In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb five acts poster

Jane Fonda in Five Acts

Director Susan Lacy has the great advantage of a subject whose life has been extensively documented literally since birth.

Thumb fahrenheit eleven nine

Fahrenheit 11/9

The messiness of Moore’s film starts to feel appropriate for the times we’re in. With a new issue being debated every day, is it any…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Behind the Green Door

  |  

There’s a rumor that Stanley Kubrick once considered making a big budget pornographic film just to show people how it should be done. I’m not sure it would have worked. Hard-core pornography has a way of moving beyond eroticism and into images of clinical detail. I’ve always found soft-core movies more erotic.

But it would be interesting to see how a really great director would handle the subject. The most erotic films I’ve seen have been more suggestive than explicit, and a short list might include Ingmar Bergman’s “The Silence,” certain passages from Fellini, Eric Rohmer’s “Chloe in the Afternoon” and a Chicago Film Festival winner, Vera Chytilova’s “The Fruit of Paradise.”

Advertisement

The only hard-core film I’ve seen that was effectively erotic was “The Devil in Miss Jones” -- and it was erotic not because of its hard-core content but in spite of it. It worked because its star, Georgina Spelvin, was so able to project emotion, involvement, and abandon. Now comes a porno movie said to be even better, “Behind the Green Door.” It isn’t.

It doesn’t work even though it has high-quality camera work, imaginative use of music and visual effects, and Marilyn Chambers. She is the most beautiful porno actress yet. (You may find her smiling out at you from the front of our Ivory Snow box.) And there’s no denying that in the movie’s trapeze scene she qualifies as the busiest actress in porno history.

But the movie doesn’t succeed in overcoming its explicit sexual content. It gives us too many close-ups without context; too many joyless couplings without dramatic meaning. The genius of “The Devil in Miss Jones” was that the title character had a fictional reality and motivation that made the sex scenes credible.

As for the scenes in “Behind the Green Door,” the least you can say of them, I suppose, is that they’re incredible. The plot (if I may misuse the word) involves a series of fantasies in which Miss Chambers is forced to undergo public humiliation at an orgy attended by various freaks. She puts up a token resistance for about seven seconds, after which we get an hour of surrender. Who knows? It might have been more interesting if she had resisted.

Pretty as she is, Miss Chambers gives no clue in the movie as to whether she can act. She doesn’t have a single line of dialog, although in the heavy breathing department she puts in the best sound effects since “Therese and Isabelle.” But the scenes don’t build, and the explicit close-ups are constantly interrupting the editing rhythm. If only once a dirty movie would forget about proving how dirty it was and try to exist on a human level. But maybe that’s a job for Kubrick.

Popular Blog Posts

"You Were Expecting Someone Else?" Why a Non-White James Bond is the Franchise's Logical Next Step

Not only would Idris Elba make a great James Bond, the franchise has been building towards casting an actor of color ...

Grace and Nature: On Criterion’s Release of The Tree of Life

On the new Criterion release of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, which includes a new 50-minute-longer extended cu...

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone Star in Netflix’s Daring, Brilliant Maniac

A review of the phenomenal new Netflix show starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus