There’s nothing like a little nasty film noir to get your blood boiling and your pulse racing! Writer-director Lawrence Kasdan’s sweaty (and we do mean sweaty) melodrama is a hoot and a holler, with Kathleen Turner‘s portrayal of Matty Walker, a slinky vixen who seduces and induces a small-time lawyer (William Hurt) to murder her rich husband (Richard Crenna), rating as one of the all-time great femme fatale performances. The film opens with a tighty-whitey-clad Hurt (who does well cast against type as not the brightest bulb in the living room) engaged in post-coital musing about the fire across town as his lover struggles to get dressed; Matty ends up playing a bit more hard to get than his usual sexual conquests, causing him to smash her glass door with a chair before engaging in a standing-up session of hard kissing and gaspy groping. “Please. Do it. Now!” exclaims Matty when they finally make it to the floor as John Barry’s sax-heavy retro-score swells and sweeps. Yeah, go get her, you fool. Body Heat is a devilish treat featuring dumb people doing evil things, with seemingly half the dialogue dedicated to talking about how damn hot it is.
Director Alfonso Cuaron takes us on one of the hottest (and, ultimately, saddest) road trips ever, as two teenagers, Tenoch and Julio (Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal), meet the super-sexy (and at least ten years older) Luisa (Maribel Verdu) at a wedding and convince her to join them on a journey to a secluded (and completely invented) beach; their sexual fantasies come true when she becomes a lover to them both, and this older woman has much to teach these eager yet somewhat unrefined muchachos. Luna is up to bat first as Verdu seduces him in a hotel room, where he ejaculates in about ten seconds (which causes her to put her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh); Bernal’s jealousy doesn’t last long as he gets a shot the next day in the back seat of their car, an equally hot yet awkward exchange. All good stuff and all, but the film’s real show-stopper moment comes later, when the three retire to their hotel room after a night of heavy drinking — the boys initially focus their gropings and affections on Verdu, though as she goes down on them both, they start becoming interested in each other. Muy bueno. There’s passion enough for everyone in this one-of-a-kind coming-of-age film, which served as a calling card in getting Cuaron the directing gig on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, of all things.
This movie’s actually kind of, well, gross, but it’s one of those movies you have to see (or at least say you’ve seen) if you consider yourself any kind of “film lover.” Why? Hey, we don’t make the rules. Actually, Last Tango in Paris is considered one of the great tragic romances, with an American widower (Marlon Brando) who’s trying to come to terms with his wife’s sudden suicide striking up an even more sudden, anonymous affair with a French woman (Maria Schneider) who’s on the verge of getting married herself. Director Bernardo Bertolucci explores both grief and lust in all of their histrionic selfishness, with a mumbling Brando delivering a wild, unpredictable performance full of animalistic rage and swaggering, drunken bravado (and Schneider just trying to keep up). Whatever, though — it’s the sex that you’ve come for, and while their sometimes bizarre couplings may inspire discomfort more than titillation, they’re the key elements to one of the greatest mysteries in the history of erotic cinema: Did they really do it? Well, Brando is a notorious method actor, and Bertolucci is simply notorious, so you fill in the blanks — though, ultimately, there may not be any blanks that need filling. If nothing else, after dancing this Tango, you won’t look at butter the same way ever again.
“She talks too much,” says Greta as she hangs up the phone, signaling even more that the time for talk is over as she begins kissing her live-in girlfriend, Lucy (Ally Sheedy). Their would-be impromptu lovemaking session on the couch is cut short, however, when the heroin-addicted Greta passes out right when Lucy is about to really get busy. All is not well with this relationship, and it’s time for a change — luckily, a leak in her ceiling causes their downstairs neighbor, Syd (Radha Mitchell), to come knocking; soon, Lucy has returned to her career as a professional photographer with Syd as her editor, though their collaboration doesn’t stay strictly professional for very long. Director Lisa Cholodenko (who would later explore another complex lesbian relationship in The Kids Are All Right) deftly passes no judgments on these confused, passionate souls, leaving them to work out their many, many issues at their own pace; this hands-off and almost elusive approach to the story turns High Art into a strangely dream-like, almost voyeuristic experience — you always feel like you’re in the corner of the room with these people, and you probably shouldn’t be, and yet here you are, watching away as they grope and grind and cry and scream, struggling to find happiness while embracing supposed social taboos. High Art is a fiery, dripping, aching pleasure.
Be warned, ye of wanderlust: there is no true “paradise.”Everything is grand for young Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) when he first finds the secluded beach that serves as a home to a bunch of hippies who don’t want to deal with things like jobs and credit cards; he frolics in the sun and sand all day, chain-smoking, fighting off sharks, playing GameBoy and eventually banging the hot French girl he met en route (Virginie Ledoyen). However, when he accompanies the community’s stern matriarch, Sal (Tilda Swinton), to the mainland for a supply run, he reveals that he gave a map to their precious hideaway to a bunch of strangers — something you’re not ever supposed to do (the beach is kind of like Fight Club, and you know the first two rules of Fight Club). In exchange for her not telling the others about his little faux pas, they engage in one of the most impossibly art-directed sex scenes ever filmed, their silhouettes obscured behind tattered Thailand curtains as they furiously writhe in a rather uncomfortable and inconvenient-looking sexual position (is it really worth all that trouble?). Anyway, this exercise in “sex is power” causes all sorts of problems with the Frenchie when they return (never mind that she had cheated on her own boyfriend with Richard), which marks the beginning of the end for their merry band of sun-burned self-isolationists. See? There’s no “paradise” that’s safe from sexual jealousy and eventually defaulting to maniacal fascism.