At this stage in the quarantine many students will have clocked Pornhub. Exhausted. Self-loathing. But hungry for more. A choice thus remains. Do you restart that brave campaign, closing the doors of your bathroom followed by exasperated screaming of “I’ll be out in a fucking minute!”. Or do you traverse into more educational and artsy hobbies to spend your remaining isolated days? I beg the question, is it too much to ask for both?
In 2013, The Wolf of Wall Street emerged as a three-hour marathon, detailing the excessive lifestyle of New York financial guru Jordan Belfort. Aside from the drugs and motherfucking swearing, the levels of nudity were outlandishly noteworthy. The plane scene sketched into my skull like marble rock. Naked people running in hotel lobbies and callously fucking in public bathrooms. Yet, what struck me about this masterpiece is that it was an outstanding piece of cinema, scripted and directed with neurosurgery-esque precision. Letting Wall Street be my springboard, I decided to search for like-minded, but far more exotic, pictures one could watch in their living room with full volume, whilst also getting aroused. Although not to watch with parents, they are movies which will certainly precipitate boners. Above all, they are quality pieces of cinema with hard-hitting social commentary. Hence these films are the perfect mediums to watch porn, without really watching porn.
We’ll start with 2011’s Shame. Save it for your 14th date, rather than the first. It follows Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a New York executive who is plagued with a sex-addiction. Besides the banking career, his days are consumed by online porn, masturbating and sex with prostitutes. The film comments on the highly neurotic addiction of sex. Unlike the needle punctures and rotting teeth of class A obsessions, the scars of sex-addiction linger in the mind, consuming thought and action. The film is icy, propelled by compelling performances which are as realistic as they are shocking. Sex and nudity are aplenty, but your libido may not reach its tingling threshold. On the contrary, the disturbing scenes of domestic violence between Brandon and his sister (Carey Mulligan) in the shower will loiter in your mind like a war siren. A solidly crafted film, yet stirs at the heart, allowing us to question our own relationships and possible addictions with unforgiving veracity.
Ok, let’s turn up the heat, blurring the lines between cinema and pool-cleaner documentary. Stepping into this category with relentless passion is 2013’s Blue is the Warmest Colour. The film charts the high school years of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a teenager whose freedoms and desires are fully expressed when Emma (Léa Seydoux) enters her life. Buckle up, because this film makes Wall Street look like an art history documentary. Colour boasts some of the most explicit lesbian sex scenes seen on film. Nothing is suggested. The action is raw and sustained, with some scenes lasting minutes at a time. If you’re caught watching this feature, your explanation will have more leaks than the Iraqi navy. Yet, if this picture were just a series of sex scenes it would be problematic and lazy filmmaking. Thankfully, director Abdellatif Kechiche has more on his mind. Through the eyes of Adèle we experience the breathless excitement of first love and first physical contact, and inevitably, all the other experiences that make life the way it is. Sex is their dialogue, mediating the characters anger, despair and happiness. Life is beautifully documented in this film, but your parents may have difficulty in accepting that excuse. (Editor’s note:Many involved with the film disavow this movie, in part due to accusations made against the director for varying kinds of abuse.)
Finally, we arrive at la crème de la crème. “Oh for fucks sake” will be shrieked by flatmates passing by your bedroom door. 2013’s Nymphomaniac is designed around sex. It draws you into the libido of the characters, feeling their excitement and perspiring sweat. The sex in Shame or Colour has an emotive function, channelling the characters hatred, lust and despair. While conventional films use dialogue as an expression for characters feelings, these films use sex. Nymphomaniac has no such function. Whatever message the film is trying to convey, it is washed away by the explicit, misogynistic and violent images delivered. If complex ideas and themes were a precursor to the film’s development, they are lost memories in the final product. Such scenes include young girls lap dancing older men, spanking, explicit blow jobs on trains, rape and full on penetrative sex. Is this art? Well I suppose art is subjective. Is this porn? Defenders of this film will have a hard time making distinctions.
If you need porn with a bit of characterization and story arc, these films may deliver. But they are hard hitting and emotionally draining. They do not comment on the beauty of sex, but instead on addiction and prejudice. They accentuate our animalistic and pervasive nature. Buckle up, good luck and Godspeed.