Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Story of O (1975)

"You're very lucky. They'll be more severe with you."

I've blogged a lot of geeky films lately: time for another subtitled foreign film, I think, and after blogging nearly 300 films it's about time I got round to a French one. So how about The Story of O? It's very continental, very controversial and banned in the UK for a decade and a half. So what's it like?

Well, er, very Seventies. I know it's sold as a French version of Fifty Shades of Grey, but this is 1975 and the source material is not, apparently, straightforwardly about what these days we would call BDSM but saying that women are naturally submissive to men, which is more than a little dodgy. Still, none of that is apparent from the film, and it's made explicit throughout everything that happens unambiguously consensual. More surprisingly, although a lot of fairly rough stuff happens, it happens largely off camera, and there's precious little sex either. This is soft porn to the extent that it's porn at all: indeed, the direction is somewhat arty, with a definite dreamlike effect which echoes the narration.

This being the Seventies, the clothes are bloody awful although, on the evidence of this film, the interior decor could be utterly gorgeous and not brown or orange at all, at least in Paris, while still being thoroughly if the decade. Bizarrely, though, all the cars seem to hail from about three decades earlier- was France going through a vintage motors phase at the time?

The film is utterly fascinating as, anchored by an appropriately impassive performance from Corinne Clery, it traces us into a world of submission, whippings, Seventies fashion photography, emotionally fraught polyamory, lesbianism and bad hair. From an opening reminiscent of the video to John Lennon's Imagine to its ambiguous ending its a compellingly weird feast for the senses. Still, one is left with the general question of why the more well-known films featuring bondage and submission always seem to show women in the submissive role and not vice versa.

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