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Essay

Essay: Pink, Pink To Make Them Wink

by Christabel Stewart on 21 November 2001

Curator and journalist Christabel Stewart on the cultural and historical context of the erotic short Blue Movie.

Curator and journalist Christabel Stewart on the cultural and historical context of the erotic short Blue Movie.

Blue Movie borrows from the 1960s and 1970s category of Japanese 'Pink' pornography. These erotic films expressed sexuality without explicitness, since Japanese law prohibited the depiction of pubic hair and sex organs in mainstream media during this period. Soughan and Pendleton's take on this genre is to film young Japanese females performing small acts in front of the camera, which look casually but self-consciously undetermined, as if they had been asked to express some semi-erotic movement without being overly tantalising. Posing in undefined locations, they gaze as if staring far into the distance. Though they look beyond their own reflections, they are clearly aware they are there to be watched or to provide some catalyst for the camera to zoom in and pan out on their faces, breasts, clothing, crotches and caressing fingers.

The fluctuating surface of this film is imbued with colour, using an unmistakable evocation of the seedy, bathed light of the brothel, and the complicit blue reflection from a screen, allusion to the blue or pink of the film's parent influences. They also interweave rudiments from French Nouvelle Vague cinema into their methodology, in this case by eradicating narrative and dialogue and encouraging freeplay from the cast. The idea of the visual form as an active element which influences the idea itself, 'in which form influences and at times entirely transforms content' [1] was a corner stone of Godards' filmic practice. Allowing the cast to develop activity through their own volition - most effectively in the beautiful opening sequence of a girl parting her long tangled hair with her arms - Soughan and Pentleton aspire to the idea of the filmmaker as 'doorkeeper of someone else's expurgatory inclinations' [2].

Soughan and Pentleton's short film pays heed to our predilection for demarcating sex industry activity, imagery and filmmaking in symbolic colour zones.

In his book Chromophobia writer David Batchelor has explored the fear of corruption or contamination through colour, which he argues has lurked within Western culture since ancient times. He analyses the history and motivation behind attempts to purge colour from art, literature and architecture. 'Colour is demonised either by making it the property of some "foreign" body - the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar or the pathological - or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the inessential or the cosmetic' [3]. Batchelor makes lucid argument for the perception of colour as intoxicating, sensual, unpredictable and excessive, as opposed to white, which was famously (and influentially) expounded by Modernist architect Le Corbusier as clean, clear, healthy, moral, rational and masterful. Soughan and Pentleton's short film pays heed to our predilection for demarcating sex industry activity, imagery and filmmaking in symbolic colour zones.

The notion that colour has been perceived as cultural adulteration coincides with this film encompassing reference to unpredictability, eroticism and the other. The colour-soaked voyeuristic imagery could testify to the theory of chromophobic prejudice, that Blue Movies, Pink generation pornography and red light districts are references to the colourful underbelly of culture, that which corrupts its purity: sensuous, intoxicating, unstable, and impermanent or fleeting. Blue Movie wants to present muted sexuality in a stylish way, as it confronts the anxieties of film as merely 'dancing coloured light on a screen' [4].

  1. Jean Luc Godard, quoted by the artists.
  2. Barbara Kruger, 'Remote Control' Contempt and Adoration, MIT Press, 1993, p.23.
  3. David Batchelor Chromophobia, Reaktion Books, 2000, pp.22-3.
  4. David Batchelor Chromophobia, Reaktion Books, 2000, p.83.

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