Program Type: 
FilmVideo
SMUT CAPITAL OF AMERICA

SAN FRANCISCO’S SEX CINEMA REVOLUTION

July 14, 2011 - August 25, 2011
Screening Room

Overview

Smut Capital of America is the title of Michael Stabile’s in-progress documentary which chronicles San Francisco's reign as the center of porn production in the U.S. during the early 70s. In 1969, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to effectively legalize pornography, hugely boosting our reputation as a boomtown for sex, and eventually opening up the floodgates to the rest of the country. The series begins with a screening/discussion with Stabile and continues through August 18 with a wide variety of films made during the era. All will be presented in their original film formats (not digital transfers).

Sincere thanks to Joe Rubin; Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation; Todd Wiener, UCLA Film & Television Archive; Stephen Parr, Oddball Film+Video; Johnny Ray Huston; Ian Sundahl; Jack Stevenson; and Ted McIlvenna, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.

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Events

  • SMUT CAPITAL OF AMERICA : Screening and Discussion with Michael Stabile
    Jul 14, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    We kick off the series tonight with Michael Stabile in person, to screen parts of his documentary, Smut Capital of America, and to present an illustrated overview of San Francisco’s sexual underground of the time.

  • PORNOGRAPHY IN DENMARK : By Alex de Renzy
    Jul 21, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    Directed by legendary SF porn pioneer Alex de Renzy, this semi-documentary about a sex expo in Copenhagen is the film that started it all. Though numerous legal problems ensued, de Renzy got away with screening the film because of its supposed "redeeming social value" as a portrait of a country that had recently outlawed sex censorship and legalized pornography. It is said to have grossed over $2 million. (1969, 90 min, 16mm)

  • PASSING STRANGERS By Arthur J. Bressan, Jr.
    Jul 28, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    Two men meet through a personal ad in the Bay Area Reporter, and an intense relationship begins. Somewhere between gay porn and art film, this extremely rare work combines explicit scenes and elements of tenderness (like holding hands and amorous courting) generally lacking in more graphic films of the time. Director Bressan went on to make several key (non-porn) films in the history of gay cinema, including Gay USA and Abuse. Winner of the first prize at the San Francisco Museum Erotic Art Film Festival. (1974, 72 min, 16mm)

  • HARD SHORTS
    Aug 4, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    Short films were the normal format for early venues exhibiting hardcore, due mostly to their cheap and easy nature. The San Francisco experimental film world had already glimpsed the possibilities of combining unsimulated sex with avant-garde techniques, evidenced by Jerry Abrams psychedelic masterpiece Eyetoon and James Broughton’s lyrical The Bed. As more and more hardcore theatres opened, filmmakers such as Lowell Picket, whose film Opus integrates trance-like dance between abstract explicit close-ups, decided to distinguish their work from ordinary stags. This program highlights examples (some extremely rare) of this unique sub-genre. Guest curated by Joe Rubin, archivist, writer and researcher of pre-1986 American hardcore cinema.

  • THE MEATRACK BY RICHARD STOCKTON (MICHAEL THOMAS)
    Aug 5, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    Shot mostly on the mean streets of San Francisco, this is a gritty, brooding tale of a bisexual hustler who’ll go to bed with any man or woman who offers him enough money and sexual kicks. Using both sexploitation and art film aesthetics, The Meatrack is an essential and compelling artifact of pre-hardcore adult cinema. (1968, 65 min, 35mm)

  • STREETWALKERS AND HIS FATHER'S CALL GIRL
    Aug 11, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    Streetwalkers, a gritty portrait of sex-for-pay in the Tenderloin, originally made for local television, is a remarkable, sobering portrait of a still-troubled neighborhood. The film mixes interviews with hookers, judges, detectives, local officials, and a pimp with a paper bag on his head. (1968, 45 min, 16mm). Preceded by His Father’s Call Girl, an anonymous, almost-hard masterpiece of scuzz, shot in a real adult bookstore on Sixth Street (c. 1968).

  • WILDCARD NIGHT
    Aug 18, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room
    Free

    We’re not announcing tonight’s program in advance—it will be a surprise. Yes, this is an old exploitation gimmick, but it also allows for a last-minute discovery from the numerous secret archives, obscure private collections and decaying vaults spread across the country. You will not be disappointed.

