The Paradox of Flaming Creatures: The Irony of Pornographic Content
The American Avant-Garde of the Post-War era is a movement that defines transgressive cinematic practice by flirting with the boundaries of ‘the acceptable’ or ‘the pornographic’,. I consider Jack Smith to be both the father of modern cinema, as well as the father of pornography. In his career, the film that is most relevant is Flaming Creatures (1963). It can be argued that this film is both the most transgressive and simultaneously least sexual cinematic undertaking. It is completely surreal and devoid of plot or most other cinematic aesthetics. It involves mainly female impersonators dressed as though they are concubines in an ancient Arab harem. They wander around the mise-en-scène of a static camera in exaggerated female attitudes, notable for drag culture of the time. Then the scenario turns violent and there is a long and graphic depiction of a rape. The film permeates with graphic nudity and simulated sex acts, but is paradoxical because there is no transgressive acts taking place, there is only the suggestion of this. This is what I would like to present. The irony of a film that is considered to be completely lurid, perverted, and transgressive while it never depicts any actualization of acts that would usually merit these claims. And though considered ‘pornographic’ by many, I would argue that it cannot be correctly labeled as such because it does not function on the same fundamental principle that pornography does; means of arousing the spectator. It is extremely sexual and simultaneously completely desexualizing of both its subjects and its spectators.
|Still from Flaming Creatures (1963). Andy Warhol credits Jack Smith as being his primary cinematic influence.|
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