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Liliana Cavani's "The Night Porter"
October 19, 2011 6:57 PM   Subscribe

The familiar '70s query, "Is it art or porn?," took on a whole new dimension with The Night Porter (NSFW), a stylish and astoundingly seamy fusion of erotica and stark concentration camp trauma. While many subsequent films, mostly Italian, took the Nazi sexploitation route to unbelievably tastless levels, Liliana Cavani's treatment remains more problematic. More concerned with mood and characterization than cheap thrills, the film is nevertheless extremely kinky and shocking enough to prove that its R rating is the product of a ratings system far different than the one we have now.

Roger Ebert called it: as nasty as it is lubricious, a despicable attempt to titillate us by exploiting memories of persecution and suffering.
posted by Trurl (17 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have at least one friend who says he can point to the origins of several lifetime obsessions from watch The Night Porter at a young age.
posted by The Whelk at 7:04 PM on October 19, 2011


the origins of several lifetime obsessions

Deception was pretty weak beer, but it did give Charlotte Rampling an opportunity to bring some serious sexagenarian sexiness.
posted by Trurl at 7:08 PM on October 19, 2011


On that note, Truri, let us not forget Swimming Pool.

I watched the Night Porter many years ago. I think I was nineteen. I remember thinking it was awesome, but I will have to take another gander at it.

I don't remember too much about it, but I remember Charlotte Rampling in the SS hat and suspenders. Everyone does.

On another note, that is one of Ebert's more moralistic reviews. But he also hated Blue Velvet, so...
posted by duvatney at 7:28 PM on October 19, 2011


I have a copy of it just a few feet to my left; I was planning to rewatch it this weekend. I don't think it's really all that hot, but it is beautiful and complicated; it's meant to provoke and it works.

its R rating is the product of a ratings system far different than the one we have now

No shit. I'm always coming across PG movies from the 1970s that would be lucky to get R ratings today. I guess it has been such a gradual shift that no one notices, but the difference in ratings is huge.
posted by Forktine at 8:02 PM on October 19, 2011


The Criterion Contraption's characteristically interesting take on the film.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:15 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wait, is this where the "topless + suspenders" look comes from? I am a supporter of this.
posted by modernserf at 8:50 PM on October 19, 2011


The intersection b/w fascism and sexuality worked much better in this film than in Salo.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:27 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


If nothing else the movie has Dirk Bograde in it, and he is a universal good.
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, don't knock SalĂ´, it's not just about fascism, it's about the crazy brand of anti-Rousseauist materialism exalted by the likes of de Sade. Also it's incredibly useful material for my thesis about homoeroticism and violent domination in Querelle of Brest, so. You know.
posted by Mooseli at 1:55 AM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dirk Bogarde reported - can't remember whether it was in his memoires or in an interview - that walking around Vienna in his SS uniform during the shoot was a revelation. People of a certain age were smiling at him, some with tears in their eyes. One woman exclaimed joyfully that it was "so good to see the old being revered" and kept inviting him for lunch, tea, coffee...

The Wikipedia entry for this film is excellent, btw.
posted by likeso at 2:20 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, likeso for the link!
posted by pointystick at 7:07 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


duvatney: "On that note, Truri, let us not forget Swimming Pool"

Yes, please, let's forget that movie.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:11 AM on October 20, 2011


I'm still processing Salo, 7 years after having seen it.

Night Porter is a difficult film, but is it that titillating?
posted by loriginedumonde at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2011


Ebert is titillated quite easily, it seems. There was nothing gratuitous about any of the Rampling nudity etc, in my opinion.
And if likeso's comment about Bogarde's experience in the SS uniform is true, no wonder Thomas Bernhard hated Austria so very, very much.
posted by los_aburridos at 9:57 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dirk Bogarde reported - can't remember whether it was in his memoires or in an interview - that walking around Vienna in his SS uniform during the shoot was a revelation. People of a certain age were smiling at him, some with tears in their eyes...

Likeso - that doesn't surprise me.
It's been said that the trouble with some Viennese is not that they still struggle with their city's Nazi past, but that they don't struggle nearly enough.

I've just visited Vienna for the first time. There is a small (free entry) museum, not far from the main cathedral square, called the DOW (the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance) which "presents a factual depiction of Austria's entanglement with the National Socialist regime" (to quote directly from the museum's own English version guidebook. I thought "entanglement"was a brilliantly sly choice of word!).

The guide also emphasized how the DOW aims to educate Austrians about the extent to which Austria was co-responsible for (some) crimes committed under the Nazis.

It's actually a very good little permanent exhibition about Vienna's most inglorious modern period, before - and during - the Anschluss. But only if you can find it!

It is tucked down one side of an inner courtyard (staff in a cafe, just around the corner from the museum, didn't even know it existed!). It was also the only museum I visited in clockwork-efficient Vienna that was not open exactly as advertised. (The doors to the DOW were finally unlocked almost two hours late the day I was there (I kept coming back!) and it was otherwise totally empty - save for the custodian - during my entire visit.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually wrote a paper on this one for a class on human sexuality a couple semesters ago. Very interesting movie but hated the way it ended. Neither my wife nor I thought it was very congruent with the way the rest of the movie went.
posted by daHIFI at 12:18 PM on October 20, 2011


It will be interesting to see if Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey -- another star-crossed romance -- has a cameo for Amanda Lear [YouTube]. Just in time for Halloween!
posted by 0rison at 9:55 AM on October 21, 2011


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