There are many reasons to respect this film.
This film was a made in 1969 - a time in which nudity and sexuality in film were relegated to the category of "pretentious smut" in grindhouse "art" theaters.
This film is an early exploration of human sexuality at a time when exploring our sexuality was still "taboo." Many people didn't experience this period in our history. This was one of the first films released in the U. S. to (tastefully) depict full frontal nudity, lesbian encounters and the healing powers of intimacy.
The film is about the mystical powers of intimacy that heal and empower individuals. There are only four characters in the film. Each of them represent one of four archetypes in the symbolism of the Tarot. Mysticism (beyond organized religion) was also a taboo subject up until the early seventies. For example, the principal character is a young ("smokin' hot) woman who is sexually independent, confident in her sexuality, and, engages the other three characters in intimacy. She is represented by the "priestess" in the Tarot. The Tarot is fairly described as a map of human consciousness expressed in universal (and timeless) anthropological symbols. The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols.
The young boy in the film (just coming of age) is a metaphor for the "magus" (magician or transformer) in the Tarot. He is young, innocent and mercurial. His archetype represents the power of innocence and youth to transform. There was an entire film from the period, with Anthony Quinn, that was devoted specifically to this archetype. The Magus (with a young Michael Caine and Candice Bergen).
Typical of films directed and written by Radley Metzger, this film focuses on human sexuality.
Metzger was not permitted to make films like the Likerish Quartet in the U.S. However, in the more receptive venues in Europe, he had the freedom to add to his list of pioneering art films in the area of human sexuality. At the time, in the U.S., Metzger was considered a director who exploited nudity and explicit sex scenes as perversions. His list of films (many of which are now highly regarded and respected) include: (Therese & Isabelle) (exploring tenderness in lesbian intimacy) Therese and Isabelle; The Image (exploring sado-eroticism and BDSM) The Image; and Camille 2000 (exploring the emptiness of meaningless sexual relationships (sex without intimacy) Camille 2000 (Extended Version).
These were forbidden subjects in U. S. film in 1970.
Although many viewers considered the nudity and sexual encounters in the Lickerish Quartet as "shocking" back in 1970, the film is tasteful and tame by today's standards. It's not a film for prurient interests. It is a view of how tenderness and sexuality can combine, in our relationships, to heal and allow us to grow.
Why did Metzger include "shocking" nudity and sex scenes in his films? There are two reasons. First, he was a genuine avant-garde of artists who believed that human sexuality was something positive for humanity, instead of something salacious to be hidden in dark rooms. The word "lickerish" means "lecherous, lustful or lewd" - the film shows that sexuality is a healing power that can transform, instead of being a burden to our consciousness. Second, Metzger wanted his films to be widely viewed to bring our sexuality out into the open - the nudity and explicit sex made the films commercially viable by attracting more (sexually active) viewers.
Metzger's films are now regarded as innovative masterpieces instead of grindhouse smut. The prurient sex scenes in the film distract many. However, underlying all of his films, there is a tender view of male and female sexuality and its mysteries.
In one of the scenes, Sylvana Ventrurelli (the "priestess") is seeking out the young man. She finds him on the roof of an old castle, waiting for her. She says that it was difficult to find him given the many staircases and passageways of the old castle. She didn't think she would find him. The innocent young man (the magus or transformer) responds that on his way to the roof, he had "left a thread of hope to guide her through the labyrinth."
"A thread of hope to guide us through the labyrinth" of human intimacy is Metzger's legacy to us.