WARNING: Contains descriptions of depraved and perverted acts, read at own risk.
A series of bad decisions recently led me to be sitting in the tiny upstairs room of a city-centre pub, watching a fuzzy black and white scene of a girl getting raped by a gun. I, along with the ten other people in the room, had turned up to watch a “mystery X-rated film”, part of September’s Scalarama festival. It was the second such event in the festival’s line-up, and from what I’d heard about the previous film (exploitation ‘classic’ Let me Die A Woman), I was expecting something fairly outrageous. I had not been expecting this.
Perhaps my expectations were off, given that the night was curated by Nottingham’s champion of smut, David Flint. Flint started off with the obscenely weird zine ‘Sheer Filth!’ in the late 80s, which he’s recently gone on to publish as a book. He’s also worked with a myriad of cult film labels, on a range of “weirdiana” projects, and, apparently, on bringing the finest in X-rated films to the good people of Nottingham.
In his quest to educate and entertain, Flint had put together several shorts and trailers to be screened before the main event. Fingered, featuring phone sex, throat slitting and the Stockholm syndrome, along with the aforementioned gun-rape, was a strange sort of highlight, provoking both arousal and subsequent crippling shame. The line-up in sum, however, assaulted the senses in its diversity, jumping from the disco ditty ‘Plastic Doll’ to a worryingly earnest 1950s PSA on the “dangers of the homosexual lifestyle”. Presumably the aim had been to set the tone for the rest of the night and it had, in that the mystery had been…deepened.
The main event, then, was a revelation. Free from the tongue-in-cheek hilarity of the first half of the night, The Image (1975) was an unflinching look at the dynamics of a BDSM relationship. Amusingly described by Flint as “firmcore”, the film was sexually fairly graphic but still beautiful in its cinematography, and surprisingly sensitive given the subject matter.
Protagonist Jean’s narration follows his involvement with an old friend and her younger sex slave, Anne. His corruption is seemingly instantaneous and his exact role in the group dynamic questionable, as we’re led to question who exactly is in control of the situation. Whether the film is completely true in its depiction of a BDSM relationship is, however, debatable, with an ending that felt surprising and unsatisfying. It’s possible that this is results from a failure to properly develop characters other than Jean, in favour of being sensually appealing.
In the interests of having a night dedicated to “depravity and endurance”, however, film-critiquing priorities might need to be adjusted. When a room is held transfixed for the best part of two hours, success came, you could say, from all angles.