Henry and June, the Movie

On this day in 1990, Henry and June, the first NC-17 movie, premiered. The only reason I wanted to see it was because of the rating—I had to know what it meant. I knew it was the new X, so there had to be sex, and lots of it. I could tell from the trailer that it wasn’t the American formula of sex and violence, which I abhor (think Basic Instinct), and that it was set in Paris in the 1930s, which intrigued me, so off we went.

hjmovieWhen the film began, I must have missed the part that said it was based on the diary of Anaïs Nin, so I thought that Nin and Henry Miller were fictional characters. The theatre was mostly empty—I was later to find out that the NC-17 rating killed any chance for a wide audience. I feel that the rating was uncalled for, that there was nothing in the film that didn’t cry out “R”—but I suppose it was because of the so-called “lesbian scene,” during which Nin asks two female prostitutes to make love while she watched (and most of that scene was left to the imagination). Henry and June would never be rated NC-17 today, and I imagine the rating still keeps many from seeing it, which is a shame, in my opinion.

The film, I thought, was a bit over-acted, and it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the sexiest of films—and yet it “got” me. I felt the same way I did when I saw the first Star Wars film—like a kid on an adventure. Only this adventure was of the mind, of sensuality, of freedom, of daring, risk-taking, creativity, and joy. It was a rebellion against the status quo.

And then, when the final credits rolled, I discovered that not only were Nin and Miller real people, they wrote about everything I’d just seen. On the way home, we stopped at the used book store and I bought Diary 1 and Tropic of Cancer.

Little did I know that my curiosity about a sexy movie would shape the rest of my life and career.

To order Henry and June, the movie, click here.

To see the full trailer of the movie, click here.

This blog post is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations and The Portable Anaïs Nin.

Anais Nin Podcast 3: How Anais Nin Changed a Life

The third Anais Nin podcast is here! In response to a question I sometimes get–“Who are you and how did you get this way?”–I share my journey that began with the movie Henry and June and has resulted in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947–and everything in between.

The podcast is 12 minutes long. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Click here: Podcast 3

From Henry and June

From Henry and June

Rose Kaufman recalls the making of Henry and June

Rose Kaufman, wife of Philip Kaufman, the director of Henry and June (1990), and co-writer of the screenplay for the film, died December 7, 2009 at her home in San Francisco at the age of 70. For Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue Press, 1996), she and her husband submitted a series of responses to interview questions, the compilation of which appears in the article “On Henry and June: The Making of the Movie,” pp 264-268. These are excepts from her commentary:

Henry and June sort of fell off the shelf over on Fillmore Street, at Browser Books, and I happened to have the time that night to read it, and I stayed up and finished it and got to bed about two or three in the morning. I was pretty wildly excited by it. And I felt, “Maybe there’s a film here.” It was the revelation of these two people that we had known, had met, and had been inspired by. And then we were inspired all over again by their wild passion, particularly since there was this June element. The wild card, the pivot, was June.

[Anaïs Nin’s] sense of the personal is just extraordinary; it comes out of her intuition. That’s the thing she really sought to preserve among women during a time of liberation, that we not become clones of men or less than men—like the newscasters who try to be tougher than men. She wanted us to preserve the virtues that women have, and at the same time to have the confidence and the intellect and the strength to believe in ourselves.

We responded to the fact that Henry [Miller] could respond to this delicate sort of hothouse person—that he honestly was moved and inspired by her, by her passion and her givingness and all of it, and at the same time that she could receive the strength of his own rough character, with his terrifying sincerity, his pain, his struggle. That she could perceive the strength of this guy and he could perceive the uniqueness of this woman—really, it was astonishing to me, because usually men and women go after the same. In a sense, we go after ourselves, but they didn’t. And they could help each other. She could make him more tender, more reflective—more feminine, if you will. And he could see the brilliance in her, and at the same time go half-mad trying to deal with the problems that she had with the way she expressed herself. He adored the diaries, but I think he wanted to strengthen the fiction.

[Nin] wasn’t s wealthy as most think. Miller and June were so terribly poor that Anaïs seemed wealthy next to them. In fact, her husband, Hugo, was the low man at the bank, and they didn’t have that much money. But you could live outside Paris, like Anaïs and Hugo, and have a maid for very little.

On [the set of] Henry and June it was very fluent, very open. I happened to get into the Picasso Museum, actually, and he has this series of engravings of women watching each other sleep. And it inspired the scene of women watching each other. In Paris, we would constantly improvise on things we saw… Phil’s very inventive that way. He worked out the routines with the out-of-work magicians and clowns that hung out with Henry. The performers who played them were geniuses!

The French accept it all. That’s why it was so great to shoot in Paris because the French do accept sex. It’s the course after dessert—a liqueur or whatever. They really have accepted pleasure in all its forms.

