20th century French erotica  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
French erotica, French striptease, 20th century erotica

The 20th century saw new technologies such as photography and cinema, which led to erotic photography and erotic films. Surrealism was one of the most remarkable developments as artistic movement in the 20th century, its penchant for eroticism was in evidence in surrealist literature and surrealist art. See Sade/Surreal and Sade's influence on Surrealism. See also the erotic photography of Man Ray and the paintings of Salvador Dali. Also there is the work of André Masson and of Hans Bellmer.



Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire (August 26, 1880November 9, 1918) was a French poet, writer, and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother. Among the foremost poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word surrealism and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1917). Two years after being wounded in World War I, he died at 38 of the Spanish flu during a pandemic.

Les Onze mille verges (The eleven thousand rods) is an erotic novel by Guillaume Apollinaire - written around 1906-1907 (the publication is neither signed nor dated). The novel was banned from its release in 1907 until 1970, various clandestine printings of it circulated widely for many years. Apollinaire never publicly acknowledged authorship of the novel.

The Eleven Thousand Rods is about a Romanian prince who leaves Bucharest to find the perfect female. The book has elements of sadism, homosexuality, paedophilia, necrophilia, coprophilia and satirical commentary on French government officials, theater administrators, police and journalists.

Les Exploits d'un jeune Don Juan is a French novel by Guillaume Apollinaire first published in 1911. It was adapted as an eponymous film in 1987, and as a graphic novel by Georges Pichard.

The Exploits of a Young Don Juan (Les exploits d'un jeune Don Juan), in which the 15-year-old hero fathers three children with various members of his entourage, including his aunt. The book was made into a film by Gianfranco Mingozzi in 1987.

Louis Aragon

Louis Aragon

Louis Aragon (October 3, 1897December 24, 1982), French poet and novelist, a long-time political supporter of the communist party and prominent member of the Surrealists.

Irene's Cunt (French: Le Con d’Irène) is an erotic novel by Louis Aragon first published clandestinely in 1928 under the pseudonym of d’Albert de Routisie in order to avoid censorship. Régine Deforges will republish this French novel in 1968 under the bowlderized title Irène ; the book will nevertheless be seized by the authorities for its erotic content.

The original edition featured five eaux fortes illustrations by André Masson and was published on 150 copies.

Georges Bataille

Georges Bataille

Georges Bataille (September 10, 1897July 9, 1962) was a French writer, anthropologist, archivist and philosopher best known for his novella Story of the Eye. Philosophically, he traced the intimate connections between sex and death and is sometimes known as the metaphysician of evil. Though never an official member of Surrealism, Bataille described himself as Surrealism’s ‘enemy from within…’. More than Breton, he influenced 1960s French theorists and mid-1980s American art critics. His macabre interests can be deduced from his reportedly daily gazing at the Death by a Thousand Cuts photographs later published in his Tears of Eros thematic art compendium. Recently his novel My Mother was adapted for film by Christophe Honoré and in 2006 his visionary work was celebrated at the 'Undercover Surrealism' exhibition.

Histoire de l'oeil (Eng:Story of the Eye) is a novella written by Georges Bataille that details the sexual experimentation of two teenage lovers, and their increasing perversion. It is narrated by the young man looking back on his experiences. In its recent Penguin edition (2001), it includes Metaphor of the Eye, a commentary from the late Roland Barthes and notes by Susan Sontag on the significance of Bataille's novella for literary and cultural depictions of human sexuality. Story of the Eye also is one of the key texts in Sontag's nobrow essay The Pornographic Imagination.

Ma mère (English: My Mother) is a novella by Georges Bataille, posthumously and unfinishedly published in 1966. It was loosely adapted for a feature film by Christophe Honoré in 2004. See Ma mère (film). My Mother is a bildungsroman of a young man's sexual initiation and corruption by his mother. Its latest English language publication was bundled in My Mother, Madame Edwarda and The Dead Man.

Violette Leduc

Violette Leduc

Violette Leduc (April 7, 1907May 28, 1972) was a French author noted for such novels as Thérèse and Isabelle and La Bâtarde. In 1968 American director Radley Metzger made a film of Leduc's novel Thérèse and Isabelle. The film was a commercial feature about adolescent lesbian love, starring Essy Persson and Anna Gael.

Thérèse et Isabelle is a 1966 novel by Violette Leduc. In 1968 Radley Metzger adapted the novel for film under the German title Therese und Isabelle. The film was a commercial feature about adolescent lesbian love, starring Essy Persson and Anna Gael. In the French countryside an elegant woman pays a nostalgic visit to her adolescent girl’s school, where she passionately remembers her first fiery and forbidden romance...the story of Therese and Isabelle. The tenderness of these two lonely girls' erotic awakenings sensuously blossoms amidst the hothouse atmosphere of their repressive environment. Having both experienced the clumsy and cruel lovemaking attempts of the local Lothario, Therese and Isabelle grow closer and closer to each other - until that fateful moment when they become lovers.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet
"In the confessional, semi-autobiographical novels of Jean Genet, such as Our Lady of the Flowers (1944) and The Thief's Journal (1949), the author promulgates the Dostoyevskian immoralist philosophy and inverted value system of hardened criminals, con men, and homosexual drifters, a few of whom appear to be bona fide psychopaths. The most notorious of Genet's nihilists is the sailor Georges Querelle in his novel Querelle de Brest (1947). Querelle is a homosexual serial killer with sadomasochistic tastes who betrays and murders several lovers and acquaintances while on shore leave in the city of Brest." --Sholem Stein

Jean Genet (December 19, 1910April 15, 1986), was a French writer and later political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal; later in life, Genet wrote novels, plays, poems, and essays, including Querelle de Brest, The Thief's Journal, Our Lady of the Flowers, The Balcony, The Blacks and The Maids.

