Indie Sex (2007)

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Released 14-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 199:44 (Case: 156)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lesli Klainberg

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jamie Babbit
Fenton Bailey
Jami Bernard
Alonso Duralde
Bilge Ebiri
John Cameron Mitchell
Peter Sarsgaard
Matt Singer
Dita Von Teese
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Douglas J. Cuomo

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Indie Sex is a three-part television documentary series, produced by the US-based Independent Film Channel. It carries the by-line "A revealing look at sex in cinema".

    The first question that always comes to mind when presented with a DVD carrying this title and featuring a scantily clad Dita Von Teese on the cover is whether it is pitched at, and suitable for, the cinephile or the perv. The answer is that the show combines a little of both including sufficient cultural analysis to satisfy the film historian whilst presenting enough naked flesh to get the pulse quickening.

    As with any good burlesque show, the cover of the DVD carries with it an element of seduction and deception. The DVD case not only features the elegant form of Dita Von Teese, but states that the show features her. However the series is neither presented by her nor does it feature any strip tease by the former almost Mrs Marilyn Manson. She, like many others is merely on hand to provide incisive comments at various times during the series.

    The series is divided into three sections, each around 65 minutes. The first, Censored, gives a general overview of the way in which the history of cinema has dealt with sex on screen. The second, Teens, deals with the powerful inspiration and financial benefit in trying to cater to the teen market. The third, Extremes, deals with the limits of sex on screen and how various film makers have tried to push those limits over the years. Anyone expecting a pure raunchy guide to cinema will probably be immediately disappointed at the intellectual approach taken in the first episode. A commentator suggests that from the dawn of cinema there has always been sex in movies and there have always been people who wanted to control it. This first episode gives a chronological guide to the history of sex in movies stretching right back to Fatima's Coochie Coochie Dance from 1894 through to Short Bus in 2007. The episode charts the way in which the censors have tended to crack down over the years on unacceptable behaviour on screen.

    The show draws on a wealth of very early material to show that regular pornography in the form of stag films was present 100 years ago and precious little has changed since then. Some of the early footage is quite shocking.

    America reacted badly to the freedom of expression in the movies. Although the Hays Code was introduced in 1922 to limit the sort of material that could be depicted in movies, it wasn't until 1934 that there was a serious crackdown on the film content. Film makers were then required to show considerably more skill in using code for sex, such as the lighting of cigarettes and fade outs. In one funny scene, the show demonstrates how Hitchcock got around the limitation on kisses not exceeding 3 seconds by having Cary Grant kiss Ingrid Bergman whilst talking on the telephone, making sure that each individual kiss lasted no longer that the 3 second limit.

    The decline of the Hays Code was combined with the showing of more explicit foreign films. The introduction of the rating system in 1964 allowed film makers to introduce sexual content into their movies without fear of it being banned. As the show demonstrates, however, the later introduction of the NC17 rating was confirmed to be box office death with the failure of Show Girls and has been avoided like the plague ever since.

    As an introductory episode, this is a fine piece of documentary film making. If I had a criticism it is that the episode, at approximately 67 minutes, is just a little too long to be digested in one sitting. Nevertheless, it is breezy in tone though intellectual in intent.

    The episode called Teens specifically charts the success of the teen orientated films coming all the way from the 50's right up until the American Pie series. In the last 50 years, mainstream cinema has been re-jigged to attract the teen market and film makers quickly found it was very difficult to lose money when targeting cashed up teenagers. Although the episode looks at a number of films over these years, including the beach party films of the 60's, the serious teen sex movies, like 13, it really finds its focus with the years between Porkys and American Pie. Being at high school in 1982 when the $100 million-plus grossing Porkys came out, I can well remember the lunchroom discussions of which kids managed to get into the film and which didn't. I chickened out when trying to casually stroll up to the ticket booth.

    The representation of teen sex over the years has altered with changing societal views. The rise of the slasher film presented sex between teens but it was always the naughty teens that came to a brutal end. The virgin seems to have the best chance of surviving! The central idea of these films is the quest to lose ones virginity, and occasionally, the disappointment of doing so.

    Films like Larry Clark's Kids and Thirteen will always be shocking but it is interesting to see how many commentators believe that with a few exceptions the teen movies of today are less raunchy than the films of yesteryear like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Gay themes have also crept into indie teen films, though from what the directors say here, I still believe it is a long time before a mainstream gay teen movie hits the screens.

    Given the subject matter, this is the lightest of the three episodes and also the least "adult" in terms of the sex on screen. It remains, however, a fascinating study of the monetary imperatives behind teen movies.

    The final episode, Extremes, is fairly self explanatory. The episodes explores the way in which films over the years have come to challenge our perceptions of the more unusual aspects of sexuality, including bondage, under age sex, homosexuality and group sex. Not surprisingly, this is the most "porn" laden episode as it includes excerpts from those films which have challenged the rating system by introducing actual sex. These are the films that started picket lines and got people arrested. Once again the episode presents the history of cinematic extremes alongside a time line of important social events.

    It should be pointed out that although the series as a whole looks at aspects of the porn film industry, the series makes no attempt to cover that genre.

    If the series as a whole tells us anything, it's that the hub of mainstream cinema, the United States, has often been at great pains to censor challenging material. Eventually, the influences from overseas have made their mark, leaving a world cinema which is more understanding of films that challenge our perceptions of sexuality.

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Transfer Quality


   Indie Sex comprises three episodes, all of which are presented in a 1.33:1 ratio, consistent with the television origins of the show.

    Within that format there are a number of aspect ratios of the films on show and sometimes the image jumps quickly between these ratios in a way that is a little distracting. The episodes gather together a wealth of material from different eras of cinema. Understandably, the early materials look their age and some of the more recent materials are untouched and look average.

    Aside from the film excerpts, there are also excerpts from news items and talking heads interviews which look suitably old. Those interviews are by far the sharpest of the images on show and yet they still look a little soft. Aside from the artefacts associated with the original materials, the documentary itself looks clean and is in an eminently watchable condition.

    There are no problems with compression on this dual layered DVD. There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sound for Indie Sex is a pretty average Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 224Kb/s.

    In fact, the lack of a high bitrate sound or any form of surround sound doesn't hurt the show. Apart from the lack of all encompassing heavy breathing there is not much that you could wish for.

    The interviews are clear and easy to understand and the archival material has been transferred with due regard to clarity.

    There are no actual defects with the soundtrack.

    Audio sync is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 1 version of this series includes a second DVD of extra material including a 30 minute documentary called Taboos which interviewed John Waters, David Lynch and others and which became the basis for this series.

    There are also extended interviews and three timelines of the history of sex, society and cinema.

    I would award the best version to Region 1 but for most of us the Region 4 version would be perfectly acceptable.


    Indie Sex is a fairly light guide to sex in the cinema, with a particular focus on the way changes in societal mores have shaped what we can and can't see at the movies. This is a series of three documentaries which combine breezy though erudite discussion with various film directors, actors and critics with a bit of good old fashioned raunch! The three episodes respectively look at the history of sex censorship, the rise of teen sex movies and the envelope pushing films that challenge our moral compasses. The show was made for 4:3 TV and looks average but not exceptional. A great documentary about a great subject.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, March 28, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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