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Richard Corliss

Related: film criticism - USA


Richard Corliss is a writer for Time magazine who focuses on movies, with the occasional article on music or sports, and has distinguished himself for his clever way with words. During his decades of work, he has helped draw attention to the role of the screenwriter, as opposed to the director, in the creation of movies. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Corliss [Oct 2005]

Aristocrat of the Erotic (part one)

Article from Film Comment, January 1973.

As a genre, the "sexploitation" films of the early and middle Sixties more than lived up to their name; they exploited not only sex but also their actors and their audiences. The one great exception to this standard was Radley Metzger's Audubon Films. Metzger - first as a distributor and then, concurrently, as a director - did for sex films in the Sixties what Playboy had done for sex magazines in the Fifties. His movies were classier, more literate, better-made, and blessed with women who looked as if they could communicate desire without carrying disease. Although there was less explicit sex per frame in his films than in those of his competitors, they usually had an erotic atmosphere that made a single raised eyebrow more highly charged than an entire William Mishkin gang bang. His success with these European melodramas undoubtedly helped convince Russ Meyer to abandon "nudies" for his later, more delirious excursions into big bosomed kink.

It may be said that Metzger-the-distributor is as much an auteur as Metzger-the-director, since he would often spend months re-editing (and occasionally re-shooting) a foreign film for the American market; one film, The Libertine, was tightened up with over 300 cuts, some of them subliminal. But, if the films Metzger imported are personal, his own films are virtually confessional in their exploration of themes and feelings, moods and mise-en-scène. Surely the soft-core regulars of the late Sixties could have been only bewildered by Therese and Isabelle, which spends its first forty minutes building character and prowling elegantly around an old monastery, to the exclusion of any sex scenes. Most of his characters inhabit an erotic twilight world halfway between haute monde and demi-monde, and few "straight" directors excel Metzger at creating an almost tactile milieu of quasi-aristocratic decadence - credit for which Metzger gladly shares with his long-time cinematographer, the gifted Hans Jura, and his art director on Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet, Enrico Sabbatini.

The visual and visceral sophistication of Metzger's films demands that they be taken as seriously - and criticized as severely - as any of the more highly touted major studio product. in this spirit, the most sympathetic reviewer is forced to note the frequent banality and obviousness of his scripts (most of them written by men who spent years writing English language adaptations of the sex films Metzger used to distribute). One suspects that Metzger - a charming and persuasive spokesman for his films, as this interview should demonstrate - would make even better movies if he took one further step towards complete auteur status, and wrote the films himself. He might also consider starring in them, for he is certainly as handsome and urbane as any of his leading men. In fact, at first glance, his face looks very familiar.


Radley Metger interviewed by Richard Corliss

Film Comment, January 1973 via http://www.vidmarc.demon.co.uk/mondo-erotico/metzger/interviews/aristo1.html [Nov 2004]

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