  • RESURRECTION OF EVE BY JON FONTANA & ARTIE MITCHELL
    Aug 25, 2011 6:30pm
    Screening Room

    It is impossible to overstate the legendary Mitchell Brothers’ role in the rise of pornography and subsequent battle against censorship. They followed up their gargantuan smash Behind the Green Door with their best film, Resurrection of Eve, again starring Marilyn Chambers. A dark drama, it’s the story of a troubled woman with a troubled past, who discovers her own sexuality after a serious car accident. (1973, 85 min)

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Related Programs

July 9, 2011 - September 25, 2011
Downstairs Galleries

The sixth edition of YBCA’s signature triennial exhibition, Bay Area Now, a roundup of exemplary talent across an array of disciplines, continues with a visual arts exhibition showcasing 18 artists and artist collectives.

July 23, 2011 - 8:00pm
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Based upon American jazz and Persian dastgah heritage, Bay Area saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh presents a night of original intercultural works featuring acclaimed NY-based contemporary string quartet ETHEL and guest artists representing Latin, Arab and Persian musical traditions.

July 29, 2011 - July 30, 2011
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YBCA presents the West Coast premiere of Bay Area musician/composer/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt and poet Rafael Oses’ Necessary Monsters, a contemporary song cycle based on Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings.

July 30, 2011 - September 17, 2011
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YBCA will be transformed into a sizzling oasis of visual art, performance, film, music, workshops, cross-disciplinary symposia, food, drink and unfettered access to the 25+ local artists featured in our Bay Area Now 6 triennial.

August 18, 2011 - August 21, 2011
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On the occasion of SFMOMA’s landmark exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde and YBCA’s Bay Area Now 6, SFMOMA in association with YBCA presents a new production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s 1927 opera, Four Saints in Three Acts.

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September 15, 2011 - September 18, 2011
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September 16, 2011 - September 17, 2011
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YBCA and Z Space welcome New York-based performance troupe Big Art Group back to the Bay Area with their new work, The People: San Francisco, a site specific, outdoor extravaganza that combines live theater with large scale, real time video projection.

September 22, 2011 - September 24, 2011
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In the local premiere of The Voyager Spacecraft, Green and Cerf use the materials of the "Golden Record," a collection of images, sounds and music compiled by astronomer Carl Sagan for a time capsule inside the unmanned interstellar Voyager Spacecraft.

October 13, 2011 - October 22, 2011
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The world premiere of Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s newest project, red, black & GREEN: a blues (rbGb), a collaborative, multimedia performance work that examines environmental racism, social ecology and collective responsibility in an era of dramatic climate change.

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Curator Statement

This series was inspired by Michael Stabile’s delightful documentary short called “Smut Capital of America.” (I borrowed the title and used it for the whole series, hopefully this isn’t terribly confusing). Michael’s research and enthusiasm really excited me, and I decided to build a big film series, which would kick-off with a screening of his film and discussion (with me) on the subject.

I’m very proud of this series, it’s one of the best things I’ve done in my years here at YBCA. One of my best skills as a film programmer is tracking down prints of obscure films, and this was quite an adventure. Almost everything will be shown in its original exhibition format (16mm or 35mm film), and not video transfers.

Though it has a lurid title, and some lurid films, this is not a porn series. Only two of the films in the eight-part program could accurately be called “porno movies,” and they are radically different than contemporary pornography. The last thing I wanted to do was screen hours of close-ups of grinding genitals. It doesn’t get much more tedious.

This is a look back at a specific place (San Francisco) and time (1969 to around 1974) and the truly unbelievable explosion of sex culture here. Though many similar things were happening in Copenhagen, San Francisco was the center of the sexual revolution in America. And it wasn’t just about the exhibition of sexually explicit film. Strip clubs, live sex shows (there were dozens of them at one time), nude encounter groups, erotic restaurants, adult bookstores, and more, all played huge roles.

Many factors contributed to a calming-down of sex culture here. Number one was the staggering amount of money being made, and people all over the country jumped in on the boom. Feminism, the willingness of more film labs to process explicit material, and, likely, the destructive nature of drug use all played a role. We lost the novelty factor. Some gay pornography, and a great deal of kink/fetish material is still produced here, but otherwise the industry has entirely moved to Los Angeles.

It may seem odd that this series is the Film/Video program’s largest contribution to our “Bay Area Now” exhibition. But I don’t think it is. It’s been said that “nothing ages faster than the new.” We can’t know where we are without knowing where we’ve come from.

Joel Shepard
Film/Video Curator

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YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
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Adobe
National Endowment for the Arts
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