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Let’s get this out of the way, right off the bat: there will be mild spoilers here—but these spoilers have already been posted online and not by us. Got that? I mean, we all read the Internetz, so… Anyhow, Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor” opens in theaters this weekend. Written by venerable American author Cormac McCarthy, “The Counselor” stars Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt as its principal cast. The picture is a morality drama about a greedy lawyer (Fassbender), who finds himself in over his head when he decides to delve into the dark world of drug trafficking. Shit backfires and things go way south for said attorney.
Before the film plumbs these sordid depths, however, there is a scene in the movie that has everyone talking. So much so that embargo be damned, people have felt compelled to discuss it. It's what can best be described as a sex scene (if it technically qualifies as such), and to paraphrase IGN heavily, who spoiled this moment first (and to be completely fair, we understand the temptation): Cameron Diaz plays Malkina, the opportunistic and venomous girlfriend of underworld figure Reiner (Bardem). In one scene that’s simultaneously hilarious, ridiculous and horrific, Diaz's Malkina spread eagles across the hood of a fancy sports car and proceeds to grind panty-less against the windshield until she climaxes, to the astonishment of its occupant. Why and in what context she does so, we'll leave you to find out.
Suffice to say it's disturbing, funny, all kinds of wrong and it etches itself forever into the mind of the viewer. So kinda with the same logic that the only way you can stop singing that really annoying song is to think of an even more annoying one, we thought we’d run down some other weird, horrific and horribly awesome, or awesomely horrible sex scenes. Some are comical. Some are twisted, transgressive and fucked up, and some are downright loathsome and we really don’t want to watch them again. All, however, once seen can't be unseen, so you have been warned. So with our NSFW, Parental Advisory tags plastered all over the place, here we go.
“In The Realm Of The Senses” (1976)
What’s that? Lars von Trier is making a soft-core pornography drama where the lead actors will have unsimulated sex—though of course any real penetration or sex will be performed by body doubling porn actors? That’s cute. Especially next to Japanese enfant terrible Nagisa Oshima’s 1976 erotic sex drama (read arty pornography) “In the Realm of the Senses” (though its direct, more appropriate translation is “Bullfight of Love,” American distributors apparently feeling it necessary to make it sound a bit more sensual). A fictionalized account of a real event—a 1930s brothel servant's affair with the madam's husband which leads to hubby's penis being severed with a knife—that’s actually not so much the most disturbing part (though yes, this pre-Lorena Bobbit stuff is fucked up). A sensual and very primal look at carnal desire, “In the Realm of the Senses” is pretty much constant sex, penetration, bj’s, you name it (and it’s also an examination of when love and sexual possession curdles into something rather psychotic). And yes, it’s all "real," which also makes it often uncomfortable, funny, and yes, sometimes erotic. Perhaps the strangest element of the various mutually obsessive experimenting-with-sex acts in the film—including lots of erotic asphyxiation—is the part when the male lead played by Tatsuya Fuji places a hardboiled egg into the vagina of his partner (played by Eiko Matsuda). Though, to be fair, she was feeding him mushrooms that were, shall we say, “lady flavored” just moments before. Not a film to see with your parents, or on a first date, or a second, third or 50th date, “In the Realm of the Senses” is admittedly pretty twisted and not for the faint of heart. But while it’s amusing to poke fun at the movie as pornography-made-as-art (which in many ways it is), Oshima's filmmaking mastery is fully on display too. And while it’s impossible not to giggle and act like a four year old when discussing or writing about it, it’s actually quite terrific once you get past how strange, obsessive, and even maniacal the jackrabbit-like sex can be.
“Last Tango In Paris” (1972)
Is there a more notorious sex scene in cinema history? If there is, Bernardo Bertolucci’s infamous “Last Tango In Paris” at least held the record for the better part of two decades unchallenged. Starring Marlon Brando as a lost, forsaken and recently widowed American who begins an anonymous sexual relationship with a young, betrothed Parisian woman (Maria Schneider), “Last Tango In Paris” is notorious for scandalizing audiences with its “butter” scene, a sequence so outrageous it’s very likely you heard about it years before you actually saw the movie. Let’s cut to the chase: butter is used as a lubricant for anal sex. But that’s hardly the film’s worst offender in the horrific/outrageous/unintentionally funny sex scene sweepstakes. Highly improvised and exploratory in nature—engendered by the director’s own sexual fantasies of making it with a broad without really knowing who she was—Bertolucci was basically trying to use Brando as a conduit to explore the wild possibilities of sexual abandon. Brando, brought so close to the brink of raw and utterly naked vulnerability, often times humiliated and embarrassed, never forgave Bertolucci, calling his direction a type of manipulative betrayal. He barely spoke to him again after the movie was done. Other depraved/ridiculous moments of the sex in 'Last Tango' include when Brando demands Schneider insert her fingers in his anus, and later on when he challenges her to prove her devotion by promising she’ll have sex with a pig (among other ludicrous and disgusting requests). Pauline Kael was one of the film’s biggest supporters lauding its “thrusting, jabbing eroticism,” and while it’s true Bertolucci made an unforgettable movie about desire, longing, inveterate isolation, control, emotional violence and more, there’s no question it’s still a divisive film to this day, that leaves many viewers feeling they’ve watched a pretentious art porno with characters spouting philosophical gibberish. Either way, good luck having those scenes erased from your memory.
“Body of Evidence” (1993)/”Dangerous Game” (1993)
The Dino De Laurentiis-produced erotic thriller was probably supposed to be to the ‘90s what “Last Tango In Paris” was to the ‘70s, but "Body of Evidence" wasn't fooling anyone. There’s likely no other film on this list that more aptly fits the notion of unintentionally funny sex scenes. Directed by Uli Edel (who helmed the David Bowie film “Christiane F.,” “Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “The Baader Meinhof Complex”—this is one of his darkest shames), the movie centers on a woman (Madonna) who is accused of killing a man to inherit his millions by having sex with him to death. The district attorney (Joe Mantegna) wants her to go down (in the jail sense) while her lawyer (Willem Dafoe) is a seemingly happily married man who lusts after his client before the two of them eventually embark on a sadomasochistic affair together. As you can probably tell, the film is hardly ever sexy and mostly just funny and awful. Madonna simply can’t act and while Dafoe dives in head first, he can’t help but end up a casualty as well. Pretty tame by most sadomasochistic standards, the movie is notorious for its candle wax sequences where Madonna ties up Dafoe and pours hot candle wax on his body including his penis to much sexual arousal on both their parts. That's not the only time Madonna walked that awkward line between would-be sensuality and outright comedy during sex. The flip side to this is Abel Ferrara’s mostly forgotten 1993 film starring Madonna, Harvey Keitel and James Russo, which is not unlike a “Bad Lieutenant,” only this time among filmmakers. Keitel stars a cocaine-addicted truth-seeking film director not afraid to push his actors to any depths (humiliation, all sorts of manipulative games) to achieve “true emotion” and Madge and Russo are his thespian pawns. A type of psychotic chamber drama with Keitel pushing everyone’s limits, it’s not a particularly great film, but it is memorably bad and often ridiculous, and yet another film where Madonna can’t catch a break (and while she got decent reviews, she trashed the film afterwards which vexed the always-irritable Ferrara no end).