During one of my stints in the fast food industry, I had a manager who wrote SEX in bright block lettering atop every important message she tacked to the breakroom bulletin board. It was usually followed by the clever parenthetical: “Now that I’ve got your attention.”
In a couple hours I’ll be joining some friends for a lunch-time discussion of Eyes Wide Shut. A month or so ago, we happened upon the theme of “the philosophy of sex” for our film group, and in the weeks since we’ve watched the remake of Solaris (we did the Tarkovsky last fall), Sex, Lies & Videotape, and, now, the Kubrick film. I get to make the next pick and, so, I’m looking for suggestions:
What is your favorite film that touches upon the “philosophy of sex”? Feel free to interpret that phrase however you see fit.
The first three films have worked fairly well together, though Videotape, which I’d never seen before, is awfully muddled. (It made me wish we’d watched Peeping Tom or Medium Cool, instead.) What energized our discussion of Solaris was the question of subjectivity — does Kelvin love Rheya, or does he love his purely subjective rendering of her, “Rheya”? Do I love Joanna, or do I love “Joanna,” this woman I know so intimately and yet will never actually know? Eyes Wide Shut, I think, is a nightmarish rendering of this question, so I’m looking forward to lunch.
None of my friends have seen Birth, so it would be a logical and interesting next choice, but I’ve seen it so many times lately and have given it so much thought, I would rather select something a bit fresher. A couple ideas:
Carnal Knowledge (Nichols, 1971) — Haven’t seen it for years. Also, it’s an obvious influence on Sex, Lies & Videotape.
Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci, 1972) — I was way too young the one time I saw this and had no context for making sense of it. Does it stand up?
You’d think I was fixated on the 1970s film renaissance, but I promise it wasn’t by design. I’ll take recommendations from any era, any genre, any country. The only other criterion is that it be readily available on DVD. I have a week or so to come up with my pick.
By the way, last night was the first time I’d watched Eyes Wide Shut in several years. I’d like to trim 1,500 words or so from the essay, but I stand by my reading of the film. The one difference for me this time was that it struck me as even more death-obsessed than I’d remembered. Also, I still can’t make sense of the very first image: Kidman slipping out of a black evening dress. It’s not the same dress she wears to the party. Obviously, the point of the shot is to show a beautiful naked woman — or, more specifically, a beautiful naked wife and mother — but does it have a narrative purpose? My pet theory is that this is the only “real” image in the entire film — the last sight Bill glimpses before drifting off to sleep.