Our Lady of the Flowers is the debut novel of French writer Jean Genet, published in 1944 in French as Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs. The free-flowing, poetic novel is a largely autobiographical account of a man's journey through the Parisian underworld. The characters are drawn after their real-life counterparts, who are mostly homosexuals living on the fringes of society.

The Maids is a 1947 play by the French writer Jean Genet.

Genet based his play on the infamous Papin sisters, Lea and Christine, who brutally murdered their employer and her daughter in Le Mans, France, in 1933. The story can be read as an absurdist exposition on the intricate power dynamic that exists between unequals. Solange and Claire are two housemaids who construct elaborate sadomasochistic rituals when their mistress (Madame) is away.

The focus of their Theatre is the murder of Madame and they take turns portraying either side of the power divide. The deliberate pace and devotion to detail guarantees that they always fail to actualize their fantasies by ceremoniously "killing" Madame at the ritual's denouement.

Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin (February 21 1903 - January 14 1977) was a French-born author who became famous for her posthumously published personal journals. Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to explore fully the realm of erotic writing. Before her, erotica written by women was rare, with a few notable exceptions, such as the work of Kate Chopin. Titles include Delta of Venus and Little Birds, which explores male and female sexuality from a female perspective.

Her affair with Henry Miller was the subject of the film Henry & June.

Delta of Venus is a book by Anaïs Nin. It was first published in 1978. In 1995 a film version of the book was directed by Zalman King. There are multiple short stories in this work with certain important characters reappearing throughout. She deals with many different sexual themes, while maintaining the balance of her life's work -- the study and description of woman.

The collection of short stories that makes up this anthology were written during the 1940s for a private client known simply as 'Collector'. This 'Collector' commissioned Nin, along with other now well-known writers (including Henry Miller), to produce erotic fiction for his private consumption. Despite being told to leave poetic language aside and concentrate on graphic, sexually explicit scenarios, Nin was able to give these stories a literary flourish and a layer of images and ideas beyond the pornographic.

The stories range in length from less than a page to one hundred times that, and are tied together not just by their sexual premises, but also by Nin's distinct style and feminine viewpoint.

Histoire d'O

Anne Desclos (September 23, 1907 - April 27, 1998) was a French journalist and novelist who wrote under the pseudonyms Dominique Aury and Pauline Réage. She is best known as the author of Story of O.

Histoire d'O (English title: Story of O) is an erotic novel about female submission and ultimate sexual objectification published anonymously in 1954 by French author Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage. Desclos did not reveal herself to be the author until shortly before her death, forty years after its initial publication. Desclos said that she had written the novel as a series of love letters to her lover Jean Paulhan who admired the work of the Marquis de Sade.

Published in French, by Jean-Jacques Pauvert, it is the archetypical sadomasochistic story of about a beautiful Parisian fashion photographer, O, who is blindfolded, chained, whipped, branded, pierced, made to wear a mask, and taught to be constantly available for oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse.

O's lover, René, brings her to the chateau of Roissy, where she is trained to serve the men of an elite group. After that, O moves through a series of increasingly harsh masters, from René to Sir Stephen to the Commander. At the climax, O appears as a slave, nude but for an owl-like mask, before a large party of guests.

A critical view of the novel is that it is about the ultimate objectification of a woman. The heroine of the novel has the shortest possible name, consisting solely of the letter O. Although this is in fact a shortening of the name Odile, it could also stand for "object" or "orifice", an O being a symbolic representation of any "hole".


L'Image, Jean de Berg, Paris, Minuit, 1956

Catherine Robbe-Grillet (née Rstakian) was born in 1930 in Paris is a French writer.

A theatre and cinema actress and photographer, she has published BDSM-related writings under the pseudonyms Jean de Berg and Jeanne de Berg.

L'Image, a sadomasochistic novel published in 1956 by Les Éditions de Minuit, was written under the pseudonym Jean de Berg. Radley Metzger made the novel into a 1975 film, The Image, also known as The Punishment of Anne.

The Image (or in French "L'Image") is a classic 1956 sadomasochistic erotic novel, written by Catherine Robbe-Grillet and published under the pseudonym of Jean de Berg. It was made into a 1975 film, The Image directed by Radley Metzger, also known as The Punishment of Anne.

Catherine Millet

Catherine Millet

Catherine Millet (born April 1, 1948) is a French art critic, curator, and founder and editor of the magazine Art Press, which focuses on modern art. She is best known as the author of the 2002 memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M..

The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by the French art critic Catherine Millet is an erotic novel first published in 2001. It is a semi-autobiographical account of the sexual life of the author. An English translation by Adriana Hunter was published in 2002. Sexual Life was the subject of mild controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. It was reviewed by Edmund White as "the most explicit book about sex ever written by a woman". The book details her sexual history, from childhood masturbation to an adult fascination with group sex.


French publishers: Obelisk Press - Jean-Jacques Pauvert - Olympia Press - Elvipress

Obelisk Press was an English-language press based in Paris, France, founded by Jack Kahane. It published novels that were to risqué to publish in the United States.

Henry Miller's 1934 novel, Tropic of Cancer, had explicit sexual passages and could not be published in the United States; an edition was printed by the Obelisk Press in Paris and copies were smuggled into the United States.

Obelisk also published Anais Nin, James Joyce, Parker Tyler, Frank Harris and Lawrence Durrell.

Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebadged version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane. It published a mix of erotic novels and avant-garde literary works, and is best known for the first print of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.

Olympia Press was also the first publisher willing to print the controversial William S. Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch. Other notable works included J. P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man; the French trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett; A Tale of Satisfied Desire by Georges Bataille and Story of O by Pauline Réage.

Jean-Jacques Pauvert (born April 8, 1926) is a French publisher, famous for publishing the work of de Sade in the late 1940s, sparking off a series of court cases that lasted eight years. He was the first publisher of Story of O in 1954 and the original publisher of Kenneth Anger's 1959 Hollywood Babylon. He published George Bataille's Tears of Eros. Between 1947 and 1970 his publishing house was the subject of about 20 obscenity trials. He was assisted in his defense by the usual suspects of French intellectuals such as André Breton, Georges Bataille, Jean Cocteau and Jean Paulhan.

