Henry & June (1990) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|A film notable in history.
It was the first film ever to be rated NC-17. I can't see any good reason for it. NC-17 means that 16 year olds may not attend under any circumstances. With an R rating, a 16 year old may attend with a parent. R would have been fine for this film. There is really nothing here that should be shielded form the eyes of all 16 year olds irrespective of their maturity and their parents' opinions. In fact, it's an artistic film without that much real eroticism, the only controversy being the characters' completely amoral and casual attitude toward sex. And that can't be that controversial, since it's a biopic, and that's how the people really behaved!
|It is a
chapter in the life of the notoriously frank author Henry
Miller, in the period when he wrote "Tropic of
Cancer" in Paris, between the wars. Miller left his
family behind and migrated to Paris for the sole purpose
of becoming a great writer, because that's what they did
in his generation. So he rented a loft, lived in squalor,
slept with multiple prostitutes, hung around cafes,
smoked a zillion cigarettes, chatted with French
intellectuals, tried to live a life worth writing about.
During this time, Miller was married, but he was usually separated from his American wife by thousands of miles, and he became involved with the diarist Anais Nin, helping her to grow in many ways, especially sexually. Nin was also married, so the affair was carried out with circumspection, and required much dodging of both spouses. To make matters even spicier, Nin also fell in love with Miller's wife when she visited Paris.
For a while there, director Philip Kaufman was one of my favorites. He fired The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Henry & June at us consecutively, three completely different movies, all great fun to watch for various reasons, all beautifully and imaginatively filmed, each intelligent, each with a consistent art direction distinct from the others. If you didn't know, you probably wouldn't guess that they were directed by the same guy.
|I'm sad to report that
Kaufman's next film, Rising Sun, wasn't that good a movie at
all, but the next one after that, Quills, was an excellent period piece
with a distinct look and feel. Strangely enough, it had very minimal nudity
despite being about the Marquis de Sade. I expected
Kaufman to use the controversial subject matter and the
ever-willing Kate Winslet as a forum to test some more
screen taboos, but he did not.
You have to give Kaufman credit for one thing - he doesn't get caught in a rut. He also wrote the screenplay for one of the best Westerns ever made, "The Outlaw Josey Wales"; he wrote the original story for "Raiders of the Lost Ark", one of the most popular films of all time; and in his spare time he graduated from Harvard Law School.
thoughts in yellow:
Henry & June is the film that pretty much caused the MPAA to invent the NC-17 rating, and was the first recipient of that classification. I can't for the life of me figure out why this particular film upset them so much, unless it was the whole idea that Ana´s Nin and June Miller both enthusiastically enjoyed sex. The nudity is not that extensive, the sex is not that kinky, and there is no violence at all. Furthermore, I can't imagine that most kids would sit through it even if it were rated PG-13.
It is the story of the
love triangle among Nin, Henry Miller and his wife June in Paris in the
30s. Despite the title, it is really more about Nin's transition from
fantasy and voyeurism to actually acting out her sexual desires. The
story was long in hiding, at Nin's request. She asked that that portion
of her diary not be made public until everyone involved was dead.
Despite all those positives, I ran out of interest long before the end of the 136 minute film. It's an art film. If a long, leisurely period character piece about arguably the two most important writers about sex in the 20th century is your kind of film, there is much to admire here. Most people, however, will find the story slow going and it's not really very titillating either.
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