Why I made that film
May 20, 2004 2:11 AM   Subscribe

Why I made that film. The Guardian gets the first interview with the unknown, female, 21-year-old American star of "the most explicit mainstream movie ever" (copyright all newspapers, everywhere).
posted by ascullion (44 comments total)
"We rented a hotel room as a studio and did some speaking scenes.... Winterbottom is also keen to point out that there was every chance at this stage for either of the actors to pull out."
posted by quarantine at 2:32 AM on May 20, 2004

"The film shows sex in a good light," says Stilley. "It is a monogamous relationship between two people who are in love."

Rarely seen in film today, in my opinion...
posted by Shane at 7:07 AM on May 20, 2004

I would MUCH rather see movies like this than the utter crap that is coming out nowadays.

Let the kids have their teen flicks -- give us adults something to enjoy.
posted by eas98 at 7:13 AM on May 20, 2004

quarantine. I was sure I was going to be first with that.
posted by ed\26h at 7:18 AM on May 20, 2004

Good for her and Winterbottom. Sex is a very important part of our lives (d'uh) and it's always seemed absurd to me that in an era when method acting and cinema verite is the norm, sexual activity is completely simulated. It's very strange. Sex should be an acceptable human activity as a subject of a film in the same serious sense that, say, eating can be. For practical reasons, people often don't actually eat and drink in films. But it's not because they're not supposed to, it's just practical. When the scene requires it, people actually do eat and drink. Should be the same way for sex.

And the idea of tracing a relationship's lifetime through the prism of only its sex is compelling and completely justifiable.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:20 AM on May 20, 2004

well, a monogamous relationship between two people who are in love...until the end of the movie, when they have a depressing break up.

i do like the idea of the movie, like EB, for the same reasons. BUT...how is this not porn? we're being voyeurs into the most intimate pieces of a relationship.
posted by taumeson at 7:22 AM on May 20, 2004

Oh, is it the same guy who did this? One of my faves, but it sounds rather different.
posted by ed\26h at 7:24 AM on May 20, 2004

It's not porn, it's ART!
posted by Eekacat at 7:33 AM on May 20, 2004

how is this not porn?

Well, that depends on what your definition of porn is. Some people would argue that the Sharper Image catalog is a type of pornography. A somewhat larger group would say that about FHM or the like.

As for me, I'd say that comparing this film to "Sorority Showers 17" does a disservice to both.
posted by aramaic at 7:34 AM on May 20, 2004

Well, "porn" by its legal US definitition, anyway, lacks any artistic value and is only prurient. Yeah, lots of unquestionable pieces of art are voyeuristic, but that doesn't mean that they aren't art. For example, I think that a lot of reality shows and, probably, shows like "Cops" are purely voyeuristic and without artistic value. On the other hand, I really thought that HBO's "Taxicab Confessions", although very voyeuristic and titillating, had artistic value because there was something very affectionate and humanistic about the camera(s)—I think the drivers, who clearly are not misnanthropes and just like to talk to people, made clear that this was sort of human cross section at its most mundane and exotic. It was definitely "art" in that respect.

What happens in the bedroom (or wherever) in a couple's relationship is as much (or more!) a proper focus for an serious, artistic examination of a relationship than is anything else.

Not that I'm endorsing either the US definition (or condemnation) of "porn", or for that matter arguing for a philosophically absolutist aesthetic.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:35 AM on May 20, 2004

<NOT a quote>We rented a mall as a studio as well as some realistic prop weapons. We had experts on hand to make plastic wounds and blood and then did some screaming scenes.</NOT a quote>

Rather than arguing about whether this film or other recent sexually-explicit films are or are not porn -- what is "porn", after all...? I hope that this film leads to a lively discussion of why in some countries there is relative acceptance of extremely graphic violence on film (sorry, too many of those to do one of those icky every word = link things) but sex or even nudity on film are always suspect.
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:40 AM on May 20, 2004

Maybe it's art (as far as a movie can be art anyway) and porn. The definitions aren't mutually exclusive. If it's a well told story with good filmcraft then it's a good movie. If it doesn't shy away from the intimate details of the relationships then it also might be classified as porn but doesn't remove the status of good movie.

