Friday, December 23, 2005

9 Songs (2004)-NR

Let’s talk about the sex in 9 Songs, and there is a lot of it! In fact, of the 1 hour and 11 minutes approximately 65% of the movie is lovemaking between the only two actors Lisa (Margo Stilley) and Matt (Kieran O’Brien). The sex is hot and gets more and more graphic as the film progresses. Rarely in a soft-porn film do we get to see a penis. Rarely in an “X” rated film do we get to see a penis (really) ejaculate. I have never seen an uncircumcised penis in a film (maybe I’ve just lived a sheltered life). With this film we are treated to all of this and more.

9 Songs is a story about a brief affair between two young people. The film follows the couples to rock concerts, follows them to bed, follows them back to rock concerts, follows them to bed.., well, you get the idea. The film has an occasional segment where we follow Matt to his work in Antarctica as a Glaciologist.

I found the sex erotic, though the couple seems pressured to always find something new to try. We wonder if the couple has anything else in their relationship. We also wonder if they are growing bored with each other. This has left other film reviewers to describe the sex as boring and monotonous. I think rather the sex is realistic of a relationship that is growing monotonous. However, there are hints at the film’s end that the couple may have some “feelings” for each other. This is a film by Michael Witherbottom who also directed the acclaimed film “In This World.” Michael Winterbottom makes films that feel more like documentaries and are in the style of “A Dinner With AndrĂ©.”

I enjoyed the film especially when I stopped looking for a traditional storyline. The film is sexual outside the tradition of soft porn or “X” rated. The film is about sex and is well worth seeing.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Secretary (2002)-R

Secretary is a movie on many lists for “favorite sex films.” For ‘submission and domination” and “spanking” fans the film is a must see. It has a very erotic spanking scene that comes with high marks and in fact, leaves marks. Even as a person who is not a fan of such menu, I found the scene erotic. The film also has a closing 5-minutes of sex that is well photographed and erotic. The S & M and other scenes therefore qualify for a review on this blog. The film however is otherwise flawed. It has a very slow start despite a good performance by Maggie Gyllenhal. The film struggles between sometimes being a comedy and sometimes a drama, but in the “end” the only “mark” it hits is Ms. Gyllenhal’s ass.

Secretary is about a woman recently released from an institution with a compulsion to cut herself. The woman is hired by a compulsive and overbearing attorney (James Spader). The secretary and attorney are drawn to an erotic S & M and spanking relationship. Despite the erotic spanking scenes, the film struggles with how to portray this lifestyle. Is it a legitimate erotic lifestyle or a form of mental illness? The film is conflicted. For a truly erotic and excellent film on this subject see “Urban Friction” by Libido Films.

RE "Secretary":This is a story about two extremely off beat people who have off beat needs. Maggie Gillenthal plays a young woman who is just out of secretarial school, and apparently, just out of some kind of therapy. She has serious self-image problems and has some self-destructive tendencies. James Spader plays an attorney who has poor interpersonal skills and is having trouble keeping secretaries; he is a bit of a bully. She is driven to succeed at this, her first job, which any one with experience, would quickly abandon. There is much strange conflict, until the attorney calls her into his office to reprimand her for making a typographical error. He gives her a spanking, which she discovers to her liking. The movie goes on from there to become even stranger, as the two characters explore their new relationship and help each other with their problems. There is scene with tasteful nudity.
A warning: If you are disturbed by self-destructive behavior, parts of the first half of this movie may be troubling to you. Just stick it out, and you will find that things begin to look up.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Head in the Clouds (2004)-R

This is a movie that contains two stories. The first is a story about a love triangle. The second is story about a woman who uses sex to advance her wealth and profession.

Have you ever loved two or more people at once and wished that it could workout? I loved Mary from Chicago when I was in high school and early college. I later loved Janet during graduate school at Carbondale, Illinois. I also loved Emily, who I eventually married. During the 1970’s I fantasized that Mary, Janet and Emily would fall in love with each other. This was not a lesbian erotic fantasy (that would come later). This was the only logical formula I could conceive of to solve the problem of loving two (or more) people. Surprise! It never happen. In the first story in “Head in the Clouds” it did happen. Gilda, played by Charilize Theron is the daughter of a wealthy European businessman in the late 1930’s who ends up loving two people. One is a handsome Irish man Guy, played by Stuart Townsend. He is committed to fighting against Franco in the Spanish civil war. The other is Mia, played by Penelope Cruz, a nurse and confidante. Gilda loves, not warm affection loves but erotic sexually loves, both people. Guy and Mia have the warm affection for each other and are happy to share a three-some bed together as long as they can love Gilda. Gilda suggests that Guy and Mia have a baby. Clearly Gilda was reading my playbook of the early 1970’s, for truly this was the solution to turn a love “V” into a love “triangle.” The baby does not happen but the love triangle does.

