by Christopher Campbell
Andrew Sarris may be one of the most influential American film critics, but here’s a claim, located within his recent review of In Search of a Midnight Kiss, that may not hold up to some of his better-remembered theories: “Even when we confront 40-year-old virgins of either gender, movies refuse to show them compensating for the lack of a sexual partner. There is lasting shame involved in this spectacle.”
Not to ever, ever profess superiority over Sarris, but I’ve nonetheless compiled today’s list as a way of proving the man wrong. There are actually tons and tons of masturbation scenes found in non-porn movies, from the low brow to the high brow, from as indirect as the boy wizard playing with his wand under the covers in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanto as direct as the non-simulated masturbation in Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs and John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus(which would probably feature my #1 pick, from the sound of it, if I ever bothered to see it).
The following 10 films are some of the most memorable masturbation scenes, excluding any movies that might be considered examples of, in Sarris’ words, “the fringe exploitation genres” (I’ve even gone so far as to leave out mainstream horror like The Exorcist, considering it’s crucifix masturbation is far from the self-pleasuring moments Sarris is clearly interested in). Oh, and I’ve attempted to chart these films artistically from lowbrow to high.