Reading a Reuters article about sex in movies I was surprised, but not very, by the simple truth that sex doesn't sell.
It seems that movies in which sex is a central and serious component sink without a trace. Closer, Mike Nichols' superb, unflinching look at 21st Century relationships has been critically aclaimed but didn't do much business at the box office.
Apparently we like our sex to in movies to be either violent or funny - rather than an integral, beautiful, anxiety inducing part of the intimacy within a relationship. Movies like American Pie or There's Something About Mary do so well because the sexual element is a pantomime about life, rather than a mirror. According to the article we have become a puritanical society. We like our porn at home.
I'm neither a libertine nor complete stiff, but I have to confess to feeling awkward sitting next to a complete stranger in a darkened room while 25 foot high actors simulate intercourse. I'll never forget slipping away from the office to catch a film festival showing of the French movie Betty Blue. I was seated next to a pair of precadaverous old ladies who had brought their own packet of Cameo Cream biscuits with them (and I had a distinct, disquieting feeling there was a thermos of tea stashed somewhere). One of the opening sequences was a particularly sweaty encounter to establish the intensity of the main character. I felt bad for the ladies, how awkward. No need. They loved it. As Billy Conolley sung in one of his old routines "Yer Granny's not only said it, she's done it as well."
Going along to see Stanley Kubrick's final flick "Eye's Wide Shut" made me feel I should have been wearing a raincoat. I could rationalise it away with protestations of wanting to see the film titan's magnum opus. But there has to be the lingering doubt that I might actually have some prurient interest in seeing Nichole Kidman naked. As it happened I thought the movie was a bit of a flop on all counts.
Let's be clear. I like sex. I have no qualms about it being up there on the big screen. People should be free to make sexy films and free to buy a ticket . How noble of me. I can empathise with Hollywood. Why make a movie with high principles if it is going to suck at the box office.
'Gotcha!' I hear you cry. Isn't that the opposite of what you've been saying about The One & Only™?
Not exactly. I say go ahead and make sexy movies. Movie makers have to take risks. No risk no reward. Create! It just makes sense to recognise that your fillums aren't going to be marquee blockbusters. There are now so many outlets for viewing movies that I don't think where they are shown is the point. Have you seen the latest plasma screens? In the context of the privacy of your own home they are as impressive as the silver screen.
If I want to watch artsy movies, where human sexuality is treated in an adult way (I don't mean porn - simply not the infantilisation that typifies most of Hollywood's homogenised, processed, dumb-assed teen fodder) with DVD and huge home screens the opportunities to see more intimate stories is probably greater and a better experience at home. There is the added attraction of avoiding the crunching and slurping and rustling of other people's snacks.
Isn't it bizarre, though; the US produces and consumes a vast percentage of the worlds pornography? Their citizenry run riot with weapons whose only purpose is can only be killing other humans and protest their Constitutional Right to bear arms. I have to wonder how the pursuit of happiness can be reconcilled with dodging bullets from automatic weapons in schools and churches. The same governor who attempts to intervene in the death of a brain dead woman by removing her feeding tube based on her funadmental 'right to life' also signs death warrants for prisoners in his jails. The Oscars Ceremony broadcast has a five second delay to censor any unscripted ideas (supposedly because of Janet Jackson's breast exposure at the Superbowl), but according to another online Reuters article :
"On the one hand, commentators predict that the more networks are forced to sanitize shows, the less people will be inclined to watch. But at the same time, the more a show's producer warns viewers they may be offended, the more they are likely to tune in.
"The entertainment industry is figuring out how to spin and use this paranoia we've encountered since the Super Bowl," said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.
"People wanted to make sure they were present if the next Janet Jackson moment happened."
It all reminds me of a quote "I have principles. And if you don't like those I have others." (can't remember who uttered those cynical words).
But I prefer these - from the great American thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Whoso would be a man must first be an independant".