The second story is about Gilda, her courting of Nazi generals, her double life as an English spy and her tastes for the very finest wines, dresses and parties. We follow her as she achieves wealth and prestige in her “business”, in part, by freely exchanging her sexual skills with her clients. Nowhere do we get a sense that this is a hardship for Gilda. She clearly enjoys erotic pleasure and freely shares it to gain personal wealth and a luxury lifestyle during the darkest days of the Nazi occupation of Paris.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and so did Emily, my wife. The photography of Paris and Europe, along with the period costumes, is spectacular. The photography and costumes are worth seeing this film even if you hate everything else. The sex scenes were photographed well, but seemed more playful than erotic. The Netflix audience rates this film at almost four stars whereas the professional critics, with the exception of Roger Ebert, disliked the film (rottentomato web site of 14% approval). Emily believes this is because the critics are primarily men. This is a film about a very strong woman, Gilda. She owns her own sexuality despite her freely sharing it with others. She has her own compass and does not melt in the arms of Guy, even though she truly loves him. In fact, she does the most paradoxical action by encouraging Guy to truly fall in love with another women, therefore hoping to “have it all.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Xana & Dax: When Opposites Attract (2005)-X

Frequently, X-rated erotic films show exotic and outlandish sex. This is the type of sex that is rarely if ever experienced in real life. Sometimes, this sex is even rarely fantasized. Examples of such sex scenes include fisting, threesomes, multiple men coming on a women’s face, etc. I would characterize many of these X-rated films as more in the “exotic” category than “erotic.” Furthermore, nearly all X-rated films tell stories of chance meetings that are follow immediately with sex.

Xana & Dax is a refreshingly different X-rated movie. This film is produced by Comstock Films that advertises “real people, real life, real sex.” They certainly deliver on that promises with this high quality and very stylish film. Xana & Dax are not acting. They are real people in a real marriage. Through a dialogue format they tell us why they like each other as people and as lovers. They tell us how they met, when they first made love (not their first date) and what they like about each other’s bodies. The film presents a story of a highly sexual married couple. The viewer is led to believe that there are only two outlandish aspects of the couple’s erotic life. One is that they are performing their lovemaking on film, for us. The other is the beautiful full body tattoo worn by Xana.

This highly erotic film is well photographed and edited. In addition to real people having real sex, we are treated to a real story of how a relationship started and continues. The film can be rented from Good Vibrations for $7.24 including postage both ways.
I highly recommend this film. Emily and I were only able to get through about 20 minutes of the film without “mirroring” their performance.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Mother (2003)-R

The Mother (2003) is a bold, provocative and groundbreaking film. It is superbly filmed and acted. It is the story of a widow who returns to live with her troubled children. In an attempt to mediate her daughter’s affair with a married handyman, the Mother has her own sexual affair with this same man. This one film takes on the issues of dying, family dysfunction, elder sexuality and cross-generational sexuality. The sex is graphic and erotic. My only criticism is that perhaps the film tried to do too much.

The film explores the erotic rebirth of an older woman after the death of her husband. Her erotic passions are ignited within the family and ultimately lead to a family crisis. Nonetheless, we are challenged by the glimpse of erotic healing and how sexuality can be a path of renewal.

The Holy Land (2003)-R

The Holy Land (2003) is a film that is disconnected with many hard to follow characters and with an ending that can best be described as unsettling. Nonetheless. I highly recommend this movie. The film takes on arguably the two most important issues of the early 21st Century, namely religious fundamentalism and sexuality. The film is about a Rabbi student in Jerusalem who is distracted from his religious studies by masturbation. A senior Rabbi teacher recommends he seek out a prostitute as a means to “cleanse” these obsessions. However, once he leaves the safety of his protected world and protected worldviews, he becomes immersed in the contradictions of religious order verses the spiritual-sexual journeys of others. The film brilliantly uses foreground-background filming to mix the themes of religion and sexuality. In one scenes a prostitute naps on the roof of a Jerusalem building with the background of “The Dome of the Rock” (one of the most sacred sites of Islam), in another scene a bar owner wakes up from a drinking-sexual binge overlooking the “Waling Wall”, in a third scene the prostitute and Rabbi student walk hand in hand outside the Church of the Sepulchre (the site of Jesus’ crucifixion) and finally a long close up shot of a young ascetic Jewish woman’s nipple as she is preparing to nurse her infant. These scenes are not presented in an offensive manner but more as passing observations. Despite the flaws of this film, it is well worth seeing

