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Astoria museum hosts adults-only film series

Featuring some of the most controversial films of all time, these movies are not for everybody, and are certainly...

Astoria’s American Museum of the Moving Image presents an honest look at sex in film with a six-week series entitled “Carnal Knowledge.”

Featuring some of the most controversial films of all time, these movies are not for everybody, and are certainly not for families.

That aside, the films in this series represent some of the best work ever put on the screen, by some of the best directors in film history, including Brian DePalma, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Mike Nichols, Luis Bunuel, Ken Russel and Woody Allen.

Saturday, July 27

2 p.m., “I Am Curious, Yellow” Sweden, 1967, 121 mins., 35mm archival print. Directed by Vilgot Sjoman. Seized by U.S. customs officials upon its initial importation, Sjoman’s film became a cause celebre and cultural breakthrough because of its graphic sexuality (which overshadowed its attack on Sweden’s political establishment). An intricate narrative structure reveals a film within a film, as Lena (Lena Nyman) plays an aspiring actress and political activist attempting to land a role in Sjoman’s film. Grove Press, which had previously bucked censorship laws with such scandalous novels as “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and “Naked Lunch,” imported this film and paid exhibitors’ legal fees; the attention arising from indecency trials and press coverage made this a breakthrough film as well as a major hit.

4:15 p.m., “Midnight Cowboy” United Artists, 1969, 113 mins. Directed by John Schlesinger. With Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles. This X-rated winner of the Best Picture Oscar broke ground with its frank depiction of the life of a New York “hustler.” After his dreams of big city stardom are shattered (symbolized by his sighting of an ignored corpse on 5th Avenue), Joe Buck (Voight) is introduced to the Big Apple’s seamier side by tour guide Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman).

Sunday, July 28

2 p.m., “Carnal Knowledge” Avco Embassy, 1971, 97 mins. Directed by Mike Nichols. With Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, Ann-Margret. A pair of college buddies approach middle age and grapple with changing sexual mores in this lacerating dark comedy written by Jules Feiffer and masterfully directed by Nichols in a stark minimalist style. “Maybe you’re not supposed to like [sex] with someone you love,” wonders the sensitive Sandy (Garfunkel) while the misogynist Jonathan (Nicholson) lashes out at female “ballbusters.”

4:30 p.m., “Coming Apart” 1969, 110 mins. Directed by Milton Moses Ginsberg. With Rip Torn, Sally Kirkland. Rip Torn gives a raw, ferocious performance as a Manhattan psychiatrist who secretly films a series of sexual encounters—and his own emotional breakdown—in this astonishingly bold, sexually explicit feature. Recently rediscovered, “Coming Apart” is a powerful time capsule that combines the rawness of cinema verite, the psychodrama of Cassavetes, and the formal audacity of Warhol.

Saturday, Aug. 3

2 p.m., “Belle De Jour” Allied Artists, 1967, 100 mins. Directed by Luis Bunuel. With Catherine Deneuve. Exploring her sexual fantasies by day in a Parisian brothel, and quietly living with her Doctor husband at night, Deneuve gives a coolly startling performance as the enigmatic Severine. Afternoons of passion with a gangster (Pierre Clementi) provide sexual excitement and unanticipated complications. As Bunuel’s camera worships Deneuve throughout, the parade of ridiculous male clientele wryly subverts machismo.

4 p.m., “Klute” Warner Bros., 1971, 114 mins. Directed by Alan Pakula. With Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland. An aspiring actress turned prostitute, Jane Fonda’s Bree, portrayed with nuance and nervous energy, epitomizes many of the contradictions of the time. Distinctly modern in its sensibility, the story of a detective’s anguished search for his a friend—a suburban family man missing in the city—is presented in classic film noir style, complete with Gordon Willis’s dark, moody visuals.

Sunday, Aug. 4

2 p.m., “Lonesome Cowboys” 1967, 110 mins. Directed by Andy Warhol. With Viva, Taylor Mead. The denizens of Warhol’s scandalous “Factory” stage a mocking Western in the wilds of Arizona. A seemingly drugged-out cast and crew improvise a decadent genre- and gender-twisting parody filled with casual sex and even more casual acting. The last film directed by Warhol (and a precursor to Paul Morrissey’s films), “Lonesome Cowboys” epitomizes the camp sensibility of the times.

4 p.m., “Flesh” 1968, 105 mins. Directed by Paul Morrissey. With Joe Dallesandro. Preceded by “Fuses,” Carolee Schneemann, 1967, 22 mins. Paul Morrissey took the reins of the “Factory”’s film production while Andy Warhol recovered from gunshot wounds. Preceding “Midnight Cowboy” (and exceeding it in explicitness), “Flesh” stars Dallessandro as a bisexual hustler. Schneemann’s kinetic and painterly diary film Fuses is an avant-garde classic in its portrayal of sex from a female perspective.

