than the average police station.
So there you have it. Whilst you might not find the features collected here particularly arousing, they are nevertheless deeply concerned with eroticism, alongside other themes.
They also show a clear trend emerging as the early-70s made way for the middle of the decade, one defined by controversy and ongoing attempts to make viewers sit up and take notice simply because of how graphic and unsuitable-for-minors the content was.
Perhaps you can come up with a few more suggestions that don’t rely on bondage, slaves, gastronomic greed, or debates as to whether a relationship is age-appropriate?
Now there’s a challenge.