Eric Losfeld (1923? - 1979) was a French publisher who had a reputation for publishing controversial material with his publishing imprints Éditions Arcanes (founded 1952) and Éditions Le Terrain Vague (founded 1955). A rival clandestine French editor was Jean-Jacques Pauvert. The difference between them was -- in the words of Sarane Alexandrian: "Jean-Jacques Pauvert was an editor of surrealism, Losfeld was a surrealist editor."


French cinema, French exploitation film, erotic film, exploitation film
Stéphane Audran, Brigitte Bardot, Isabelle Huppert, Jeanne Moreau, Delphine Seyrig

The depiction of sexuality in mainstream cinema was at one time restricted by law and self-imposed industry standards. Films showing explicit sexual activity were, with very rare exceptions, confined to privately-distributed underground films or "porn loops". Beginning in the 1960s, however, mainstream cinema began pushing boundaries in terms of what is allowed on screen. Although the vast majority of sexual situations depicted in mainstream cinema are simulated, on rare occasions filmmakers have produced motion pictures in which actors were allowed (or instructed) to engage in some level of genuine sexual activity, up to and including sexual intercourse. The difference between these films and pornography is that, while such scenes might be considered pornographic, the main intent of these films is usually not pornographic.

The early beginnings of French erotic cinema are documented in The Good Old Naughty Days.

The Lovers

The Lovers

Les Amants (The Lovers) is a 1958 French drama film directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeanne Moreau. It was Malle's second feature film, made when he was 25 years old. A showing of the film in Cleveland Heights, Ohio's Coventry Village resulted in a series of court battles that led to a Supreme Court decision on obscenity issues and Justice Potter Stewart's famous "I know it when I see it" opinion about what the definition of obscenity is.

La Femme spectacle

La Femme spectacle

La Femme spectacle (Eng: Night Women or Paris in the Raw) is a film directed by Claude Lelouch in 1964. It has been described as an essay of what makes a « femme objet ». In this film Lelouch toys with the "Mondo" genre. As a starting point, Lelouch presents female spectacle across the world. We witness prenatal exercises, a child birth, striptease sequences and scenes with transvestites and transsexuals. Filmed in black and white, the film was banned in France in its initial release. At the end of the film we are presented with a young woman dressed in a wedding gown atop the Eiffel Tower who attempts to kill herself. Lelouch destroyed the negative himself a short while later.

And God Created Woman

And God Created Woman

And God Created Woman (French: Et Dieu... créa la femme) is a 1956 French film directed by Roger Vadim and starring Brigitte Bardot. It is widely recognized as the vehicle that launched Bardot into the public spotlight and immediately created her "sex kitten" persona.

When the film was released in the United States by distributor Kingsley-International Pictures in 1957, it pushed the boundaries of the representation of sexuality in American cinema, making Bardot an overnight sensation. It was condemned by the Catholic League of Decency To this day, the scene of Bardot dancing barefoot on a table is considered by some to be one of the most erotic scenes in the history of cinema.

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour (1967)

Belle de jour is a 1967 French film starring Catherine Deneuve. The film was directed by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel. It is based on the 1928 novel of the same name by Joseph Kessel. It is the story of Séverine Serizy (Deneuve) is a young, beautiful Paris housewife who has masochistic daydream fantasies about elaborate floggings and bondage.


Barbarella, also known as Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy is a 1968 erotic science fiction film, based on the French Barbarella comic book created by Jean-Claude Forest. It has gained a cult following since its re-release in 1977 on home video, and has had considerable influence on pop culture in the decades following its original release.

La Grande Bouffe

La Grande Bouffe (1973)

La Grande Bouffe, Italian title La grande abbuffata, also known as "Blow-Out", is a 1973 film, directed by Marco Ferreri and written by Ferreri an regular collaborator Rafael Azcona. It stars Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli and Philippe Noiret. The film was produced by Jean-Pierre Rassam.

The plot revolves around a fantastic Franco-Italian orgy comprising of four middle-aged gourmets fed up with the mundanity of life, who embark upon a suicide pact: death by over-indulgence in food, sex and alcohol.

In the United States, the film was originally rated X; but the rating was later changed to NC-17 in 1998 for some explicit sexuality

Histoire d'O

Histoire d'O (1975)

Histoire d'O is a 1975 film by Just Jaeckin based on The Story of O, starring Corinne Clery and Udo Kier. The film met with far less acclaim than the book. It was banned in the United Kingdom by the British Board of Film Censors until February 2000.


Spermula (1976)

Spermula is a French erotic science fiction film from 1976 directed by Charles Matton. The planet Spermula is facing destruction and the Spermulites plan to relocate to Earth. To do this, they have come up with a brilliant plan. They will transform themselves into beautiful women and suck out all men's semen, thus making men tired and lazy from sexual exhaustion and unable to procreate. One of the Spermulites didn't transform as planned... Instead of a beautiful woman, he became a beautiful man, Werner (played by Udo Kier). He likes being a man, except for one problem. His penis is only one centimeter long. The spermulites are cynics who hate this disgusting love and sex thing that earth people like so much. But some of the spermulites actually start enjoying themselves and think that maybe love and sex aren't as disgusting as they thought.

In the Realm of the Senses

In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

In the Realm of the Senses, Ai no korīda, literally, "Bullfight of Love", French: L'empire des sens}} is a 1976 Franco-Japanese film directed by Nagisa Oshima. It is a fictional and sexually explicit treatment of a true story from the 1930s in Japan, the Abe Sada story. It garnered great controversy during its release; while it was intended for mainstream release, it contains scenes of unsimulated sexual activity.

