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.”


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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