Orgasmorama: the high point of sexploitation
There are plenty of summer festivals in Brussels, but none offers the same convivial and crazy mix of barbecues, knitting and hair-dressing sessions, parties, and exhibitions as Recyclart Holidays. The eye-catcher when the festival kicks off on 27 June will undoubtedly be the “Orgasmorama” exhibition, a zany tribute to sexploitation cinema.
By day, PL works as a graphic designer for a Brussels advertising agency, but every evening, as he leaves the office through the revolving door he turns into... Jimmy Pantera! Behind the pseudonym lurks a passionate fan of Mexican wrestling, better known as lucha libre, who paid a tribute to that subculture in a handsome book entitled Los tigres del ring and in exhibitions at Alice Gallery and Recyclart. Jimmy Pantera is also one of the three founders of Serious Publishing, a French publishing house that specialises in pop trash culture. Recently they published Orgasmo, Vols. 1 and 2, a tribute to the erotic exploitation cinema of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s – from which original posters can be seen at the “Orgasmorama” exhibition.
How seriously should we take a company that publishes books of posters advertising obscure films like I porno zombi and Emanuelle chez les cannibales?
JIMMY PANTERA: Very seriously! [Laughs] My colleagues Filo Loco and Christophe Bier and I have been mad about Sixties and Seventies B-movies since we were teenagers. Based on that passion, at Serious Publishing we have been working for the reassessment of a kind of cinema that is by and large cold-shouldered by official film history. There are other publishers who devote books to this subject, but what makes us different is our focus on forgotten film-makers and our ambition to offer rare and high-quality artwork at an affordable price. A lot of difficult research precedes our projects, as most of the graphic designers and film-makers worked anonymously or under a pseudonym. The Dictionnaire des films français pornographiques et érotiques was our first serious reference work. Its success inspired us to bring out the Orgasmo series, in which the approach is purely visual.
Everyone gets the unintentional humour of ridiculous film posters, but for you, as a graphic artist, where is their artistic worth?
PANTERA: The people who drew and painted those posters certainly didn’t see themselves as artists, but as artisans. Much more than in mainstream cinema, they had to work quickly and cheaply. But that actually resulted in a unique graphic style that I rate very highly. Those images go straight to the essence of the film, are easy to understand, and have an immediate impact. Often, the posters were more daring than the films themselves. The visually aggressive style had just one goal in mind: to entice as many people as possible into the cinemas. On the other hand, those designers were given an artistic freedom that was unthinkable in the mainstream film sector. With the arrival in the 1980s of straight-to-video, the exploitation film disappeared from the cinemas and with it the need for publicity material. That period of unrestrained graphic fantasy came to a definitive end back then.
I take it you are showing a selection of the original posters in the Orgasmo books in the exhibition?
PANTERA: Not really. The books only include pictures from my colleague Christophe Bier’s archive. At Recyclart I will exhibit material from my own collection, but very much in the spirit of Orgasmo. I will be showing a number of Belgian, French and Spanish posters for erotic films. Mainly obscure stuff: the best-known are Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos and Joe D’Amato’s Voluptueuse Laura with Laura Gemser from Black Emanuelle. What I’m really proud of is my collection of Turkish erotic-sadistic photo-novels about Killing, a masked superhero/criminal in a skeleton costume who also turned up in films. I will also be showing a series of erotic Turkish film posters that have never been seen here before and that for us Westerners look completely over the top. The Sixties and Seventies were a hugely flourishing period for Turkish cinema, with their own versions of our B-movies with lots of violence and eroticism. That hardly seems compatible with an Islamic country, but you have to realise that Islam in modern Turkey, before the military coup of 1980, was never a ubiquitous state religion, but mainly a private faith. Turkey, moreover, is on the frontiers of the East and the West, so the climate of moral liberalisation in the Seventies penetrated there too.
Will you also be showing those wonderful advertisements from the Orgasmo books?
PANTERA: Yeah, those drawn ads in black and white used to appear in groups of ten to fifteen in the newspapers; they made a great impression on me as a child. I will show a selection of ads for German erotic “hygiene pictures” like Schulmädchen-Report. They come from the ABC Cinema, the last porn cinema operating in Brussels. For me, that place has the status of a vintage porn museum, which is unique in Europe today with its live striptease acts in between the screenings. It is my dream to devote a separate book to the ABC as a sort of sociologist-historian. But everyone involved shuns publicity. I hope, anyway, that I’ll be able to devote a chapter to it in Volume 3 of Orgasmo.
FAKIRS AND FEMALE WRESTLERS
There are still people who don’t bat an eyelid at footage from Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS or Chesty Morgan… So Jimmy Pantera has invited Jean-Pierre Francky, alias Le Fakir de l’Impossible – who will do his creative thing with pieces of broken glass, razors, and a nail bed – to appear at his exhibition opening on 27 June. Serious Publishing will have a stand with all its books, along with the lucha libre items from its sister company, Deadlicious. Over the next few weeks, Recyclart Holidays will also host a number of DJ acts and film screenings linked to Pantera’s exhibition. At the Original Soundtrack Party on 12 July you can shake to German and Turkish exploitation soundtracks; and every Thursday evening, in the open air, you can goggle at film compilations featuring superior female wrestling, bondage, and sexy dance acts. But there are some serious music-lovers working at Recyclart too, who are organising three party and concert nights that will focus on cumbia and soukous (28 June), Ethio-groove (5 July), and chaabi (19 July), as well as two label nights featuring Meakusma (26 July) and Frietboerism (2 August). You will find more details in our first summer edition, out 5 July.
RECYCLART HOLIDAYS: ORGASMORAMA 27/6 > 2/8, do/je/Th & vr/ve/Fr, gratis/gratuit/free, Station Brussel-Kapellekerk/Gare Bruxelles-Chapelle, Ursulinenstraat 25 rue des Ursulines, Brussel/Bruxelles, 02-502.57.34, www.recyclart.be