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Perversion in cinema

Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden. --The Production Code (1930-1967)

Parent categories: cinema - perversion

Key text: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006)

Related: erotic horror - mainstream erotic films - gay cinema - paraphilia - psychoanalytical film theory - psychological horror - sadomasochism in cinema - sexploitation films - sexual fantasy - sexual fetishism - SM in mainstream films - violence in the cinema

Main perversions: masochism - sadism - voyeurism - exhibitionism

Connoisseurs: Lindsay Hallam - Patricia MacCormack - Jean Streff - George de Coulteray - William ?

Directors: Alfred Hitchcock - Michael Haneke - Erich von Stroheim - Jess Franco - Fritz Lang - Pasolini - Luis Buñuel - David Cronenberg - Ken Russell - Josef von Sternberg - Roman Polanski - Ed Wood

Selection of film titles: Un Chien Andalou (1929) - M (1931) - Open City - (1945) - Glen or Glenda? (1953) - (1953) - Peeping Tom (1960) - Psycho (1960) - Lolita (1962) - The Servant (1963) - The Whip and The Body (1963) - Repulsion (1965) - Femina Ridens (1969) - A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Maîtresse (1973) - The Night Porter (1974) - Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS (1974) - The Story of O (1975) - Salò (1975) - Je t'aime moi non plus (1976) Videodrome (1983) - Body Double (1984) - Blue Velvet (1986) - The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) - Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Bitter Moon (1992) - Romance X (1999) - Secretary (2002)


This is a page about perversion in the cinema. Perversion is a derogatory term for paraphilia and as such a hard to define concept which ranges from mild deviant sex forms to outright sex crimes. Gay cinema is included on this page since homosexuality has been regarded as a perversion up until the 1960s. This page will also feature the work of directors such as Joseph Losey whose dominant themes are emotional instability, emotional and physical violence and perverse sexual power plays. There are also links to related genres such as psychological horror and violent films.

The first to introduce perversion in cinema were feminist and psychoanalytical film theorists in the mid 1970s. They pointed towards the obvious voyeuristic nature of cinema In my opinion voyeurism has also been one of the main causes for the development of the novel. The feminist film theorists equated this voyeurism with sadism (see the work of Laura Mulvey). [Dec 2005]

Voyeurism [...]

Voyeurism is just one of the primary tools of cinema. Hitchcock and directors before him in the silent era, when you shot a close-up from somebody's point of view, you were tying the audience very directly into the experience. It's the only art form in which you are showing the same piece of information to your character and the viewer in the audience simultaneously. That's what's unique about it and that's why people are drawn into film -- because they're experiencing the same visual information as the character. --Ian Rothkerch, http://archive.salon.com/ent/movies/int/2002/11/06/depalma/print.html [Dec 2004]

Sadism [...]

The dominant criticism of sadomasochism in media and popular culture has been articulated by feminism. According to critics such as Laura Mulvey, sadism is the ruling perversion in cinema, which is complicit with the male gaze. Women are thus controlled within the diegesis by male sadism (investigation/punishment) or sadistic fetishism, “fetishistic scopophilia.”[11] Gaylyn Studlar notes that what is left out of this model is masochism and proposes an alternative model in which visual pleasure is not sadistic, but rather masochistic. Hence, visual pleasure is related to pre-oedipal pleasure of oral merger and fusion with the mother as opposed to separation and identification with the father.[12] However, Linda Williams questions the “either/or oppositions” of Mulvey and Studlar’s models by emphasizing the pleasure of sadomasochistic fantasy in its non-fixed, interrelated, oscillation “between masculine/feminine, active/passive, sadistic/masochistic and oedipal/preoedipal” positions. -- Sadomasochism, Sexual Torture, and the Holocaust Film: From Misogyny to Homoeroticism and Homophobia in Apt Pupil , Caroline Joan (Kay) S. Picart and Jason Grant McKahan via http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc45.2002/picart/ [Dec 2005]

Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze

Our discussion during my lecture, Spectacles of the Body, allowed us to consider the import of the cinema and its impact on epistemological and phenomenological discourse of the media and the body. Like television, cinema's emergence as a "technological wonder" and, for some, "revolution" has stirred a tremendous amount of critical discourse on the effects/affects of the movies. Laura Mulvey's key feminist tract, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema"; raised the ideological stakes on representation of, in particular, the female body. It also brought into focus the masculinist workings of that ideology. For many years, Mulvey's essay stood as the paradigmatic polemic for feminist studies in the cinema. The use of pyschoanalysis as the methodological framework for the piece has been (from the article's inception) critiqued for its limited understanding of gender. One of the more recent critiques of both Mulvey and Freudian/Lacanian psychoanalysis in cinema studies has been through a turn to Gilles Deleuzes' theoretical propositions and work on the cinema. Rather than conceptualize the unconscious of the spectator as a fixed subject, Deleuze recommends a more rhizomatic or flexible model for discussing cinema. Steven Shaviro critiques the work of Mulvey while opening a Deleuzian model onto a study of the cinema. --Dr David Gerstner via http://www.otago.ac.nz/DeepSouth/spring2000/introductionfive.html [2000|Jun 2005]

