Obscene

2007, Documentary/Biography, 1h 37m

25 Reviews 250+ Ratings

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Movie Info

In 1951, Barney Rosset acquires Grove Press and soon becomes the most controversial publisher in America. Scandal attends almost every book he puts out, from an uncensored version of D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" to Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer," the latter provoking an obscenity trial that goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Filmmaker Neil Ortenberg traces Rosset's life and career, and along the way interviews many of the authors Rosset made famous, infamous or both.

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Critic Reviews for Obscene

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for Obscene

  • Mar 31, 2011
    "Obscene" is an illuminating documentary about the legendary Grove Press and its longtime owner, Barney Rosset who felt there was "no word uttered that should not be published." While it may seem reductive to think of a single source for the challenges to repression in the fifties, Rosset was certainly responsible for much of it. Amazingly enough, it came down to his being in the right place at the right time after a failed attempt to break into the film business with a documentary about racism called "Strange Victory," made shortly after World War II.(He would get another chance when Grove Press distributed "I Am Curious(Yellow)" in America.) The opportunity of Grove Press arrived through his first wife(by one count Rosset has been married four times), allowing him to not only publish the works of Samuel Beckett, but also courting controversy and court cases by publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch, amongst others. That's not to mention the scrutiny from intelligence agencies for publishing the Autobiography of Malcolm X and excerpts from Che Guevara's diary.(The biography of Che I have was published by Grove Press.) He also founded the literary journal Evergreen Review which brought "Howl" to the public during its court case.(In fact, Evergreen Review is still going strong on the internet.) Along with fiction and articles, the magazine contained erotica which so inflamed then congressman Gerald Ford that he called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for simply writing an article in it. In fact, Grove Press made a lot of money from erotica which made up for its boom and bust cycles. So, it might not come as a surprise to some that Rosset was not on especially good terms with women's rights groups(A televised interview with Al Goldstein framing the documentary does nobody any favors.) and actually fought the unionization of the publishing house.
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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