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De Palma Symposium: Dionysus in ‘69

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De Palma Symposium: Dionysus in ’69

The first of three essays written by House Next Door contributors for the Reverse Shot Brian De Palma symposium is by Dan Callahan. He takes a look at De Palma’s little seen experimental theater documentary Dionysus in ’69.

“You can sense the fear in even these free-spirited performers before their plunge into polyamorous sexuality, and De Palma (with his other cameraman, Robert Fiore) eases their burden visually by focusing on their flesh as it blurs and blends together in writhing close-ups. After a while, the sexual freedom on display starts to feel convincingly utopian. Sometimes the actors strip naked, but nothing hardcore happens: the penises stay soft, as in Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures, and the physical explorations are always gentle and caressing. These people are looking for connection, and their sexuality feels stirringly pure, almost childlike.”