Sex and nudity in European cinema
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
European movies are famous for their erotic scenes, particularly those from Italy, France and Germany. Pedro Almodovar of Spain is a prolific director who includes eroticism as part of many of his movies. Tinto Brass, from Italy, has dedicated his career to converting explicit sex into mainstream content. His films are also notable for feminist-friendly eroticism. French filmmaker Catherine Breillat caused controversy with unsimulated sex in her films Romance and Anatomy of Hell. In Italy, nudity and strong sexual themes go back to the silent era with films such as The Last Days of Pompeii (1926). In Spain there was Jess Franco and Germany had its early Aufklärungsfilme.
The approach to nude scenes in Europe is much more lenient than in the U.S. As early as the 1920s a topless Josephine Baker was filmed performing exotic dance routines for the French cinema. The 1922 Swedish/Danish silent film Witchcraft Through the Ages contained scenes of nudity, torture and perversion — an edited version was shown in the U.S. The 1956 German film, Liane, Jungle Goddess featured a topless female variant on the Tarzan legend. Other notable examples from Europe include Sophia Loren in Era Lui, Si Si (1952), François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player (1960), Brigitte Bardot's casual nude scenes in the 1963 Jean-Luc Godard film Contempt, Jane Fonda in the French film The Game is Over (1966), Catherine Deneuve in Belle de jour (1967), Vanessa Redgrave in 1968's Isadora, and Helen Mirren in the Australian film Age of Consent (1969).
Two Swedish films from 1967, I Am Curious (Yellow) and Inga were ground-breaking, and notorious, for showing explicit sex and nudity. Both were initially banned in the U.S. and received an X-rating when they were shown in 1968.
In England, the Ken Russell film Women in Love (1969) was especially controversial for showing frontal male nudity in a wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates. Glenda Jackson won the Academy Award for Best Actress in that film, the first performer to win for a role that included nude scenes.
Europeans generally accept depictions of nudity as something natural which is part of normal human life, so there are no taboos around it. Showing of full frontal nudity in movies even by major actors is common and it is not considered damaging to the actors' career. In recent years explicit sexual activity also occurs in movies which target the general moviegoing audience, albeit those usually labelled 'arthouse' product; for example, Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs and Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots.
During the 1960s and 1970s, European low-budget films went kinky, emerging as a new type of cinema that blended eroticism, surrealism, horror, and over-the-top atmospherics.
European trash cinema
European trash cinema is a cinematic subgenre of European cinema and trash cinema. It is also referred to as Eurosleaze.
The moniker 'Euro trash' includes but is not limited to Mario Bava, Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, Walerian Borowczyk, Tinto Brass, Radley Metzger [an American who shot many of his movies in France and who regularly imported European erotic movies in the US where he sometimes or re-edited them], Max Pecas, José Benazeraf, Jose Larraz, Claude Mulot...