He's also missing the point that the availability of explicit sex has changed attitudes in a good way too. It could be argued that the ready availability of this imagery is going to force the cinema (and society in general) to grow up in its attitude. Once the shock and novelty of getting to see 'whatever' for the first time wears off then I hope that there will be a move towards the meaning of the sex act taking predominance again and that true intimacy and interesting cinema still comes through mental connections between people that inform their actions.
...and I think this is what Roeg has always been trying to do. In my review I pointed out that the sexual act in his films always has a function beyond mere gratuitous titillation - be it an expression of freedom in Performance
, obsession in Bad Timing
, twisted mother-son love in Track 29
, and of course an emotionally devastated couple clinging to each other in Don't Look Now
- and as Roeg pointed out, if you cut that scene, as the BBC notoriously did on its first TV outing, all the couple does is snipe and bicker.
And what's interesting about Puffball
is that here he's adding pregnancy into the equation, something the vast majority of cinematic sex scenes prefer to ignore. There are three graphic copulations in the film which either lead to conception or are intended to - which is why the cervix-cam shots have a function over and above shock value (though the first appearance, where you actually see a condom splitting at the point of ejaculation. is a real jaw-dropper - in fact, it was at that point that I seriously thought that Puffball
might be a complete return to 1970s form).
It could be suggested that everyone will become jaded by explicit imagery but I'd like to think that things will settle down in the same way that adolescent joy of discovery becomes a more adult and aware approach to relationships in which sex plays an important but not the only part.
I've always had a huge amount of respect for Roeg for attempting this throughout pretty much his entire career as a director.
This must be better than the childish 'single beds and one foot on the floor' approach of only hinting at sex and I would suggest that cinema has gone through a longer extended adolescent fixation on the subject of nudity and sexual activity in part because of the repression slowing progress to a crawl so that each and every nipple flash or bare bottom gets column inches devoted to it!
I think the single biggest problem is that certain highly influential organisations in the US have yet to snap out of this adolescent mentality. There is nothing remotely shameful about making a serious film about sex aimed at an adult audience, yet the stigma attached to the X rating and then the NC-17 (which, ironically, was created to try to get rid of said stigma - so it's not so much the MPAA to blame as the cinema chains that won't screen NC-17 films and the mass media outlets that won't advertise them) makes this virtually impossible in high-profile English-language cinema.
Even if Puffball is sub-par Roeg or really terrible I completely agree with Nothing!
It's certainly sub-par, but then achieving par for Roeg's course would be pretty damn incredible given the funding and logistical restrictions he now has to work under, quite aside from his age and lack of activity in recent years. In fact, one of my gripes with the film is that the Irish setting is so obviously a funding condition - the novel was set in Somerset, and in transplanting it Roeg makes absolutely nothing of Ireland's own rich pagan heritage.
Whether or not one finds it really terrible largely depends on whether one is prepared to overlook some pretty glaring flaws and stress the genuine excitement of seeing a new Roeg film that's so recognisably 'Roegian'. In fact, one of the negative reviews even acknowledges this, when the writer said that she found it "more peculiar than boring". My wife's a Roeg virgin, and she really liked it - though as a midwife/ultrasonographer with a strong interest in paganism she's possibly an unreliable witness, as few other viewers will be quite so perfectly attuned to it!