Your personal biases may say that these intimate details make it a bad movie just like some people will say a movie becomes intolerable if a nipple is flashed or skirts or too short or too much of a mans leg is shown.
posted by substrate at 7:45 AM on May 20, 2004

Last year I've seen Larry Clark's Ken Park -- it was at least as much explicit than Winterbottom's movies sounds like, if not more. and certainly Clark's movie was much more disquieting. but yes, fucking seems to be a pretty scary thing, nowadays. after all, didn't Warner Bros put those funny digital patches all over the (very tame) orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut's US version?

and cinema verite is the norm

method acting, maybe (though the 70's are over, EB).
cinema verite the norm? BWAWAHAHAHAHA.
unless, of course, you think that the Dogme 95 experiment is the norm. Jean Rouch, anybody?
cinema nowadays is 99% influenced by the very opposite of cinema verite, Hollywood. and as Godard himself said the other day in Cannes, "shooting images doesn't necessarily mean you are making cinema". the norm is Jerry Bruckheimer, not Frederick Wiseman
posted by matteo at 7:46 AM on May 20, 2004


...because Paul didn't preach against violence with the same intensity and tenacity as he did against lust?

...because the causal relationship between depictions of sex and lust is far, far more evident than is a causal relationship between depictions of violence and violent anger?

There's a variety of reasons why this apparent hypocrisy might not be as hypocritical as one might think. If one starts from the assumption that sex, in general, is good while violence, in general is bad, then, d'uh, one would think that American sensibilities in this regard are absurd. But hypocritical? No, because those opposed to sex but not as opposed to violence are, quite obviously, saying that the two are not qualitatively very similar.

So you're basically just complaining that people don't see things your way. Well, me too. I think sex is great and violence is bad, and wish that the conventional calculus about them were inverted. But this accusation is a prime example of why the hypocrisy claim, which is in a sense absolutist, fails in a relativist universe. On their own terms, they're not being hypocritical. And for the purposes of an hypocrisy claim, your terms don't enter into it.

Matteo: the fantastical in contemporary film is still essentially realist. Bazin won the argument. Compare the narrative structure, and, importantly, just the technique of conventional filmmaking to that of almost any of the other art forms and it's quite obviously resolutely literal and realist. For that matter, compare contemporary cinema to the early, heady days of cinema.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:10 AM on May 20, 2004

Hmm, it doesn't sound as bad as baise-moi, I mean, it at least sounds friendly and consensual.
posted by milovoo at 8:12 AM on May 20, 2004

Good point, milovoo. Save for the cunnilingus scene, how is this any racier than, say, Lucía y el sexo? (yes, I know, the French and Spanish haven't got the "issues" that British and US folks have with sex, the human form, etc, etc. Though, isn't it about time to grow up a bit?)
posted by shoepal at 8:28 AM on May 20, 2004

I didn't read the article as I see all his films anyway and didn't want to know anything about it. However, a rather sexually explicit film came out of Britain already: Intimacy, which is excellent, imo.

For those interested in Ken Park, the film matteo mentioned, you can get it on an import DVD here.
posted by dobbs at 9:15 AM on May 20, 2004

Also, Chloe Sevigny gives a blow job (not simulated) in 2002's Brown Bunny. I don't recall people freaking about it and she's an established actor.
posted by dobbs at 9:22 AM on May 20, 2004

dobbs - i'm pretty sure that i read that was a body double.

but your point stands. i've read several books by established hollywood actors and actresses, and they all say that more sex in films is NOT simulated than you might think. but a place like hollywood needs that line to avoid the soccer moms and deacons who would find it HORRIBLE.

i've written many pages on this subject. don't get me started on this phantom "line" between a soap-opera "ohmygodtheyslepttogether" and a film like Intimacy.
posted by oog at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2004

oog, pretty sure you read who was a body double?
posted by dobbs at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2004

if anyone mentions brown bunny and somehow does NOT mention chloe's blow job, then i will be shocked, shocked.
posted by armacy at 10:05 AM on May 20, 2004

how is this not porn?

I tend to think this film has a plot ;-)

The bulk of average two-person heterosexual porn flicks involve a lusty sex tryst in a contrived situation (and/or excuse for a plot) with a dominant man and a submissive woman, with clinical detail of genitalia. It is usually produced for a male audience and the sex reflects this. The acting is terrible, the sexual excitement unconvincing, there is usually no relationship or even emotion hinted at, and the partners perform very mechanically, usually alternating through the same predictable and cliche series of sexual positions.

