Up 1,888 this week

Obscene (2007)

Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.9/10 from 177 users   Metascore: 73/100
Reviews: 6 user | 24 critic | 7 from

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.

Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Instant Video

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 250 titles
created 27 Dec 2010
a list of 60 titles
created 08 Sep 2011
a list of 291 titles
created 04 Jun 2012
a list of 35 titles
created 18 May 2013
a list of 33 titles
created 10 months ago

Related Items

Search for "Obscene" on

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: Obscene (2007)

Obscene (2007) on IMDb 6.9/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Obscene.
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Documentary on Charles Bukowski, author of 'Notes of a Dirty Old Man', 'Love Is a Dog from Hell', and the autobiographical novels, 'Women', 'Hollywood', and 'Post Office'.

Director: John Dullaghan
Stars: Charles Bukowski, Bono, John Bryan
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A documentary on the German artist that includes glimpses at his studio, which has not been seen in decades.

Director: Corinna Belz
Stars: Gerhard Richter, Norbert Arns, Hubert Becker
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A documentary look, mostly through the eyes of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, at her rise and fall as a popular televangelist with husband Jim Bakker. Traces their rise: her teen marriage to ... See full summary »

Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Stars: RuPaul, Tammy Faye Bakker, Virginia Fairchild
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A portrait of New York artist Keith Haring.

Director: Christina Clausen
Stars: Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, Julia Gruen
Protagonist (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Jessica Yu's documentary explores the relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure by weaving together the stories of four men: German terrorist, a bank robber, an "ex-gay" evangelist, and a martial arts student.

Director: Jessica Yu
Stars: Hans-Joachim Klein, Mark Salzman, Chris Diamantopoulos
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Herb and Dorothy Vogel redefine what it means to be an art collector.

Director: Megumi Sasaki
Stars: Paula Antebi, Will Barnet, Robert Barry
Party Monster (1998)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Stars: Michael Alig, Gitsie, James St. James
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The career and life of Stanley Kubrick is explored through pictures, clips from his films, his old home movies, comments from his colleagues and a narration by Tom Cruise.

Director: Jan Harlan
Stars: Katharina Kubrick, Malcolm McDowell, Tom Cruise
Crumb (1994)
Documentary | Biography | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

An intimate portrait of the controversial cartoonist and his traumatized family.

Director: Terry Zwigoff
Stars: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Charles Crumb
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

The life of '80's fashion designer/queer icon Leigh Bowery is explored in this documentary.

Director: Charles Atlas
Stars: Charles Atlas, Leigh Bowery, Michael Bracewell
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

The husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames were America's most influential and important industrial designers. Admired for their creations and fascinating as individuals, they have ... See full summary »

Directors: Jason Cohn, Bill Jersey
Stars: Charles Eames, Ray Eames, James Franco
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A young girl breaks up from her petit bourgeoisie home and her piano lessons to lead an entirely new life, as one of the personnel at an institution for juvenile delinquents in a remote ... See full summary »

Director: Guðný Halldórsdóttir
Stars: Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Hera Hilmar


Credited cast:
Amiri Baraka ...
Lenny Bruce ...
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Jim Carroll ...
Lawrence Ferlinghetti ...
Al Goldstein ...
Erica Jong ...
John Rechy ...
Barney Rosset ...
Ed Sanders ...
Joseph Strick ...


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.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


See all certifications »




Release Date:

27 February 2009 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs




See  »

Did You Know?


Adult Books
by X
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A Giggling Freedom-Fighter to Remember
8 September 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

San Francisco's Roxie Theater had a week's run of "Obscene" at the beginning of September 2008. I sat in an audience of four during the Sunday matinée. This seemed a sad turnout for a major documentary on the eccentric, revolutionary, beyond-category Barney Rosset (Barnet Rosset, Jr.), a publisher and film champion who reshaped American letters during his Grove Press years. Without him certain of your important freedoms would only be theories on paper.

How much opposition did Grove Press and its EVERGREEN REVIEW magazine present to the Establishment? "Obscene" shows CBS reporting the 1975 findings of a U.S. commission which investigated domestic espionage by the Central Intelligence Agency. The investigators found that the CIA had exceeded its charter and the law in its domestic surveillance. The number three target for its illegal eavesdropping was Rosset's Grove Press.

