Sex and social criticism in the alternative cinema of the seventies

The seventies are strange dates in terms of film production. While the dream of May 68 and June 69 are fading, there are traces of the answer -both or more extreme- that began in the previous decade, at the same time that puritanism, the vulgar sense of the show and the conservatism of the Reagan era.

Sex and social criticism in the alternative cinema of the seventies


Frame from the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" by Jim Sharman (1975).

These are the years in which "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975) by Jim Sharman appears. Under the guise of an independent musical comedy, the film hides a veiled attack on the conventional heterosexual couple and institutions such as psychiatry, in addition to revisiting in drag the monster of Frankenstein. Musical numbers inspired by Esther Williams and Busby Berkeley, transvestism, camp and above all an invitation to hedonism and the revision of the horror that continues to cause "the queer" in post-Stonewall American society. The conventional couple that takes refuge in the castle populated by "freaks" is that couple who are going to bring us films that already announce the moral rearmament of the 80s as "Love Story" or "Champion".

They are also the years of "Tarde de perros" (1975), starring Al Pacino ("A la caza") as a friendly and bisexual bank robber who is cornered by an incredible police deployment when with the help of another colleague. Assault a bank branch, creating mediatic expectation. Although the approach is not entirely convincing (Lumet wants to create, above all, an action movie), the idea of ​​a bank robbery to pay for a sex reassignment operation is at least disturbing for the year in which it was made. In front of the courteous robbers, we found bank employees, sometimes gray, betraying, faint-hearted and unsupportive and a police device willing to do everything to achieve their ends.

The 70s are also the years of Ken Loach's "Family Life" (1971), a reflection of Cooper and Laing's ideas about antipsychiatry and the nuclear family as one of the foci of mental imbalance. Although the film is somewhat insipid and does not fully delve into the ideas of antipsychiatry, it is already a breakthrough as is the great "A woman under the influence" (1974) by John Cassavettes, who in that decade made his most personal films ("Gloria" "Opening night), helped by the talent of Gena Rowlands who gives life to a sensitive working class woman whose breakdown is progressively and with soft tragicomic touches and a true portrait of the social environment.

In the 70s Woody Allen brain that includes for the first time a pair of lesbians in his mythical and evocative "Manhattan" (1979), shot in nostalgic black and white and, although almost all, if not all, his films are of a marked heterosexism his vision of the vital, labor and loving anguish of the common urban man turn it into a new voice that goes from the gross and irreverent comedy to the most intellectual cinema.

And it is in the 70s when Bergman performs the demolishing "The Egg of the Serpent" (1977), on the aftermath of Nazism, and the claustrophobic "Of the Life of the Puppets" (1980), an unattractive view of existential angst .

Bob Fosse performs the mythical "Cabaret" (1972) that still remains today as a musical camp, groundbreaking and legendary that from the ugly vindicates the vulnerable actress and at the same time something vampire and the sensitive and gay writer, all in a comedy key nostalgic The character of Sally Bowles is one of the most adorable "mariliendres" in the history of art. The pen of Christopher Isherwood ("Goodbye to Berlin") and the camera of Fosse send a message of sincerity at the same time as a somewhat ambivalent look at the broken Berlin between the wars.

In the 1970s the Canadian Cronenberg made what are still his most daring films in terms of the union of sexuality, the new flesh and the "gore" terror. With films like the crude ones "They came from within ..." (1975), "Rabia" (1977) or "Chromosome 3" (1979) links evil and destruction to the growing repression of the sexual impulse as well as invites us to think about new physicalities to the monstrous but of a strange and disturbing bizarre beauty.

The 70 are the years in which the Spanish dictatorship falls and the uncovering begins. Eloy de la Iglesia performs, among others, "The hidden pleasures" (1977) challenging the still in force Law of Social Danger or "The Deputy" (1978) denouncing the homophobia of right and left, as well as the emergence of neo-Nazi groups.

The 70 years in which many of those who today have fallen into overproduction and complacency made some of their most radical proposals. This is the case of Terence Mallick with his wonderful "Malas tierras" (1973) where, from the demystification, he approaches us to a "Bonny and Clyde" pessimistic, small-town, bloody and somewhat schizo, whose protagonist mixes ingenuity and nihilistic challenge assaulting many of the current taboos, imitating icons still in force and ahead of François Ozon of "Lovers criminals".

In that decade shine the first pro-gay films are incredibly shy but there are also little-known bets like Waters, Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, Shirley Clarke, Andy Warhol or Paul Morrisey, songs to male beauty but also challenges to a society based on appearances and exaltation young people and racial and sexual minorities. In the independent cinema Peter Watkins narrates with great crudeness the effects of the war of Vietnam in a film of unprecedented verismo "Punishment Park" (1971).

The Italian cinema lives a particular splendor although its teachers begin to take refuge in their private worlds and to accentuate their obsessions taking them to the extreme as Visconti with "Death in Venice" (1971) or "Confidences" (1974), Pasolini with "Salo" (1975) ) or Fellini with the "Satyricon" (1969), now considered a classic non-heterosexual cinema or Pasolini with its particular social fables of literary air.

In England, Losey challenges new taboos in films such as "Una Ingles Romantica" (1975), and the angry young people who seem to disappear continue to present us with rebellious and sometimes pioneer films in their approach to homosexuality or bisexuality as "Domingo, maldito, Sunday "(1971) by John Schlesinger or the first Ken Russell films - among which" The Wild Messiah "(1972) - which will mentor Derek Jarman as well as perform and homoerotic revisions of the world of DHLawrence or the ancient demonic myths rooted in the religious imagery of the Middle Ages.

In Germany are the years in which Fassbinder reaches its peak with pioneering films about transvestism and transsexuality as "A year with thirteen moons" (1978) or visions from a class point of view of the homosexual world as "The law of the strongest "(1974) or virulent requests against racism and environmental misery in" We all call ourselves Ali "(1974).

The coda to this route is set by Derek Jarman with his sexually explicit (then considered pornographic) "Sebastiane" (1976), where he vindicates the homosexuality of the Christian martyr while reveling in the beauty of male bodies and, above all, Barbara Hammer that with the subsequent "Nitrate Kiss" (1985) invites us to a world made from and for lesbians, with undoubted references to Monique Wittig and the independent and underground cinema of the moment.

And they are also the years of the cheesy and macho "Grease" (1978), the pretentious "The mechanical orange" (1971) or the effective but politically ambiguous "Taxi Driver" (1976), but they are also the years of the first and more personal works of great authors such as André Techiné (with an exquisite photograph with natural light and a Charlotte Brontë extremely butch) or Chantal Akerman confronting nude women in their exercise of contracine in "Je, tu, lui, elle" (1974) or Alan Tanner with "Mesidor" (1979) a melancholic precedent of "Thelma and Louise".

In Latin America highlights, among others, Ripstein, who courageously adapted Donoso's novel "The place without limits" (1977) getting one of the best films on machismo, homophobia, transvestism and prostitution in rural environments dominated by the hypocrisy and caciquismo.

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