What are probably the first ever filmed scenes of gay pornography are beautifully archived in a DVD still
available online called The Good Old Naughty Days.
It's a compilation of silent films dating back to the early years of the 20th Century
which were discovered hidden in an attic in France, and though they are all
black-and white, such is their explicitness that it was the first ever
commercially released cinema film ever to be given an R18 certificate.
Found by chance by French film archivist Michel Reilhac he says these silent movies
still have a surprising erotic power, as he told OutUK's Mike Gray.
"By watching these films, one can easily see that the modern porn industry did not
invent anything: everything had already been filmed by our great-grandparents!
There are plenty of close-ups and shots of penetration."
While there were no
specifically gay only films, around a third of them have a bisexual theme.
"It is as if fulfilling our human sexual needs was not the main goal of these films,
but simply experiencing sexual pleasure in its many forms."
Michel says in early 20th Century France gay sex wasn't considered in any way out of the ordinary
and there was no thought that a man could be either gay or straight. "Sexual need was
looked on like eating or drinking, and though a woman was needed for reproduction, a
man could satify a sexual need if required." In most French brothels before the
Second World War men , or "pointes", were always available for customers who
wanted a change from a woman.
According to Michel the films were regularly programmed in the waiting rooms of
sophisticated brothels. "Their use was twofold -- To serve as visual appetizers while
the clients were waiting for the lady of their choice and also to educate the young men
who would often visit on Sundays after mass along with their uncles or elder cousins. They would
watch these films to learn about a woman’s body and how to perform sexually. They basically
received a sexual education from these films and then could go on to practice what
they had seen on screen." As the films became more popular there is evidence that some
brothels regularly screened them as attractions in themselves on Fridays and
Saturday at 8, and to attract the local churchgoing audience on Sundays at 12 noon.
So who produced them? "Most were shot in hidden locations, in a few hours in the
afternoon, between friends. Prostitutes from neighbouring brothels were hired and paid.
Often, technicians from a legitimate film production company would “borrow” the camera and some
film on weekends and become the directors of their own productions. They would also use
the costumes and wigs from the set to save money." Though printed programmes from some
of the screenings have been found in police archives, there's no record of who the performers were.
"All of them requested to remain anonymous, which makes it impossible to identify who
really acted in or directed them. For this reason, it is rather delightful to watch
these “actors” often having to readjust their wigs and fake moustaches in the middle
of their scenes so as not to be recognized unmasked."
The Good Old Naughty Days has been shown publicly to great critical acclaim
at festivals and released in commercial cinemas across Europe. However
in the UK, the R18 laws make it illegal for cinemas to give details of where it's
being shown. What we can say, quite legally, is that it's available as a DVD from Amazon.
Hamish McAlpine owner of Tartan Films who released the film here in the UK says it's unbelievable. “In a throwback to
the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the Britain of the 1950s, it
has been decided that a ninety-nine year old silent film poses such a threat to
the well being of British people that it cannot be seen by normal people, in normal cinemas,
under normal circumstances. It is really time that Britain moves not into the 20th Century,
but the 21st and brings itself in line with the rest of the world with regard to classification