Obscene - A Portrait of Barney Rosset and Grove Press

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Arts Documentary published by Arthouse Films in 2008 - English narration

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Image: Obscene-A-Portrait-of-Barney-Rosset-and-Grove-Press-Cover.jpg

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A look at the life and work of American publisher Barney Rosset, who struggled to bring controversial works like "Tropic of Cancer" and "Naked Lunch" to publication. Barney Rosset is the greatest American publisher of the twentieth century and the most influential cultural figure that you haven't heard of. Under Rosset, Grove Press and Evergreen Review fought decisive battles, including many before the state and federal supreme courts, defeated legal censorship, and opened American life to new and dangerous currents of freedom. But Rosset s public fight against hypocrisy and injustice is inextricable from his tumultuous personal life: the same unyeilding, quixotic, restless energy that upended centuries of law brought Rosset perilously close to destruction. Cultural luminaries as varied as John Waters, Amiri Baraka, John Sayles, and Erica Jong join for the common cause of celebrating the career and influence of Barney Rosset. As the publisher of Grove Press and Evergreen Review, Rosset battled for the ending of censorship and brought many fascinating voices to the public ear. But the excitement didn't stop with his professional life; friends and family watched in horror as Rosset's experiences took him right to the edge.

OBSCENE is the definitive film biography of Barney Rosset, the influential publisher of Grove Press and the Evergreen Review. He acquired the then fledgling Grove Press in 1951 and soon embarked on a tumultuous career of publishing and political engagement that continues to inspire today's defenders of free expression. Not only was he the first American publisher of acclaimed authors Samuel Beckett, Kenzaburo Oe, Tom Stoppard, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X, but he also battled the government in the highest courts to overrule the obscenity ban on groundbreaking works of fiction such as Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch. Ultimately he won and altered the course of history, but not without first enduring lawsuits, death-threats, grenade attacks, government surveillance, and the occupation of his premises by enraged feminists.

But the same unyielding and reckless energy Rosset used to publish and distribute controversial works such as Allen Ginsberg's Howl, the Swedish film I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW), and the provocative Evergreen Review, also brought him perilously close to destruction. Featuring music by Bob Dylan, The Doors, Warren Zevon, and Patti Smith, and never-before-seen footage, OBSCENE is directed by first time filmmakers Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor.

- Official Selection SXSW International Film Festival - Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival

Reviews :

- Ginsberg. Beckett. Miller. Che Guevara. Kerouac. Burroughs. Malcolm X. I think its safe to say that few people think of book publishing (or even book reading!) as a revolutionary act. But in the oppressive monoculture of the US during the ‘50s and ‘60s, Barney Rosset, the owner and publisher of Grove Press and the literary journal the Evergreen Review, championed the voices of the underground. Publishing a range of work from the French avant-garde to the Beat Poets, black protest literature to the Black Mountain poets, Rosset fought government censorship in the courts and on the street. A new film, Obscene, documenting Rosset’s fascinating life and work hits theaters on September 26th with a rockin soundtrack with music by Bob Dylan, The Doors, Patti Smith, and other voices of the age. A passionate and creative businessman, Rosset only published books he liked and he had a keen feel for the market’s need for new voices. He was unrelenting in his vision for Grove Press and the filmmakers capture the energy of the man by interweaving interviews, archival audio and video, and the brilliant graphics of Roy Kuhlman’s iconic book cover designs. Rosset tells the filmmakers, “If you want to know who I am, look at the books I published.” -

- The story of a ballsy little American hero, Obscene recounts the life of Barney Rosset who's fought a lifelong battle against censors, philistines, bullies, and shrieking 'won't somebody think of the children!' nanny-state-ninnies, and made America slightly less stupid because of it (I, personally, can't think of a better legacy). A naturally-rebellious guy, Rosset, after WWII found himself, almost by accident, the owner of tiny publishing house Grove Press and almost immediately made a career out of provoking court battles with the self-proclaimed 'forces of decency' by seeking out and publishing controversial works of literature. He started off with Lady Chatterley's Lover, moved on to Tropic of Cancer, Waiting for Godot, Naked Lunch, and many others (and founding the groundbreaking journal Evergreen Review), fighting, and winning, the battle for free speech, free expression, and all of the rest of that Commie stuff, running through all his resources (and more than a few wives) in the process. In addition to the official, court-sanctioned harassment, he got death threats, smear campaigns, and, oh yeah, somebody bombed his office. Way to go America! Rosset, still impishly subversive well into old age, recounts his various struggles against The Man with obviously pride, even as he spells out the most difficult and unjust ways in which the foes of art tried, and ultimately succeeded, in bringing Grove down. Filled with saucy excerpts, indignant interviews, racy archival footage, and an inherent love of the written word, Obscene is a thrilling, fascinating, and infuriating watch, and you'll have a new hero at the end. Unless, of course, you're an illiterate prig. -

- This documentary gives a fair picture of the life of the courageous editor Barney Rosset, the founder of Grove Press, which published such 'pornographic' authors as the Marquis de Sade, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs or D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley's Lover). From the beginning, his publishing house was a heavy thorn in the eye of the Moral 'Majority' (power, not numbers). One sees in this picture even a disgusted and angry US President waving before a TV camera, 'obscene' photos distributed by Rosset's press. As always, the Moral 'Majority' was and is heavily obsessed by sex, but not by killing in wars. But did porn kill until now one human being on earth? What and where is the 'real' pornography?

Barney Rosset was physically threatened and ultimately, his headquarters were bombed (!) by apparently members of a secret service. He was a true pioneer of free speech, also in sexual matters. Of course, he was interested in sex. Who is not, in a positive or negative sense? In any case, he didn't thrive on the profoundly vulgar standards of the actual adult industry, a multi-billion dollar business built on hundreds of years of sexual repression. As Christopher Hitchens states in his formidable book 'God is not great': 'god gave man a sexual impulse, only for religion to suppress it.'

This documentary is a must see for all people interested in free speech, in the policies of the Moral 'Majority' and in the real nature of mankind. –

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: AVC Advanced Video Codec
  • Video Bitrate: 940 KB/s
  • Display Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Video Resolution: 640 x 352
  • Audio Codec: (Dolby AC3)
  • Audio Bitrate: 192 Kb/s 48000Hz
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 1h 37mins
  • Framerate: 29.970FPS
  • Number of Parts: 1
  • Part Size: 803 Mb
  • Ripped by DocFreak08
  • Subtitles: no
  • Thanks to "son of man" for posting the source file at Rapidshare.

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