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Watch: 5 Cinematic Threesomes With Narrative Value (and 5 With Not So Much)

By /bent | /Bent February 5, 2014 at 11:24AM

The cinematic threesome is a curious beast - curious enough that someone made a whole film on the subject (1994’s “Threesome”). Some are so infamous they have eclipsed the fame of the film in which they feature - certainly the case with “Wild Things," a perfect definition of a softcore Hollywood sex scene, complete with a nice wide shot of Matt Dillon in a quite clear state of complete non-arousal.
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Y Tu Mama También

The cinematic threesome is a curious beast - curious enough that someone made a whole film on the subject (1994’s “Threesome”). Some are so infamous they have eclipsed the fame of the film in which they feature - certainly the case with “Wild Things” (watch clip here), a perfect definition of a softcore Hollywood sex scene, complete with a nice wide shot of Matt Dillon in a quite clear state of complete non-arousal.

Some threesomes attract attention because they feature one or more famous stars. In fact there is a familiar theme beyond that - whether a post-Twilight Kristen Stewart in “On the Road”  (watch here), a post-Gossip Girl Blake Lively in “Savages” (watch here) or a post-High School Musical Vanessa Hudgens in “Spring Breakers” (watch here) the threesome seems to have become a surefire way for a young actress to create a little controversy and demonstrate their risk-taking credentials.

But isolated from the headlines, how much interest do the scenes mentioned above really hold? The answer is relatively little, in creative or narrative terms. And it is not beyond noting that all of the above young female actresses were working for middle-aged male directors. The same is true of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (watch here), whose famous kiss between Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz does not feel like the most original and honest way to depict that particular character dynamic.

Yet there do exist films that attempt to do something a little more interesting with the concept of a threesome, whether or not it’s always convincing or admirable. Here are five examples, including -- oddly enough -- films from the directors of the two frontrunners for this year's best picture Oscar.


1. American Psycho

Pontificating about the music of Phil Collins and admiring yourself in the mirror during sex? Director Mary Harron perfectly captures the absurd vanity at play when Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman hires two prostitutes to meet his bizarre desires.


2. Y Tu Mama También

Alfonso Cuaron is equally tuned into the vanity of male desire as he traces the tension between teenage best friends Julio and Tenoch while they compete for the affections of the older Luisa. But when the three come together one drunken night, tensions acquire a whole new flavor.


3. Ken Park
Whether Larry Clark’s gaze is exploitative is another question. But his efforts to bring a level of truth and realism to the portrayal of teen sex is unquestionable, as attested by this threesome sequence, with conversations and laughter intercut with explicit real sex. Watch clip on NSFW website (you've been warned)

4. The Dreamers
Not so much a scene as an entire film freighted by the push-pull allure of an intimate menage-a-trois featuring a brother and sister. Is the film subtle and alluring in its pushing of such buttons, or coy and rather tame? We remain on the fence.


5. Shame

After a foray into a gay sex club (a clear sign of spiritual breakdown, according to Steve McQueen), Michael Fassbender’s character proceeds to have rather pained sex with two prostitutes. The trouble is, there still feels like something of the admirer in McQueen’s lens. Which may be a powerful statement on sexual pleasure. Or may reveal the film as a bit of a fraud. Watch NSFW clip here (you've been warned)