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Faded Films: Sex & The Female Gaze

There are not that many ways to make the word erotic worse than it already is, but I learnt that adding drama to it will do the trick. The erotic drama genre feels like it’s the type of thing that your recently divorced middle aged aunt would really get into as she tries to get her groove back. Depictions of real sexuality, nudity and sex can feel alienating when they’re so far removed from our lived experiences. This is especially true since most mainstream sex scenes come from a heteronormative male gaze and seem to look as women as a necessary object for the experience instead of you know, a real thinking participant.

Anatomy of Hell

(PS the trailer is a really horrible indicator of what the movie is like, much less vague club music). Depending on who you speak to this is either one of the greatest movies ever made or one of the worst. A woman on the verge of suicide convinces a gay man to come and stay at her apartment for four straight days. The further we get into the four days the more intimate, visceral and hard to watch the sex scenes become. It can get harrowing and difficult but it was a watershed moment in on screen depictions of the reality of female sexuality. It subverts a lot of “givens” that go into sex scenes by 1) having the man in question be an objectively uninterested gay man 2) highlighting some of the aspects and realities that are often muted to placate audiences.

Claire’s Knee

French movies from the 60’s and 70’s oftentimes have bizarre depictions of the relationships between old men and young girls. Claire’s Knee is one of six movies in Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales series (the same series behind classics like Chloe In The Afternoon and My Night with Maude). It centers around some bearded old dude who for some reason kisses a fifteen year old girl and then becomes obsessed with her blonde seventeen year old half sister and her knee. Void of any explicitly sexual encounters, Rohmer focuses on nuances and the small ticks and curves of the body that can be more enticing in their subtlety than full frontal nudity.

Sleeping Beauty

A nuanced look at the reality of nudity and sex, especially when regarding women, is rare and that’s what makes Sleeping Beauty such a compelling movie. Emily Browning goes through her life with a general veil of disassociation and apathy that breaks in only twice during the course of the film. As an audience in a largely nudity driven movie, director Julia Leigh manages to remove any sense of joyful or erotic voyeurism as the move takes a very literal look at what it means to sleep with someone.

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