Sunday, November 22, 2009

Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate (1985) - NR

This documentary follows the experience of a sex surrogate and two of her clients and then follows all of them into their separate psychotherapy sessions. This is a film of the 80’s, a time in which we as a culture were more progressive.

This film is not erotic but is touching and warm. It is for people who like sex from the neck up as much as the neck down. The surrogate and clients talk about what for them is erotic intimacy. All three confess that it is sometimes hard to capture and harder to sustain. Men should see this film if they are confused about how to pleasure a woman. Women should see this film if they want to understand why men are confused. I recommend this film for people either receiving or providing couples therapy. It is an honest and helpful film.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trembling Before G-d (2001)- UR

“Trembling Before G-d” is a thought provoking documentary that explores the struggle within the orthodox Jewish faith regarding their gay and lesbian people. The documentary captures sincere people of Jewish faith holding traditional views of sin. The documentary also captures sincere gay and lesbian people of Jewish faith whose lives are devastated because of these traditional views. The film, shot on the streets of Brooklyn and Jerusalem, provides a rich texture of religious tradition. A tradition however that is inflexible and intolerant. The most telling segment of the film asks the provocative question, “Can G-d change His mind?” Apparently, the question has been asked by others, Moses and Jonah in the Old Testament to name just two. The film leaves the question unanswered.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Reader (2008)- R

Review submitted by d.r.

The Reader has become something of a frequent flier in conversations at home. Our discussions flit and hover like disturbed hornets around whether criminal sex with a juvenile adolescent, and failing to unearth wickedness in someone who is a party to the horrific crimes of the Nazis, are fit subjects for cinema that suggests sympathy with the characters. One of us is certain that severe embarrassment over illiteracy cannot possibly be enough to explain becoming an SS guard, but the other thinks that social unawareness and expedience could do so. Our contrary interpretations are that ordinary human limitations and ineptitude, sadly, can explain essentially all the events of the film, OR, more antagonistically, one character is severely damaged and the other evil, and the story irresponsibly underplayed this.

Regardless of the correct interpretation, The Reader is a brilliant film well deserving of Best Picture nomination. The film did not win Best Picture perhaps because its controversial content.

The story follows the lives of two people 20 years apart in age. It begins with a brief love affair and ends in tragedy. Principal actors are Kate Winslet (clearly a superb performance by Kate Winslet, winner of the 2009 Best Actress) as Hanna Schmitz, Ralph Fiennes as Michael Berg, and David Kross as Berg, at a younger age.

The sex is often lovely and very explicit. It could titillate were it not for the painful and tragic events to follow. Hanna Schmitz skillfully and erotically seduces a young boy into a sexual affair. However, after a time, she will not accommodate his lust until he reads to her: classics, plays, poetry, novels, and short stories. She basks in these occasions; attentive, curious, delighted, eclectic, and liberated. It becomes clear to Michael that she is illiterate, though she will not say so. One day he finds her apartment vacant and he is devastated.

The events that follow leave an emotional scar on Michael Berg from which he never recovers. We follow him into law school where Hanna Schmitz’s and his paths cross again; he as a law student observer and she as a defendant on trial for Nazis war crimes. It is soon clear that her perception of the events in question was that she was not a hands-on contributor to societal catastrophe. Rather, she viewed them with neutral emotions and with pride in her work skills and orderly accomplishments.

The engrossing, prolonged, strongly sexual romance early in the movie, in the midst of immiscible backgrounds, unequal ages, and disabling limitations of character, is genuine for the enacted lives and circumstances. For Michael it was a deeply erotic and love experience. However, for Hanna, was it solely perfunctory as a means to have “a reader?” Reviewers and acquaintances complain of the criminal sexual taking of a 15 year old boy. Others object that Hanna Schmitz is unredeemable Nazi dross. I think neither criticism suffices. Yes, the sex is problematic and consequential, but with reliable heat, it maintains intimacy in its time. The characters invoke compassion.

My partner and I have hardly resolved the questions noted at the start. In defense of my position, I think the invitation to forgive Hanna Schmitz implied in The Reader does not mean support for predatory sex with a minor, nor dulling the anger due the Nazis, nor halting justice. But it allows us to look closer.

Notes on a Scandal (2006)- R

There are certain very disturbing sexual passions. Some people gain pleasure from erotic fantasies centered on such passions. When acted upon, there are those fantasies that are criminal offenses and can destroy everyone they touch. Most certainly, the actions destroy their owner.

Sheba Hart, played by Cate Blanchett, is destroyed by her sexual passions. Sheba is an attractive wife, mother and high school teacher. She has been conscientious about her cared-for two stepchildren, one of whom has Downs’ Syndrome. Her sexual compulsion is that she cannot break free from a sexual affair with one of her 15 year old students. This is a different story than the one told in movies such as Private Lessons (1981), where an older woman mentors the sexual instructions of a delighted teenager. It is also different than the one told in The Reader (2008), where a young boy’s deep love for an older woman turns tragic when her earlier war crimes are revealed. Rather, Notes on a Scandal is a painful story of an adult needing the erotic attention of a young adolescent. Her need borders on addiction where self-affirmation depends on the sexual attentions from this student. This is probably the essential element of exploitation.

This is a very good film with exceptional acting from Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. The film is important because it explores the complexity of this painful sexual topic.

