In a graphic depiction of one couple's lovemaking (that's graphic symbols, nothing nasty; get your mind out of the gutter!), suggestive images pair with metered dialogue to create a figuratively pornographic film poem that reveals the psychosexualization of everyday objects.
Though any lewd content is limited to surrealist associations (the girl's bare breast is only dirty if the entire history of the artistic nude is dirty), The Mechanics of Love was still controversial for its 1955 production date, and showed only in private screenings and mostly academic circles. While the voice-over and household items seem innocuous enough, the obviously phallic and feminine montage elements were still hot and heavy stuff directly implying sex, even if there was nothing nearing penetration on-screen.
The film's creators, Willard Maas and Ben Moore, belonged to the mostly-gay Gryphon Group, a loose crew of experimentalists associated with New American Cinema. Maas was the husband of acclaimed avant-garde director Marie Menken. Their passionate working and personal relationships were spiked by jealousies and deceits. The success and critical recognition of Menken's work left her husband increasingly embittered. Both drank and drugged heavily while alternating between violent arguments and vehement adoration. Their marriage was the model for George and Martha's wretchedness in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?): a bohemian salon of their own design, set within a swinging circle of artists and famous friends—witnesses to their fits and fights and bursts of brilliance.
As a lesser-known in an already obscure cinematic cabal, Willard Maas, or the memory of him, is an uncertainty. His biography, especially the pieces of it that might pertain to and allow insight into his work is spotty. In the absence of relevant facts, there is an assemblage of gossipy anecdotes. His homosexuality has been posthumously revealed by the colleagues who once kept it secret. Andy Warhol's assistant, Gerard Malanga, has alleged that Maas was the unseen "giver" in Blow Job. A damningly romantic correspondence between stop-motion master Norman McLaren and Maas has also called his sexuality into question. Contributing only to the cult of personality that made the artist and his cadre darlings of the underground, such stories may inform the mystery of the man, but they do not speak to the meaning of his art. The Mechanics of Love's beauty, wit, and lyricism evidence an underappreciated genius capable of elevating poetry and film beyond themselves, transcending both to create a more perfect union.