Virgin View: THE BLUE LAGOON
I have been trying to fill in the many gaps of my movie history by going back and watching older films I have never seen before. These are my thoughts on this week's film, The Blue Lagoon. In 1980, there was little that could shock or provoke American movie audiences. The sexual turbulence of the sixties and seventies had shaken the industry loose, and it showed in the roughly-hewn films of the period. Raw sexual situations and violence were the orders of the day in Hollywood, and audiences were engaged and invigorated as a result. During the summer of 1980, most audiences were savoring the continuing adventures of The Empire Strikes Back. But a film opened on Fourth Of July weekend that summer that caused temperatures on all ends of the moral spectrum to rise. It was the summer of The Blue Lagoon. The film starred the already-controversial teen actress Brooke Shields as Emmeline, a Victorian-era girl washed onto a deserted island during a shipwreck. Her only companion on this beautiful, paradisaic island is Richard, a young boy played by newcomer Christopher Atkins. They grow up together, finally falling in love and raising a family together. I have no idea how I ever managed to miss this film throughout the course of my life. Possibly one reason is the fact that the film is difficult to broadcast on television, given the copious amounts of nudity throughout. Additionally, I've just never been much of a Brooke Shields fan. She's gorgeous, of course, but she's a pretty painful actress. The cinematography by Néstor Almendros is breathtaking. Particularly impressive are the underwater sequences, which must have been a tremendous technical challenge in 1979. Shields and Atkins are terrible actors, but both are captured in their exquisitely perfect moment of beauty and youth (in fact, Atkins made my list of most beautiful actors ever). When the two keep their mouths shut and act with their bodies, their performances are much deeper and richer. Unfortunately, they are forced to recite lines, and it ruins the picture from time to time. I was really surprised at how much detail the picture allows about the trials of puberty and the awkwardness of chasing the opposite sex. It gets a lot of the emotion right. Again, when the two actors are allowed to speak these emotions with their bodies and faces, they do a tremendous job with the material. I almost wished it had been a silent movie. The biggest draw to this film is the nudity and its frank handling of human sexuality. I was shocked to see how far director Randal Kleiser went to show these kids naked and enjoying their bodies. I was a little surprised at how much Kleiser focused his camera on Atkins' face and body. Anyone with any amount of honesty will admit that Atkins was probably one of the most beautiful actors in film, but let's be real - naked women sell more product than naked men. Yet, in comparison to Atkins, Shields is barely present in the film. The nudity - particularly male nudity - is not hidden in any way. In fact, there is more cock in this film than pussy by a long shot. Atkins' little doodle is on full display throughout the film. If it wasn't for the strongly heterosexual vibe throughout, this film could be mistaken for softcore gay porn. Watching the film made me a little sad. It seems that we have regressed in the decades since this film was made. A film like The Blue Lagoon could never be released today. Any studio executive would insist on removing the bold nudity in the film in order to secure the teen-friendly PG-13 market, which would then dilute the film's message of purity and naturalism. They would also update the time period, which would also destroy the careful fairy-tale atmosphere of the film. Everything today is molded by committee and shaped by exit polls. The Blue Lagoon is not necessarily a film like that. It was wonderful to take a trip to The Blue Lagoon, and step back to a time when films were bolder and riskier.