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21 Movies About Weird, Kinky Or Compulsive Sex

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist March 20, 2014 at 3:00PM

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac,” Volume 1 of which opens in the US this weekend (our review is here) is not Shia LaBeouf’s accent, it's that it’s a film that is totally, unashamedly, unavoidably about sex. While coitus, rumpy, intercourse, balling, humping, beast-with-two-back-making does feature in some shape or form with extreme frequency in cinema, it only rarely forms the central, wait for it, thrust of the story, likely partly because distributors (especially in the U.S.) are often accused of a streak of puritanism when it comes to sex, particularly when compared to the their much more carefree attitude toward violence, and partly because even today mainstream audiences can be put off by even a whiff of the smutty-old-man-in-a-dirty-mac connotation. Which means that furthermore, films like “Nymphomaniac” that delve into the darker recesses of human sexuality--power play, taboo fantasies and fetishes, BDSM, sex addiction, etc--are even fewer.
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Films About Weird, Kinky or Compulsive Sex

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” (both parts are now on VOD: here's our review of Part 1 and Part 2) is Shia LaBeouf’s accent that it’s a film that is totally, unashamedly, unavoidably about sex. While coitus, rumpy, intercourse, balling, humping, beast-with-two-back-making does feature in some shape or form with extreme frequency in cinema, it only rarely forms the central, wait for it, thrust of the story, likely partly because distributors (especially in the U.S.) are often accused of a streak of puritanism when it comes to sex, particularly when compared to the their much more carefree attitude toward violence, and partly because even today mainstream audiences can be put off by even a whiff of the smutty-old-man-in-a-dirty-coat connotation. Which means that furthermore, films like “Nymphomaniac” that delve into the darker recesses of human sexuality—power play, taboo fantasies and fetishes, BDSM, sex addiction, etc.—are even fewer.

We dabbled in this arena not so long ago, choosing to, um “celebrate” the grotesque and unforgettable image of Cameron Diaz grinding into a car windshield in "The Counselor," by running down 15 Weird Sex Scenes, having already run down the Best and Worst Sex Scenes. But it got us to thinking about films that took the bold stance of "Nymphomaniac" further, that built their whole narrative around shocking, discomfiting or fetishistic sex. So while avoiding tamer stuff that we’ve covered before, like in our Losing Your Virginity Movies feature, and also while trying to steer largely clear of the erotic thriller subgenre that deserves a feature all to itself someday (sorry “Basic Instinct” fans) we zipped open the eyeholes on our gimp masks and handcuffed ourselves to the DVD player, to bring you 21 films that, from comedies to dramas to uncategorizable arthouse explorations, walk on the wilder, weirder, and often more worrisome side of sex.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” (1975)
Almost certainly the most “extreme” film on this list, Pasolini's “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” is easy to hate for its intricate, extensive, apparently uncomplicated depiction of relentless sexual depravity and cruelty, and no-one can be blamed for turning it off halfway through. But this—the last film Pasolini completed before his murder and one which ever since its 1975 release has been frequently condemned, cut and outright banned—has much more to it than pointless nastiness. An adaptation of a book by the man who gave his name to sadism was never going to get made into a ride at Disneyland, and the Marquis de Sade's book “The 120 Days of Sodom” is literally a meticulous list of taboo acts of sex and violence, with an extremely thin framing device that's abandoned halfway through: but Pasolini creates from it a film that's less about sex than it is about power and its exercise. It's not even really about fascism—the quartet of abusers could belong to almost any time or place and have no agenda beyond their own pleasure—and nor is it an examination of psychology: rather, “Salò” is about the way in which power becomes an end in itself, and one that we all desire: and its message is thus all the more horrifying in its universality. We still don't blame you if you want to watch something else instead, though. [B+]

Crash”

Crash” (1996)
“Like a porno movie made by a computer… in a mistaken algorithm” is how Roger Ebert memorably described David Cronenberg’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel about auto crash paraphiliacs. And he meant that in a good way—”Crash” may be one of the most all-time perfect marriages of the aesthetic and thematic approach of a particular director with the philosophy and mood of his source material. Starring, for the third time on this list, that kinkster James Spader, along with Holly Hunter, Deborah Unger, Rosanna Arquette and Elias Koteas, the film is really remarkable, though for the cerebral sterility of its execution as, once again, body-horror expert Cronenberg manages to engage the brain and turn the stomach while bypassing the heart entirely. It’s a truly fascinating, brilliant film, deeply upsetting and prescient in what it suggests about our relationship with technology and how it might be in the process of breaking down our ability to connect with one another as humans. Of course, at the time it sparked outrage and a few bans (though also won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes), for its unadorned portrayal of the particular fetish of being sexually aroused by car crashes (and we have to believe in particular the scene in which Spader fucks Arquette’s leg wound), and yet it is an extraordinarily bloodless affair, cool and metallic to the touch; we can only wonder how splashily sensationalist it might have become in hands less surgical than Cronenberg’s. Thankfully, this is the version we got, and as provocative, grown-up fare, it’s close to essential. [A]

Exit To Eden

Exit to Eden” (1994)
Most of the time, writing about movies is a great honor and a privilege, but there are rare occasions on which we feel like martyrs. The bullet we took for you this time out stars Dan Aykroyd, Rosie O’Donnell, Dana Delaney and Paul Mercurio in a story that, beggaring belief, is based on an Anne Rampling (aka Anne Rice) novel. But while director Garry Marshall and the producers clearly were intrigued by the idea of a film set on an island where people go to explore their domination/submission fantasies, in their wisdom they also decided that what the fetish romance storyline of the novel needed, was a HI-LARIOUS early-90s plot involving a diamond smuggling pair of villains who are chased onto the island by a pair of wacky cops, the female one of whom is less thin than all the other women on the island! In fact, unbelievable though it may be, O’Donnell is actually the one who comes out of this horribly misjudged sad trombone of a film with the most dignity intact; Aykroyd is non-existent as her partner, Mercurio awkward and stockily beefed up from his svelte “Strictly Ballroom” days and Delaney just horribly, horribly miscast as the dominatrix “Mistress” who rides around on a horse wearing a succession of filmy togas. And spare a thought for poor, unbelievably beautiful Iman, who, on this evidence, should have restricted her acting career to the odd Tia Maria commercial. We watched this pile of crap so you don’t have to—you don’t have to thank us, just Never Forget. [F]

This article is related to: Features, Feature, Nymphomaniac


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