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In this now-classic study, Linda Williams moves beyond the impasse of the anti-porn/anti-censorship debate to analyze what hard-core film pornography is and does—as a genre with a history, as a specific cinematic form, and as part of contemporary discourse on sexuality. For the 1999 edition, Williams has written a new preface and a new epilogue, "On/scenities," illustrated with 25 photographs. She has also added a supplementary bibliography.
In academic prose, film professor Williams of the University of California offers a graphic analysis of hard-core porno movies such as Deep Throat , as well as early, anonymous stag flicks. She finds that the newer, ``softer'' X-rated rental videos ``show a more genuinely adult quality'' than earlier videos. She ponders the ``utopian problem-solving intent'' of the hard-core genre and makes specious comparisons between blue movies, Hollywood musicals and films like Dirty Dancing . Sadomasochistic porn films, she claims, let viewers experience ``a clearer confrontation with the oscillating poles of our gendered identities and the role of power in them.'' A critic whose professed goal is to understand film pornography, and who opposes those who would censor it, Williams begins this obfuscating study by analyzing the portrayal of women in the 19th-century kinetoscope, prototype of the motion-picture projector. (Nov.)
Hard Core traces ``. . . the changing meaning and function of the genre of pornography. . . .'' As a scholarly study of ```mainstream,' heterosexual, hard-core pornography,'' that is, as a specific film category, it is both articulate and comprehensive. However, the anticensorship view, while offering some valid arguments, minimizes today's realities--the violence and degradation of women. Perhaps pornography should be about fantasy and sex, but at least for now, it is more about power. As a study of film genre, Hard Core is recommended for upper level students. However, its social context should be tempered by other works.-- Frada L. Mozenter, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte Lib.
Linda Williams is Professor of Film Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Figures of Desire: A Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film (California, 1981) and editor of Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film (1995).