The play between high and low culture has become an important subject in film studies and criticism. In particular, the subject has proved a relevant context for the exploration of exploitation films, and vice versa. In looking at exploitation film, critics and theorists have paid much attention to the films of Radley Metzger, who addresses the interaction of high and low culture in a most interesting and tangible manner. Looking at an article such as Elena Gorfinkel's “Radley Metzger's ‘Elegant Arousal': Taste, Aesthetic Distinction and Sexploitation,” one can see the possibilities in placing Metzger's films in this particular area of cultural studies. In general, all of his films comment on high and low culture in one way or another: he makes “art films” that play(ed) in grindhouses. Many of the critics and theorists who study exploitation films view this fact alone as a transgression of high and low culture. But Metzger's The Lickerish Quartet (1970) takes this transgression much farther.
[...] The family imagines various exotic places they have traveled as breeding grounds for this exotic woman. Both of these instances serve as examples of the high eroticizing the low by distancing themselves. Interaction between the high and low gets more complicated in The Lickerish Quartet when the father and the woman begin an affair. They end up in his library, where she marvels at how many books he owns. But she shifts the power structure when she starts chaotically tossing books on the ground. [...]
[...] The third transgression involves the treatment of the medium of film in The Lickerish Quartet. Metzger opens the film up by showing only the 16mm stag film in silence, without any indication of the setting. He eventually pulls the camera back to reveal the projection screen. The only sound in the first eight and a half minutes of the film is their conversation about the quality of the film and comments about the filmmaking process, such as wonder where they find actresses for these films.” The wife even refers to an earlier Metzger film, Therese and Isabelle (1968). [...]
[...] And when, in a particularly surreal moment, Metzger shows a hand reaching for the projector and rewinding the actual film The Lickerish Quartet a scene of the father walking outside to meet the woman, the viewer understands that Metzger wants him or her to see this self-aware aspect of the film. Metzger leaves it up to the viewer to decide if this self- reflexive moment is a comment on high culture or the film itself. The first transgression of The Lickerish Quartet consists of its melding of genres: the exploitation film and the art film. [...]
[...] In The Lickerish Quartet, Metzger makes this attempt through editing choices and the inclusion of works of art to enhance the atmosphere. Similar to Meyer and Wishman, Metzger frequently cuts away from characters during dialogue. Unlike Meyer, who might cut to a sex scene, or Wishman, who might cut to somebody's feet, Metzger cuts to classical-looking erotic art in what often appears to be a metaphor of some kind. As Gorfinkel points out, is evident that Metzger's film work engaged with and produced a unique discourse of taste around the consumption of sexual images” (30). [...]
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