In 1936 Tokyo, Sada Abe (Matsuda) is a former prostitute who now works as a maid in a hotel. The hotel's owner, Kichizo Ishida, molests her, and the two begin an intense affair that consists of sexual experiments, drinking, and various self-indulgences. Ishida leaves his wife and family to pursue his affair with Abe. Abe becomes increasingly possessive and jealous of Ishida, and Ishida more eager to please her. Their mutual obsession escalates to the point where Ishida finds he is most excited by being strangled during lovemaking, and he is killed in this fashion. Abe then severs Ishida's penis and writes, "Sada Kichi the two of us forever," in blood on his chest.

Strict censorship laws would not have allowed the film to be completed as per Oshima's vision in Japan. To get around this, the production was officially listed as a French enterprise, and the undeveloped footage was shipped to France for processing and editing. At its première in Japan (and in all prints of the film there ever since), the sexual activity has been optically censored. In the USA, the film was initially banned upon its première at the 1976 New York Film Festival, but later screened uncut; a similar fate awaited the film when it was to be released in Germany. The film was not available on home video until 1990. Many individual scenes have been cut from the film for the sake of local censorship. For example, the British Board of Film Classification granted the film an "18" certificate (suitable for adults only), leaving all of the sexual activity intact, but ordered that a shot showing a prepubescent boy having his penis pulled as punishment be optically reframed so that the act itself was not shown. The film has been made available, however, in completely uncut forms in France, the United States (including the current Fox Lorber DVD), the Netherlands and several other territories.


Emmanuelle is a 1974 French softcore erotic movie directed by Just Jaeckin, and starring by Sylvia Kristel. The screenplay was written by Jean-Louis Richard, based on novel Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman by Emmanuelle Arsan. The music score is by Pierre Bachelet. It remains one of the most successful French cinema ever produced.

Robert Fripp won an out-of-court settlement over the use of music in the film based on King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic".

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Alain Siritzky announced that a worldwide search was underway for a new Emmanuelle to star in a new series of films. Only films and episodes produced by ASP ("Alain Siritzky Productions") film company are official and based on Arsan's character.

Les Valseuses

Les Valseuses (1974)

Les Valseuses (Going Places) is a 1974 French anarchic comedy film directed by Bertrand Blier, adapted from a novel by Bertrand Blier. The road trip of two drifters (Depardieu and Dewaere), who take from life as if it were a supermarket. They are joined by Miou-Miou who is on her own search for seemingly unattainable sexual pleasure. The film illustrates the frenetics of the sexual revolution and morality after May 1968.

Le Sexe qui parle

Le Sexe qui parle

Le Sexe qui parle (The Sex Who Talks) is a French adult film of 1975. It was the first exclusive hardcore feature film produced and released in France to meet international success. The film was exported to the USA with the title Pussy Talk and started a period of French porn chic in America, followed soon by films such as Candy’s Candy (Candice Candy) and Kinky Ladies of Bourbon Street (Mes Nuits avec Alice, Pénélope, Arnold, Maude et Richard) in 1976. The film was directed by Claude Mulot (as Frédéric Lansac) who also directed a sequel to Le Sexe qui parle in 1977, which starts with the “infection” passed by Eric to a prostitute.

Talking female genitals is an early theme in French literature as seen in Les bijoux indiscrets by Denis Diderot and the fabliau Le Chevalier qui fist parler les cons.

Joëlle (Pénélope Lamour) is a beautiful executive at an advertisement company. Her vagina is infected with a mysterious malice and begins to talk and lead her to indecent sexual acts. It is soon revealed that her problems root from her hardships as an adolescent. In the finale, she has sex with her husband Eric (Jean-Loup Philippe (as Nils Hortzs)) and passes the “infection” to his penis.

Série rose: Les Chefs d’œuvre de la littérature érotique

Série rose: Les Chefs d’œuvre de la littérature érotique

Série rose: Les Chefs d’œuvre de la littérature érotique (literal English: pink series, the masterpieces of erotic literature) is a French television series of 28 episodes of 26 minutes each, produced by Pierre Grimblat and broadcast on French television channel FR3 from November 8 1986 to 1990.

The series consisted of adaptations of libertine fiction from the European literary canon, original authors included Marguerite of Navarre, Comte de Mirabeau, Nicolas Restif de La Bretonne, Anton Chekhov, Chaucer, Guy de Maupassant, Jean de La Fontaine, Théophile Gautier, Daniel Defoe and Aristophanes.

Directors included Belgian director Harry Kumel (Daughters of Darkness), French colleague Michel Boisrond (Cette sacrée gamine) and Polish director Walerian Borowczyk (The Beast). Harry Kumel's contributions were separately released as The Secrets Of Love: Three Rakish Tales. Walerian Borowczyk directed four episodes for the series: Almanach des adresses des demoiselles de Paris, Un traitement justifié, Le Lotus d'or, and L'Experte Halima.

Série rose was bought by German and South-American and American television where they were known as Erotisches zur Nacht or Softly from Paris (USA).

Most notable appearance is that of Pedro Almodóvar ensemble cast member Penélope Cruz.

Bitter Moon

Bitter Moon (1992)
"We were headed for sexual bankruptcy." --Oscar
"Just watch it Nigel. Anything you can do, I can do better." --Fiona

Bitter Moon is a 1992 film directed by Roman Polanski based on a novel by French author Pascal Bruckner. It's a classic story of sadomasochism and the war of the sexes.