Have you seen "The Motorcycle Diaries" (2004)? Rosset published only one chapter of Che Guevara's memoirs in THE EVERGREEN REVIEW and his office got bombed the next night. "Obscene" tells us that Doubleday, already the publisher of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), feared to abrade public opinion by printing the autobiography that the Muslim leader had told to Alex Haley. Grove Press issued the book in 1965, just after Malcolm's murder. THE NEW YORK TIMES declined to review it. Contemplate those events. Measure the distance we have traveled as a people. You may thank Barney Rosset for helping us along. He's still alive. He can hear you.

A compulsive defender of your civil liberties, Rosset published D. H. Lawrence's LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER in 1959. (French motion picture: 1955; British movie: 1981). He followed with Henry Miller's TROPIC OF CANCER and William Burroughs' THE NAKED LUNCH (film adaptation by David Cronenberg in 1991). He could have gone to prison each time, as Dwight Eisenhower's gloating postmaster general reminds us in "Obscene".

Imagine those thrilling days of yesteryear when Ike chaired the military-industrial complex. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. poisoned the atmosphere with nuclear testing. A maze of federal, state, and local law prevented you from reading about Connie Chatterley or from ever seeing some of America's most experimental writing. Brusque men arrested and prosecuted and jailed anyone who imported or published or sold such works.

Today I can find a working plastic replica of Jana Cova's vagina in an tourist store. I can watch a "Sex and the City" episode with Charlotte ogling a penis-shaped vibrator. In the 1950's Hugh Hefner would have been locked up for menacing the republic had he shown pubic hair in PLAYBOY. Barney Rosset changed that atmosphere of hypocrisy,repression, and an outward conformity to rigidly limited ideals. He didn't labor alone, but he did act pivotally.

Consider the enlightened Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. While we warred on poverty and escalated troops in Vietnam, Ralph Ginzberg got a stay in the slammer for mailing ads for EROS from the township of Middlesex, New Jersey. That postmark decisively convinced the Supreme Court of 1966 that he was not serious in intent. Edward Mishkin also did time for offending New York State with sadomasochistic imagery believed by the Court to lack redeeming social significance.

Justice William O. Douglas protested in a dissenting opinion that we cannot determine what significance such images may have for an individual. "Obscene" shows Congressman Gerald Ford demanding Douglas's impeachment for such views. Ford damns Douglas in part because he published an article in Rosset's EVERGREEN REVIEW. House Republican Leader Ford does not discuss the content of the article, merely the venue.

Grove Press put out the standard editions of Bertolt Brecht, Marguerite Duras, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, Pauline Reage, and the unexpurgated Marquis de Sade. Rosset brought new, major talent onto the American intellectual scene, including Samuel Beckett, Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones, Dr. Eric Berne, Jakov Lind, Yukio Mishima, Harold Pinter, and Amos Tutuola. Hubert Selby, Jr.'s thorny but eloquent LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN gets referenced in the "Obscene" end title song (the book hit celluloid with Jennifer Jason Leigh in 1989). Rosset did not make a fortune out of expanding our literary heritage, however. He impoverished himself in court case after court case, defending his--and your--First Amendment rights.

You may associate his Grove years with hardcore pornography. That cash flow paid bills, particularly in the 1970's. Brecht and Beckett do not bring Nora Roberts-sized incomes into a publishing house. In the film Rosset confesses to Al Goldstein that he published material which turned him on as well as kept his press solvent.

The film reveals that Barney's first love remained film. It copiously uses his home movies to illustrate his life. His maiden professional creative effort was the 1948 picture "Strange Victory", documenting violent racism in the U.S. and linking that vicious mindset to the Adolf Hitler we had supposedly defeated. The movie played one run in one theater.

"Obscene" discusses Grove's release of the Swedish radical import "I Am Curious (Yellow)" (1967). However, we do not hear about Rosset's other plunges into movie distribution with the pre-Stonewall "The Queen" (1968) and Yukio Mishima's "The Rite of Love and Death" (1966).

I met Barney in 1985 at the American Booksellers Association convention. Our bashful firebrand had a perpetual giggle in person. You get a touch of it in the film--but only a touch. That distinctive trait normally faded out during recorded interviews. I shook his hand at the Grove Press "booth" (some chairs around a lawn table under an umbrella). Shortly thereafter Ann Getty and Lord George Weidenfeld dumped him from Grove.

The documentary functionally stops there. It does not discuss Rosset's Blue Moon Books, which roused libidos and raised hackles by publishing more erotica from familiar names such as P. N. Dedeaux, as well as books by Martin Pyx (cited in Amazon as "a cult author"), Daniel Vian, and others Barney brought newly on board. Writers you couldn't have read in this country fifty years ago.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss Obscene (2007) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page