Sex Education Film Class + Bette Davis Tribute & the Evolution of Russian Cinema

Sex education film class: Sexually transmitted diseases + the mystery of marriageSex education film The Irresponsibles. The British Film Institute's “The Joy of Sex Education” – to be presented at London's bfi Southbank – consists of a series of British-made sex education film productions throughout the decades, from World War I to the post-Sexual Revolution 1970s. Topics range from, inevitably, sexually transmitted diseases to “the sensual pleasures of the East” and “the mystery of marriage” – which apparently is supposed to become less mysterious after you watch birds, bees, and bunnies do it. Among the joyful sex education film titles are Whatsoever a Man Soweth, Six Little Jungle Boys, Growing Girls, and Don't Be Like Brenda!.

British Film Institute offers sex education film class

Want to attend a joyful sex education film class?

If so, head to the British Film Institute's website, where you can learn about “The Joy of Sex Education,” a look at decades of (mostly) Thou Shall Not short films admonishing (mostly) young, impressionable, and hormone-exploding minds about the hidden dangers inherent in the quest for orgasm.

As explained on the bfi site:

“Running the gamut from syphilitic soldiers in WW1 to puberty pep-talks for girls to the government's infamous AIDS awareness campaigns, this jaunt through 90 years of sex education films aims to enlighten, entertain and, above all, encourage you to subjugate your passions for the moral health of the nation.

“Many of the early films highlight Britain's horror at the very thought of sex and sexuality. Euphamisms [sic] abound and, if you can get away with making your point with the aid of a few birds or rabbits, why not?”

Sex education film class suggestions

The most curious thing about these sex education film classes is the fact that in the early 21st century the same genophobia-inducing lessons remain the rule – in the U.K. and elsewhere – among religious freaks and their political counterparts.

Below are a few sex education film class suggestions – from the late 1910s to the early 1970s – as found on the BFI website:

  • Whatsoever a Man Soweth (1917) – A warning to WW1 soldiers about the perils of fraternizing with loose women.
  • Deferred Payment (1929) – A turbulent tale of seamen and syphilis.
  • The Irresponsibles (1929) – Careless women share nasty diseases with their loved ones.
  • The Mystery of Marriage (1932) – Birds, bees and bunnies show us how it's done.
  • How to Tell (1935) – Children learn the facts of life.
  • Six Little Jungle Boys (1945) – Six men go off to war, but one is tempted by the sensual pleasures of the East…
  • Growing Girls (1951) – Mary learns how to survive puberty in this film made to show at girls’ schools.
  • Don't Be Like Brenda! (1973) – Oh, Brenda! She behaved foolishly. And now she's suffering the consequences.

“The Joy of Sex Education” film compilation is to be presented at London's bfi Southbank.

Glasgow Film Festival: Woody Allen & Michael Haneke + Bette Davis centennial

From British sex education film classes to honoring the former Queen of Warner Bros.: Among the many sections of the 2008 Glasgow Film Festival (website), to be held Feb. 14–24, are Once Upon a Time in the East (as in Eastern Europe), It's a Wonderful World (world cinema), Fright Fest, The State of Independents, and Bette Davis, whose centennial is being celebrated this year.

The Glasgow festival's scheduled films include the following:

  • Woody Allen's crime drama (!) Cassandra's Dream, toplining Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (as Best Actor for In the Bedroom, 2001; as Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clayton, 2007), Clare Higgins, Sally Hawkins, and Hayley Atwell.
  • Giuseppe Tornatore's David di Donatello-winning psychological thriller The Unknown Woman / La Sconosciuta, toplining Kseniya Rappoport, Michele Placido, Margherita Buy, Pierfrancesco Favini, Claudia Gerini, and veteran Angela Molina (That Obscure Object of DesireLive Flesh).
  • Roy Andersson's free-flowing Swedish Film Institute Guldbagge Award winner You the Living / Du levande, with Elisabeth Helander, Jörgen Nohall, Jan Wikbladh, and Björn Englund.
  • Michael Haneke's violent Funny Games remake, toplining Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Tim Roth (Rob Roy, 1995), Best Actress Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams, 2003), Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, and Boyd Gaines. (Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, and Stefan Clapczynski starred in the original 1997 Austrian version, also written and directed by Haneke.)
Bette Davis Now Voyager: Sexual urges sublimated via intimate cigarette smoke exchangeBette Davis in Now Voyager. The Glasgow Film Festival will be presenting a Bette Davis film series in honor of the Hollywood superstar's centennial. One of the titles included in the tribute is Irving Rapper's 1942 romantic melodrama Now Voyager, in which Davis' frumpy duckling turned stylish swan loves and is loved by suave Paul Henreid. The problem: he's married and has a daughter. The solution: having attended sex education film classes at the BFI, the two lovers manage to sublimate their inner urges by smoking lots of cigarettes and blowing smoke on each other's faces.