L' Ennui

L' Ennui (1998)

L'Ennui is a French film directed by Cédric Kahn released in 1998. The film is an homage to the Italian writer Alberto Moravia and loosely based on Moravia's novel La noia, an exploration of the theme of the incomprehensible desire that sometimes poisons life. The film stars Charles Berling, Sophie Guillemin, Arielle Dombasle, Robert Kramer and Alice Grey. Martin, professor of philosophy and tired of life, meets his elderly (and deceased) artist neighbour's muse Cécilia. He soon becomes possessed by a physical passion for her, a "femme-enfant" who is beautiful, naive, sexually voracious, and utterly pliant (see La Femme objet), but at the same time opaque; and because he cannot inhabit her mind, cannot make her feel intensely for him, he becomes neurotically obsessed by her, which leads to all kinds of abjection and abasement for him. In this, the film explores the tension between the male dream of feminine passivity, and the male nightmare of feminine impassivity.



Baise-moi is a novel by French author Virginie Despentes, first published in 1999. A film based on the book, and with the same name, was released the following year. The film, directed by Despentes and actress Coralie Trinh Thi, received intense media coverage because its graphic mix of real rather than simulated sex and violence was on the limit of that allowed by censors in various countries around the world.

Romance X

Romance X

Romance (Romance X) is a 1999 French movie written and directed by Catherine Breillat. It stars Caroline Ducey, erotic actor Rocco Siffredi, Sagamore Stévenin and François Berléand. The film contains several sex scenes that appear to have been unsimulated, especially the famous scene showing Caroline Ducey's coitus from behind with an erect Rocco Siffredi (who is not brought to completion, though). The film premiered in Belgium and France on April 14 1999 and in the United States on September 17 of that same year.

Marie is a schoolteacher who is deeply in love with her boyfriend, a model, who does not have sex with her. She explores increasingly risky sexual encounters with other men, including a BDSM relationship with a member of staff who works at the same school. Though she is pregnant with the child of her boyfriend, in the end she kills him and goes to her coworker for help in raising her child.

Romance was shown in mainstream cinemas in Europe. In the U.S., the original version is unrated, and an edited version received an R rating. In March 2004, the unedited film was broadcast late at night on German public TV, leading to some protests. The film has also been shown on the Australian cable TV network "World Movies" in its uncut form.


Irréversible (2002)

Irréversible (2002, France) is a film written, directed, edited, and photographed by Gaspar Noé. It stars Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. Several reviewers declared it one of the most disturbing and controversial films of 2002, due to its explicit depiction of rape and murder. The film employs non-linear narrative.

Irréversible won the "Bronze Horse" award at the Stockholm Film Festival and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the "Best Foreign Language Award" by the Film Critics Circle of Australia. It was also voted "Best Foreign Language Film" by the San Diego Film Critics Society (tied with Les Invasions Barbares).

The Dreamers

The Dreamers (2003)

The Dreamers is a 2003 English/French directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The film is based on Gilbert Adair's novel The Holy Innocents. Adair also wrote the screenplay for the film.

A young American exchange student, Matthew, (Michael Pitt) has come to Paris in order to study French. Though he has lived there for several months, and will stay in Paris for a year he has made no friends. As a huge fan of film, he spends most of his time in the cinema. He comes into a rapid friendship with a Frenchwoman, Isabelle (Eva Green), and her brother, Théo (Louis Garrel). All three have an avid love for movies, especially "the classics". As their friendship grows, Matthew learns of the extreme intimacy shared by the siblings and gets pulled into their world. Over time he falls in love with them, and the three seclude themselves from the world, falling further and further from the reality of the 1968 student riots. An abrupt ending to this relationship comes when that world is shattered and they are compelled to face the reality of 1968 France.

Ma Mère

Ma Mère (2004)

Ma mère is a French film directed by Christophe Honoré after the eponymous novella by Georges Bataille. It stars Isabelle Huppert as Hélène, the mother, Louis Garrel as the son and Emma de Caunes as Hansi. The film premiered on May 14, 2004. In the United States, the film was rated NC-17 for strong and aberrant sexual content; the edited version rated R for strong aberrant sexuality, some language and violent images. Michael Haneke referenced it in Caché.

My Mother is a bildungsroman of a young man's sexual initiation and corruption by his mother.

More films

The Mother and the Whore (French La maman et la putain) is a 1973 French film directed by Jean Eustache. It is one the last typical Nouvelle Vague films and an extended essay on male angst, the war of the sexes and the Madonna-whore complex. This dramatic film focuses on three twentysomething Parisians in a bizarre love triangle: Alexandre Jean-Pierre Léaud is a seemingly unemployed narcissist involved with both a live-in girlfriend Bernadette Lafont and a Polish nurse Françoise Lebrun whom he picked up at Café de Flore and with whom he begins a desultory affair. The film focuses less on plot than on the confused and ambivalent interrelations of these three lost souls. Clocking in at over 3½ hours, this film has a style seemingly borrowed from cinéma vérité and it tries to capture real life in post-May 1968 France. A typical scene is one where Marie comes home, puts a record on the turntable and listens to it in real time. It was preceded by a similar 1969 American film called Coming Apart.

Bilitis (film) is a 1977 softcore film directed by David Hamilton. Writing screen writing credits include Catherine Breillat. The story is after a Pierre Louÿs's Songs of Bilitis, a collection of poetry. Music was by Francis Lai. Patti D'Arbanville stars as Bilitis, Mathieu Carrière as Mikias. A coming of age story centering on the exploits of a young girl during summer vacation. The title character, Bilitis, ends up returning to school at the end of the film realizing she is not yet ready for adulthood. The film is shot in the same soft focus style that is common of David Hamilton's photography and his other films.

La Bête (Eng: The Beast) is a 1975 film written and directed by Walerian Borowczyk, starring Sirpa Lane, based on Lokis, a story by Prosper Mérimée. The film (originally conceived in 1972 as a film on its own, but then in 1974 as the fifth story in Contes immoraux) belonged to his later work, which was seen by many as a decline in the director's career after Dzieje grzechu, except in France, where it was hailed by prominent critics such as Ado Kyrou. Once upon a time in the 18th century a beast lived in the woods of an aristocratic estate. And this beast, possessed of a giant phallus and an insatiable lust, set upon the beautiful young lady of the house. Two centuries later, the tale of the beast would return in the dreams of an American heiress contracted to carry the male descendant of the same crumbling aristocratic family and their secret.

