As a parent there’s a time when you have to start to make an effort to get to know your kids as separate human beings, and they have to look at you differently and not just as a parent. That’s a very worthwhile challenge because I’m sure when you’re around your parents you’re not exactly the way you are around your friends, and no matter how cool you are, you’re still the mom. Also I’m traveling a lot more and going to festivals and doing the things I really wanted to do when I was home. So my kids are like, what’s up with you and I tell them that this is actually who I was before I had you—so who are you? Let’s start from there.
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I was really fucking terrified before starting this. I had just come off of Mad Men, literally drove to Ojai to do this the next day. I started the movie the day after that and I was pretty convinced I was going to be a massive disappointment to everybody involved. I had no idea what I was doing, and I found this role and the other things involved in it unbelievably challenging, and I was terrified to do it. The minute anyone said I had a good idea, I was like, thank you they’re not going to fire me, they don’t think I’m stupid!
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When master of erotic art cinema Radley Metzger takes the stage, you know you’re in for a treat. At the perfect age of eighty-five, the iconic filmmaker is every bit as charming, intelligent, gracious, charismatic, and wonderfully witty as ever, regaling us with tales of the ins and outs of his historic and tremendous career. It’s been thirty years since the release of his last film, The Princess and the Call Girl, but thanks to the Film Society of Lincoln Center and their This is Hardcore series, audiences were able to get a taste of his stunning and progressive mid-career films, from the swinging sensation of Score to the deliciously strange The Lickerish Quartet.
Not only a filmmaker, but an editor and distributor as well, Metzger began his career as an editor at Janus Films, cutting trailers for the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman, after releasing his acclaimed but unsuccessful passion project Dark Odyssey and starting his own distribution company Audubon Films (named after the legendary Audubon Theater in Washington Heights). Debuting in the 1960s and ’70s, his films were lauded for their candidly sexual nature, garnering attention with an X-rating, but for Metzger, it’s always been the “in-betweens” that have mattered most. From his literary adaptions such as Therese and Isabelle, the black-and-white youthful lesbian love story with visuals akin to that of Alain Resnais, to his Henry Paris hardcore films like the hilarious and creamy dreams of The Opening of Misty Beethoven, his work is always as expertly crafted as it is erotic.
Having made films internationally for most of his career, Metzger’s devout professionalism and passion for storytelling and detail allowed him to call upon some of the most sought after set designers, composers, and directors of photography from around the world, resulting in work that is as modern and progressive in its sex positive attitude as it is aesthetically impeccable in its lavish grandeur. So before a screening of his twisted and tantalizing take on S&M, The Image, I sat down with Metzger at Lincoln Center to discuss his early days of innovative cutting, the “great pussy drought” of the 1950s, and getting in at the apex of porno chic.
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I love to compare Philippe to a painter. He tries to extract small things in existence, the simple details. He loves to paint simple beauty, the existence in a simple beauty.
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“There are certain qualities about American culture that ordinarily, certain American directors would totally overlook. They wouldn’t find a neon sign of a stagecoach going like this that fascinating, but because of his European background, I guess, this thing suddenly strikes him, having an obsessive quality about it.”
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Your pink lipsYour arms upstretchedI can’t breathe without youBut this circle of ribsKeeps working on its own.