Bette Davis tribute

The Glasgow Film Festival's Bette Davis centennial tribute, sponsored by Turner Classic Movies UK, will feature some of the Queen of Warner Bros.' best-known movies, including several that could be incorporated into the curricula of sex education film classes:

Bette Davis' sex education film class curriculum

In reference to the initial topic of this post, among the Bette Davis titles listed above, of sex education film class interest are the following:

  • Don't be like Charlotte!: In the mid-19th-century-set The Old Maid, youthful Charlotte (Davis) has an out-of-wedlock daughter (as a teen/adult, Jane Bryan), who is then raised by the young mom's dutifully married cousin (Miriam Hopkins) as if the girl were her own. Charlotte's motherly suffering goes on for decades.
  • Whatsoever a woman soweth: In the Malaya-set The Letter the self-centered wife (Davis) of a rubber plantation owner (Herbert Marshall) becomes romantically/sexually involved with a playboy. Once she discovers he's no longer interested, she coolly fills his body with bullet holes. Love, lust, lies, and an incriminating letter all play a role in the woman's dreary fate.
  • Don't let's ask for the moon: In Now Voyager a kind psychiatrist (Claude Rains), helps another Charlotte (Davis) – this time around, a modern-day frumpy young thing – to discover her inner swan. While on a trip to South America, the new-and-improved Charlotte falls madly in love with an elegant, foreign-sounding man (Paul Henreid); she must, however, learn to sublimate her urges: he is married with child (Janis Wilson). And that's where cigarettes come in handy.

Bette Davis, who died at age 81 in October 1989, was nominated for a total of 10 Best Actress Academy Awards – in addition to being at the root of an Academy write-in rule change in early 1935. Davis won twice: for Alfred E. Green's Dangerous (1935; at the 1936 ceremony) and William Wyler's Jezebel (1938).

Of note, after the 1935 ceremony write-in votes were tallied, Bette Davis (for John Cromwell's Of Human Bondage) came in second place, trailing Claudette Colbert for Frank Capra's It Happened One Night.

See also: Academy's Bette Davis Centennial Tribute & Bette Davis movies on DVD.

Alexandra Galina Vishnevskaya: Veteran Russian soprano opera singer cast against typeAlexandra with Galina Vishnevskaya: Russian and Soviet cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In the running for the 2007 Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, screenwriter-director Aleksander Sokurov's drama Alexandra follows an elderly woman (Galina Vishnevskaya) while she visits her Russian soldier grandson (Vasily Shevtsov) at his military base in Chechnya during the Second Russian-Chechen War. Russian Guild of Film Critics Best Actress winner Galina Vishnevskaya is a veteran soprano opera singer whose roles include Aida, Tosca, and Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. She was married to cellist Mstislav Rostropovich from 1955 to his death in 2007.

From 'Battleship Potemkin' to 'Alexandra': 'Envisioning Russia' movie series

From sex education film classes & the Glasgow Film Festival's Bette Davis centennial tribute to the evolution of Russian cinema: In other early 2008 cinema news, New York City's Film Society of Lincoln Center will be presenting “Envisioning Russia: A Century of Filmmaking” (see full schedule further below) from Jan. 25–Feb. 24. Immediately below is a brief introduction to the movie series, from the Film Society's website:

“Although early film shows took place in Russia soon after the invention of cinema (Maxim Gorky's book In the Kingdom of Shadows, published July 4, 1896, is one of the most beautiful early descriptions of cinema), continuous, serious film production was not established in Russia, until 1908. Thus, the Russian Ministry of Culture has designated 2008 as the centenary of Russian Cinema.

“We could have devoted an entire year's programming to the occasion and still merely have scratched the surface of this most innovative, contradictory and always provocative cinema. Together with our partner, Seagull Films, we focus on the work of Mosfilm, the largest and most productive film studio during the Soviet era, which remains Russia's most important film institution even today.

“At its height, Mosfilm was the USSR's Hollywood, hosting the most popular stars, creating the most lavish productions and generally setting the pace for the rest of Soviet cinema. Eisenstein, Romm, Tarkovsky, Konchalovsky and Shepitko all created masterpieces there, while the extraordinary range of Soviet production was on full display.”