Obviously I'm not describing ALL porn, and obviously I'm not much interested in porn. Still, it's not a harsh generalization to say that porn is rarely about realistic sex between two people in a loving relationship.
posted by Shane at 10:23 AM on May 20, 2004

" to tell a love story from a single angle: that of the physical encounters between the couple" -- that's pretty much what this movie did, without much fuss. (Its title is quite telling.)
posted by of strange foe at 10:52 AM on May 20, 2004

Ethereal, isn't what you gave a legal definition of obscenity, not pornography?
posted by dglynn at 12:09 PM on May 20, 2004

Much ado about nothing.
posted by rushmc at 12:12 PM on May 20, 2004

Agreed. I'm curious as to the oxymoronic (if that is indeed a word) characterization of "explicit mainstream" - excuse the rambling...

How did "explicit" evolve into a synonym for "obscene" - or for any other form of objectionable material? Kind of strange, really - if "explicit" is in common usage as a synonym for "objectionable", "obscene", or "pornographic", does that imply (no pun intended) that "implicit" should be used as synonym for "acceptable", "moral", or "wholesome"? "Explicit" and "implicit" are about as diametrically opposed as antonyms get, after all. "Implicit" has a few meanings, just as "explicit" has, and the meanings are just as telling - it obviously means "implied or understood though not directly expressed", but also means "having no doubts or reservations; unquestioning."

What does that say for society in general when the word used to describe "fully and clearly expressed" is also used to describe "objectionable or obscene", while the word used to describe "unquestioning" is its antonym?
posted by FormlessOne at 12:59 PM on May 20, 2004

Ken Park was even more disturbing because it was dealing with teens who were all trapped in desperate family problems.

Lucia y el sexo was absolutely amazing and the sex was... good.
posted by Sijeka at 12:59 PM on May 20, 2004

I'm going to bet that that movie won't be allowed anywhere near the US. At least not the mainstream US market.

Which is too bad, because it sounds like it might be worth seeing.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2004

Just want to point out that the young woman in question - you know, the subject of the article - sounds very sensible. She realizes she's in the midst of a PR nightmare, accepts the lion's share of responsibility for a situation that is not really of her own making, and isn't whining about it or casting herself as some kind of martyr. After the recent antics of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, it's quite refreshing. I'd love to read a follow-up interview a year from now after she's gained more perspective on what's happened.
posted by junkbox at 1:11 PM on May 20, 2004

I'm going to bet that that movie won't be allowed anywhere near the US. At least not the mainstream US market.

I'm not sure what you mean by "allowed." If you mean allowed by the government, it obviously will. If you mean allowed by the MPAA, the most it can do is slap on an NC-17 rating. If you mean "allowed" as a practical matter (inability to find a distributor, etc.), you may be right.

But I suspect it will show up on video.

Oh, and add me to the list of those who are not at all bothered by this.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:35 PM on May 20, 2004

Chloe Sevigny was dropped by the William Morris Agency as a result of the BBBJ. They felt she had irreparably damaged her career.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:36 PM on May 20, 2004

Just feeling the need to stir the pot a bit, but why is having graphic sex, in a public venue, for profit, okay in a movie, but writing about graphic sex done for profit in a public venue, isn't? It's still whoring, isn't it? The common bond is that it's sex for gain, regardless of its artistic value. Would Washingtonniette have been better recieved by MeFi if we could download or rent her profitable exploits?

(Yes I am playing devil's advocate here, but the responses, if any, should be most enlightening for us all.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:01 PM on May 20, 2004

Chloe Sevigny was dropped by the William Morris Agency as a result of the BBBJ

I recently saw Brown Bunny in Paris, in the middle of an almost-sold-out audience of verklempt, Vincent-Gallo-loving, Rive Gauche Parisians.
I think it's Sevigny, not a body double.
but again, as others have pointed out, Ken Park is very disturbing. also, our US readers should be advised that -- since the teenage-looking actors in the movie really look underage, they risk having some trouble with US customs. Clark is a great photographer and important director, but there's a lot of hysteria regarding these issues these days. so if you're gonna buy it on the Internet and have it delivered in the US, be careful. just sayin'.
posted by matteo at 4:46 PM on May 20, 2004

Winterbottom is very good. His 24 Hour Party People is the best movie about UK dance culture since Human Traffic. And John Simm was excellent in both movies - a very underrated actor.
posted by meehawl at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2004

I would see this movie. In fact, I look forward to seeing this movie. I don't expect to see this movie on the big screen, given the prurient culture that surrounds me here in the buckle of the bible belt...but someday it will be on dvd and I can see it.

The concept sounds interesting and I'd like to see how the director approached it. I don't understand why people get so worked up about sex in film. (Or in life for that matter.)
posted by dejah420 at 5:39 PM on May 20, 2004

Chloe Sevigny was dropped by the William Morris Agency as a result of the BBBJ. They felt she had irreparably damaged her career.

