Synopsis: The screening of a pornographic film provokes diverse and loud reactions from an audience, each justifying in his/her own way their presence in such a place. Here, the entertainment is the cinema itself.
eyelights: the unique concept. the boldness of the production.
eyesores: the inconsistency of some of the characters.
‘Si vous n’aimez pas ça, n’en dégoûtez pas les autres’ is an odd little bird. A French film from 1978, it consists of the interactions of audience members at a porn film, which is actually intercut into the proceedings from time to time. Basically, it’s about watching people watching a movie, their reactions to what they’re seeing and their exchanges during the film.
It could probably only have been made in France, where sex is a much more acceptable subject and various permutations of sexuality are more casually on display in society. Even today, I can’t imagine an American film like this being made; puritanism, hyper-hypocritical or not, has some really deep roots in the U.S., and there would be a backlash if actors partook in such a project.
Because ‘Si vous n’aimez pas ça, n’en dégoûtez pas les autres’ does indeed feature respectable French actors in it – not in the XXX sequences, evidently, but in the audience. While they were less known at the time, comedians from the Café de la Gare and Le Splendid troupes are central parts of the cast, getting some of the best lines in the picture. In particular, Josiane Balasko, Thierry Lhermite and Gérard Jugnot make appearances here.
I’m not familiar with Café de la Gare, but I know of Le Splendid via ‘Le père Noël est une ordure‘ and the ‘Les Bronzés‘ films. That’s how I discovered this, in fact: by looking up Le Splendid’s filmography. I had never heard of this film before but was immediately curious to see what it was about, given that it’s such an unusual concept; if it were real it would be an amazing sociological document.
Unfortunately, the film can’t be found anywhere – not even in France, where the DVD is out of print. Buying a used copy is an expensive proposition to say the least, so I tracked down an .avi file so that I could see what this is all about. The consequence of this is that much of the dialogue was lost in the terrible audio – and there were no subtitles. I only understood about 30-40% of it.
But I wish I got all of it, because what I did get was either amusing or interesting: there were debates about whether one of the actresses was using a cucumber or an eggplant, comments about getting hungry while seeing all this food onscreen, discussions about the artistic merits of the picture or the quality of the performances. There were even arguments because some were more intently focused on the film while others bantered on.
Apparently, the dialogues were improvised by the film’s cast. I don’t know if they had main lines drawn for them before going into the cinema, or if each actor brought their own material, but it explains why some of the actors sometimes have a difficult time keeping a straight face when the others quip. Either way, it very much looks like a one-take film that was shot on the fly; one doesn’t get the impression that it was staged much.
The cast and the characters are quite varied. We get people in their mid-20s all the way to a couple in their fifties (it was the ’70s, after all, and porn had gone slightly mainstream by the middle of the decade), some are intellectuals wanting to experience an art form, others are simpletons who are there for laughs, one character claims to be there for the sociological experiment, others are merely curious.
The fact remains, however, that they are watching a porn film – and, as they are, so are we. At least, in segments. And this is actual, uncensored XXX porn (nota bene: by French ratings it’s merely an X); it’s not footage that the filmmakers made for the occasion and that was strategically shot to make it “clean”. But it’s relatively tasteful material, sexy in a ’70s fashion. And goofy at times, too.
All in all, it makes for an intriguing motion picture: partly sociological, partly pornographic, fully satiric, fully voyeuristic. Personally, I think that’s quite an amusing combination and, even though it’s imperfect and much was lost in translation, I enjoyed it. I would absolutely love to get this on DVD to really savour the exchanges; there’s a comic gem hidden in there and I want to get the most out of it.
Date of viewing: May 20, 2013
Update – August 31, 2015
I finally tracked down a DVD copy of the film, at considerable cost, and discovered that the .avi file I had downloaded was actually a crafty edit which substituted the original footage to include uncensored XXX porn. It’s amazing because the footage they used actually works with the comedians’ commentary.
The film’s original footage is fake porn, shot for the occasion with the same half dozen actors. There’s not much on display, the sex is poorly faked (ex: you can tell their underwear is still on and that the actors aren’t connecting) and it’s clearly done for laughs – it’s not at all sexy in any way shape or form.
In some ways, this takes away from the fun of the picture, because they’re commenting on something that’s already meant to be funny, as opposed to finding the humour in something that absurd but not intended to be. Plus which it was a best of both world scenario: laughs and titillation. Oh well.
By that token, here are revised ratings:
Overall, it still deserves a 7.5 if only because it’s such an original concept. It’s still a good (or at least intriguing) picture, it’s just a different beast from the one I original saw, is all.