“There’ll be 15 minutes of kissing
Then you’ll holler ‘please don’t stop’
There’ll be 15 minutes of teasing
And 15 minutes of squeezing
And 15 minutes of blowing my top”
- Billy Ward
My Loins Say “Yes”, The Divan Says “Watch Out!”
As an avowed fan of fucking, I must concur with this blog entry from San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle, in which he astutely laments the lameness of sex scenes in American movies. At issue is the Matthew MConaughey/Kate Hudson romantic comedy Fool’s Gold (opening this Friday, February 8th!), which, according to LaSalle, features “one of those scenes in which people suddenly decide to have sex and start clumsily banging into furniture.” It’s one of Hollywood’s favorite cliches, and it consistently undermines the prurient pleasure of watching two glamorous individuals feign intercourse. And it is always employed by a director (in this case the abhorrent Andy Tennant) who is either too timid or too boring to choreograph the graceful, pliant, gravity defying exploits I know I’m used to in the ol’ boudoir (the ladies call me “Limber Len” – don’t know where the “Len” comes from, don’t care).
Seriously, it should come as no surprise to anyone that American filmmakers have proved largely incompetent in the filming of sex scenes; this country’s always been seriously hung up on the depiction of libidinal splendor. That’s why the Production Code was implemented (in response to suggestive Hollywood films often directed by foreign-born directors). But even when Americans began to loosen up in the 1960s and 70s, the films that flouted decorum did so in a manner that was more outlandish than genuinely erotic. Russ Meyer may have been a master, but he made cartoons; Paul Mazursky’s aesthetic was a meek appropriation of a European sensibility; and John Cassavetes was primarily concerned with emotional frankness. And don’t get me started on the “head” movies (or, worse, the counterculture melanges like Candy or The Magic Christian, both of which ill-served Terry Southern’s satirical intent). You could *maybe* make a case for Bob Rafelson (who directed the asexual Head), but, for the most part, the sexual revolution is underrepresented in our nation’s cinema; the bloodshed of the Vietnam War blotted it all out.
There are exceptions, of course: e.g. Philip Kaufman brought some serious heat with his luminous adaptation of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (aided immeasurably by Lena Olin’s wanton Sabina) and the uneven Henry & June; James Foley’s After Dark My Sweet is a smoldering take on Jim Thompson’s ice cold noir (thank Rachel Ward and Jason Patric for that); Dennis Hopper’s The Hot Spot is awful, but intermittently arousing; Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon steam it up once Crash and Annie hook up in Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham; the tragically M.I.A. Paul Brickman spawned many an adolescent fantasy with Risky Business; Todd Field’s Little Children manages to be both realistic and evocative (credit to my pal Kirby for suggesting this); and Robert Towne evinced a facility for lust with Tequila Sunrise and the underrated Ask the Dust. But most American directors fumble when it comes to sensuality. Maybe it’s the inevitable openness of the “closed” set. Perhaps it’s the unwillingness of the image conscious actors to commit themselves to the scene (there’s got to be some kind of emotional recklessness going down; even hatred, as was allegedly the predominant feeling between Richard Gere and Debra Winger on An Officer and a Gentleman, is preferable to professionalism). Whatever “it” is, it’s almost always missing in American movies.
And while I’ve nothing against pornography, there’s something about a sexually charged scene between two dialed-in actors that’s hotter than the real thing. And it doesn’t have to be simulated sex. Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee is a masterpiece of unrequited lust, and just as liable to heat up an evening with your girlfriend/lover/wife as 9 1/2 Weeks (same goes for Rohmer’s Love in the Afternoon). But if fake copulation is what you’re after, I defy you to do better than Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now (for reasons you should already know by now, even if the whole thing’s entirely apocryphal). And you could always try to spring Last Tango in Paris on your significant other, but, trust me, that rarely ends well (cue the roar of an elevated train).
Just don’t expect Hollywood to spice up your evening under the guise of a romantic comedy – even one as rife with chiseled abs as Fool’s Gold. If the cat ain’t in the bag beforehand, the erotic sensibility of Andy “Hitch” Tennant is not going to get the kitty purring on its own. And if it does, enjoy your sixty seconds of awkward thrusting.
Because I’m a Stand Up Guy
Also from LaSalle’s blog entry: “Sometimes they’re in such a hurry that they have sex standing up. Ever try that? Not only do they have sex standing up, but it’s apparently easy to do.”
Granted, I don’t prefer to do it standing up, but I’ve certainly tried it, and it’s not that hard to do. And here are some movies where it’s done realistically.
Night and the City (d. Irwin Winkler) – I hate to give Winkler credit for anything on the directorial end of things, but Robert De Niro and Jessica Lange share a streetside quickie that isn’t at all implausible.
8 Mile (d. Curtis Hanson) – Maybe it’s because Brittany Murphy’s the kind of chick who seems too perpetually turned on to hold out for the bedroom. (Thanks, Dev!)
Fatal Attraction (d. Adrian Lyne) – Okay, the whole sink thing is ridiculously stylized, but some of us may or may not have had to shuffle across a room mid-coitous with their pants stuck around their ankles.
Because I’m Having Fun with This…
… but want to be thorough, I’ll be making a list of “The Worst Sex Scenes in the History of Film” over the next week. Start submitting your suggestions now.