Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Walk on the Moon (1999)-R; Unfaithful (2002)- R

Over the course of three years Diane Lane, a talented and subtle actress, starred in a pair of films with similar plots but strikingly different resolutions. In each film Lane portrays a mother who is also wife to a devoted, hard-working husband. And in each she is also a woman who finds something missing in her life. She wants something more. In both films she enters an affair with an attractive poet-artist-musician. The sex is passionate and explicit. However, in Unfaithful (based on Claude Chabrol's 1969 classic La Femme Infidele, and for which Lane received a Best Actress Oscar nomination) the affair ends in tragedy; the husband, played by Richard Gere, commits murder. In A Walk on the Moon the Lane character's husband, this one played by Liv Schreiber, successfully brings an end to the affair in a rather more positive, humane and satisfactory fashion; in an effort to rekindle their lost sexual excitement he attempts to learn to dance. I vote for the second ending and also enjoyed A Walk on the Moon much more than Unfaithful.

The failure of film and our culture to understand the subtle nature and full dimensions of extra-marital sex represents a failure to grapple with its complexity. Better films, regardless of the plot, are more engaging because they present three-dimensional characters, and avoid trite, simplistic, overly moralistic "lessons" for the viewer. Set in the year 1969, when astronauts first landed on Earth's closest neighbor and young people gamboled at Woodstock, A Walk on the Moon presents us with four complex characters who by turns reveal their complex reactions to extra-marital sex. This quartet; wife, husband, teenage daughter and mother-in-law, are all simultaneously able sincerely espouse the notion that the extramarital sex is wrong, and yet at the same time acknowledge their need to find something more in their life.

Anna Paguin, who was brilliant in The Piano (1993)-R, plays Lane's teenage. Paguin gives a wonderful performance as a daughter in deep and angry conflict with her mother, who rushes to have her own sexual experience and then is terrified by the prospect of her parents break-up. Lane is also excellent as a woman who experiences very erotic pleasure for the first time, yet lovingly attempts to protect and care for her distraught daughter. This is drama with much depth, complexity and ultimately a generous helping of sweet humanity.

In addition to its Aquarian setting, the film plays out against the backdrop of Jewish culture as expressed in summer family camps in the Catskills. The presentation of American Jewish life in the '60s is both entertaining and again presents a lesson about the complexity of extra-marital sex. Finally, the sex scenes are both erotic and explicit. The film captures very beautiful and erotic love-making scenes at a waterfall. For those seeking an enjoyable, entertaining and positively erotic film, this one is highly recommended

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Something About Sex (1998)- R

Something About Sex reveals private aspects of the lives of three married couples. The film seems to suggest that, like the six protagonists, each of us has his or her own sexual secret, an element of our selves that we fail to share even with those to whom were are the closest.

The three couples meet for a dinner party that also includes an obnoxious author played by Jason Alexander from Seinfeld fame. The writer publishes stories revealing the affairs that men hide from their wives. Jason’s character boasts that all men are animals and simply cannot resist multiple sexual partners. This statement is strongly denounced by all six, yet as we soon see, it is accurate not only for the men but also for the women.

Research shows that only 25% of men and 15% of women, sometime in their marriage, experience extra-marital sex. The frequency of infidelity in the real world is not nearly as high as the 100% figure, but dry statistics are not what this film is about. Rather it observes the ambiguity of "the facts" of infidelity, and takes care to point out that sexual secrets are not limited to actual affairs and that while some affairs are "only" physical, while others are founded on emotional commitment- well, love actually. The movie accurately portray six versions of how people deal or do not deal with sexual secrets in their marriage. The dual themes of hypocrisy and secrecy were well done. Nothing was totally true and totally false; none of the characters were perfect.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Body Heat (1981)- R

I am probably the last person in North America that had not seen this erotic-thriller classic. For the other few people who have not seen this movie, it is about a women, played by Kathleen Turner, in an unhappy marriage who is reluctantly seduced by a handsome fast-talking lawyer, played by William Hurt. Well, we think she is reluctantly seduced, but we soon find out that the tables are being turned on who is seducing who and for what reason.

This film is a classic for two reasons. It first has a screenplay that keeps both the character played by William Hurt and the audience continuing to second guess motives and truth. He cannot determine truth but can only be intoxicated by passion which leads to greater and greater danger. The second reason is that the “heat” in Body Heat is really “hot.” This is a film where the passionate heat drips off the screen. The erotic scenes are actually mild in their explicit full body views, but very erotic in close up views, particularly of the actors’ expressions. This is a movie full of powerful sex, and scenes that both women and men will enjoy remembering when they need an erotic boost.