How on-screen sex and nudity has replaced 'real-life' nudity at Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival, which runs till May 24, promises to be sexual romp in 2015. We're told told that there is plenty of sex and nudity in the movies that have been selected. In Vale´rie Donzelli’s Marguerite and Julien, there is incest shown with unusual candour.
By Gautaman Bhaskaran | Hindustan Times, Cannes
UPDATED ON MAY 17, 2015 12:55 AM IST

Once upon a time, the Cannes Film Festival was renowned for sex and nudity. Not just on the screen (In fact, hardly ever on it). But there was plenty of nudity on the Cannes beach that photographers (they were not called paparazzi then) trained their cameras on. Aspiring models and starlets dropped their tops on the sands of Cannes, hoping to appear on magazine covers and thereby grab the eyeballs of talent hunters. Who cared whether they could even walk straight in front of a camera, the lensmen certainly not. For, they were interested in a sexy picture and the good money it brought them.

While Cannes tolerated most of this nudity, there were times when it frowned upon it, like when a starlet ran up to a reigning Hollywood star on the beach and dropped her bra. The photographers could not resist clicking away when a hunky actor tried saving the girl's modesty by cupping her breasts with his palms. American newspapers called it a scandal and lambasted the Festival for letting such things pass. The Festival had to ask the starlet to leave Cannes.

In 1953, 18-year-old Brigitte Bardot posed in a bikini on the beach. In 1964, Jayne Mansfield also slipped into a swimming costume.

There was also a time when topless women played net ball on the beach, much to the delight of the paparazzi. The term had been coined by this time.

All this has disappeared. We hardly ever sees nudity on the beach or elsewhere in Cannes. Seems like it has become passe now. What has been replacing real nudity is on-screen sex and skin. Half of the film, called Swimming Pool, had French actress Ludvine Sagnier in just her panties! Blue is the Warmest Colour exhibited daring lesbianism.

In 2015, we're told told that there is plenty of sex and nudity in the movies that have been selected. In Vale´rie Donzelli’s Marguerite and Julien, there is incest shown with unusual candour. Todd Haynes’s Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, talks about forbidden love.

A poster of Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, reveals a somewhat haggard Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel ogling an unclothed young woman. Perhaps most scandalous of all, Gaspar Noe´ has revealed on the web an explicit “poster” for his quaintly titled Love.

Sometimes, explicit films have been dammed. In 1961, Luis Bun~uel’s Viridiana won the Palme d’Or. There was a lot of sex in it -- about a woman on the verge of becoming a nun visiting her reclusive uncle. The church was outraged. In 1962, the audience was angry with Mondo Cane, helmed by Paolo Cavara, who showed weird sexual rituals.

We have had Steven Soderberg's Sex, Lies and Videotape, which won the Palm in 1989, and which caused a stampede a couple of years later in the International Film Festival of India, held in Calcutta that time. Larry Clark's Kids in the 1990s, about teen sex, led to chaos at Cannes. One critic had his shirt ripped. Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny in 2003 had a 10-minute display of blowjob.

The 2013 June And Julie centred on a pretty teenage girl slipping into high-class prostitution. Ulrich Seidl’s far more candid Paradise: Love tackled sex tourism in Kenya. The Nicole Kidman character pleasures herself in Paperboy, screened some years ago.

The Cannes Film Festival, which runs till May 24, promises to be sexual romp in 2015.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 26 years.)

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