samedi 23 janvier 2010

Productive Repression

Illustrating Foucault’s “productive repression” hypothesis a subculture actually grew responding to this normative classification, springing from the traditional whipping brothels and flagellant’s clubs that were so characteristic of the “English vice”. From 1918 to 1941, the fetish magazine London Life published extensive correspondence about corsetry, high-heels, piercing, corporal punishment, rubber fetishism, pony play and similar themes while American bondage comics proliferated and “fledge literature” literally invaded Parisian pornographic bookshops, becoming the dominant trend between the Fin de Siècle and the Roaring Twenties (Aimé de Rod, Dr. Claqueret, Jean de Villiot, Mac Orlan’s Sady Blackeyes, etc.). This extremely ritualized iconography directly mirrored mainstream popular culture like women in distress serials or The Boy’s Own Paper and its endless sadistic acts carried out on “natives” or heroes. In 1946 John Willie would edit the first issue of the iconic bondage magazine Bizarre, soon featuring the mythic serial Sweet Gwendoline which epitomizes the sado-masochistic undercurrent of most Men’s Adventure Magazines of the time.

The next stage of the psychotronic construction of sado-masochism, after the formalization of the Hays Codes and the triumph of Hollywood puritanical order, would be the emergence of a “cinema of cruelty” (André Bazin, Flammarion, 1975), situated “in the shadow of the Divine Marquis” (Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony, Oxford University Press, 1978 [1933]) and on the peripheries of the classical studio system. Amplifying the sado-masochist overtones of sublimated and heavily censored mainstream cinema, studied in G. De Coulteray’s classic Sadism in Cinema (1964), a marginal cinema, mainly conditioned the use of “shock value” in order to compete, marketing-wise, with major productions, emerged, creating a specific “niche” that delimitated the possibilities of transgression in the evolving standards of a perplexed and anguished society.

It was the birth of the “immoral tales” of European sex and horror movies studied by Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs. While Pauline Reage’s Story of O reinvented sado-masochist high culture imagery (1954) Mario Bava explored their sublimated version in the Gothic tradition, Italianized and at the same time literalized with Sadean and Swinburnean echoes as reveals the title La Fusta e il Corpo (1963), followed by a host of productions like Massimo Pupillo’s Il Boia scarlatto (aka Bloody Pit of Horror, 1965). Closely related to this reinvention of Gothic sexuality Italian fumetti neri redefined the comic-book genre with such S&M icons as Angiolini’s Isabella (1966) or Leone Frollo’s Maghella.

British S&M Gothic was not left behind, starting with Sadean early movies like The Hellfire Club (1960) or John Gilling’s Flesh and the Fiends (id). The subgenre of “sex and sadism” was also receiving a Goyaesque touch in Jess Franco´s early productions where tortured women were the dark side of sex-symbols, “scream queens” of an increasingly sado-masochistic imagery that goes from Miss Muerte (1965) to the sleazy Necronomicon (1967). Nourished by the French fantastique tradition, Franco’s cinema blended romanticism and the decadent tradition with buñuelesque surrealism, spicy pulps and old serials, comic strips and jazzy improvisation. Other peripheral cinematographies were willing to cash-in with the new trend, as pathologically macho Mexican horror (Federico Curiel’s El Imperio de Dracula, 1966), Filipino sex monsters of Brides of Blood (1968), Brazilian necrophilia rituals of Zé do Caixao or, more explicitly, Japan extreme S&M thrillers like Jigokuben (1969) or Moju (1969), leading to the idiosyncratic subgenre of sexual tortures –oscillating between ars erotica and scientia sexualis- illustrated by Sejun Suzuki’s Nikoti No Mura (1963), Wakamatsu´s and Teruo Ishii´s oeuvre or Akira Inoue’s Hiroku Onna-ro of 1967.

The narrative excuse used for the film’s non-stop sexual violence "is the imprisonment of a young woman (Yasuda) in the 18th century on suspicion of murder. The film dwells on her painful experiences and graphically portrays her stepfather being tortured to death. As an added twist, her main tormentor in prison is later revealed to be her long-lost sister. Unlike American sex-and-gore movie-makers, Japanese practitioners rarely slip into the torture-for-fun-and-profit attitude (….) avoiding the cultural conservatism what refuses to take responsibility for the unpalatable fantasies they exploit” (P. Hardy, The Aurum Film Encyclopedia of Horror, London: Aurum, 1993, p. 189).

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