Maîtresse is a 1976 French film directed by Barbet Schroeder and starring Bulle Ogier (Dominatrix) and Gérard Depardieu (boyfriend) in an early role. The film provoked controversy in the United Kingdom and the United States because of its graphic depictions of sado-masochistic behaviour, such as nailing a penis into a plank, and cunt whipping.

Olivier (Depardieu) is a small-time crook. He and a friend happen to meet a woman, Ariane (Ogier) whose plumbing needs to be fixed. They fix the pipes and learn that the landlord downstairs is away. They take the opportunity to burgle him. However they discover that in fact downstairs Ariane has a torture chamber — she is working as a professional dominatrix. Olivier, at Ariane's request, helps her with her work and slowly becomes obsessed with her but struggles with her sado-masochistic activities. Olivier tries to understand and take control of Ariane, who he believes is scared in her job. However, as their love blossoms, their natural roles of dominance and submission cannot be overcome.

Maîtresse was first considered for release by the British Board of Film Classification in 1976. It was banned from release, with the Board's examiner stating that the film was "miles in excess of anything we have released in this field". This quote itself led the film to achieve a certain level of notoriety. In 1981 the film was resubmitted. Following 4 minutes and 47 seconds of cuts from the most graphic scenes, the film was released with an X certificate. In 2003, the film was submitted for a third time and, following a relaxation of guidelines, passed at the 18 certificate without cuts. The film was rated X in the United States.

La Cage aux Folles (tr. The Cage of Queens or The Birdcage, lit. The Cage of Crazy Women or The Bird Cage) is a 1978 film adaptation of the 1973 LGBT play by Jean Poiret. It was directed by Édouard Molinaro. Like the play, the film tells the story of a gay couple - Renato, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his star attraction - and the adventures that ensue when Renato's son brings home his fiance's ultra-conservative parents to meet them.

The film won over audiences with its sight gags, uproarious complications, and a tender and touching conclusion. It ran for well over a year at the Paris Theatre, an art house cinema in New York City, as well as theatres throughout the country in both urban and rural areas. For years it remained the most successful foreign film to be released in the United States.

Beau Pere is a 1981 film by director Bertrand Blier. The movie revolves around a never reached his potential piano player, Remy and his struggles with, first, his failing marriage...then his wife's untimely demise and finally the infatuation that his 14-year old step daughter has developed for him. Patrick Dewaere's character, Remy can never catch a break. He struggles for cash and his lack of motivation dogs him constantly. His role as stepfather to a budding woman is just another obstacle he faces in his downtrodden path. Ariel Besse plays a 14-year old woman-child. Maurice Ronet is a man about town but has also lost focus.

Tales of Ordinary Madness (it: Storie di ordinaria follia) (fr: Conte de la folie ordinaire) is an Italian-French 1981 film by Italian director Marco Ferreri. It was shot in English in the USA, featuring Ben Gazzara, Susan Tyrrell and Ornella Muti in the leading roles. The film's title and subject matter are based on the works and the person of US poet Charles Bukowski. The music was by Philippe Sarde.

The film follows the meandering (sexual) adventures of the poet and drunk, Charles Serking, laying bare the sleaze of life in the less reputable neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. Serking's life takes a turn for the better when he meets Cass, a young prostitute with self destructive habits. They have a stormy relationship. When Serking gets an offer from a major publishing house, Cass tries to stop him from leaving, but fails. Serking gives in to the temptation of the big bucks, but soon realises his mistake and returns to LA only to find that Cass has killed herself in his absence. Devastated he hits the bottle in a nightmarish drinking bout, but finally reaches catharsis and returns to the seaside guesthouse where he spent his happiest moments with Cass. Here he rekindles his poetry with the aid of a young admirer in one of Ferreri's trademark beach scenes. While successful in Europe, the film met with a lukewarm reception in the US despite its American setting.

Querelle, a 1982 film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, adapted from French author Jean Genet's 1947 novel Querelle de Brest. The plot centres on the handsome sailor Georges Querelle (Brad Davis), who is also a thief and serial killer. When his ship, the Vengeur, arrives in Brest, he visits the Feria, a bar and brothel for sailors run by the madam Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau), whose lover Robert is Querelle's brother. Querelle has a passionate love/hate relationship with his brother; when they meet at La Feria, they embrace, but also punch one another slowly and repeatedly in the belly. Lysiane's husband Nono (Gunther Kaufmann) tends bar and manages La Feria's underhanded affairs with the assistance of his friend, the corrupt police captain Mario.

Fassbinder's adaptation features surreal sets that underscore the dreamlike quality and abstraction of the novel. Filmed on a moodily lit soundstage, the look of the film was clearly influenced by the paintings of George Quaintance, whose campy paintings of barely dressed sailors and lion-tamers appeared in magazines such as Physique Pictorial. It also seems, with its shots of long, empty, walled cityscapes filmed in acid yellows and oranges, to be inspired by the Surrealist paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dalí. According to the book Criminal Desires, Genet, though aware of the film, declined to have anything to do with its production, claiming that he could no longer remember the novel's contents. He apparently never saw the finished product, allegedly saying he wouldn't go see it because smoking wasn't allowed in movie theaters.

Betty Blue is a 1986 French film. Its original French title is 37°2 le matin, which means "37.2°C in the Morning" . The film was directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix and stars Béatrice Dalle as Betty. It is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Philippe Djian. Nearly twenty years after its release, it was on the list of Roger Ebert's most hated films.

