I’m going to say this despite the harsh criticism I’m going to take for it: watching Jack Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger “go at it” in Brokeback Mountain made me uncomfortable. “Why?” You ask angrily, “Why is it okay to show HETEROsexual people having sex but not HOMOsexual people having sex, hmm? Is it less beautiful? INTOLERANCE!”
I don’t know what just happened, or why you’re yelling at me. The thing is, I am uncomfortable in a lot of sex scenes. I find it very strange, sitting in a crowded theatre and watching two people share what should be a private intimate moment. “Prude!” I hear you say. “It’s art!” And again, I’ll retort: it CAN be art, but it isn’t always. If the mere act of showing consummation were art, Debbie Does Dallas would be a modern day Mona Lisa. There’s a time and there’s a place for sex scenes, and a lot of the times they aren’t use properly.*
There’s also an art form known as subtlety, which is what is vanishing in today’s love scenes. I remember watching In Harm’s Way starring John Wayne. To make it clear that he and this woman were about to get their freak on, it showed her smile and take off one shoe. That might be an extreme in the other direction, but it still gets the point across. Would it have been better to show their bodies entangled in a three minute love scene? Do I really lose a sense of the romance in Titanic when all I can see of the sex between Jack and Rose is a hand print on a steamy window?
Which brings me to the star of the article: recent Academy Award winner for Best Actress, Kate Winslet. Many actresses have a no-nudity clause in their contracts; I think Winslet’s has a nudity-requirement. The chick can’t star in a movie without stripping down. I saw The Reader recently, and for the first third wondered if she won the award for having the most frequent, uncomfortable sex scenes imaginable. If you have seen it, you might know what I’m talking about, and I defy you to tell me they were all necessary. We get it, the young man and the older lady have a lot of sex. Like a lot. Like so much sex it makes Pamela Anderson jealous.
But we really don’t need to see it. And here’s the thing, the rest of the film absolutely thrives on subtlety. And it’s incredible. The second two-thirds of that movie, where there is an actual plot and not just incessant boning, presented some of the best scenes I’ve ever… seen (damn Homophones…). You could have cut fifteen minutes of the film without it losing anything. And to assuage Kate Winslet we can still have her get naked. I’m not saying NO sex scenes, I’m just saying it became incredibly absurd when every four minutes another one pops up (no pun intended… I made it worse, didn’t I?)
It’s a fine line, and I’m sure there are many opinions on the subject. I think it can be done right, and it can be done wrong. The Reader
‘s were a little frequent. If it’s a comedy, it damn well better be hilarious or it will come off as insanely awkward (see: Knocked Up
). I might argue (I’d have to mull this over) that a sex scene must show more than love, lust, or passion, because those can all be conveyed other ways, and if it is used to show those things it must be very careful. I’m sure there will be disagreements, go ahead and post them!
*To Brokeback fans, I know what the point was. It was to make all those people comfortable with heterosexual love scenes be confronted by a homosexual one. I maintain it wasn’t necessary to tell the story it was trying to tell, or that it could have been done differently. In fact, I think it took something away from the movie, as it is now primarily remembered for it’s ‘shocking’ sex scene than for the love story it actually told.
**Kate Winslet has recently said she will no longer be nude as her children are getting to that age when it’s awkward. Evidently she forgot about DVDs and the internet…