Wanna watch a movie this weekend and in the mood for something sexy? Well, you're in luck. Netflix is overflowing with options for those looking to get turned on.
But first a thing or two about Lars von Trier's polarizing Nymphomaniac, which is far from the unadulterated mess its detractors claim it to be. Yes, you could say it's slightly pretentious. Or you could look at it for what it is: a cerebral, almost clinical contemplation on the extremes of human sexuality. The explicit 5 1/2 hour extended cut of the compelling film contains even more shocking and disturbing imagery, so just know what you're getting into beforehand.
The divisiveness of Nymphomaniac makes it hard to recommend it for this special sex-themed column. Far more inviting, but just as powerful, is our first pick, Blue Is the Warmest Color. Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, this nuanced exploration of two young women and their budding romance is a three-hour commitment that is satisfying in ways that the cold-blooded Nymphomaniac isn't.
Next, we turn our collective gaze to the adult film business. Amanda Seyfried stars as one of the first porn icons of the '70s in the tragic biopic Lovelace. And a controversial porn legend reflects back on three decades of carnal bliss and brutality in the dark documentary Rocco.
After that, promiscuity runs wild when a group of teenagers start throwing sex parties in the French suburbs in the cautionary tale Bang Gang, while the sexual escapades of a young Brooklyn woman take front and center in Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It.
And, finally, we conclude with The Little Death, a risqué comedy about sexual kinks that is likely to offend as much as make you laugh.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Blue Is the Warmest Color is a love story between two young women. One is older, confident and in tune with with her sexual orientation. The other is still discovering her true self. They may have an immediate attraction to each other, but they also have a long way to go to find happiness together, even more so when society-at-large expects people to adhere to a certain heteronormative status quo.
Adèle Exarchopoulos is perfectly cast as the bright student Adèle, who is still finding her way. Léa Seydoux exudes a quiet strength as Emma, who's as much a mentor as a lover. Their relationship takes time to unfold. We're witness to the small talk, the longing glances, and the uncertainty of what to do next when two people are getting to know each other. And like all romantic liaisons there will be tears — damn, will there be tears.
There's also quite a bit of sex, full of passion and intimacy. Enough to make any prude blush. And while the sex scenes are titillating, they show how physical intimacy with the right person can bring people closer together than ever before.
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Genre: Biography, Drama
Linda Lovelace was one of porn's first superstars. Her notoriety was the result of mainly just one movie, the hugely successful Deep Throat, which helped ease porn into the mainstream back in the early-to-mid '70s. The overnight sensation (real name Linda Boreman) later claimed, however, that in spite of her stardom, she was actually living a nightmare — physically and mentally abused by her creep of a husband, Chuck Traynor, who forced her into prostitution, sometimes at gunpoint.
What we get in Lovelace is a taste of both the sexual freedom of the era and the personal hell Linda went through during her short stay in a shady industry with mafia ties. The finely-acted film (both Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard are great) nails the explosive colors and hedonistic atmosphere of the '70s, but also explores the prevailing belief systems of the day, like the outdated notions that a woman's place in society should be subordinate to men, as demonstrated by Linda's religiously stern mother (the impressive and almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone).
It's easy to see why Lovelace drew comparisons to Boogie Nights. But the film actually has closer ties to Star 80, which told the real life story of slain Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, who fell victim to a deranged abuser (played by Eric Roberts, who perhaps not coincidentally, has a cameo in Lovelace). Although at times depressing, Lovelace shows us a woman who knew her worth as a person and who refused to accept being reduced to solely a sex object.
Starring: Rocco Siffredi, Gabriele Galetta, Kelly Stafford, Abella Danger
Directors: Thierry Demaizière, Alban Teurlai
The first thing we see in this openly raw documentary about porn icon Rocco Siffredi is his penis. The lingering shot serves a dual purpose: first, it reaffirms that from an industry standpoint male porn stars are basically just tools and all that matters is whether their dicks can perform on camera or not. Secondly, the filmmakers want you to focus on the world famous pornographer's turbulent mindstate and not his junk, so they're showing it to you right off the bat. Once the gawking is over, the film moves on to more important matters.
