Screen Cultures at CineExcess VII
Oliver Carter and John Mercer were involved in helping to organise this year’s CineExcess conference, which was held in Birmingham for the first time.
Now the conference, now in its seventh year, was originally held in London. However, Brighton University’s Xavier Mendik, the director of CineExcess, has decided to move the conference to Birmingham, working in conjunction with Birmingham University. Held at the Midlands Art Centre, this year’s conference topic was ‘European erotic cinema’ and featured guests such as Italian director/actor Francesco Barilli and French director Catherine Breillat. Films from both guests were screened, Oliver helping to produce a subtitled version of the Italian giallo Pensione Paura (Francesco Barilli, 1977) for its premiere UK screening.
Promoting the forthcoming journal Porn Studies, Oliver and John were part of a Porn Studies panel with journal co-editor Professor Clarissa Smith from the University of Sunderland. Abstracts of papers from the panel can be found below:
The Fantom Kiler: Hardcore British Fan Reinterpretations of the Italian giallo Film
Dr. Oliver Carter, Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Birmingham City University.
In early 2003 a film called Fantom Kiler (1998) was being discussed in online fora by fans of European cult cinema. Its production shrouded in mystery, Fantom Kiler gained notoriety within the online fan community as promotional materials for the film labelled it as a “stylish East European giallo”; a homage to a cycle of films that were particularly popular in Italy during the late 1960s and 1970s. Supposedly made in Poland, though most of the spoken dialogue is a mixture of both Polish and Russian, the film follows a masked serial killer who stalks and murders a number of scantily clad women. It blends near hardcore pornography, gratuitous nudity, poor acting and scenes of extreme violence into ninety minutes of video. Filmed on videotape, suffering from constant changes of aspect ratio and having a number of subtitle spelling errors, the low budget origins of the film appear obvious.
Rumours began to circulate within the European fan community regarding the mysterious production history of the Fantom Kiler. Information emerged stating that the Roman Nowicki was a pseudonym for a British horror fanzine producer who played an important role in developing European cult cinema fandom in the United Kingdom. Clues to the British origins of the film could be found throughout the film, one particularly attentive viewer noticing the English locales used. As further details surfaced more Fantom Kiler films were released. To date, there have been four entries in the Fantom Kiler series, with each sequel closely matching the theme of the earlier entries, scantily clad women being murdered in varying sexually aggressive ways by a serial killer, yet becoming more pornographic. In 2005, the European pornography company Private released a series of films called The Fantom Seducer. Also directed by Roman Nowicki, these films also featured the masked Fantom but were wholly hardcore in their content.
Drawing on an interview conducted with the real Roman Nowicki, this article examines how the Fantom Kiler series can be understood as examples of British pornography and pornographic fan reinterpretations of the giallo film. It also considers how the shrouded production history of the film series was an intentional ploy to direct attention away from its British origins.
A World of Men: ‘National Pornographies’ and the UK Gay Porn Industry
Dr John Mercer, Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research
From the early days of the gay pornography industry during the 1970s, California and San Francisco in particular was to become the locus of production. During the industry’s period of exponential growth during the mid to late 1980s, the market leading studios, HIS Video, Falcon and Catalina, dominated both production and distribution of gay pornography and the genre was axiomatically associated with selling the ideal of the Californian, blonde beach boy. This mode of representation became the standard measurement of gay desirability.
Whilst there have always been exceptions to this rule such as the work of Cadinot in France, Kristen Bjorn in Latin America and latterly the Bel Ami studio in Budapest, the iconography of the American gay porn industry has remained pervasive in its influence. However with the advent of the internet and the ease of access and global reach that the medium has facilitated we can observe the emergence of what might be described as ‘national pornographies’ speaking to differing local tastes, practices and physical ideals and articulating what gay desire might ‘mean’ in a national context.
This paper looks at contemporary UK gay porn and explores the extent to which the rhetorical strategies and marketing practices of the industry in this specific context produces diverse articulations of homosexual desire or merely a new homogeneity that serves the purposes of the market.
Impressive Impacts and the Obscenity Test
Professor Clarissa Smith, University of Sunderland.
In this paper I want to explore the particular problems of force and non-consent in pornography by focusing on one of the films indicted in Michael Peacock’s obscenity trial held in London in the Summer of 2011. Although the press reported the case as primarily about fisting, Impressive Impacts (2007) was particularly troubling to the prosecution because of its extreme BDSM themes. Directed by Hans-Peter Hagen, Impressive Impacts was produced for a highly genre-literate, often politicised and porn-savvy audience, out of the stable of German film company Cazzo Films. With its close links to the experimental art film scene in Berlin, Cazzo is noted for its boundary-breaking style of film making and its intentions to produce edgier stylings, fetish-orientated and politically-radical pornographic film. More than simply a ‘gay’ porno, the film mixes themes of punk, hardcore, industrial settings, realism, ritualised humiliations, extreme machismo, rape and revenge to produce a narrative which British police found deeply offensive, leading to the decision by the CPS to test its ‘obscenity’ in front of a jury. I will explore Impressive Impacts’ particular presentation of themes of coercion and its extremely interesting dynamics around fantasy whereby victim becomes victimiser and vice versa, drawing out its play with the experiences of dominance and submission, power and powerlessness. This paper examines these contradictions in order to identify how cultural anxieties regarding bareback pornography are being articulated in gay male culture via discourses of displacement. It concludes by considering the challenges such displacement work pose for gay men’s Health Promotion.
Senior Lecturer in Film Distribution and Marketing, Professor Roger Shannon (pictured left in the above image) was a member of industry led panel titled ‘Echoes of Excess: Cult Film Creation, Financing and the New Digital Economy’. Other members of the panel included Professor Gillian Youngs from the University of Brighton, Federica Martino, Italian filmmaker and daughter of Italian cult director Sergio Martino and Daniel Lawson from Creative Skillset.
There were a wealth of fascinating papers, including Silvia Caramella and Alessandra Mondin’s (pictured above) paper Spanishness, sexual identity, ritual and self-orientalism: a cross-disciplinary study of Jamón Jamón (Bigas Luna, 1992), Giovanna Maina’s (pictured below) paper Vedo nudo! Italian cineromanzi of the 1970s and Xavier Mendik’s paper on Italian sex comedies That’s La Morte: Italian Erotic Cinema and the Anni di Piombo (final picture).
John and Oliver also chaired the event’s Postgraduate Networking Workshop, School of Media student Abhinay Khoprazi produced stings for the event, promoting the films of Francesco Barilli and Catherine Breillat, and School of Media alumni Robert Rehak was the photographer for the event.