Saturday, Aug. 10

2 p.m., “Barbarella” Paramount, 1967, 98 mins. Directed by Roger Vadim. With Jane Fonda. Preceded by “The Bed,” James Broughton, 1968, 20 mins. “A kind of sexual Alice in Wonderland--in the future,” was how Vadim (then Fonda’s husband) described his adaptation of a popular French comic strip. From its infamous opening striptease to her orgasmic torture in the Pleasure Organ, Barbarella revels in Fonda’s go-go boot-clad physicality and celebrates her discovery of sex. Broughton’s short is a merry, erotic allegory celebrating the cycle of life.

4:15 p.m., “Vixen!” 1968, 71 mins. Directed by Russ Meyer. With Erica Gavin. Preceded by “Lovemaking,” Scott Bartlett, 1970, 14 mins. “Eyetoon,” Jerry Abrams, 1967, 8 mins. “Fly,” Yoko Ono, 1971, 25 mins. Meyer’s self-satirizing and politically minded skin flick was a theatrical success, paving the way for the “Porno Chic” boom of the early 1970s. Its simple plot chronicles the visits of a black draft dodger, Scottish communist, and free-spirited American couple to Vixen’s remote Canadian cabin. The shorts include two visually dazzling portrayals of sex and Yoko Ono’s beautiful film of a fly’s traversal of a naked woman's body.

Sunday, Aug. 11

2 p.m., “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Columbia, 1969, 104 mins. Directed by Paul Mazursky. With Natalie Wood, Elliot Gould, Dyan Cannon, Robert Culp. “Consider the possibilities,” teased the ads for the opening-night film at the 1969 New York Film Festival. Mazursky’s directorial debut is an old-fashioned comic romp about such new-fangled fads as wife-swapping and group sex. Culp and Wood play a swinging couple trying to initiate their friends into their liberated ways.

4 p.m., “A Clockwork Orange” Warner Bros., 1971, 137 mins. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. With Malcolm McDowell. Billed as “the adventure of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence, and Beethoven,” and opening to enormous controversy, Kubrick’s explosive social satire was pulled from public exhibition in England following a series of alarming “copycat” crimes. A truly revolutionary film that, as Vincent Canby put it, is “dangerous in a way that brilliant things sometimes are.”

Saturday, Aug. 17

2 p.m., “Fellini Satyricon” United Artists, 1969, 129 mins. Directed by Federico Fellini. Adapting Petronius’ account of sexual decadence in Nero’s Rome, Fellini creates his most spectacular film, defined by excess and inspired by Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures. We follow the journeys of two students with slave-cum-lover Gitone, as they encounter and often participate in feasts, orgies, murders, and the like across the Empire. A fragmented narrative reveals the film as a world unto itself, ruled solely by the pleasure principle.

4:30 p.m., “The Decameron” United Artists, 1970, 107 mins. Imported 35mm print. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Adapted from Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century classic, Pasolini’s film realizes a series of bawdy vignettes, framed by his own turn as Giotto painting a portrait of Madonna and Child. This first of the director’s “trilogy of life” was rated X for, as Variety noted, running the gamut “from lust to deception, jealousy to cuckoldry, revenge to deceit, etc.”

Sunday, Aug. 18

2 p.m., “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song” Cinemation, 1971, 97 mins. Directed by and starring Melvin Van Peebles. Released with the tagline “Rated X by an All-White Jury,” this revolutionary film—both formally and thematically—was a major box-office hit, inspiring the 1970s “blaxploitation” boom. Producer, director, editor, and composer Van Peebles stars as Sweetback, whose legendary sexual power is revealed in the film’s opening, and whose violent encounter with the police sends him on the run.

4 p.m., “W.R.: Mysteries Of The Organism” Yugoslavia, 1971, 86 mins. Imported 35mm print. Directed by Dusan Makavejev. With Milena Dravic. Celebrating the life and theories of Wilhelm Reich, the Marxist Freudian who preached revolution through sexual enlightenment, “W.R.” is a bawdy plea for all manner of liberation. With his trademark collage style, blending documentary and experimental techniques, and hopping between Eastern Europe and the United States, Makavejev simultaneously celebrates and spoofs utopianism.

Saturday, Aug. 24

2 p.m., “Women In Love” United Artists, 1969, 129 mins. Directed by Ken Russell. With Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed. With 1920s England standing in for the free-spirited 1960s, Ken Russell’s adaptation of the D. H. Lawrence novel about two intertwining love affairs is a successful stylistic match; Russell’s exuberant and operatic visual style meshes well with Lawrence’s fulsome prose. The film amplifies the book’s homoerotic subtext, most famously in the nude wrestling scene between Bates and Reed.

4:30 p.m., “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” United Artists, 1971, 110 mins. Directed by John Schlesinger. With Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, Murray Head. In this thoughtful and groundbreaking drama, a young bisexual designer is the love object of a middle-aged Jewish doctor and a divorced businesswoman. Penelope Gilliatt’s richly textured, highly literate screenplay treats its sexual content with emotional depth and matter-of-fact honesty. “The movie is a novel written on a pungent, slangy style that sounds accurate, not bookish.” (Pauline Kael).