I think it's Sevigny, not a body double.

ok, i'll just assume i'm the one messing up the facts here. but, as i said before, dobbs' point stands.
posted by oog at 5:49 PM on May 20, 2004

Ethereal Bligh Well, "porn" by its legal US definition, anyway, lacks any artistic value and is only prurient.

You're thinking about obscenity. There is no legal definition of porn.

There's a three part test for determining whether a given work is considered obscene (in the US). The parts are as follows:
1. That the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; AND
2. That the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law; AND
3. That a reasonable person would find that the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value.

While it sounds like this film definitely fulfills the second requirement, and would fulfill the first in many individual communities, it most likely won't meet the third. After all, the hardcore movies that your community allows your local adult video store to rent to customers, while definitely pornographic, are not considered obscene. If they were considered obscene, they would be confiscated from the video store, as obscenity enjoys no protection under the first amendment.

From the above link, a quasi legal definition of pornography:
The 1986 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography defined pornography as, "Material that is predominantly sexually explicit and intended primarily for the purpose of sexual arousal."

I doubt this film even counts as pornography if you use the above as the definition of the word, since it doesn't sound like the sexual content of the film is intended primarily for the purpose of sexual arousal.
posted by syzygy at 5:54 PM on May 20, 2004

I think it's Sevigny, not a body double.

I believe it was the penis that was fake.
posted by hyperizer at 6:42 PM on May 20, 2004

"If they were considered obscene, they would be confiscated from the video store, as obscenity enjoys no protection under the first amendment."—sysygy
Yes, pornography is a lay term and what I meant was obscenity. No, however, to the assertion that in practice the two are distinct. The porn at the video store isn't allowed because it's de facto not obscene, it's allowed simply because the local authorities haven't decided to act confiscate it. In fact, they often do.

Yes, lots of times when people like Flynt fight these things they'll reach a court that is uncomfortable (and rightly so, in my opinion, let's be clear on this) declaring that something has "no redeeming social or artistic value".

On the other hand, most local authorities, community standards, and judges have little problem labeling "Red Hot Anal Sluts" obscene.

I think it's obvious that "RHAS" exists (assuming it exists—it's MeFi's favorite porn strawman) precisely as something that is "obscene". That is, it's has no other value or purpose besides arousing lust. I mean, c'mon, we all know that this is practically true. The reasons some courts are reluctant to say so is they fear the slippery-slope of the deep subjectivity of this. Is de Sade obscene?

It's quite wrong to think that what we think of as "pornography" has any strong legal protection in the US under the First Amendment. It does not. It lives in a gray area where it is both in a sense self-evidently obscene while simultaneously having some effective First protection because, when pushed, courts tend to error on the side of liberally interpreting the First. So if authorities really try to crack down on porn, they're likely to eventually encounter some serious 1st roadblocks. On the other hand, they can get away with carefully, very selectively prosecuting porn for obscenity when it suits their purposes. And they do. In this sense, porn always sort of exists only the sufferance of the local authorities.

This matters to me because, in general, I don't think that obscenity should be exempted from the First Amendment; and specifically, as a practical matter, I am unhappy that porn is not effectively protected by the First.

Also: that was definitely Sevigny in BB. She was in tears at the Cannes screening last year because, I think, she took a big damn risk hoping that it was artistically worth it, and Gallo let her down and, thus, humiliated her. Man, Gallo. What a freak. Boy I loved Buffalo '66, though. That was a brilliant film. But you can see in it how he could easily be an out-of-control egomanical director.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:11 PM on May 20, 2004

i respect winterbottom's ideas, but his sense of where to place the camera is at best mystifying and at worst incomprehensible -- look at the claim if you don't believe me. that, and his political stances get heavy-handed.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:23 PM on May 20, 2004

I think it's Sevigny, not a body double.

I believe it was the penis that was fake.

I read that Sevigny's penis is definitely real.
posted by mcgraw at 6:26 AM on May 21, 2004

I think the question, when viewing the film, will be: was the real sex between the actors truly necessary to the film, or was Winterbottom aware of the controversy and publicity it would cause, or both? ;-)
posted by Shane at 8:31 AM on May 21, 2004

To heck with the controversy, I wish they'd get her up on imdb so I can get my Bacon Number of 4.
posted by darren at 1:34 PM on May 21, 2004

I read that Sevigny's penis is definitely real.

Well, her balls certainly are.
posted by rushmc at 6:26 PM on May 22, 2004

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