For those who aren't familiar, Rocco Siffredi is known for extremely rough sex scenes and a generally lascivious identity that bleeds into his personal life, regardless if cameras are rolling. Now in his 50s, the Italian-born star says he wants to put an end to his 30-year career in order to spend time with his family, but he still struggles with the powerful and destructive lure that is sex addiction.
This is without question a dark film, but it's not black and white. Rocco seems haunted by demons that tempt him to keep pushing the limits of sexuality, but one suspects he's also driven by his ego. Just when you think you got him figured out, though, we meet Rocco's seemingly well-adjusted wife and sons, who only have good things to say about the man. Ultimately, each viewer will decide who they think Rocco is, but one thing seems certain: here's a man who hasn't learned that sex can't fill certain voids.
Bang Gang (2015)
Starring: Marilyn Lima, Daisy Broom, Finnegan Oldfield, Lorenzo Lefèbvre
Director: Eva Husson
The impact of Larry Clark's Kids was so resounding that any new film about teenage sexuality will be compared to the controversial 1995 feature. Bang Gang is no exception, what with its provocative premise of privileged French high school students engaging in weekly orgies right under their parents' noses.
For as much skin as is shown, though, there is the sense that the teenagers in Bang Gang are always thinking, and possibly even learning about themselves and what it means to have meaningful relationships. But we also see how easy it can be for young people to fool themselves into believing that having sex automatically makes them mature.
This highly stylized film is striking to look at and picks just the right music to capture that vibe of being young and thinking the good times are going to last forever. Granted, older viewers might succumb to their natural prejudices against millennials, forgetting that they, too, were once young, dumb, and full of cum. But open-minded audiences might get something fulfilling out of Bang Gang. And if you're interested in watching another foreign film about young people trying to figure out sex and relationships, check out Amar (2017), which is also on Netflix right now.
She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Starring: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell
Director: Spike Lee
Genre: Drama, Comedy
The one thing that immediately stands out about Spike Lee's feature-length debut about a sexually liberated young black woman, who is dating three men simultaneously, is how fresh it still feels 30 years later. This is probably why Netflix decided to develop the 1986 film into an upcoming series. The brilliant black and white cinematography and excellent jazz score might seem like something straight out of a '60s independent drama, but the frank discussions and depictions of sexuality don't come off dated at all. (The numerous black cultural and political references that Spike slips in also feel as relevant today as they did back then.)
But in light of the continued fight for women's rights, what resonates most after watching She's Gotta Have It today is the constant attempts by men — both in the film and in real life — to try and control women's sexuality. And when you consider that Spike's Mars Blackmon was the film's breakout character, you have to wonder how much attention was even paid to the progressive views of female protagonist Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns). Still, as imperfect as the film may be (there's a bedroom scene some have found problematic), She's Gotta Have It is an often wonderful time capsule of '80s NYC with a strong black perspective.
The Little Death (2014)
Starring: Josh Lawson, Bojana Novakovic, Damon Herriman, Kate Mulvany, Kate Box
Director: Josh Lawson
"The little death," or "la petite mort," is a French expression for orgasm. The Little Death, the movie we're discussing right now, isn't French but Australian.
Now that we've cleared that up, what you should know next is that this film is about various couples living in Sydney — some of whom know each other, some of whom don't, but they all interconnect nonetheless. Each couple is privately exploring a long list of kinks, from the relatively simple foot fetish to the rather complex rape fantasy.
Of course, some people out there will be offended by the notion that rape fantasies could be used for comedic fodder. But for those interested in a film that doesn't shy away from taboos, crosses a few lines, and yet manages to somehow be honest and heartfelt, then you might have found the perfect movie for your next Netflix & Chill. (By the way, avoid the trailer, it gives away some of the film's best laughs.)
Still feeling frisky? You might also like the strangely haunting mind-bender Sex and Lucia (2001) or the provocative Young & Beautiful (2013) about a 17-year-old who turns to sex work. They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but are stimulating in more ways than one.