Friday, July 3, 2015

Smooth song of the day: "innocence" the esoteric messages edition

I pause this week to remember Laura Antonelli who died on June 22. She was the Italian sex symbol of the 1970s and was very much a part of the "innocence" of that era.

Don't just take my word for it, here is the New York Times on the subject,
And Vincent Canby, citing what he described as some of her best films, among them “Wifemistress,” “Till Marriage Do Us Part” and “The Innocent,” wrote in The New York Times in 1979: “To those of us of a certain age Miss Antonelli, I suspect, recalls an earlier, more innocent era, before there were porn parlors in virtually every American city, when movie sex was more suggestive, being soft-core, and when European actresses (Bardot, Lollobrigida, Loren) promised more wanton delights than we were allowed in native American films. Miss Antonelli reminds us of our lost movie innocence.”
Laura Antonelli's parents made her study gymnastics in the hopes that would make her graceful. She became a gym teacher and then a model. From there it was a hop, skip and jump into the worst sort of crass sex comedies. Her first starring role was a spy movie parody called, I'm not making this up, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, also starring a very down on his luck Vincent Price.

In every single one of her movies, you watched Laura Antonelli being pursued for sex, and often successfully, by male actors instead of pursuing her yourself which, for the sake of politeness, we'll pretend is what you really want to do. Notice the contradiction: this woman is desired by you and yet, perversely,  the big thrill you get is watching another man with her. 

If that were all there was to Laura Antonelli, she'd be a footnote in film history. Through hard work and willingness to take her clothes off while the camera was running, a much rarer quality then than now, she managed to win the attention of directors of art films and she starred in a whole slew of Italian cinema classics. There she was portrayed on a knife edge of innocence and perversity.

Now, let's pause to consider one of the most famous passages from CS Lewis.
So far from being a channel for this new kind of love, marriage was rather a drab background against which that love stood out in all the contrast of its new tenderness and delicacy. The situation is indeed a very simple one, and not particular to the middle ages. Any idealization of sexual love, in a society where marriage is purely utilitarian, must begin by being an idealization of adultery.
He goes on to say,
A nineteenth century Englishman felt that same passion—romantic love—could be either virtuous or vicious according as it was directed towards marriage or not. But according to the medieval view passionate love itself was wicked and did not cease to be wicked if the object of it were your wife. If a man once yielded to this emotion he had no choice between “guilty” and “innocent” love before him: he had only the choice, either of repentance, or else of different forms of guilt.
I think Lewis has it rather backwards here. The problem was not what men of different eras did or did not feel comfortable about feeling towards women—there were a lot of brothels in Medieval Europe—but rather the sexual emotions they weren't comfortable seeing in nice girls. That was what what the innocence of the 1970s played on. Look at that sweet, beautiful woman and, oh my, look what she's doing now!

Back to CS Lewis:
Any idealization of sexual love, in a society where marriage is purely utilitarian, must begin by being an idealization of adultery.
But what is effect of that adultery on the voyeur sitting in the dark in the sixth row of the movie theatre? He isn't participating but watching. One way to draw than out is to give him a counterpart in the movie. How about the husband? That's what the great Italian film directors did with Antonelli. Read this paragraph from Wikipedia describing what many consider her most successful movie l'Innocenti and tell me what is the effect of the adultery of Antonelli's character Giuliana.
The story is set in the late nineteenth century. Tullio Hermil, a wealthy Roman aristocrat married to Giuliana lives his sexual life with a possessive aristocratic mistress, Teresa. However, his interest in his wife Guliana is rekindled when he sees Guliana's happiness after she has begun a love affair with a novelist, Filippo d'Aborio.
In her next movie Mogliamnate (which means wife/lover), a man has to go into hiding because he has been falsely accused of murder. He ends up hiding in the attic of a cousin's grocery store from where he can see into his house and watch his wife have a sexual and political awakening.

Here's a bit of opera that was used on the soundtrack of l'Innocente. It's from an opera in which a man goes on an underground mission to rescue his lover but must resist the temptation of looking at her, that is of feeling emotion for her.

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