If you’re looking for a departure from the beaten path of mushy cards and banal boxes of chocolate, the Sex and Violence Cartoon Festival may just fit your Valentine’s Day bill. The festival is the brain child of self-styled film buff Reg Hartt, who lit upon the idea as “a fun, off-the-wall thing to do for Valentine’s Day.”
Hartt has been running is own cinema, the Cineforum, in various incarnations since the mid-60s. Currently, he screens films in the living room of his Bathurst home.
The two-hour-long festival features a lineup of cartoons interspersed with Hartt’s commentary. All the mainstays of Warner Bros. animation (Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Bugs, Betty Boop, and Popeye) are represented, but they have sass and bite. Hartt shows the cartoons in their original, uncut versions. He says that the cartoons were originally conceived for adult audiences to be shown in movie theatres.
“Bugs got spanked,” Hartt explained, when the prudish censor boards got their scissor-happy hands on the reels. “He wasn’t allowed to smoke or drink.”
This is not the Bugs Bunny of your childhood. He’s dirty, wicked, and naughty. He’s certain to delight prurient minds and elicit a raucous chortle or two. Hartt references a clip in which Betty Boop freezes Hell, and the Devil is locked in place with a raging erection. “People can expect to see the Kinsey Report in animation,” said Hartt. “People who get caught up in the acceptable become boring. The moment it starts to get risky, it starts to get interesting. Creative energy is sexual energy.”
Hartt likens the sanitized cartoons to the works of Thomas Bowdler, who published expurgated editions of Shakespeare which he thought were more appropriate for decorous nineteenth-century tastes. Hartt uses the cartoons as a springboard to talk about larger issues of censorship and suppression.
“I want you to walk out of here and think about Shakespeare in a new way,” he said. “Basically, I want people to question what they’re seeing.”
Entering the Cineforum is like visiting the curiosity shop of your cool, eccentric uncle. Its red walls are covered with bookcases and ephemera, and the atmosphere is homey. Hartt encourages patrons to bring food and wine.
What does Hartt think about someone who’s savvy enough to push the V-Day envelope with Sex and Violence? “I think they’d be a great date,” he said, “but I’m prejudiced.”
Sex and Violence runs at 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays through April 27, 2010, at the Cineforum, 463 Bathurst St. Tickets are $15 if you’re over 24, $10 if you’re under.