Betty (Dalle) and Zorg (Anglade) are passionate lovers who live in a shack on the beach. He works as a handyman who does odd jobs to pay the bills. As the film begins, they have only been going out for a week and are in a very passionate stage of their relationship. Zorg narrates the story of their relationship via voiceover. He describes Betty, “like a flower with translucent antennae and a mauve plastic heart.” She yearns for a better life and quit her last job as a waitress because she was being sexually harassed by her boss. Zorg’s boss asks him to paint the 500 shacks that populate the beach — a fact that he keeps from Betty who thinks they only have to do one. She attacks the project with enthusiasm that quickly turns to anger once she learns the actual number. In response, Betty covers the boss’ car with pink paint. During a nasty fight, Betty accidentally discovers a series of notebooks that contain a novel Zorg wrote years ago. She reads it and falls in love with him even more. She then makes it her mission in life to type every hand-written page and get it published. Betty's freespiritedness and devotion to Zorg develop into alarming obsession, aggression and destructiveness, and the film alternates between comic and tragic modes.

Monsieur Hire is a 1989 French film directed by Patrice Leconte and starring Michel Blanc in the title role and Sandrine Bonnaire as the object of his affection. The film received numerous accolades as well as a glowing review from popular American movie commentator Roger Ebert. The film is based on Belgian-born French writer Georges Simenon's novel. Simenon wrote many popular detective books. Original music by Michael Nyman. Soundtrack also features the 4th movement in the "Piano Quartet, opus 25" by Brahms.

The plot of the film centers on a withdrawn misanthropic voyeuristic tailor, Monsieur Hire, who spies on his gorgeous neighbor across the street. This takes place in the backdrop of another plot, the unsolved murder of a local young woman. Monsieur Hire is hounded by a detective inspecting the murder and is also eventually noticed by the object of his gaze, the young woman Alice. Viewers will scarcely understand Alice's reciprocal interest in Monsieur Hire until an interesting plot twist unravels. Monsieur Hire propositions Alice to ditch her no-good boyfriend Emile, played by the handsome Luc Thuillier, and run off with him to his little home in Switzerland, where he promises to take care of her. What happens next is a tragedy of the highest order, with a dark surprise. A riveting and sensual film.


José Bénazéraf
José Bénazéraf

José Bénazéraf was a French filmmaker and producer. He started to direct erotic feature films in 1961 with L'éternité pour nous. Two of his early sixties films, Le Concerto de la peur and La Nuit la plus longue featured a Chet Baker score.

At the end of the 1970s, Bénazéraf moved his attention to the direct-to-video market.

Max Pécas
Max Pécas

Max Pécas was a French filmmaker, scenario writer and producer. He was born April 25 1925 in Lyon and died 10 February 2003 in Paris.

After making erotic movies (I Am Frigid...Why?, I Am a Nymphomaniac and Les Mille et une Perversions de Félicia) and some thrillers, he shoots teenage comedies, including his classic "Saint-Tropez series". His filmography is considered as models of camp B-movies.

Some of Max Pécas's softcore films were imported to the U.S. by Radley Metzger.

Jean Rollin
Jean Rollin

Jean Michel Rollin Le Gentil (1938 - 2010) was a French filmmaker, actor, and author best known for his films in the fantastique genre. He is the son of Denise Rollin-Le Gentil and is credited as having made the first French vampire film (Le Viol du vampire, 1968) as well as the first French gore film (Le Raisins de la mort, 1978). He is also one of the early pioneers of French X-rated cinema.

Influenced by traditional French and German expressionist cinema, classic American horror, early serials, comics, fantastic literature and surrealist art, Rollin's fantastique films have been rightfully compared to a sort of visual poetry, juxtaposing the macabre with the sensual and the beautiful with the bizarre. His poetic images are often accompanied by minimal dialogue and simple but haunting musical scores, and the pacing is generally slow and deliberate. All of these qualities contribute to an atmosphere which is commonly described as surreal and dream-like.

Radley Metzger
Radley Metzger

Radley Metzger (born January 21 1929) is an American filmmaker and distributor. He is also credited under the pseudonym Henry Paris, a name he adopted in the 1970s when he began to direct hardcore pornography.

Along with Ava Leighton, he founded Audubon Films in the early 1960s, a film distribution company that specialized in importing European features to exploit in the gradually expanding sexploitation film market. Metzger's skills as an editor were employed in re-cutting and augmenting many of the features Audubon handled. The company's first run-away success was Mac Ahlberg's I, a Woman (U. S. 1966).

As an auteur, he is considered by his fans to be among the more stylish directors of the porn chic era. He regularly collaborated with cinematographer Hans Jura. His company Audubon, distributed European films in the United States.

Catherine Breillat
Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat (born July 13, 1948) is a French filmmaker and director based in Paris. She is known not only for her films focusing on themes of sexuality, gender conflict and sibling rivalry, but also for her best-selling novels. Ms. Breillat has been the subject of controversy for her explicit depictions of sexuality and violence. She cast the pornstar Rocco Siffredi in her films Romance (Romance X, 1999) and Anatomie de l'enfer (Anatomy of Hell, 2003).

In an interview with Senses of Cinema, she described David Cronenberg as another filmmaker she considers to have a similar approach to sexuality in film.

Film censorship in France

Film censorship in France

Extremely violent or graphic pornography is considered X-rated, may be shown only in specific theaters, and may not be displayed to minors. Incurs special taxes on revenue (33% for X-rated movies, 50% for pornographic online services). The rating system is controversial; for instance, in 2000, the sexually explicit and violent Baise-moi was initially rated as "restricted" by the French government, but this classification was overturned by the Conseil d'État ruling on a lawsuit brought by associations supporting Christian and family values.

Sex Stars System

Sex Stars System

French film magazine dedicated to erotic cinema and pornographic cinema. Emile Gir was the editor-in-chief and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou was on its editorial board. The magazine lasted for at least 18 monthly issues between 1975-76 (it is not confirmed if issue no. 19 came out as scheduled on November 1976). In December 1976, the magazine's name was changed simply to Stars System and new enumaration began.