Sergei Eisenstein & Akira Kurosawa classics + cryptic Andrei Tarkovsky

The “Envisioning Russia” retrospective includes the following:

  • Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent political drama Battleship Potemkin, considered by some the greatest film ever made. (Curiously missing from the “Envisioning Russia” roster are the filmmaker's Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible: Part I and Ivan the Terrible: Part II.)
  • Mikhail Kalatozov's agreeable romantic drama and 1958 Palme d'Or winner The Cranes Are Flying (released in 1957 in the Soviet Union), toplining “the USSR's Audrey Hepburn,” Tatyana Samoylova.
  • Akira Kurosawa's 1975 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner Dersu Uzala, a lush Soviet-Japanese co-production featuring a magnificent central performance by Maksim Munzuk as the nature-attuned title character.
  • Vladimir Menshov's 1980 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, of interest chiefly for its portrayal of life in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and in the late 1970s.
  • Andrei Tarkovsky's 1974 sociopsychological drama The Mirror, in which the memories of a dying man serve as a reflection not only of his own life but also of the times and the part of the world in which he lived.

“Envisioning Russia” Special Series Pass ($40 for the public, $30 for Film Society members; limited availability) admits one person to five titles in the series except for the screening of Aleksandr Sokurov's Alexandra at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26. The pass is available for purchase (cash only) at the Walter Reade Theater box office.

More information about the “Envisioning Russia” films and schedule is available at the Film Society of Lincoln Center website.

“Envisioning Russia” movie schedule

Alexandra / Aleksandra
Aleksandr Sokurov, 2007.

The Ascent / Voskhozhdeniye
Larisa Shepitko, 1976.

At Home Among Strangers, Stranger at Home / Svoy sredi chuzhikh, chuzhoy sredi svoikh
Nikita Mikhalkov, 1974.

Battleship Potemkin / Bronenosets Potyomkin
Sergei Eisenstein, 1925.

Bed and Sofa / Tretya Meshchanskaya
Abram Room, 1927.

Cargo 200 / Gruz 200
Aleksei Balabanov, 2007.

Carnival Night / Karnavalnaya noch
Eldar Ryazanov, 1956.

Courier / Kurer
Karen Shakhnazarov, 1986.

The Cranes Are Flying / Letyat zhuravli
Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957.

Dersu Uzala
Akira Kurosawa, 1975.

Elegy of Life: Rostropovich, Vishnevskaya / Elegiya zhizni. Rostropovich. Vishnevskaya
Aleksandr Sokurov, 2006.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks / Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov
Lev Kuleshov, 1924.

Happiness / Schastye
Aleksandr Medvedkin, 1934.

Jazzman / My iz dzhaza
Karen Shakhnazarov, 1983.

Jewish Luck / Jidische Glickn
Aleksandr Granovsky, 1925.

Jolly Fellows or Moscow Laughs / Vesyolye rebyata
Grigori Aleksandrov, 1934.

July Rain / Iyulskiy dozhd
Marlen Khutsiyev, 1966.

The Letter Never Sent / Neotpravlennoye pismo
Mikhail Kalatozov, 1959.

The Mirror / Zerkalo
Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974.

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears / Moskva slezam ne verit
Vladimir Menshov, 1980.

The New Moscow / Novaya Moskva
Aleksandr Medvedkin, 1938.

The Russian Question / Russkiy vopros
Mikhail Romm, 1947.

Sadko
Aleksandr Ptushko, 1952.

The Thirteen / Trinadtsat
Mikhail Romm, 1936.

Tractor Drivers / Traktoristy
Ivan Pyryev, 1939.

Traveling with Pets / Puteshestvie s domashnimi zhivotnymi
Vera Storozheva, 2007.

Uncle Vanya / Dyadya Vanya
Andrei Konchalovsky, 1970.

Walking the Streets of Moscow / Ya shagayu po Moskve
Georgi Daneliya, 1963.

White Sun of the Desert / Beloe solntse pustyni
Vladimir Motyl, 1969.

 

Image from the British-made sex education film The Irresponsibles: British Film Institute.

Bette Davis Now Voyager image: Warner Bros.

Galina Vishnevskaya Alexandra image: Proline Film.

“Sex Education Film Class + Bette Davis Tribute & the Evolution of Russian Cinema” last updated in October 2018.

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  1. Kate Griffiths says:

    Dear Mark
    We're producing a programme for UK broadcaster five on the history of Sex Educational/Instructional programmes. Would love to hear about the films in your presentation. Please get in touch. Thanks. Kate

  2. Mark Schoen, Ph.D. says:

    The "Joy of Sex Education" sounds fascinating. I have done a similar presentation with American films. I would love to share our films and experiences. They sound very similar. The notion of sex being pleasurable did not surface in sex education film until around 1970.