Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hot sex central

A new post on the Guardian: the 50 hottest sex scenes in film...


My computer screen was getting all steamed up as I was doing my research into a new list of the 50 greatest sex scenes in cinema, when my mother texted me the words: "In or out?" Either she's disturbingly psychic or we were at cross-purposes.

Either way, she was asking the right question - for more than the smutty reason. Which scenes were in this list, as determined by the Independent Film Channel and, a sex, art and culture website?

Although Premiere Magazine put it top of its poll in 2003, the scene in Antonioni's Blow-Up where David Hemmings shoots Veruschka, who writhes around on the floor in bored ecstasy, doesn't feature. Evidently it must have been too coy for the IFC, or perhaps it has been ruined by Austin Powers. Is it too soon to say the exclusion would have Antonioni turning in his grave?

But back to the list. Many of the scenes are marked out by the disturbing nature of the sex. Take No 1 - Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland having grief-stricken sex in Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. It's profoundly out of place given the rest of the film, yet it is tender, erotic and tells us about the characters, as meaningful sex scenes should.

The disturbances continue through the top 10: Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello pound away at each other on the stairs in A History of Violence (2), with all the layers of deceit and mistrust involved; Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring have surreal sapphic sex in Mulholland Drive (3); while Secretary (8) and Betty Blue (6) are chock-full of odd, unhinged sex. Perhaps most disturbing is The Night Porter (12), where Nazi guard Dirk Bogarde and concentration camp survivor Charlotte Rampling reconnect.

It seems that what makes a good sex scene - according to this list - is relevance. Most of the top 50 scenes are not bolted-on attempts to sexualise some of Hollywood's mannequins but vital expressions of character and advancements of plot. Where would Brokeback Mountain (23) be without all that unzippering? Doesn't paraplegic Jon Voight going down on Jane Fonda in Coming Home (16) tell us a lot about both love and war?

Originality of combination and location lifts scenes up this poll. The orgy in Shortbus (38) certainly scores on the combination side, although I think the threesome that ends with one guy singing The Star-Spangled Banner into another guy's ass takes the palm. Team America: World Police (14) gets a mention for being clever enough to include some great shots of puppet sex.

Anyone can film Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez sucking face, but it is those scenes that move away from your standard, heated, grinding fare that really are the greatest. Now over to you: which scenes (in mainstream cinema, not porn, thank you) sent your DVD player in search of a post-coital cigarette?

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