01 October 2008

Screening Sex

Screening Sex
Screening Sex, by Linda Williams, is a history of the representation of sex in mainstream and arthouse cinema. It complements her definitive history of pornography, Hard Core.

There are chapters on the Hollywood kiss in the Hays Code era, New Hollywood's sexual liberation and counter-culture, mainstream 'porno chic', and hardcore scenes in contemporary arthouse films. In The Realm Of The Senses has a chapter to itself, and there is also extensive discussion of Last Tango In Paris, Deep Throat, Blue Velvet, and Boys In The Sand, amongst others.

My only qualm is: why devote so much space to Brokeback Mountain? Yes, it's topical, but surely it's a very minor footnote in the history of screen sex, and therefore doesn't merit the twenty pages and nine photographs that Williams accords it.

It's no surprise that Screening Sex is such a superlative study of its subject, given its author's reputation as the pre-eminent scholar of cinematic sex. The analytical text is accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography and some surprisingly graphic images.