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Swedish Sex Education in 1970s London

In 1974 the British Board of Film Censors refused to grant a certificate to the Swedish documentary More About the Language of Love (Mera ur Kärlekens språk, 1970, Torgny Wickman, Sweden: Swedish Film Production), due to its explicit sexual content. Nevertheless, the Greater London Council granted the film an ‘X’ certificate so that it could be shown legally in cinemas throughout the capital. This article details the trial against the cinema manager and owners, after the film was seized by police under the charge of obscenity, and explores the impact on British arguments around film censorship, revealing a range of attitudes towards sex and pornography. Drawing on archival records of the trial, the widespread press coverage as well as participants’ subsequent reflections, the article builds upon Elisabet Björklund’s work on Swedish sex education films and Eric Schaefer’s scholarship on Sweden’s ‘sexy nation’ reputation to argue that the Swedish films’ transnational distribution complicated tensions between educational and exploitative intentions in a particularly British culture war over censorship.

Film Studies
Rape and Marriage in Go Tell It on the Mountain

To consider how James Baldwin resisted racialized notions of sexuality in his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, I employ a number of black feminist critics—including Saidiya Hartman, Patricia Williams, Hortense Spillers, and Patricia Hill Collins—to analyze three under-studied minor characters: Deborah, Esther, and Richard. Those three characters are best understood as figures of heterosexual nonconformity who articulate sophisticated and important critiques of rape and marriage in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Baldwin thus wrote subversive theories of race and sexuality into the margins of the novel, making its style inextricable from its politics. Baldwin’s use of marginal voices was a deft and intentional artistic choice that was emancipatory for his characters and that remains enduringly relevant to American sexual politics. In this particularly polarizing transition from the Obama era to the Donald J. Trump presidency, I revisit Baldwin’s ability to subtly translate political ideas across fault lines like race, nationality, and sex.

James Baldwin Review
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Averageness, Populism and Seriality in Robert Benchley‘s How to Short Subjects

Over the course of the 1930s, the comic persona of Algonquin humorist Robert Benchley changed from that of a sophisticated humorist to an average man. This article situates Benchley‘s How to short subjects for MGM (1935–44) within a broader public preoccupation with averageness that characterised the populist political rhetoric of New Deal-era America. In particular, it explores the function of seriality as a discursive trope conjoining the format of Benchley‘s MGM shorts to the broader construction of average identities in the eras political culture.

Film Studies
Frank Sinatra, Postwar Liberalism and Press Paranoia

Anti-Communist hysteria had a wide-ranging impact on Hollywood across the postwar period. As writers, directors and stars came under the scrutiny of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) due to the content of their films and their political activities, careers were interrupted indefinitely and Hollywood‘s ability to promote cultural change in the new era following World War II was severely hampered. Frank Sinatra‘s heavy involvement in liberal politics during this period illustrates the problems confronting the American film industry as it attempted to address the country‘s imperfections.

Film Studies
Adrian Scott and the Politics of Anti-Fascism in Cornered

Drawing on internal studio correspondence, multiple screenplay drafts and the final film, this essay reconstructs the production history of Cornered to explore the ways in which Scott both compromised with and challenged the studios expectations and interventions. I argue that although Ceplair and Englund are correct in their assessment that studio meddling shaped the films political content in significant ways, Scotts complex negotiations during the films production ensured that Cornered remained a powerfully anti-fascist film.

Film Studies
Julius Caesar

In studio publicity, trade papers, reviews, articles, and educational materials, Joseph L. Mankiewiczs Julius Caesar (1953) was described and accepted as a faithful and mostly pleasing adaptation of Shakespearean drama to the Hollywood screen. As Variety accurately predicted, it achieved four Oscar nominations, one award for art direction and set decoration, high grosses, a hit soundtrack album, and several subsequent revivals. With the content more or less given, contemporary discussion focussed closely on how the verbal had been visualised, on how theatre had been turned into cinema – in short, on the film‘s style. It is with contemporary and subsequent readings of the film‘s style that this article is concerned, where, following David Bordwell, style is taken to mean ‘a films systematic and significant use of techniques of the medium’. But whereas Bordwell analyses film style directly in terms of an aesthetic history he considers to be distinct from the history of the film industry, its technology, or a films relation to society, I explore interpretations of one film‘s style that are heavily invested with socio-political meaning. If, in Bordwell‘s organic metaphor, style is the flesh of film, these readings of style explicitly dress that flesh in socio-political clothing. This analysis of Julius Caesar, then, is not another contribution to debates about adaptation, theatre on film, or Shakespeare on screen, but about the politics of film style.

Film Studies
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Urban Spaces, Sexual Encounters and Erotic Spectacle in Tsukamoto Shinya‘s Rokugatsu no Hebi - A Snake of June (2003)

Shot in a blue washed monochrome, the city of Tsukamoto Shinya‘s A Snake of June, stages a number of highly mediated sadomasochistic sexual encounters within its public spaces. This article examines how the forms of mediation offered within the narrative by both architecture and technology as well as the mediation offered by the film‘s extraordinary blueness articulates the intimate relationship between sexuality and modernity. Following on from the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, it combines a phenomenological and dialectical approach to develop an analysis of sexual pleasure and sexual politics which can account for the embodied interaction of urban subjects and urban spaces.

Film Studies

This introduction to the Film Studies special issue on Sex and the Cinema considers the special place of sex as an object of inquiry in film studies. Providing an overview of three major topic approaches and methodologies – (1) representation, spectatorship and identity politics; (2) the increasing scrutiny of pornography; and (3) new cinema history/media industries studies – this piece argues that the parameters of and changes to the research of sex, broadly defined, in film studies reflect the development of the field and discipline since the 1970s, including the increased focus on putatively ‘low’ cultural forms, on areas of film culture beyond representation and on methods beyond textual/formal analysis.

Film Studies
The Strange History of The Robe As Political Allegory

Smith reveals the particular biases and assumptions of blacklist allegories as well as the extent to which this type of interpretation has informed the reception of 1950s films. More specifically, he addresses several questions about the validity of allegorical readings of the blacklist. Is there a basis for such allegorical interpretations? What is the place of authorial intention and audience reception in the encoding and decoding of blacklist allegories? What does this reading strategy tell us about the politics of the films makers? Does this reading strategy privilege certain meanings of the text over others of equal significance?

Film Studies
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The Films of Glasgow Corporation 1938-1978

Glasgow Corporation had been sponsoring films for almost twenty years when in 1938 its Public Health Department commissioned seven silent films. This marked new relations between the Corporation and the emerging Scottish documentary film movement and a change of approach towards the films’ audiences and the city itself. The essay traces the Corporation‘s film sponsorship from the late 1930s to 1978 when the final images of Glasgow‘s Progress, the Corporation‘s last sponsored film - on its urban renewal projects were taken. By then the Corporation had been amalgamated into Strathclyde Regional Council, the century-long social project of reform had come to an end and television had made its own documentary impact. It argues that over time Corporation films served a variety of political and institutional purposes and often prefigured the fortunes of the city and its people.

Film Studies