ORGASMS AT THE FILM FESTIVAL
The first serious scandal at the Biennale—and it did the Venice Film Festival no harm—was the furore following the screening in 1933 of the Czech director Gustav Machatý’s film Ekstase, ‘Ecstasy’. The film starred Hedy Lamarr, then known as Hedy Kiesler, a newcomer to the profession and an attractive ingénue, yet to blossom into the feisty vamp of the 1940s. She starred in Ekstase as Eva Hermann, a simmering young beauty who marries a pleasant but irretrievably desiccated older man. On their wedding night, minutely and embarrassingly observed by Machatý, the groom fails to consummate the marriage. The disappointed Eva becomes increasingly frustrated, nowhere less so than on their honeymoon at a mountain resort, where she is tormented by the sight of hundreds of loving couples either urgently petting in the alpine sunshine or gazing at one another in glueily sated fulfilment. One day, weeks into the marriage, she meditatively bathes naked in a woodland stream, deploring her passionless existence. Fortuitously, her horse bolts and her ultimate deliverance arrives in the shape of Adam, a strapping if somewhat one-dimensional young engineer who helps her recapture the animal, falling in love with her along the way. One evening, having been caught in a violent storm, the pair make their way to Adam’s cottage where they strip off and make love. At this point Machatý chose to orchestrate the first ever on-screen orgasm, which he did by filming a tight close-up of Lamarr’s face while simultaneously, off camera, pricking her buttocks with a safety pin. The resultant grimaces were sufficiently convincing to shock the authorities, so much so that the film was condemned by the Patriarch of Venice and listed by the Catholic Church as an unwholesome and immoral work of art.
THE FORNICATING FASCIST
|On the beach, Bob!|
AN HEROIC SCROUNGER
|Rolfe: skillful manipulation of |
credit and excuses.
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