Back in my mid-twenties I was in bed with one of those lovely females making sweet love and thinking that life really wasn’t too bad when she clamped her teeth on my ear and half-snarled: “Stick it up me arse!” Now I know some men appear obsessed with snugly traversing a lady’s poo pipe, but I’m afraid I’m not one. Indeed, I froze at her forthright request. I mean, this was only our second date, prompting my hopelessly fertile imagination to go into overdrive. What the hell would she insist upon during future encounters? Maybe I’d end up crucified over the bed on a Facebook livestream while she threw darts, flicked her pea and cackled. After all, thanks to a lifetime of movie consumption, I’ve long learned that sexual relationships are a minefield.
Nine and a Half Weeks (1986)
The story: A New York divorcee (Kim Basinger) and her ‘heart-shaped ass’ meet a sexually liberated but controlling Wall Street broker (Mickey Rourke) and…nope, that’s it. Initially a box-office flop, this one gained one hell of a second wind and turned its two handsome leads into stars.
Does it make me wanna incorporate anything into my sex life? Er, what sex life? Oh, come on, Dave, play the game. All right, I guess I didn’t mind Basinger doing her lengthy striptease to Joe Cocker’s You Can Leave Your Hat On. Women tend to look good removing their clothes, especially to music, although I must admit I’m still perturbed by a gross-a-gram shedding her tent-like attire and getting her three-foot long tits out at my older brother’s eighteenth birthday party. Basinger’s alluring disrobing, however, will always make the likes of Wayne and Garth go bug-eyed and squeal Schwing!
Then there’s the semi-famous bit where a bathrobe-clad Basinger sits on the kitchen floor in front of an open fridge and Rourke feeds her a variety of foods. One question: why doesn’t his fridge start bleeping given the amount of time it’s ajar? Mine does after about thirty seconds. Surely that would interrupt a bout of sexiness, if not become plain annoying. Anyhow, somehow Basinger doesn’t puke, given she ingests everything from jalapeno peppers to cough syrup. Milk, honey, strawberries and sparkling water also end up all over the floor. I wouldn’t be happy about that. I mean, my post-coital high would definitely plummet if I then slipped over and broke a leg. So, in short, any lady up for messy food sex with me would have to agree to mop everything up straightaway.
What did I learn about the ladies? Talking about murder on a first date doesn’t put them off. However, buying them a $300 French scarf probably gives you a bit of leeway to blab on about whatever the fuck you like. Ditto the purchase of a gold watch and the regular delivery of bouquets of red roses to their workplace. On a second date it’s fine to blindfold them. They’re also partial to melting ice cubes being dripped on their belly while wearing the aforementioned blindfold. However, if you have a predilection for spanking a misbehaving lady, you have to get the approach right. You can’t just say: “You’ve been a very bad girl. I want you to face the wall and raise your skirt because I’m going to spank you.” Said lady is likely to get angry and retort: “You are kidding? Who the fuck do you think you are?” And then start pummeling your chest before submitting to a vaguely rapey bit of sex. Then again, maybe that was your plan all along.
Unfortunately, even a classy, well-adjusted piece of crumpet like Basinger is also capable of making your heart sink with stuff like: “I want you to meet my friends.” Weeks portrays a volatile, unusually intense relationship, but I guess there’s no escaping some of the opposite sex’s dreaded requests. Most unbelievable bit: Well, that’s easy: Basinger wandering around New York’s night-time streets dressed as a man, complete with a stick-on tash. Blimey, this whole sequence is groan-inducing. Beforehand, she casually remarked in a Wall Street bar that she’d love to know what it’d be like to be ‘one of the guys’ so Rourke sorts her out a tuxedo, hat and cigar and off they go. Is this supposed to be amusing? Some sort of cross-dressing commentary? Rourke indulging in a little pseudo-homosexuality? I don’t know, but maybe it’s worth it just to see Basinger stab a mistaken homophobe in the arse with a switchblade.
How bad is it? I’m a big believer that small stories should be concisely told. However, director Adrian Lyne dawdles for nearly two hours, forgetting to add such necessary ingredients as a supporting cast and a plot. Instead, we get a protracted bout of bed-buying, lots of songs on the soundtrack and a confused old man fondling a fish. Yes, Lyne has a lovely eye for local color and sure knows about moodily lighting a scene to maximum effect, but this remains a padded, vaguely self-conscious watch. Still, I thought the leads were excellent, even if I couldn’t shake the feeling it’s the sort of thing that nice, middle-class couples settle down in front of when they’re feeling naughty. Weeks’ main surprise is that safe sex is never mentioned (let alone practiced) during the height of the genitalia-shriveling fear of AIDS.
