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Black Velvet (1976)
No one is ever the same after ...
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Photojournalist Mae Jordan (known to her readers as ‘Emanuelle’) travels to Africa on assignment. As she observes the troubled marriage of her hosts, she questions her own racial and sexual identity. Matters are complicated further when Emanuelle finds herself in affairs with both of them…

Black Velvet (1976)

Math Porn

This is a pretty interesting twist on the by then settled formula.

The Emanuelle formula is:

  • lots of nudity, with the women being trim, suggesting innocence.
  • shot as softcore with two or three hardcore inserts, so that multiple versions can be marketed.
  • the women are portrayed as in control of sexual dynamics, with our title character in the role of explorer.
  • there must be interracial, lesbian and forced sex, all in the path of “discovery”.
  • virtually every sex scene involves a hidden watcher.
  • exotic locations, with some gritty, unsettling reality.
  • a statement at the end about sexual achievement as some sort of important milestone in female self-awareness.

These were marketed to couples where the woman felt uncomfortable with the hard core stuff that was then exploding as a market.

Laura Gemser starred in many of these. She is a very pretty Indonesian girl, in her mid-twenties here. The fold is that she is a photographer, and we play up the photographs of the location, merged with voyeurism. In an impressive adaptation, our star plays a Franco-African woman returning to East Africa. The location is Tanzania at the end, but what is now Rwanda near where the Ishango Bone was found. It is the oldest mathematical object on Earth, as old as humans. It is best decoded as a complex abstraction of an alternative number system, far more sophisticated than what we use.

This number system might use what we call the category of primes, and instead of counting objects it models female cycles, small and large.

The number system we have now is an accident of commerce. But before we counted owned objects to create the artificial concept of wealth, we likely used our powers of abstraction to model what really mattered. The filmmakers of course were not aware of this explicitly, but the centre of this film is an ovarian orrery, within which we as men (some of us), observers and reporters are constrained in simple orbits while the central woman pulls with her gravity.

Lest you think I am being silly, let me remind you that the writer/director here was the writer of Fellini’s most celebrated films.

Posted in 2010

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.

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