Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
by Otto Preminger was the first American movie to use such language as 'climax' or 'rape'. The US welcomed it: although there were few unpleasant cases, the film gained positive feedback among the critics. According to Time, the explicit language is "necessary to the development of the theme." Anatomy of a Murder was even accepted by the MPA — a rare occasion for this kind of a movie at those times. The film became the very first step to a moral revolution around the explicit content in cinema.
While American directors were nearly conservative, the European ones made plenty of experiments, especially during the times of New Waves in Cinema of different countries. One of the most vivid examples was Alain Reisnas's Hiroshima mon Amour (1959)
. This was an arthouse movie which portrayed a close relationship between a French actress and a Japanese architect. Slightly nude scenes were really unexpected — they were too explicit for that time. Though the film was warmly greeted by the general public and nominated 10 times, including an Oscar for the script and a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Films Festival, MPA hadn't rated it. Society wasn't quite ready for movies showing nudity and intimacy between a man and a woman. Later, however, in a few countries Hiroshima mon amour was rerated PG-13.
The same year Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959)
was released and, eventually, approved by the Motion Picture Association. The film wasn't recommended for children because of kissing scenes, but it wasn't prohibited either. North by Northwest is also famous for the sex joke in the end: while the characters are kissing, the train they're in enters the tunnel. Whereas every adult understood the subtext, technically, no rules were violated, so the censorship would be unfair. The joke was sensational then, and it remains an interesting phenomenon now. Like when Americans tried to overcome censorship by finding detour ways, European New Wave directors ignored it. Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966)
wasn't approved by MPA because the director simply aborted the regulations refusing to cut explicit scenes. Despite the nude scenes out of time, the critical reception was extremely positive, and the film was claimed to be one of the best. Blowup gained a huge response in media, and that was another crucial step to the shift in the audience's moral principles.
Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972)
was a sensation. Not only did it achieve a huge commercial success, but it had also broken quite a few rules of morality. Yet judging by the reviews, both viewers and critics enjoyed the film. Full nudity and sex scenes were way too explicit for 1972, so the films were rated with X. Still, MPA approved the original version. In the United Kingdom it didn't go so well: the drama was approved there too, but with cuts. Nowadays Last Tango remains an adult film and a quite controversial one. A huge scandal following the shooting of the infamous "butter scene" has brought Bertolucci and his film notoriety. We cannot disclaim the effort that the film has contributed to Cinema though.