Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 7pm
The Skin Flick's Theory of the Prop

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

A lecture by Elena Gorfinkel

Bodies are without question the profilmic material that provides 1960s sex cinema with its currency, mode of address, and primary spectacle. Yet as scholars Gertrud Koch and Eric Schaefer have noted, the historical and conceptual value of adult cinemas resides equally in their documentation of long lost places, spaces, and quotidian details. Sex films can give us a picture of not only sexualized bodies, their gaits and gestures, but also a life as lived in the domestic interiors that frequently provide the backdrops for sexual action.

Sexploitation’s low-budget forms of production often meant that directors filmed in shabby, ad-hoc locations, like their own lower-middle-class apartments, or those of their friends and collaborators, as was the case with Doris Wishman, and the objects that furnish the skin flick frame have been examined by contemporary filmmakers and artists, retrospectively gazing on the idiom’s artifacts and conventions (Anna Biller’s Viva [2007], Scott Stark’s Noema [1998]). Although we scarcely think of the mise-en-scène tradition in relation to the sex film, reserving it for the likes of Ophuls or Mizoguchi, sexploitation filmmakers such as Radley Metzger and Joe Sarno could be productively framed within it.

Setting aside attributions of authorial style, what would it mean to take seriously all the bits and pieces of private life that get utilized, seen, picked up, fondled, or that merely exist as mute decor in 1960s sexploitation cinema? Ashtrays, caftans, lamps, shag rugs, cocktail glasses: all are seemingly mere adjuncts to corporeal seduction and display. What logics of labor and looking are made manifest through their materiality? Considering films such as Nymphs Anonymous (Manuel Conde, 1968), Smoke and Flesh (Joseph Mangine, 1968), Chained Girls (Joseph Mawra, 1965), My Brother’s Wife (Doris Wishman, 1966), Confessions of a Bad Girl (Barry Mahon, 1965) and The Layout (Joe Sarno, 1969), this talk unravels the relationship between eroticized bodies, the work they perform for the camera, and the prop as sensory trace of domestic temporalities. This lecture contends that sexploitation’s household props reveal another way of apprising the aesthetic vagaries of the adult film, and asks what the sex film might be able to tell us about the nature of the cinematic prop.

Elena Gorfinkel is senior lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. She is the author of Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s.

Tickets - Pay-what-you-wish, available at door ($8 suggested donation).

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30pm.