Words By S.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Role of Sex in the Art House Film.

Filed under: Film,Popular Culture — S @ 7:38 pm
Tags: , ,

One evening, I decided to watch a documentary about sex in the indie film world.  The documentary was all about the use of real sex in art house films, as opposed to simulated sex.  It had the major art film players making commentary on the importance of using real sex and how it makes these films different from, not only their big budgeted Hollywood counterparts with their simulated sex, but also from pornography.

While I found it to be very interesting, subject matter-wise, the whole thing felt trite and pretentious (much like your average art house film).  For one, it left you with such statements as:

“In porn, you have the pizza boy who comes to the door and has sex with the lonely housewife, and that’s it. In an art film, you might have the pizza boy who comes to the door and is turmoiled and finds out who he is and his meaning through having sex with the lonely housewife.”

Therefore the difference between an art film and porn is… plot.  The pretentious filmmakers also used the documentary as a soapbox to make social commentary and assumed that anyone who opposes their use of real sex in films is “afraid of sex”:

“I hope that people will be less afraid of sex in movies and less afraid of sex in their own lives.”

Really?

How typical/predictable/any other synonym you can think of.

I didn’t like your piece of crap film that was sex-laden and weak-plotted, therefore I must be afraid of sex.  Your film couldn’t have just sucked.

The best example of an art film that utilizes actor/actress actually engaging in intercourse is Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs.  I was intrigued when it was initially released, however I never went to see it.   Normally, I am one for forming my own opinion after watching a film, however this time I allowed numerous reviews (both positive and negative) do the dirty work – so to speak.

The plot of 9 Songs, for those that don’t know, is: American girl goes to study at a school in England, and she and English lad “fall in love”.  The entire story is told through the young man’s fond memories of his first love.  They include nine indie rock shows (hence the title), and lots of sex.   From what I understand, there is not much acting in this film – the minimal dialogue that is in the film is 100% improvised, the concerts come from stock footage, and the sex comprises probably about 90% of the film.

The selling point of the film is supposed to be the “real sex” – even highlighted by the movie poster:

Essentially, what Michael Winterbottom appears to have done is to attempt to see just how much sex and nudity he could get away with by creating a 69 (get it?) minute amateur porn under the guise of “art film;” and naturally, Winterbottom fans sopped it up as a “great/important/beautiful work of art”.

From what I understand, the actress (Margo Stilley) has attempted to remove her name from this film.  I guess she must be afraid of sex too, huh?

The documentary didn’t make me feel one way or another about the use of real versus simulated sex in film, but it did make me highly irritated with the pretension and self-importance of indie filmmakers.  For one, I can fully understand when sex (real or not) is used to aid a story (i.e. Requiem For A Dream), but not when sex is used as a shock factor in a film that has no real story or a weak plot.  Lastly, I find it highly insulting for anyone, let alone a filmmaker, to assume that his consumer is closed-minded or afraid of sex just because they don’t eat up the product.

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4 Comments »

  1. This is quite an interesting topic, S – why exactly is real sex somehow less acceptable to that which is acted? Pretensionn comes in many ways in the movie world: my favourite was the director of Hostel 2 (a sadistic schlock movie)who justified the viloence and sadism as the result of his attempt to guide people thogh a post September 11 period of anxiety…yeah, right…

    Comment by oscarandre — Sunday, 7 September 2008 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

  2. You know, OA, I’m not entirely sure why that is. If I were to venture a guess, it would probably be something about real penetration (typically used only in X-rated film) and, from “moral” standpoint, because the actors typically aren’t married to one another. Knowing how the US tends to be on its moral high ground, it’s probably moreso the latter.

    Eli Roth (director of the ‘Hostel’ movies) is a douchebag, so I never consider any of what he says. That said, I wonder what his excuse for the first ‘Hostel’ was. Torture-porn, that’s all those movies are (‘Saw’ included).

    Comment by S — Sunday, 7 September 2008 @ 7:40 pm | Reply

  3. For one, I can fully understand when sex (real or not) is used to aid a story (i.e. Requiem For A Dream), but not when sex is used as a shock factor in a film that has no real story or a weak plot.Lastly, I find it highly insulting for anyone, let alone a filmmaker, to assume that his consumer is closed-minded or afraid of sex just because they don’t eat up the product.

    The above would sum up my views pretty succinctly. I’m a Christian and a virgin but have no problem with sex in films once it’s relevant to the story or making an important statement with regard to character and plot. The portrayal of it can make the difference. Obviously I wouldn’t condone real sex but then the rest of the world isn’t exactly following that rule and I’d still go see the film. Sort of open like that. Few years of dance with girls attached to your hip and jumping onto your waist tends to knock any prudeness or frigidity out of you.

    I have two friends who are artists. One of them is of the opinion that anything can be art. I can call this comment art. It might be crap art but according to his definition I can call it art. I’m not sure I agree with him as for me, the whole point of art is to be inspired. It’s what humanity is about. My friend gets a bit miffed when I say that a game of soccer is art and obviously better than any painting/sculpture/performance piece because it is so popular and lives and breathes, etc. He doesn’t like it when I do that.

    Sometimes I think people can get too obsessed with sex. Whether for shock value or just in general. Get a kick out of trying to offend people who share my beliefs. Think it says more about them than anything. Wouldn’t the challenge be to make a film that talked about love and romance and attraction but didn’t have sex in it? Just my two cents.

    I’ve been subbed to your blog for a long time so it’s nice to see you post infrequent in comparison to me as it is :-)

    Comment by Red Wine Gums — Wednesday, 10 September 2008 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  4. If it is important to have “real sex” in films, then why not also have “real violence” (actual knifings?) and “real death” (how about someone committing suicide in front of the cameras?)?

    It would be interesting to hear the “artistic” reasons why this would not be acceptable and why those reasons don’t also apply to “real sex”.

    Comment by SilverTiger — Monday, 15 September 2008 @ 5:04 pm | Reply


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