A documentary about the open sexuality retreat called "Sandstone" in California.
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A documentary about the open sexuality retreat called "Sandstone" in California.

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A Daring Experience in Open Sexuality See more »

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Documentary

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10 October 1975 (USA)  »

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Scandalous material get's only lukewarm treatment and reception
7 July 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A documentary about an open sexual community or resort in California in the swinging seventies is certainly going to raise some eyebrows. However, that is about all that it raises.

Shot as it happened, the film is part home movie, part explanation of the alternative lifestyle that was available (if not practiced) at this secluded California community. Couples were allowed to participate or not in any sexual or relationship interaction that they chose. Mostly, the community is a clothing option nudist resort.

As the film shows, this frequently meant after the evening meal, some couples would pair off together, some would report to the group lounge, and some would retire together.

There is very little overt sex in the film, all of which are real people in various states of undress or nudity, talking about their experience, feelings, freedom and participation. We follow one couple from their arrival, to their sampling of the recreation, to his decision to withdraw... only to discover that his wife has been more popular that he is, and scored more often. (This is commonly the case!) What follows is an uncomfortable row, as he wants to force her to leave, but she has become quite comfortable and doesn't want to speak with him.

We also get some sidebar looks at the regulars of the clan... the traveling gynecologist who may or may not be legit... (he has a mobile examination table set up inside his van, complete with mirrors so the patient can watch what he's doing)... to the caretaker/greens-keeper.

The comment is made that after an evening of exploration, it was not uncommon to find newcomers sitting over a first cup of coffee in the kitchen in the morning, holding their head and trying to sort out what it is that they have gotten into...making sense of their experiences from the night before. Other regulars join in and help talk them through it.

As a time capsule of a bygone era, when sex was freer before AIDS, HIV and 911, this is an interesting film. It doesn't quite measure up to the tantalizing fantasy of what a swinging, open community might be in the viewers' mind, but it does entertain. Unfortunately, by the end, you haven't learned much to take away with you... the community closed by the 1980s without much fanfare.

Two cautions: The only explicit sexual interaction generally take place in the group lounge, and the viewer gets plenty of warning of what might happen here. We see some couples on top of one another, some in various forms of repose, some massage, and a little moaning, but no extreme close-ups. Certainly not porn. One amorous black man does succeed in bedding a white woman, and in successive cuts back to the couple, we see them become more and more entwined over time. This is the most obvious and explicit intercourse that we see.

These impressions are based upon a viewing of this documentary on the Playboy Cable TV Channel in the early 1980s, and it may have been edited, though there was no indication that it was edited for broadcast. While the entire film wasn't screened, the majority of it was. Look for this gem on VHS though you may have to special order it. I've never seen it again, even after 25 years or more have passed!


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