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« Heinlein | Main | Walter Murch Edits "Cold Mountain" »

December 18, 2003

Sexy Movies, Episode One Million

Dear Friedrich --

Wandering around a local video parlor, I noticed that some sexy movies I've enjoyed can now be rented on DVD. Are they new to DVD? Beats me, but who cares? The world of digital entertainment is one where everything that's available qualifies as eternally new.

Note: I'm not -- repeat, I am not -- arguing these are good movies. I'm simply saying that I enjoyed watching them; maybe you will too. Is anyone really so snobbish that he or she insists that a movie be "good" before enjoying it? Or, conversely, that just because he or she enjoyed a movie, that makes it good? Certainly no one with the class and brains to visit 2Blowhards would make such a silly mistake.

  • Wide Sargasso Sea -- A small-scale but voluptuous John Duigan adaptation of a late Jean Rhys novella -- a prequel to "Jane Eyre" set on a Caribbean island. As a viewing experience, it's stormy, moody, wailing, and narcissistic, with a turbulent but silky surface, and with the entrancingly beautiful part-Cherokee, part-Tahitian Karina Lombard in the lead. (If anyone's in the mood to read a Jean Rhys novella, let me suggest skipping "Wide Sargasso Sea" and trying "Good Morning, Midnight" instead. It's buyable here.) This is one of those erotic movies women seem to enjoy a lot, like the Venice-set Dangerous Beauty (about classy courtesans) and the Spanish film Sex and Lucia, both of which are also now available on DVD. (I posted about "Sex and Lucia" here.)

  • To Live and Die in L.A., and Jade -- Overproduced, heavy-handed, sleazy thrillers from the incomparable (don't miss the relish and irony in my use of the word, please) William Friedkin. In an earnest mood, I'd argue that "To Live and Die" is a juicy example of its rough-you-up, decadent genre while "Jade" falls flat on its face. But why should I be earnest (and why should I try to turn my pleasures into an argument) when the simple fact is that I had a good time watching both of these movies, which were full of cops, murders, semi-ludicrous but entertaining sophistication about sex and drugs, and tons of gritty, slam-bang carrying-on? Though they were made fairly recently, they're like examples of a certain kind of hyper-profane, '70s Robert Evans production; in fact, "Jade" was produced by Evans, who's pretty incomparable in his own right. William Petersen, the star of "To Live and Die," has always reminded me of FvBlowhard, if after a few extra weeks on the Opti-Fast regimen. Perhaps Petersen is a Son of the Midwest too?

  • Dancing at the Blue Iguana -- Definitely not a good movie, though I wouldn't have missed it for the world and would be happy to sit through it again. It's a semi-improvised acting-fest about life at a strip club, starring Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly, Sandra Oh and Sheila Kelley. T&A aside (and there isn't nearly as much skin in the movie as one might want), it's an interesting filmmaking experiment, though I realize there's no way to make such a claim without putting myself in the ludicrous position of the man who says he reads Playboy for the articles. Still and all: the director, Michael Radford, worked the script up from his actresses' research and improvs; he roughed out an early version on DV; and he then reconvened the cast and crew and put a final version on film. He was working, in other words, like a painter might, starting with a sketchbook, developing charcoal cartoons from his sketches, and then realizing the project as an oil painting -- more films, IMHO, should be made this way. Alas, much of what this team came up with is drivel and banality, though it's certainly acted with a lot of conviction; though Charlotte Ayanna (as the group's debutante stripper) is a real find; and though Daryl Hannah got herself in amazing shape for the project. Note to anyone tempted to have a PC tizzy-fit about about exploitation and such: "Blue Iguana" was the hot movie of its season for actresses to get themselves cast in. They were eager to appear in this film. Puh-leeze: let's remember that actors are not like you and me; they're generally exhibitionistic (if shyly so), ambitious, and amoral. (I say this fondly and admiringly.) I notice that the DVD includes a documentary that Daryl Hannah shot about the making of the film. It's pretty dizzy in its own right, but as Hannah hangs out behind the scenes at a real strip club, you can sense her objectivity about the craft of the women she's studying; she's a performer sizing up other performers.

