Wow. Haven't had one of these in awhile.

Under the right set of circumstances, more than a few (mostly but not exclusively male) movie-people of my generation will - often happily! - regale you with tales of what I've sometimes called the NQP genre: "Not Quite Porno." Try not to look too askance as they insist that this particular subfolder of their nostalgia is somehow endearing or awkwardly-adorable, when it is in fact (you will quickly surmise) really just kind of gross.

In the days before all manner of deviancy and debauchery was just an InPrivate Browsing window away, curious teenagers had a few more hoops to jump through for procuring what we still somewhat cheekily call adult entertainment. Actual honest-to-Guccione pornography was by no means ha - er, difficult to procure, those deprived by fate of an irresponsible bachelor uncle to steal from would generally turn to so-called softcore (aka Cinemax) nudie-movies. But since even those might turn up in short supply depending on one's situation, the next best thing were the NQPs.

These were ostensibly regular movies that happened to feature what your average VHS-era teenager would consider "a lot" of sex and/or nudity. The names of such films, along with exaggerated claims of their content, were passed along in the manner of urban legends: "Personal Best was actually about what?" (Two girls become romantically involved while training for the Olympics.) "Is Paradise really just Phoebe Cates skinny-dipping the whole time??" (No, it isn't. And when she does Willie Aimes is also there.) "Is Sirens really that good, even though Hugh Grant is in it?" (Yup.)

Amusingly, NQPs sometimes took the form of legitimately good films - classy melodramas or sophisticated sex-comedies, often hailing from this or that European nation with supposedly more enlightened views on matters carnal. That tradition, of course, stretched all the way back to the 60s, when the early works of masters like Bergman, Fellini and others arrived on U.S. screens under the care of exploitation schlockmeisters who pitched them to American audiences not on the basis of their artistic merit but rather on their propensity to feature "exotic" beauties like Sofia Loren or Anita Ekberg in various states of near (or complete) undress.

Blue Is The Warmest Color, (original title: Adele: Chapters 1 & 2), making its initial arrival on U.S. shores this weekend in limited release due to an NC-17 rating, has essentially become the first real 21st Century example of this once-prolific phenomenon. Here is a film of rather sterling pedigree: The winner of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival's Palm d'Or award (one of, if not the most prestigious film awards there is) and the talk of the festival itself. A drama, 3 ½ hours in length, with the vast majority of that time filled by small groups of characters deep in conversation (in subtitled French, no less!) about relationships, romance, art, literature and philosophy. Oh! And it's also the only film based on a comic-book (in this case Julie Maroh's graphic novel Blue Angel.) And yet, the entertainment press has elected to promote it (implicitly, at least) in the manner of a carnival peep show. Why?

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