My Best Friends Wife (2001)-R

This is really a pretty good movie. It is about “swinging,” (not the dance, but..) sexually sharing spouses. The film is about two lifelong friends and their wives who feel bored with life, and try “wife swapping” as a way out of their malaise. It is not erotic but at times, very funny. This movie captures a very powerful, unanticipated emotion when married people (with spouses’ permission) are sexually intimate with people other then their spouses. Men (our experience), and depicted in this film, more often feel this unanticipated emotion. This feeling is a strong feeling of love (for their wives) – confusion – sexual inadequacy – and the need to compare their performance to their wives (new) partners. All these powerful feelings are mixed together! The paradox, of course, is that the men wanted to do this over their wives strong protest. Yet when the events actually happen the women let loose and enjoy it and the men end up with less enjoyment. We (my wife & I) have been in the “lifestyle” now for 20 years. I talked her into it, yet she had much more fun for the first few times than me. I suffered from “unanticipated emotions”. In the end, the movie and maybe real life shows women as initially more able to enjoy polyamorous lovers. We men can catch up. However, the bottom line is “be careful what you wish for”.

Malena (2000)-R

When I was 12 years old I sold papers on a busy Chicago street corner. My school classmates would frequently come by at 5pm to watch a very special women. She was beautiful. She would walk by and smile only so slightly. This was a time when I could barely make any meaningful conversation with girls. Yet.., here was this 30 something, sexy women who would buy a Chicago Daily News, look me right in the eye, smile and say “thanks.” I would live for that 1-minute daily encounter. Malena is such a story. Malena is a story of a beautiful woman in a small Italian village during World War II and a 12-year-old boy. It is a story of a beautiful women and a boy that is trying to become a man. It carried all the humor and pain of “The Summer of ‘42”, but then takes a very strange twist. As in the “Summer of ‘42” it is first the awkward erotic scenes of a young boy that evolve to fantasies of saving this “damsel in distress.” Things then take a sad and painful twist. We all grow up a little as we all frantically calculate how we can truly rescue this damsel in distress. She remains beautiful but the story evolves into way more than an erotic fantasy. I truly enjoyed this movie. The cinematography was excellent. The story captured the complexity of a 12-year-old’s erotic fantasies in an often very un-erotic world.

Pretty Baby (1978)-R

In a recent interview with Terry Gross, Brooke Shields recalled her controversial role as a prostitute in Pretty Baby. The sexuality was mild by today's standards, Brooke recalls. Well, full frontal nudity of a pre-adolescent girl would raise many eyebrows in today's anti-child pornography world. Yet, Brooke is right that the film's sexuality is mild because the sexuality of a 12-year-old is innocent. Brooks Shields is simply brilliant in her portrayal of a young girl being raised in a New Orleans brothel. She is brilliant because, her character is her. She is playing herself. Her character Violet is asked to pretend as if she is sexy, erotic and grown-up. Violet knows that she is smart and can catch on quickly to any make believe game. She also loves to be the center of attention. We, of course, are watching a real 12-year-old, who is smart, loves to play act and loves to be the center of attention, pretend as if she is sexy, erotic and grown-up. Reality mirrors fiction that then mirrors reality. However there's another reality mirrors fiction mirrors reality. Violet is parented and cared for by the group of women in a loving and paradoxically protective manner. Yet, her beauty and innocence are exploited. At the film's end we believe the caring overcame the exploitation. Brooks Shields has written extensively about her over-protective mother who paradoxically exploits the beauty and innocence of her daughter. Brooke tells Terry Gross, "now as a new mother myself, I can understand and maybe be more forgiving of the excesses of my own mother." The film captures the innocence of a girl in a very sexually charged world. It contains outstanding performances of both Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon. Yet it also captures parenting lessons for today's sexually charged world.

9 1/2 Weeks (1986)-NR

This is such an excellent film. The New York photography and cinematography of New York people alone is reason to see this film. Then there is sex. I believe the films of Adrian Lyne are able to explore erotic subjects beyond the reach of others. He is able to stretch the boundaries of an erotic topic without loosing the complexities. 9 ½ weeks is about the erotic tension of playing games of dominance. A viewer clearly sees the erotic tension and therefore pleasure from playing submission/dominance. Adrian Lyne asks the question “who says” & “how do you STOP.” As in most of his films, the women show powerful erotic pleasure but pull back from being consumed. His men are not always able to “stop.”