  • The Housekeeper -- My long-ish appreciation of this low-key French winner is here. Short version: a rumpled, worldly, melancholy, painful-in-just-the-right-way, middle-age Gallic dramady about age and youth, beautifully written and acted, and shot through with what might plausibly be called an erotic appreciation of life generally.

  • Tokyo Decadence -- Chic, absurd Euro-style art-porn directed by the badboy Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami, about a recent college grad who works as an S&M call girl. Not very memorable, god knows, but the Wife and I had a good time staring in bewilderment at it; ever since watching the film we've enjoyed repeating the line "You very big Japanese businessman!" to each other. We say the line then crack up, to our friends' consternation. "Tokyo Decadence" is full of plate glass, high-tech hotel rooms, news reports in the background, and aimless stumbling-about -- do we suspect that something about "alienation" and "modern life" is getting said? The movie has its pretentions, god knows -- but is that a bad thing? I wouldn't want an art-sex film not to have pretentions; pretentions are part of what makes an art-sex film sexy, and part of what makes an art-sex film not-porn too. Then it's back to the leather, the knots, and the whimpering.

Holiday cheers for adults, all of them best savored after the kiddies have gone to bed.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at December 18, 2003




Comments

"You very big Japanese businessman!"

Definitely a classic; I'll be saying this to myself and I never even saw the film. Such goofy lines are truly one of the glories of bad film-making...which may, actually, offer just as much as good filmmaking in the overall economy of life.

Thanks for the phrase, you very big American blogger, you!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 18, 2003 08:29 PM



I'm gonna have to remember that line too---it might be pragmatically handy, and work with any nationality! You VERY big American plumber! You VERY big French diplomat!

There was a movie in the early '90's with Richard Gere and Kim Basinger (One hot sex scene, for fans of either)--"Final Analysis". Richard Gere is explaining why he has fallen for Kim Basinger (ominous music here) and he says, "It's been a long time since I was surprised," while, due to the, um, limitations of Gere's emoting, he managed to look as bored and unsurprised as is possible.

(PS--unrelated, but connected to your recent post about "Love Actually" I read an interview with the stars in "Time." And the interviewer actually asked Liam Neeson if his underrated comic moments in "Schindler's List" is what got him cast in this comedy. I thought that was funnier than anything in the movie!).

Posted by: annette on December 18, 2003 09:27 PM



One of the problems with having teenagers in the house is that they never go to bed earlier than thier parents. In our house, "It's a Wonderful Life" will be about as sexy as it will get.

Posted by: Deb on December 18, 2003 10:59 PM



The Wife tells me she thinks I've misremembered that line from "Tokyo Decadence." According to her, the Japanese callgirl says, "You very important Japanese businessman."

I think I like that version better than the one I thought I remembered...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 18, 2003 11:30 PM



I think it's a riot that a man would confuse "big" and "important"...

Posted by: annette on December 19, 2003 09:56 AM



TLADILA is such a classic period piece, it should be cast in amber and preserved forever. There are SO many stereotypes and assumptions therein that just plain have not survived. The idea of a Treasury agent fly-fishing or BASE jumping today is utterly laughable. Mr. Tortured Artist/Counterfeiter with a ho for a girlfriend is a crack-up, too. If it wasn't the progenitor of Miami Vice, I'll eat my hat (unless I've got my timelines totally screwed up, and then I won't.)

I can honestly say I never say I found it very sexy, though. Top-notch gunplay, and didn't someone blow up real good, too?

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 20, 2003 02:21 AM



PS Big isn't the same as important, then?

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 20, 2003 02:22 AM



fyi -- William Petersen is from Evanston, Illinois, and went to college in Idaho. You're right on, Michael.

Posted by: Kari on December 22, 2003 11:45 AM






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