Sunday, Aug. 25

2 p.m. A Pinewood Dialogue with Radley Metzger, “The Lickerish Quartet” 1970, 90 mins. Directed by Radley Metzger. Hailed by Andy Warhol as an “outrageously kinky masterpiece,” “Lickerish” is one of the most beautifully photographed and formally daring films by soft-core impresario Radley Metzger. An Italian couple and their son, fans of erotic films, spot a woman at a carnival whom they recognize as a porn actress. An invitation to their villa leads to sexual—and film—experimentation.

4:30 p.m., “Carmen, Baby” 1967, 91 mins. Directed by Radley Metzger. With Uta Levka. Modernizing Prosper Merimee’s classic tale, Metzger establishes his Carmen as a chic, independent woman of the 1960s. On the Mediterranean Coast, a strait-laced young policeman falls hard for the irresistible Carmen (Levka), but she prefers pop star Baby Lucas (Walter Wilz).

Saturday, Aug. 31

2 p.m., “Hi, Mom!” 1970, 87 mins. Directed by Brian De Palma. With Robert De Niro. Preceded by “Crocus,” Suzan Pitt, 1971, 7 mins. The worlds of New York underground theater and hardcore filmmaking are among the targets of De Palma’s pleasantly scattershot satire starring De Niro as a Vietnam vet trying to make it in Greenwich Village under the mentorship of a porno director played by Allen Garfield. (It was also released as “Confessions Of A Peeping John.”) Crocus is a baroque animated fantasy about marital sex.

4 p.m., “Is There Sex After Death?” 1971, 97 mins. Directed by Alan and Jeanne Abel. With Buck Henry. Preceded by “Pagan Rhapsody,” George Kuchar, 1970, 23 mins. Inspired by “Candid Camera” and “Laugh-In,” this documentary spoof was called “the only really funny movie since Bananas” by The New York Times. A nudity-filled grab-bag, it features Buck Henry, Robert Downey, Marshall Efron, and Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn. The Kuchar short stars underground love goddess Donna Kerness.

Sunday, Sept. 1

2 p.m., “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask)” United Artists, 1972, 87 mins. Directed by Woody Allen. With Gene Wilder, Burt Reynolds, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, Regis Philbin. Purchasing the rights to the best-selling book, Allen infuriated the author with this bawdy and hysterical parody of the “science of sex.” Seven vignettes, introduced by such questions as “What happens during ejaculation?,” deflate the supercilious tone of the source material.

4 p.m., “Fritz The Cat” American International Pictures, 1972, 77 mins. Directed by Ralph Bakshi. Based on the characters of Robert Crumb, Bakshi’s X-Rated animated feature contains equal parts social satire and bawdy sexual antics. On a Homeric journey through a New York night, the eponymous feline (an NYU student by day) encounters a motley bunch of characters—Black Panthers, bikers, Hippies—and finds himself in provocative scenarios that take full advantage of the freedom of animation.

Saturday, Sept. 7

2 p.m., “Wanda” 1970, 100 mins. Directed by Barbara Loden. Loden (who was married to Elia Kazan), wrote, directed, and starred in this impressive shoestring feature about a young woman from a mining town who gives her husband a divorce and custody of her children, because “I’m just no good,” and wanders into a world of one-night stands and petty crime. One of the few major American features of its time directed by a woman.

4 p.m., “Last Tango In Paris” United Artists, 1972, 129 mins. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. With Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider. “Many of us had expected eroticism to come to the movies...what nobody had talked about was a sex film that would churn up everybody’s emotions,” wrote Pauline Kael in her legendary rave proclaiming “Last Tango” a landmark in movie history. As an aging American who throws himself into a consuming sexual affair, Brando gives his most soul-searching performance.

Sunday, Sept. 8

2 p.m., “Frenzy” Universal, 1972, 116 mins. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The master returned to top form and took advantage of relaxed censorship standards of the time with his suspenseful, comic thriller about the chaos surrounding the rampage of a British “necktie murderer.” The explicit depiction of sex and violence is capped by a lengthy and disturbing scene of seduction, rape, and murder. As the ads proclaimed: “From the master of shock! A shocking masterpiece!”

4:30 p.m., “Deep Throat” 1972, 73 mins. Directed by Gerard Damiano. With Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Dolly Sharp. As talked-about as “Last Tango In Paris,” “Deep Throat” premiered with a packed opening day at New York’s World Theatre, expanded to 70 screens nationwide, grossed millions, and became a cultural phenomenon. Professional production values and a satiric script earned attention from critics, while Linda Lovelace became a household name. Dolly Sharp, crisply delivering one-liners, previously enjoyed a long career in Hollywood musicals (“Give The Girl A Break”) as Helen Wood.

Museum Information

Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Group tours by appointment, Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Museum Admission: $8.50 for adults; $5.50 for persons over 65 and for students with ID; $4.50 for children ages 5-18. Children 4 and under and Museum members are admitted free.

Location: 35 Avenue at 36 Street in Astoria.

Subway: R or V trains (R or G on weekends) to Steinway Street. N train to Broadway.

Program Information: Telephone: 784-0077; Web site:

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