I found another compelling lost media rabbit hole.
So, I love most of the Radley Metzger films I’ve seen, and the amazing European erotic films his company distributed to the US. I greatly enjoyed the novelization he commissioned for Femina Ridens–it was surprisingly well-written for a cheap paperback. While there were no Earth-shattering revelations, it was nevertheless an interesting expansion into the characters’ motivations and mythos. There were some cool additions to scenes from the film itself too, which only enhanced my appreciation for the original media.
On a whim, I thought I’d check if the other Italian movie Metzger imported to America was also novelized. For the uninitiated, I’m talking about The Libertine which I’ve appreciated more and more these last few days after repeated viewings. I’m actually working on a dedicated blog post about this film right now–so look for that soon. I’ve come to really love that film, particularly for its approachable take on kink, swinging and even BDSM. I’ll discuss this more in a future post, but The Libertine could almost serve as a light-hearted introduction to the topic for curious but inexperienced viewers. (And that’s just as important to the cause of sex-positivity as the films which dive into the subject head-first.) I can identify with the main character, Mimi, and would like to get more insight into her personality. Even if the book is essentially a glorified fanfic, it would be great to spend more time in Mimi’s head and read a fleshed out version of her sexual awakening. It’s such an adorable story on film, with a protagonist who’s well-read on sexual psychology, still fairly naive in terms of real world experiences on the matter, but nonetheless eager to experiment. Any writer worth their salt could do a lot to build on that foundation in a way that’s both humorous and empowering for the audience.
A Google search for “‘The Libertine’ novelization” brought up only a scant few results, and even less of them were actually relevant. I learned that there was indeed a novelization for Libertine, along with many other Metzger productions/distributions. Most interestingly for me are Therese and Isabelle and The Lickerish Quartet. While the former is easily acquired in alternate editions (it was, after all, a standalone novel Metzger adapted for the screen) and the latter is only a published screenplay rather than a novelization, I’d gladly pay money to own them nonetheless. I love the films, so these would be great additions to my personal library. Unfortunately they’re all but impossible to find, along with the Libertine novelization itself. While it would be nice to have the other two, I can live without this particular pressing of Therese & Isabelle, much less the published screenplay for a flawed porno. What kills me is the unavailability of The Libertine, both because the movie is already on a higher level than them and also because the premise has much more room for expansion.
Google only turns up three relevant results for the Libertine book. This is after using boolean terms, searching the author’s name alone (which brings up nothing, by the way) and any other combinations of search terms I can think of. There was a recent ebay auction of the novel, but I missed it by one single month. (According to the description, this copy was in bad shape anyway.) Searching for the publisher, “Award Books” turns up little as well. It seems they’ve long been out of business long ago, so I can’t contact them about getting a copy. Also, probably because it’s a novelization of an X-rated film and proudly boasts about its sexual content on the cover, it doesn’t seem to show up in any library databases. Further complicating matters is the fact that there’s at least one other movie and dozens of other novels also called “the libertine.”
Of all the pieces of lost media I’ve been researching this year, from Uccidere in Silenzio to Eureeka’s Castle to Penis and Not Just Another Woman, this is perhaps the most obscure I’ve encountered yet. Anybody who repeats the adage “you can find anything on the internet” has never broadened their horizons beyond popular mass media. The older I get, and the more oblique my interests become, the less that inane axiom holds water.
POST SCRIPT: Update & a Defense of Eroticism
That book I was looking for three days ago, that had nearly vanished without a trace? Switch to DuckDuckGo and it comes right up in the first result. I tried a million different permutations of search queries on Google and even Amazon directly–nothing came up. So, like, how fucking bad has google dropped the ball lately with their search algorithm? How could they miss a listing from Amazon???
If you haven’t already, its past time to switch over to duckduckgo. All corporations lose their way eventually, and Google’s been shady for years. When they can’t even do the one thing that put them on the map anymore, it’s time to sever ties with this company. I’ve been told in the past that Google and Amazon downplay if not outright censor a lot of porn and/or erotic subject matter in their results, but this is the first time I’ve seen evidence for that claim with my own eyes.
Incidentally, this whole experience ties into something else I’ve noticed over the past two years or so: the growing backlash and disassociation with porn from mainstream internet outlets. I want to touch on this for a moment because I think it’s important. So, during my recent search for the 60’s lost film known as Penis, I learned that the American Film Institute no longer catalogs “sex films” in their files, and presumably does not assist in preserving them either. They used to, but decided along the way it was no longer a worthy cause for concern. In addition, Pornhub has recently culled its entire library of any amateur videos in reaction to the credit card companies threatening to stop supporting the site. (Another example of major corporations essentially having the power to enforce their will on the rest of us.) Similar bouts of anti-adult content censorship have recently plagued Tumblr as well as Craigslist and BackPage. On top of all this, I’ve noticed that MovieChat.org, which preserved the IMDb forums, neglected to extend their efforts to porn films, allowing those conversations to fall into oblivion.
Now, let me just say upfront that I’m not exactly the biggest connoisseur of pornography. I know some moralist or wise ass out there is going to accuse me of being a miscreant defending my “spank bank” but in truth, I personally can’t stand most of the “post-internet era” stuff out there. I like tracking down Golden Age porn movies, but that’s mostly because I’m a film buff with a desire to explore as much of the history and craftsmanship of my favorite medium as possible. Weird, obscure old movies are fun to discover no matter the subject or genre, and as a result I tend to go down as many rabbit holes as I can find when it comes to celluloid. When it comes to getting aroused, I vastly prefer written erotica, and most Golden Age porn represents substandard film-making and therefore does nothing for me creatively or sexually. (Radley Metzger’s early work, some choice Italian art films and one or two other curiosities aside.)
All that said, I think it’s disgusting that society finds no fault in violent content, yet a natural act which expresses love and trust is villainized. I believe it goes hand in hand with our warped values: where men aren’t allowed to express sentimentality, only anger. And sexually liberated women are shamed because they’re a threat to the established order. Denouncing porn is a relic of our puritanical past where anything pleasurable was deemed selfish, depraved and sinful. (We’re not allowed to have fun until we get to Heaven it seems, much less find beauty in our own “flawed” bodies.) Besides shaming porn consumption, this archaic worldview has the effect of criminalizing prostitution. (And keeping outdated laws limiting the number of women who can live under one roof on the books.)
I don’t believe the government has the right to tell anyone what they can do with their own bodies, much less how many willing adults are allowed to live together. I believe everyone should have the right to buy and sell videos of sex acts as long as the people involved in the production were all consenting adults. To anyone who would dismiss this issue as “no big deal” or irrelevant in the face of “bigger problems,” I say this is a matter of personal autonomy and free speech. There can be no encroachment against a free citizenry that’s more egregious, and therefore we must defend these rights even as they apply to sex. If that makes me some kind of pervert, then so be it.
Of course, the issue with many of these recent examples of censorship is that corporations rather than the government are the ones blocking adult content, usually because it’s not “sponsor friendly.” This brings up a whole other issue with how internet companies make money (selling ad space plus selling user data) and how that model is at odds with any outlet not deemed “family friendly.” But that’s a massive subject which warrants its own essay someday. For now, I just wish society wasn’t so repressed and judgmental about sexuality in the first place. If we could all collectively lighten up and stop involving ourselves in things which don’t concern us, like what turns other people on, none of this would be an issue. At the end of the day, everyone gets their rocks off one way or another, it’s just another example of our collective hypocrisy that we decry in public what we enjoy in private.