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The Good Old Naughty Days

France's reputation for being in the vanguard of both le cinema and l'amour is furthered in "The Good Old Naughty Days," a nifty collection of blue movies from the silent era. Program could work well in latenight slots at fests open to this sort of thing, and will make a good specialty video.

France’s reputation for being in the vanguard of both le cinema and l’amour is furthered in “The Good Old Naughty Days,” a nifty collection of blue movies from the silent era. Selected from a treasure trove of 300 such one-reelers discovered in the attic of “une famille tres respectable,” this compilation of a dozen hardcore shorts made between 1905 and 1930 reveals production standards far in advance of comparable films being made elsewhere at the time, as well as an inventive and often humorous array of diverse couplings. Program could work well in latenight slots at fests open to this sort of thing, and will make a good specialty video.

Brief explanatory titles note that this early century erotica was mostly shown in the waiting rooms of French brothels as a sort of appetizer, and that “uncles” often brought teenage nephews to such fare after mass on Sundays “to start their initiation into manhood.” Although all the actors were anonymous (most of the women were prostitutes) and the filmmakers unknown, the sometimes elaborate sets, costumes and occasional fancy lighting are explained by the fact that settings for legitimate films were often used for sex pics on days off; furthermore, their professional look is due to mainstream directors often having indulged in these little dalliances on the side.

To generalize very tentatively on the basis of just a handful of films, one can observe a frequent pattern of two women taking a fancy to each other as a warm-up to the entry of at least one man shortly after. Nuns and priests behaving in a decidedly unholy manner was clearly a very popular theme, and an amazing effort along these lines has a priest voyeuristically peering through a window at two nuns in action, only to get the goods from another priest who comes up behind him.

Further astonishment comes in the form of a man receiving oral favors simultaneously from a woman and a dog, threesomes and foursomes working every possible combination and permutation, and a man lacking in crucial “energy” visiting two femme therapists who administer special lotions and techniques that restore him to full health.

More enjoyable than most of the silent stag movies that have made it into American blue movie compilations, these French entries are marked by a breezy approach, sweetly lewd intertitles and unprepossessing bodies that lack both the physical exaggeration and narcissism of performers favored in contempo porno — many of the men and women are very fleshy by modern standards.

Pics are as explicit as anything made today, and together serve as an almost quaint reminder that human nature hasn’t changed one whit since grandpa and grandma’s day. Print quality is excellent, as is Eric Le Guen’s jaunty musical accompaniment.

The Good Old Naughty Days

Directors Fortnight/France

  • Production: A Melange presentation in collaboration with Lobster. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced, compiled by Michel Reilhac.
  • Crew: (B&W); editor, Olivier Lupczinsky; music, Eric Le Guen. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 20, 2002. Running time: 71 MIN.
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