December 11, 2013

"From a narrative perspective the most perplexing problem with these sex scenes is that they mute and obscure the actresses..."

"... who otherwise, in many other parts of the film, offer their intelligent faces and voices to the screen in subtle and moving ways. In visual media the body is often deeply inexpressive compared to the heart’s great canvas—the face. The sex between these characters, as is true of most carnality, causes the interesting parts of these women’s personalities to recede. The actresses for long stretches of time become action heroes, and the portrait of them that the film has ostensibly been working on grinds, so to speak, to a halt."

The novelist Lorrie Moore, writing about that new movie with the very long lesbian sex scene, "Blue Is the Warmest Color." Let me also excerpt what Moore says about the main actress's mouth:
In general Adèle’s soft wide mouth hangs open throughout the film, revealing an attractive overbite long associated with French actresses. She pulls her hair up, lets it fall again, ties it back up—continually. Between the slack mouth and the unstable hair, we see quickly that Adèle does not quite know who she is. But she is a creature of appetites, and much time is spent watching her pliable mouth chew—pasta, candy, oysters.
I so much prefer watching those words to watching whatever that looked like in the darned movie.

Presumably, the mouth, being part of "heart’s great canvas—the face," has more to say to us moviegoers than those nether lips that are so dull in the tedious sex scenes, and yet Moore makes all that mouth action sound boring too (even as Moore's prose is not boring). Which is why we read. And that's a message that one must assume that a novelist writing about movies would like to convey.

ADDED: Moore says that "most long sex scenes" are "emotionally uninformative, almost comedically ungainly and dull to watch" and adds the parenthetical: "Did we learn nothing from Vivien Leigh’s little morning-after smile in Gone With the Wind?" How could genitalia compete with that mouth? Vaginal lips have nothing to say.

18 comments:

rhhardin said...

Sex scenes never work.

Deb said...

"The heart's great canvas" - what a lovely phrase.

Sigivald said...

Between the slack mouth and the unstable hair, we see quickly that Adèle does not quite know who she is.

Or maybe this critic is reading way, way, way too much into that.

Crimso said...

"Vaginal lips have nothing to say."

Sure they do. You just have to be able to read gyn language.

Crimso said...

And be sure the woman you get to gyn at a funeral isn't a fraud (talking out of her ass).

YoungHegelian said...

....the badinage of Abbott and Costello.

Not to be confused with the "Aristophanic pas de trois of Curly, Larry & Moe...."

C'mon, do they really tawk like dat in New Yarhk?

The Godfather said...

Sex is interesting to the participants, but not to the observers. Like bridge.

Oso Negro said...

Difficult to reconcile that with the popularity of pornography, Godfather.

Sam L. said...

Read her out of the SISTERHOOD! Fie upon her! Fie, I say!

Rob said...

Didn't the abnormally long sex scene in Team America World Police make this point already?

Archie said...

I wish a hearty "have it in you" to those obsessing over this shit. Ears will be boxed after the revolution.

Lord Ben said...

Point: "In visual media the body is often deeply inexpressive compared to the heart’s great canvas—the face."

Counterpoint: Hey look, it's a vagina! Woohoo!!

surfed said...

Scarlett was smiling because an alpha male had his probably inconsiderate way with her. I doubt she had the same smile for Charles or Frank.

The Godfather said...

@Oso Negro, you said that my comment that sex is interesting to the participants but not the observers "is difficult to reconcile . . . with the popularity of pornography, Godfather." I take your point, but I did intentionally use the word "interesting", rather than, say, titillating. Also, my impression is that viewing pornography is generally participatory, in a way, and at a distance. I may be wrong about that.

William said...

I actually saw that whole ballet movie because I heard that there was a hot lesbo scene with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. I'm not much of a fan of ballet movies but anticipation of a hot lesbo scene with Natalie Portman makes a movie suspenseful and heightens dramatic tension. Those Star War movies would have been much better if they were dotted with a few Natalie Portman lesbo scenes. There are very few movies that would not be improved with a hot kesbo scene......I was not aware until now that French actresses were afflicted with overbite.

Smilin' Jack said...

How could genitalia compete with that mouth?

Yes. We want to see cooperation, not competition.

Carlo said...

[The sex between these characters, ]"as is true of most carnality, causes the interesting parts of these women’s personalities to recede"

I must assume that miss Moore is(psychologically) a virgin

rhhardin said...

Part of the reason that sex scenes don't work is that sex doesn't work as imagined either, so there's nothing to act.

It's needed and wanted, is all.

It's undefined because it marks an unknown future, which more or less corresponds to a child.

Or nothing at all today, in the age of birth control.