Festival-goers are confronted with signs of the times involving porn and ribald jokes.
By MARK CARO
PARK CITY, Utah -- It's the dirtiest film ever to become a blockbuster, but it's also the independent filmmaker's dream: a movie made for $25,000 that ultimately grossed $600 million.
Welcome "Deep Throat," flag-bearer of the indie film movement.
Not all would agree, of course, but "Inside Deep Throat," Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's documentary chronicling the lasting cultural impact of that infamous 1972 porn movie, was nonetheless the most buzzed-about premiere of the Sundance Film Festival's opening weekend.
"Inside Deep Throat" played Friday to a packed auditorium of almost 1,300 festival-goers. The following night saw the debut of Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's in-competition documentary "The Aristocrats," in which almost 100 comics retell perhaps the filthiest joke ever.
Yes, the mountain air has been infused with raunch.
"Inside Deep Throat," which Universal is releasing next month, is part "Kinsey" (its view of the nation's former state of sexual repression), part "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" (the recounting of censorship/First Amendment battles, culminating in the criminal trial of leading man Harry Reems) and part "Boogie Nights" (immersion in the pre-video porn world, all set to a fab '70s soundtrack that includes "Spill the Wine").
With its graphic movie clips and the subject's frank treatment, "Inside Deep Throat" will become that very rare species: a major-studio NC-17 film (Universal's first since 1990's "Henry and & amp; June").
Producer Brian Grazer, who shepherded the project and eventually hired the co-directors of "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" and "Party Monster," said the movie will open in the country's 10 biggest cities, most likely in art houses, and go from there.
"I'm a bit scared about it," Grazer said after the premiere, referring to the film's ultimate reception.
Point of view
His best-case scenario would be to export the Sundance crowd to every theater. The audience was enthusiastic, not only in its appreciation for the zippy filmmaking but also the politics -- which, it must be said, get a bit fuzzy when feminists are blamed for thwarting the sexual revolution with their anti-porn stance.
Audience members booed and even heckled the prosecutors and censorship advocates, and they cheered Reems, particularly when an end title noted that he's currently a real estate broker in Park City. Reems subsequently received a standing ovation when brought to the stage for the post-screening Q & amp;A. Most questions were respectful, though one audience member took the movie to task for appearing to suggest that '70s porn was morally superior to contemporary porn. At least one critic grumbled afterward that he'd had his fill of "porn nostalgia."
Too much sex?
For his part, Grazer said he's far from a pornography advocate but felt that no one had focused on the connection between "Deep Throat" and the pop-culture prevalence of sexual imagery and content.
"As a parent. I don't like that it's in every aspect of our society, that everything is sexualized," Grazer said. "On the other hand it's interesting the seismic effect that this little movie 'Deep Throat' had."
That effect was in full display at the late-night "Inside Deep Throat" party, held in a warehouselike space decorated with American flags and balloons. On a platform in the room's center, two amply endowed women -- clad only in white fur boots, American flag panties and star-shaped pasties -- simulated various sexual acts to the insistent bass groove of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust."
"The Aristocrats" didn't have a party, alas, but the movie was plenty lively, as director Provenza explored the generations of comedians who have bonded over the sharing of a very dirty joke -- one that involves much improvisation in describing the unspeakable sexual and scatological misdeeds to be performed by a family nightclub act before the title punch line.
With an all-star cast ranging from Phyllis Diller to Rip Taylor to George Carlin to Bob Saget (the former "Full House" star who tells the joke's dirtiest version) to Drew Carey to a mime (whose version is a highlight), the movie is funny, foul, repetitive, hyperactively cut and insightful. The laughs trumped the flaws for some distribution executives, who lingered after the screening to speak to the filmmakers.
"The Aristocrats" likely would receive an NC-17 just for its language, but Jillette, who conceived the project with Provenza, wasn't buying the "Inside Deep Throat" argument that the times are growing repressive.
"The No. 1 record last year was Eminem, which had obscenity all over it," the more garrulous half of Penn & amp; Teller said. "To pretend that George W. Bush doesn't tell dirty jokes, to pretend that the NASCAR drivers don't tell dirty jokes, to pretend that it's any sort of 'blue state' thing to tell dirty jokes is just insane."