Basic Instincts (1992)- R

Sharon Stone is hot, erotic and very controversial in this 1993 Oscar-nominated erotic thriller. This film is worth seeing if only for the “Sharon Stone police interrogation scene.” Stone plays a writer accused of murder. This creates exciting possibilities for the plot of her true-crime book series. During the police interrogation, she crosses and re-crosses her legs in ever-more revealing poses. Somehow Ms. Stone’s character forgot to wear panties to the police station. The exposure is very revealing for both the police and the viewer.This excellent film is very erotic, explicit and suspenseful. Though dated, it is a film not to miss.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Kissing on the Mouth (2005)- UR

The film Kissing on the Mouth is an excellent independent film. This film is very “Indy”. More than 60% of the shots are extreme close-ups where a viewer can count the pimples on the face and elsewhere. It is a moving picture of a “Face Book” and “Tweeter” world. It takes Reality TV to the extreme. However where today’s Reality TV is made up and becomes a non-real event, Kissing on the Mouth becomes painfully real.

The film follows four 23 year olds just out of college and tracks 3 days in their lives. It tracks their lovemaking, their haircuts (both on their head and between their legs) and all their other minor and major events. Most of all it tracks their unsuccessful attempt to talk. It so accurately records their addiction to sexual touch and so accurately records their inability to connect with words. This is what makes this film important to see. The sex is graphic and real but is overshadowed by the foursome’s constant but futile attempt to talk. The film is so very painful to watch.

Please ignore the poor Netflix ratings and see this film if you enjoy filmmaking that takes risks. This filmmaking frankly looks at sex, relationships and being 23 years old

Lake Consequence (1993)- R

This movie is saved by a most erotic 15 minute hot tub sequence in the middle of the film. The three actors Billy Zane, Hollie Hummel and Joan Severance give a sexual threesome performance that is outstanding. The scene provides equal time for three separate pairings while the uninvolved other watches. The scene is beautifully filmed and contains a “steamy” effect from both the actors on the screen and the hot water.

Unfortunately, the 45 minutes before and after this scene are poorly scripted. The plot has just slightly more direction than a soft porn skin flick. The characters are left to move from moments of deep depression to angry outbursts without purpose. Nonetheless, I recommend the film for the stylish erotic threesome scene that contains very exciting bi-sexual play from the ladies.

Cathouse: The Series: Disk 1, (2005)- NR

There are two common views of prostitution. The first is that the women are victims in a form of slavery. The second is that the women gain no sexual pleasure or companionship from their craft. The HBO series Cathouse provides evidence that these views are at times incorrect. The documentary series portrays ladies as skilled, high energy performers, required to shift from roles of sex therapist to confessor depending on the client. Though potentially lucrative, the work seems exhausting and requires much emotional intensity. Few women can be successful in this profession.

Season 1 disk was both surprisingly educational and erotic. In two of the episodes the ladies instruct their customers on how best to please a woman. Customers are instructed to start with only the lightest of licks and sucks, increasing the intensity only at the invitation of the woman. Such information is equal to that of the best sex therapist or sex researcher. The customers are quick learners. Their pleasure increases as they bring the ladies to real orgasms. The ladies enjoy the pleasure and increased financial rewards of such instruction. The series contains graphic and erotic sex as well as segments where a customer only wants to talk.

I strongly recommend this series because it contains excellent educational and erotic segments. It also contains models of women who can talk openly and with insight about their sexuality, the sexuality of their customers and, therefore, the sexuality of us all.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)- R

The 1988 academy award film Dangerous Liaisons is worth seeing more than once. The costumes are breathtaking and the acting of Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeifer is brilliant. It is hard to understand why only 2 of the 3 rather than all 3 were not Oscar nominees. The costumes and acting in this film is so dominate that it may take a second viewing to appreciate the storyline.

This is a film about sex. More specifically, this is a film about using sex as an instrument to gain revenge. Glenn Close and John Malkovich play former lovers locked in a contest of who can best sexually exploit others. The contest is humorous and at times very erotic. However, the contest becomes tragic as it becomes clear that the purpose of the game is extracting revenge from each other rather than exploitation of others.

This is a remarkable film with a theme that is as current in 2009 as it was in 1988 or in the 18th century. Dangerous Liaisons should be seen twice by people obsessed with extracting revenge from former lovers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kiss The Sky (1998)- R

The movie “Kiss the Sky” has many flaws. Segments of the film keep flashing back to me making this movie hard to dismiss though, and the lengthy and explicit sexual threesome scene is one such flashback moment. However, the strongest flashbacks are of Jeff and Marty’s confessions that their lives have no meaning or purpose.

Jeff (William L. Petersen) and Marty (Gary Cole) are long time friends. They both are depressed. They believe their lives are going nowhere. On a trip to the Philippines they both fall in love with the same woman, Andy, (Sheryl Lee), and yes, she falls in love with both of them. Jeff and Marty believe in sharing and so does Andy. Sometimes the sharing is in the same bed and sometimes Jeff gets Monday and Marty gets Tuesday. Andy gives them both erotic pleasure but also hope for a new beginning in life.

“Kiss the Sky”, with all of its flaws, gives respect to male depression. This is the type of depression that is mindful and seeks meaning. This type of depression is dangerously close to suicide. The film gives value to the friendship of these men. The friendship, along with sex that they share with a woman, gives them hope.

I think film provides many expressions for female bonding around sex that lead to hope. A few examples are Sex in the City, The L-Word and Waiting to Exhale. Kiss the Sky comes close to a achieving this for men.