*. What’s this? A porn movie?
*. Yes. Or “vintage erotica,” as we like to say in these more sophisticated times.
*. It’s a particular kind of porn movie though, perhaps the earliest surviving example of the “nunsploitation” genre that took off in the 1970s.
*. Why nuns in a convent? Because this is France, and sex and the Church have always been linked in that nation’s cultural consciousness. Authority and taboo. It’s no coincidence that the real historical scandal that Ken Russell’s The Devils was based on took place in a French convent. Or that the Marquis de Sade liked to set so many of his fictions within the walls of satanic cloisters.
*. Already the four-part sex scene had established itself: cunnilingus, fellatio (there’s something pleasantly egalitarian about this reciprocity in 1925), then sex, followed by money shot. Again one thinks of the setting and the idea of sex as a parodic ritual.
*. What I think is most transgressive, even today, is the quick flash of homosexual buggery as the peeping Tom gets surprised from behind. That’s not something you’re likely to see in any mainstream or even gonzo porn film today. A man may take a strap-on up the ass (that’s even there in Myra Breckenridge), but you don’t often see depictions of male homosexuality in heterosexual porn. It’s a real no-go zone.
*. What do the actors look like? Mr. Dupédé has a false beard. As for the others, well, there are close-ups but they aren’t of anyone’s face.
*. What a horrible French-to-English translation job. In the movie L’Abbé Bitt is translated as Mr. Abbot Bitt, which in the title appears as Adam Bitt “at Convent” (the definite article has been dropped).
*. The climactic “blessing” is disappointing. I guess the male talent was chosen more for other qualities. Though I was surprised to see a circumcised penis in the starring role. Wouldn’t that have been rare in France at the time? And perhaps even more rare now.
*. It’s no surprise that voyeurism plays such a key role in the proceedings. A lot of porn has this quality, even when it isn’t explicitly “voyeur porn.” It’s like a laugh track for comedy, reinforcing the feeling that you’re seeing something secret, something that you really shouldn’t be seeing. But porn doesn’t judge. It indulges us, and encourages us to indulge ourselves.