Boxing Helena (1993)
The story: A brilliant surgeon is like a jellified puppy around a former one-night stand. This results in either saving a little boy’s hand at work or chopping off a woman’s four limbs at home. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.
Does it make me wanna incorporate anything into my sex life? Not really, as I quite like my women to have arms and legs. Now love and relationships can be tricky things, what with all that doubt, jealousy, exasperation and mind games so Boxing’s outlandish concept taps squarely into our desire for control. Sort of like reducing your other half to your other quarter. And when you think about it, there must be something soothing about saying goodbye to your loved one in the morning knowing she’ll be in exactly the same place when you return home. No need to check her mobile phone to see what she’s been up to, eh? However, even if I succumbed to such a naughty fantasy, it would be tricky to lay my hands on an operating theater, not to mention the skill to carry out the necessary surgery. I’d most probably end up with a dead chick and I’m not quite ready for a bout of necrophilia yet.
What did I learn about the ladies? They initially object to being reduced to a head on a stick but get over it after watching you fuck a busty hooker. In other words, faint heart never won fair lady.
Most unbelievable bit: That Madonna, who was originally in the frame, somehow sniffed out that Helena was a dog of a role and passed. A shame, really, as this would have been the perfect companion piece for Body of Evidence. It’s also hard to swallow that Boxing was written and directed by a woman. Letting the sisterhood down there, girl.
How bad is it? Rampant implausibilities abound. It sure as shit ain’t good, but its whacked-out central idea and the way everyone deliriously overplays their hand does turn it into a pleasing snigger fest until its appalling climactic copout. I enjoy how Helena (Sherilyn Fenn) always looks fabulous, despite her supposed physical and mental anguish. Meanwhile Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is a simpering wet leg with mummy issues, a highly qualified professional who makes a fourteen-year-old schoolboy appear poised and sophisticated. Boxing is supposed to be an examination of unrequited love and a warped psycho-sexuality, but matters aren’t helped by Helena being so rude, sullen and heartless. She’s a bitch that revels in her tormenting power whether attached to her legs or not. I think I’m trying to say that this pair of fuckwits deserves each other.
The Piano (1993)
The story: Plinky-plonk, Harvey Keitel wants a bonk.
Does it make me wanna incorporate anything into my sex life? Well, I imagine that depends on whether I meet a woman with a fanatical attachment to a large musical instrument.
What did I learn about the ladies? They can stop speaking in childhood for a reason they don’t even comprehend and instead express themselves through playing a hand-carved piano. I doubt this is a recipe for happiness. Frankly, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the perverse Holly Hunter should’ve binned the old joanna long ago and started enjoying a chinwag again. I also gleaned that a lady can respond most favorably to sexual blackmail, a piece of grubby knowledge that has certainly made my nasty little brain start whirring.
Most unbelievable bit: Even though it conjures up 1850s New Zealand with ease, The Piano feels contrived. An air of ridiculousness and vague pretentiousness hangs over most of it. I imagine the titular instrument symbolizes something or is a metaphor for repression, but I didn’t manage to pin down exactly what. Far and away the daftest bit is Hunter passionately playing the bloody thing while asleep.
How bad is it? From the outset Hunter and Anna Paquin, who both won Oscars, are a pair of annoying twats in stupid bonnets. I particularly wanted the effervescent, precocious brat Paquin to be torn apart by wolves, but Hunter’s incessant sign language, mannered performance and the three and a half feet of her singularly unerotic presence underlined that this is not a bloke movie. In fact, for some reason I tried quite hard to dislike it, but it does possess a weird, icky quality. It’s also nicely filmed and you can’t argue with how director Jane Campion captures the contrast between the wild, muddy landscape and something as genteel and unthreatening as a piano. Shame it cops out big time at the end.
The Piano is at its best when Keitel commandeers the piano and starts wheedling his way into Hunter’s knickers. One moment he’s sniffing her jacket, the next he’s lying on the floor probing a hole in her stockings with his dirty fingernails. Given he gets up to his old full-frontal antics, I was a little disappointed he didn’t go full Bad Lieutenant and make her do a blowjob face while she tickled the ivories and he blew his beans over the side of it.
Dave Franklin’s movie book Go Fuck an Iceberg! is available from Amazon and other outlets.