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Can Sexual Provocation Still Sell Art Cinema?

Can Sexual Provocation Still Sell Art Cinema?

Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist” is the year’s most provocative movie — with its sadomasochistic sex, penis smashing and spontaneous clitorectomy, it rivals Nagisa Oshima’s 1976 cinema scandal “In the Realm of the Senses” in its efforts to shock and offend. But do such depictions of outré sex still sell challenging foreign cinema today? Check out my IFC.com article “Can Sexual Provocation Still Sell” for more on the box-office prospects of “Antichrist” and the current landscape for risque material.

As recently as the ’80s and ’90s, “you could sell a lot of tickets if you were selling sex,” as distribution veteran Mark Urman told me, pointing to Miramax releases like “Sirens” and Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.” “Back then, we were selling sex, scandal and an X rating, cloaked in something that was intellectually high-tone, which made it all the better,” recalls Urman, who worked on the marketing of the films. “But it was naughty and that’s why everyone went. Now, nobody cares.”

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