[Shooting in Paris] inspired me to think about sexuality, my own and everybody else’s, and the way sexuality is treated in our society. We still have, I think, a Playboy mentality. I hate to see that phrase because it seems so passé. But in view of the MPAA controversy [Henry and June was the first film rated NC-17] I think we have the mentality that sexuality isn’t something we feel, it isn’t part of us. So many people can’t accept that sexuality doesn’t have to be prurient or prudish.

So many people are ashamed of sex and want to get rid of it after a certain point in their lives, because they haven’t worked it out in a loving way. And then the best thing to do is to brush it away and scrape it away and say that we don’t need to think about it, read about it, see films about it, any of it.

Some people want to have sex just for the purpose of having children, and then get on with their household chores and their jobs and have an asexual existence. And some people prefer sex to be underworld, prefer the women in the boudoir so they can just have their perverse dream they want with this person, and have no relationship—they prefer sex to be separated from love.

That way they didn’t have to make the commitment that they have never made with anyone in their lives, on any level. In the Playboy brand of sex, sex with the Barbie doll, there’s no intimacy. It may contain the most flagrant insertions and everything, but there is no intimacy between two beings. It’s sort of masturbatory. And that’s part of the problem that we have in this country, this lack of flow, of caring, of the personal, the thing Anaïs wanted—to know that intimacy.

Source material is originally from Image (November 11, 1990) and American Film (September 1990).

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #8

Myth #8: Henry and June is exactly as Anaïs Nin wrote it.

Fact: Anaïs Nin’s first unexpurgated diary, Henry and June, which came out some nine years after her death in 1977, was as heavily edited as her original Diary 1 (1966). Nin did most of the editing of Diary 1, which mainly concerned cutting the sexual affair with Henry Miller and her erotic longing for his wife June. The material in Henry and June (i.e. the Miller/June entanglement), according to Nin’s wishes, was not to be published until after the death of her husband, Hugh Guiler, who died in 1985. The task of editing was given to Harcourt’s John Ferrone, who edited Delta of Venus, Nin’s only bona fide bestseller. Ferrone described himself as a “hard-nosed editor” with little use for material not on topic, repetitious, or muddled. His goal was for Henry and June to read smoothly, as a novel would, and to not stray from its premise—the Anaïs-Henry-June triangle. Rupert Pole, Nin’s “California husband” and Trustee of the Anaïs Nin Trust, however, did not take well to Ferrone’s extensive cuts and rewording of Nin’s text and let him know about it in his letters. Ferrone found himself defending his editorial decisions while Pole often made demands that certain passages be left in, or left alone. This led to a rather contentious working relationship between the two, who otherwise were very fond of each other.

Pole had put his foot down and demanded: “as the trustee of the Anaïs Nin Trust I must insist that you restore the following passages:” (and he listed no less than nine). (A Café in Space 4 16)

Ferrone summed up his deletions and changes by saying, in a letter to Pole: “I took my cue from Anaïs’s own editing of Diary I. She rewrote passages that were unclear and, believe me, she deleted things that were excessive, not because they related to Henry but because, from the vantage point of maturity, she knew they were a mistake.” (A Café in Space 4 18)

One of the most contested passages was the final one. Ferrone didn’t want to use what Pole suggested at all, but finally agreed to use an edited form of it. About this, he said:

“I know you will pooh-pooh all of this, but the ending is too important to leave as it is. This is how I would like to edit it:

‘Last night I wept, because the process by which I have become woman has been painful, because I am no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes are opened to reality, to Henry’s selfishness, to June’s need of power. Yet I can still love passionately, humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and am not yet accustomed to its absence.’” (A Café in Space 4 14-15)

Pole responded with:

“Anaïs’ ending must be preserved as she wrote it. The repetition of ‘I wept’ is the essence of Anaïs’ poetic prose style.

‘…my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe.’ This is the essence of Anaïs’ philosophy which she maintained throughout her life.I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. That means my imagination has ceased to embellish desperately—so that there is no more danger of delusion for me. I wept because there was no more danger and I had lost my faith in Christmas.’ This was her belief (in Linotte) that her father would join them at Christmas.” (A Café in Space 4 17)

Ferrone replied:

“I throw up my hands and restore the passages you insist upon, but I do not agree with you. You lack objectivity.” (A Café in Space 4 17)

However, the published version of Henry and June ends with:

“Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become a woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality—to Henry’s selfishness, June’s love of power, my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.

“So Henry is coming this afternoon, and tomorrow I am going out with June.” (Henry and June 274)

The ending was not exactly how Pole envisioned it, nor what Ferrone wanted, nor what Anaïs Nin wrote verbatim in her diary.

In short, both of these well-intentioned men wanted the best of Anaïs Nin to shine through Henry and June, just as they believed Nin herself wanted. The verdict is the readers’ to make.

The complete exchange of letters between Rupert Pole and John Ferrone can be found in A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 4, 2007.
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Henry and June – the movie

Link to the original trailer for Henry and June, the movie. This trailer did not appear in most theatres.

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi95224089/

Review of “Henry and June” by Amar Rehal:

http://amarfilmreview.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/henry-and-june-1990/