Mulvey ranks the voyeuristic gaze as the more important of the two possible gazes and-within a psychoanalytical reading-ascribes this gaze as having a sadistic point of view. The threat of castration is neutralized by the subjugation and violation of the female body. This submission is then represented for the voyeuristic pleasures of the male viewer. Gaylyn Studlar's essay "Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures" of the Cinema complements Mulvey's argument: by drawing on a study by Gilles Deleuze, she emphasizes the fetishistic gaze as a genuine foundation of pleasurable looking. Deleuze argues that sadism and masochism, contrary to Freud's dialectical evaluation, are completely separate conditions and furthermore that the genesis of masochism temporally precedes sadism-at least within a psychoanalytical discourse which traces psychic disorders back into early childhood. Since fetishistic scopophilia renders the spectator in an inferior position, compared to the super-human status of the fetish, Studlar argues that fetishistic scopophilia pushes the spectator into a masochistic position. While Studlar rejects Mulvey's position and tries to formulate an alternative account, I want to argue that her argument is essentially complementary to Mulvey's: both arguments depend on the same basic matrix of gendered gazes, which is evaluated according to the same Freudian and Lacanian theories. The particular emphasis on voyeurism/ sadism on one hand and fetishism/masochism on the other hand must be understood as a purely academic exercise, bearing significance only within a clinical, psychoanalytic framework. Mulvey and Studlar can apply this model of the gendered gaze, but because they are working within an essentially gendered system, they cannot explore the various possibilities of the filmic gaze. --Robert Grimm via http://pages.emerson.edu/organizations/fas/latent_image/issues/1993-12/sado.htm [Jun 2005]

Joan Benett and Fritz Lang

A trilogy of films from the 1940s starring Joan Bennett are analyses of desire and perversion. --http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/lang/magic.html [Dec 2005]

She made her finest films in the 1940s with director Fritz Lang: Man Hunt (1941), The Woman in the Window (1945) and Scarlet Street (1945), becoming the queen of film-noir femme fatales. --http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000910/bio [Dec 2005]

Psychopathia Sexualis in Italian Sinema (1968 - 1972)

Psychopathia Sexualis in Italian Sinema [Amazon FR]

Franco the libertine, Ella the nymphomaniac, Gilberto the mad sadist, Sayer the aesthete sadist, Mary the homicidal mantis, Ahmed the debauched, X. the vicious politician, X. the fanatic and moralist judge, Kay the sexually dissatisfied, the mysterious Greta, Diana the arrogant mistress and her black servant Janita, Santino the foot fetichist, the psychopatic Dr. Lyutak, the submissive Marcia, the refined Lesbians Paula and Mudy, Silvia the happy masochist... These are the eccentric characters enliving the incredible stories of this anthology of Italian movies from the so-called Sexual Revolution, featured in the form of “cineromanzo”. Krafft-Ebing’s theories, Sade’s fantasies, Freud’s analyses in a bizarre and entertaining cocktail of “hot” sequences chosen from rare Italian magazines of the ‘70s featuring such film as:

La matriarca / The Libertine (Pasquale Festa Campanile), L’assoluto naturale (Mauro Bolognini), Eros e Thanatos (Jean Bastide aka Marino Girolami), Femina ridens / The Laughing Woman (Piero Schivazappa), Venus in Furs / Paroxismus (Jess Franco), Bella di giorno, moglie di notte / Wife by Night (Nello Rossati), The Lickerish Quartet / Esotika erotika psicotika (Radley Metzger), La verità secondo Satana (Ralph Brown aka Renato Polselli), A.A.A. Massaggiatrice bella presenza offresi... (Demofilo Fidani), Delirio caldo / Delirium (Ralph Brown), La donna invisibile / The Fantasies of a Sensuous Woman (Paolo Spinola), Top sensation / Seducers (Ottavio Alessi), Scacco alla regina (Pasquale Festa Campanile), Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh / Blade of the Ripper (Sergio Martino)... --http://www.lfvw.com/psychopathia_sexual.html [May 2005]

Incredibly strange movie fantasies from “cineromanzi” 1968-1972

A cura e testo di Stefano Piselli, Riccardo Morrocchi
Edizione brossurata
Formato 24x31 cm. — 104 pagine b/n
Testo italiano e inglese
ISBN 88-8275-047-7

--http://www.glitteringimages.com/bizarresinemaarchives/biar001it.htm [May 2005]

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