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Piano (1993)-R

I watched The Piano recently and was reminded why it is one of my all time favorite films. There are so many levels of passion in this film. Jane Campion skillfully presents her film within the backdrop of Victorian anti-passion times of the late 1800’s. I have heard that the part of the brain that stimulates erotic passion is adjacent to the part that stimulates murderous rage. If so, this film demonstrates the fact. Sam Neill plays a farmer with passion only for hard work and puritan virtue. That is, until Holly Hunter, playing his betrothed wife comes into his life. Holly Hunter is passionate about her piano and the music it produces. Her passion turns erotic when seduced by her husband’s business partner. Sam Neill’s passion become erotic after discovering the affair and then turns murderous. I found this film both erotic and frightening. It demonstrates the intoxication of erotic passion and how it drives people to rage. The film is also hopeful because it shows that people can survive the rage. Holly Hunter, winning best actress, was brilliant in her role.

I, A Woman (1966)- UR

I, A Woman is a 1966 film that has two themes about sex. The first theme of the film is about illicit sex. The second theme of the film is about feminism and sex. I found both to be very erotic. The film is in a wonderful black & white style that captures the tensions and discord of both stories.

There is a type of eroticism that is uncomfortable. A person feels tension and conflict with this type of eroticism. The very presence of conflict heightens the eroticism and passion. This is the eroticism of a secret affair. This is the eroticism of sex when it is against the rules. I, A Women captures this tension.

Siv (Essy Persson) is a young nurse from a religious family that is seduced by one of her older married patients. The patient is demanding both about his care and about his sexual interests. The film superbly captures the tension of Siv finding reasons to return time and time again to the patient’s room. The very fact that this is wrong makes the sex more passionate. What could happen if a woman really enjoys the eroticism and decides not to feel guilty or to be secretive about illicit sex? This is the second theme of the film as we follow Siv through three more affairs with older men. All four men have positions and power. However, it is Siv that is in control and moreover Siv that enjoys the sex. The film is certainly dated and has choppy dialogue at times. Nonetheless, it is erotic and has content apart from the sex.

Sound of the Sea- (2001)-R

Sound of the Sea- (2001)-R
Leonor Watling plays a young wife to two husbands in this 2001 Spanish film. The file is set along the coast of Spain and captures the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and small village life of Spain. Leonor plays Marina, a beautiful woman whose romantic bohemian first husband dies in a boating accident. Her second husband is wealthy and jealous. The film is a classic erotic – love story of a woman having two men, one that provides all the passion but is penniless and unreliable. The other man provides all the security but is cold and demanding. Marina, in a bizarre twist, is given the opportunity to have both men in her life without technically being unfaithful. This is because she funds herself married to two men. Nonetheless, the outcome is still tragic.
I found the film at times to be erotic. I guess I’m a sucker for loves scenes where one partner quotes poetry. I wish these erotic scenes were longer because otherwise the film was predictable.
The film, for me, provokes the question of why the “classic erotic” story is one that presents a conflict between passion and sensibility. Furthermore, the choice of passion inevitably ends in tragedy.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bride of the Wind (2001)- R

Bride of the Wind (2001)
There are times in history of renaissance, times of revival in learning and culture. These are times of scientific breakthrough, times of new thinking, times of the arts and times of sensuality. These are erotic times because of permission to indulge the senses. These are also erotic times because this freedom includes women, and women include their sexuality. There has been three renaissance periods in the last 120 years in Europe and America. These times were the turn of the century, the roaring 20’s and the 60’s. “The Bride of the Wind” is the story of Alma Schindler, played by Sarah Wynter, during the turn of the century. The “Bride of the Wind” is based on the real life story of the wife of Gustav Mahler, the early 20th century Vienna, composer. We follow Alma as this breeze lofts her into a number of erotic affairs, marriages and children, with some of the most creative artists of her time. Each of her lovers are intoxicated with her passion, sensuality and freedom. However, each unsuccessfully tries to “tie her down.”

I found the film very enjoyable. The sexual scenes were erotic and well photographed. The story captured the artistic and sexual freedom of the time. I believe the film captures one aspect of how periods of renaissance end. Men at first are delighted to be under the influence of highly erotic partners. However, this also becomes threatening. I have seen this reoccur in the swinging lifestyle of today; men frequently encourage their wives to enjoy the erotic pleasure of multiple partners only later to feel the need “tie her back down.” Alma in the “Bride of the Wind” showed the capacity to love a new partner while still holding on to the love for her former partners. I think this is true renaissance.