Brigitte Lahaie

Brigitte Lahaie

Brigitte Lahaie (born on October 12, 1955) is a French erotic actress best remembered for her performances in Jean Rollin's (Fascination) and José Bénazéraf's (Bordel SS) films.

Born Brigitte Lucille Janine Van Meerhaegue in Tourcoing, France, she began her career at the age of 20 performing in pornographic films from 1976 through 1980.

In 1980, having become a kind of idol of the French adult film industry's golden age, she decided to put an end to her hardcore career and appeared in more "traditional" movies and "big" productions, such as I comme Icare (Henri Verneuil, 1980) in which she played a stripper, and in Pour la peau d'un flic (Alain Delon, 1981) in which she played a nurse. However, she also made some softcore and Nazi exploitation "video nasties" during this time.

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot (September 28, 1934) is a French actress, former fashion model, singer, and considered the embodiment of the 1950s and 1960s sex kitten in such films as And God Created Woman (1956), Spirits of the Dead (1968), Contempt (1963), Masculine, Feminine (1966).

Film production


Eurociné is a Paris-based, family-run film production company. Since 1937, Eurocine has been producing some of the most recognized low budget European flicks, including striptease movies and erotic crime thrillers. It is also a distribution company of b films, and is known for its collaborations with Spanish director Jess Franco. The company was featured in the Eurotika (TV documentary). With greater permissiveness in cinema at the end of the 1960s, Eurocine began to produce erotic movies. But when hardcore films were legalized, the market for erotic films disappeared and Eurocine turned to producing horror and fantasy movies.

Visual arts


Lui is a French adult entertainment magazine created in January 1964 by Daniel Filipacchi, a fashion photographer turned publisher.

The objective was to be bring some charm «à la française» to the market of man-only magazines, following the success of Playboy in the USA, launched just a decade before.

France, indeed, in the first half of XX century had an outstanding reputation for erotic publications, feeding also foreign market and inspiring also ersatz France-flavoured magazines abroad, when, for example, US publishers used French-assonating titles like Chère and Dreamé or placed tricolour flags on the covers, attempting to attract the casual buyer. It was anyway a semi-clandestine circulating material, not allowed to be freely displayed or admittedly bought. In this sense Playboy changed the way 'soft-pornography' (become more respectfully 'adult entertainment'), can be publicly circulated.

This magazine was particularly successful from its origins to the early eighties, featuring many B-List but also prominent French actresses, such as Brigitte Bardot, Mireille Darc or Marlène Jobert. Its motto was Lui, le magazine de l'homme moderne.

It featured a pin-up by Aslan.



Aslan (real name is Alain Gourdon, born in Bordeaux (France) on May 23 1930) is a French painter, sculptor and pin-up artist. He is mostly famous in France for his pin ups. He contributed to Lui from the creation of the magazine in 1964 to the early eighties, providing a monthly pin up.

He is the sculptor of the Fifth Republic Marianne as Brigitte Bardot in 1970, followed by the Mireille Mathieu Marianne.

Joseph Hémard

Joseph Hémard

Paul-Emile Bécat

Paul-Emile Bécat

Paul-Émile Bécat (18851960) was a French painter, engraver and draftsman who won the Great prix de Rome in 1920. He is noted for his illustration of erotic literature.

Georges Pichard

Georges Pichard

Georges Pichard (January 17 1920 - June 7 2003) was a French comics artist, known for numerous BD magazine covers, serial publications and adult comics stereotypically featuring well-endowed women and BDSM-imagery. Guido Crepax was an Italian contemporary with similar subject matter, yet a different style.

Toward the end of his life, Pichard adapted classic erotic stories such as Les Exploits d'un jeune Don Juan by Guillaume Apollinaire, The Kama-Sutra by Vatsyayana, Trois filles de leur mère by Pierre Louÿs, La Religieuse by Denis Diderot and Germinal by Émile Zola.

Roland Topor

Roland Topor

Roland Topor (Paris, January 7 1938 - Paris, April 16 1997), was a French illustrator, painter, writer and filmmaker, known for the surreal, fantastic and grotesque nature of his work.

His dark sense of sexuality: Marquis (1989).

Clovis Trouille

Clovis Trouille

Camille Clovis Trouille, was born on 24 October 1889, in Amiens, France. He worked as Sunday painter and a restorer and decorator of department store mannequins, and trained at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1905 to 1910. He died on 24 September 1975 in Paris. His themes were anti-clericalism and eroticism.

Tomi Ungerer

Tomi Ungerer

Tomi (Jean-Thomas) Ungerer (born November 28, 1931) is a French illustrator best known for his erotic and political illustrations as well as children's books.


Gilles Berquet, Guy Bourdin, Mirka Lugosi, Pierre Molinier, Eugène Pirou

Gilles Berquet (born 1956) is a French photographer, and one of the driving forces in the European fetish erotica scene. He is also the editor of maniac. Kinky fetish and bondage photography with a film noir feel. Carefully posed with obvious illusions to the subrosa fetish photography of 1920s Paris, the photos maintain a caught in the act modernity.

Guy Bourdin (born December 2 1928 in Paris, died March 29 1991 of cancer in Paris) was one of the best known photographers of fashion and advertising of the second half of the 20th century. His themes included sex, death, violence, glamour and fear. Amongst others, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Nick Knight and David LaChapelle have admitted to be great admirers of his work.

Pierre Molinier (April 13, 1900 - March 3, 1976) was a surrealist painter, photographer and "maker of objects". He was born in Agen (France) and lived his life in Bordeaux (France). He began his career by painting landscapes, but his work turned towards a fetishistic eroticism early on.

Eugène Pirou (1841-1909) was an early French filmmaker and photographer who made one of the first pornographic films, Le Coucher de la Marie in which Louise Willy performed a striptease, only a year after the first public screening of motion pictures, though he made his name filming the Tsar's visit to Paris a year later in 1897.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "20th century French erotica" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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