It's All About Sex in Berlin
Sexual motifs take centrestage at the ongoing 63rd Berlin Film Festival as several films replete with nudity, orgies, pornstars and influential men premiere at the film festival, Aseem Chhabra reports.
If the films that have premiered at the film festival so far are any indication, sex really does sell.
However, sometimes the way it is depicted on screen can also be boring.
In veteran French filmmaker Jacques Doillon's Love Battles, a young man and a woman meet in a rural setting.
The woman is upset that the man is not turned on by her advances and hence starts to attack him -- verbally at first and then physically. If there is any tenderness between the two, it comes when they have thrown each other in mud.
Many people understandably walked out of the screening of Love Battles.
There is a touch of Last Tango in Paris in Love Battles, but mostly the film is pretentious and the sex rather unpleasant, dull to watch.
Image: A scene from Love Battles
Hugh Heffner (or rather Hollywood star James Franco, who plays him) makes a brief appearance in Lovelace, a biopic based on the life of Linda Lovelace (she was born Linda Susan Boreman), the tormented star of the iconic and hugely successful pornographic film Deep Throat.
It has reportedly grossed $600 million since its release in 1972.
Directed by former documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman, Lovelace follows the conventional narrative form and lacks the indepth exploration of the American porn industry as we saw in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Night.
But it boasts of some very fine performances by its lead and supporting casts -- Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard and an exceptionally fine and almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone.
Image: A scene from Lovelace
Don Jon's Addiction
Carrying further the torch of sex in cinema, the terrific Joseph Gordon-Levitt has written and directed his first feature Don Jon's Addiction.
It is a hilarious comedy packed with online porn images and sex talk.
In the film, Gordon-Levitt plays a character he's never played before -- Don Jon, a young Italian American who is obsessed with women and sex, but he gets his greatest thrills from Internet porn.
The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, who makes Gordon-Levitt's character more or less monogamous, but he still can't stop looking at porn sites.
The lovely Julianne Moore stars as a woman in mourning and is drawn to Jon's online sexual interest.
Image: Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Sex is explored in a very real and admirable way in the Chilean film Gloria, screened in the competition section at the Berlinale.
The film looks at the romantic and sexual adventures of a 60-plus single mother of two adults.
At times hilarious, Gloria shows what is rarely explored in films -- older actors (in their 60s and 70s) completely naked, performing sexual intercourse.
We are all drawn to films with naked young sexy stars (Julie Delpy walks around topless for nearly 10 minutes in Before Midnight), but Gloria reminds us that it is okay for senior citizens to have sexual desires.
Image: A scene from Gloria
The Look of Love
Paul Raymond -- the British entrepreneur who brought hit nude shows (Pajama Games) on West End and owned the successful Men's Only magazine in UK and US, rightly claimed that he was a mind reader and could tell what the audience wanted.
Raymond's story, told through the film The Look of Love, is a delightful entertainer and certainly a film made for adults (the film is replete with scenes of naked women, orgies and drug use).
Directed by the prolific British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (Trishna, A Mighty Heart), the film premiered at the 63rd Berlinale on Febraury 10.
Starring the exceptionally talented British actor and comedian Steve Coogan, The Look of Love traces the amusing, sometimes tragic story of Raymond, the women in his life, and his one weakness, his daughter Debbie.
Image: A scene from The Look of Love
Interior. Leather Bar.
And James Franco returns -- this time as co-director and one of the actors in an hour-long film titled Interior. Leather Bar. that re-enacts the 40 lost minutes of intense gay sex scenes that were deleted from William Friedkin's controversial 1980 thriller Cruising.
In Cruising Al Pacino played an undercover cop who frequented gay leather bars in search of a serial killer who was murdering gay men. Friedkin had to cut the scenes to avoid the film getting an X rating (this was before the Motion Pictures Association of America developed the NC-17 rating).
But in re-working the scenes Franco and co-director Travis Mathews attempt to play on our fascination for sex but also our discomfort of watching the acts unfold even on screen in dark movie theaters.
However, Franco and Mathews are not clear about their purpose and neither are their actors. And so Interior. Leather Bar. turns out to be pretentious exercise that will most definitely not make it to theaters outside of festival circuits.
Image: A scene from Interior. Leather Bar.