So, Valentine’s Day, and not only did The Imaginary Girlfriend not send me a card for the first time in umpteen years but she didn’t reply to my text either (admittedly this was a slight improvement on the year I rang her and there was no answer, but five minutes later I got a text saying ‘Corrie is on. Piss off!’ – the woman has her priorities, and at the moment I’m not one of them).
Like all sad, lonely middle-aged men I opted to spend the evening wallowing in self-pity, eating chocolate strawberries and watching a couple of films from the genre known as art house erotica/soft porn (delete as you feel appropriate).
The director and writer Zalman King had died slightly earlier in the month, and so I decided to reprise a couple of his movies that I just happen to have loitering in my DVD collection.
Two Moon Junction (1988)
Sherilyn Fenn is the feisty April, a Southern belle fated to marry whitebread Chad, but she’s also a bit of a free spirit and rebel (we know this, because she spies on the naked men through a hole in the shower room wall and appears to spontaneously orgasm, which is quite a useful trick I’d imagine). When the carnival comes to town April finds herself attracted to roadie Perry, who insults her at every opportunity, and when he turns up uninvited in her shower instead of calling the police she has sex with him, as you do. Despite his swagger and casual arrogance, Perry is a good guy, as witness his love for his dog and that he turns against the carnival owner when children are endangered on one of the rides. Regardless, the course of true love is not going to be an easy ride; April finds it hard to give up on the life of privilege awaiting her, and there are members of her family ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to resolve the ‘Perry problem’.
It’s pretty much your bog standard story of spoiled little rich girl falling in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and throughout feels just as cliched as that suggests, with the family putting a spanner in the works at every opportunity. And yet it does have a certain appeal. Louise Fletcher as scheming Grandma Belle has her meatiest role since Nurse Ratchet left the cuckoo’s nest, while there is a definite chemistry between Fenn and co-star Richard Tyson, so that the scenes where they are together sizzle. For all that though, the sexual tension is seen best not when they’re nekkid together but in the scene where they hurl insults at each other in the parking lot of a motel while other guests stand and cheer (admittedly, my relationship with TIG might have given me a certain peculiar idea on how sexual attraction is supposed to manifest). Some nice photography as well, with each scene carefully lit. My biggest problem with the film, aside from the cliches inherent in the material, is that I didn’t really relate to April – everybody tells her how wonderful she is and deserving of the good things that are coming to her, but I couldn’t quite see that. Her appeal was very superficial, based mostly on good looks. A film worth seeing, but in a pass the time sort of way rather than for anything more substantial, even as erotica.
Wild Orchid (1989)
Carré Otis is fresh from the boonies lawyer Emily, taken on by a prestigious NY firm and sent down to Rio as assistant to corporate big gun Jacqueline Bissett, who is negotiating a deal with the Chinese, or something like that. Bissett has plans of her own, setting Emily in the path of tycoon Wheeler (Mickey Rourke), who once rejected her. Naturally Wheeler is taken with the young lawyer, but will he abandon the head games he seems so disposed to and pursue the woman who could be the love of his life?
This is another cliched plot, the one where the emotionally detached man is saved from himself by the love of a good woman. A traumatic incident in his childhood left Wheeler unable to respond to the touch of women, and so he plays endless games with them, most of which border on voyeurism and vanilla S&M. Emily, the innocent abroad, is the first woman who doesn’t really want anything from him, and so he can finally respond. Hooray for altruism and romantic love. Voyeurism is central here, with Emily both watching another couple and finding that it stimulates her own carnality, and also going with another man and putting on a show for Wheeler. And, of course, the true voyeurs are those of us watching the film. Again, there’s chemistry between the stars (Rourke and Otis later married), though for most of the film it’s not as overt as that between April and Perry, with much of their interaction dictated by Wheeler’s need to control and intended to show his emotional detachment. Where the film scores heavily is in the Brazilian setting, the contrast between extremes of poverty and wealth (and, obviously, subtext that sexual pleasure is independent of either), the hedonistic lifestyle and riot of colour. What comes across clearly is that the natives are more in touch with their senses and emotions than the effete westerners, with Emily’s emancipation from her straitlaced life beginning when she watches a couple copulate with complete abandon in a deserted building. And in the scenes of decadent ‘entertainment’ the libertines of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut are foreshadowed. Plot idiocies aside, it was a very visual film, one that was good to look at, even if the ideas behind much of it seem pitched at someone as emotionally stunted as the leading man.
More succinctly – Oh crap! If I’d wanted a turn on without all this intellectual fluff, I should’ve just watched a Kylie concert.