Indie Sex
IFC Films // Unrated // $29.95 // January 1, 2008
Review by Svet Atanasov | posted January 23, 2008
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Graphical Version
The Film:

A co-production between IFC Films and Orchard Films "Indie Sex" is a thorough exploration of the history of censorship in America, the evolution of sex in cinema, and their effect on the entertainment industry as a whole. Prospective viewers must be aware that explicit footage is part of the documentary's factual background.

Structured as a collage of interviews complimented by fabulous archive footage from stag, erotic, classic, arthouse, documentary, and independent features Indie Sex offers a convincing look at the history of censorship in America. Overlapping with politics, religion, and economics it makes it clear why, where, and how censorship came to exist. Through the words of Dita Von Teese, Peter Sargaard, John Cameron Mitchell, John Waters, Tatum O'Neal, Rosanna Arquette, Piper Perabo, and others countless clips from "controversial" films are brought back to life to explain why sex was and still is a hot topic for discussions.

The documentary offers three main sections - Censored, Teens, and Extremes -- where each is deconstructed and commented on in regard to its placement in mainstream cinema. The last fragment goes a step further in analyzing where the boundary between "serious cinema" and pornography is unrecognizable (fetish subgenres are investigated as well).

With the abundance of information offered Indie Sex is versatile enough to appeal to a motley crew of viewers whose interests aren't necessarily limited by the title subject of this double set. The honest comments by critics and actors whose views on censorship are interesting to hear are remarkably well mixed with archive footage ranging from the MPAA's acceptance of the universal rating system to the newest trends in shock-cinema (Irreversible) around the world.

Of course the explicit nature of a limited number of clips is likely to upset those viewers whose decency-barometer the documentary is actually concerned with. Great examples are the bits from Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and Mitchell's Shortbus.

In the large scheme of things however Indie Sex is an excellent opportunity to witness the evolution of cinema during the years. Not only "indecent cinema" as the title might incorrectly suggest but all of it, from mainstream to independent to adult.

The only issue likely to disappoint viewers is the fact that the bulk of the information supplied appears to be directed at North American cinema and how censorship was nurtured by Hollywood. The sporadic bits of world cinema scattered throughout the documentary aren't enough to provide a complete picture of important international trends or how they affected or were affected by the evolution of censorship in Hollywood.

How Does the DVD Look?

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33 the three episodes in this documentary arrive in good condition. Even though there is plenty of archival footage the overall quality is indeed satisfactory. The bits where actors and critics comment on historic developments are, as expected, in pristine condition. Overall, I don't have any issues with the presentation and am perfectly satisfied with the way the disc looks and feels.

How Does the DVD Sound?

The docu arrives with an English DD track, optional Spanish subtitles and an English HOH track. The audio is crystal clear while the dialog is very easy to follow. I did not notice any issues that needed to be reported here.


As mentioned earlier this is a double DVD set and all of the supporting extras appear on the second disc. First of all there are two additional sections here which appear to have been omitted from the final version of the docu. The first one is Taboos: The Director's Cut where raunchier comments and film footage are provided to further illustrate the point made by critics and actors. Slightly more controversial films are also the topic of discussion (Pink Flamingos) as far as I could tell. The second section is rather short and titled Censored: Extended Stag Scene which basically shows some graphic footage from early 19th century stag cinema with a supporting commentary. Next, there is an Interview Gallery which basically offers additional comments by the majority of the participants in this documentary. The topics here are somewhat unrelated to the main subject but nevertheless intriguing (celebrity sex tapes, women as sex objects, ect). Last but not least there is a marvelous timeline-chart broken down into three sections, to reflect the three main episodes, with a chronological exposť of important events pertaining to the genesis of sex and censorship.

Final Words:

What a marvelous presentation. Those of you interested in a serious and very honest discussion of the history of sex and censorship in North America are strongly encouraged to look into this documentary. It is very well put together and more importantly with excellent supporting footage to make it clear why and for what reason(s) sex was censored. Above all, however, Indie Sex is a very telling picture about the evolution of moral standards, public and private, in America. Highly Recommended.

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