Lie With Me (2005-6) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Scoop's notes in white
Lie With Me is a Canadian film in the English language, which makes this a good time to introduce a topic I've been meaning to discuss, and to share with y'all a bit of information about the film market in the Great White North.
The government of Canada set a goal in 2000, expressed in the Canadian Feature Film Policy, to give more of those pretty pink dollars to native Canadian films. Do you know what percentage of Canadian box office receipts went to Canadian films in 2000? The answer is "about two percent." The film board set a goal to reach five percent by 2005, and Canada made the goal.
So that's good news, right?
No, it's some good news and some bad news.
That progress report is very misleading, because the Canadian film market is actually two markets, one French-speaking, and one English. Native Canadian films are making excellent progress in their Francophone market, and now own a 27% share of that segment, up from only 6% just five years ago. That's the good news. The bad news is that the English-language story is downright depressing. Canadian films own only 1.2% of the market for Anglophone films in Canada, and that is actually DOWN from 2000! All the growth has occurred in the French-speaking segment.
Since Canadians give only 5.5 cents per movie dollar to their own films, you might be curious about the other 94.5 cents. The answer is that almost all of it goes across the border. With the exception of an occasional European film, the Canadian top ten every week is a mirror image of the list from the States. Here's the Canadian list for the weekend of February 10-12, the last one available as I write this. (Source: Tribute.ca)
Overall, 85.5 cents of every Canadian box office dollar goes to films from the States:
So much for Canada, lets talk some sex ...
Medium Core Hybrids
Back in the seventies, soft-core sex films were a basic staple product of the drive-in market in the early part of the decade, and then in the inchoate video market when the drive-ins were KOed by a lethal 1-2 punch of VCRs and rising land costs. Soft-core films struggled for economic survival in the sexually liberated eighties because they suffered from two flank attacks on their core market. On the left flank, Hollywood filmmakers used the new sexual openness to spice up the tired thriller genre. Body Heat came along, offering all the sexual titillation of a soft-core sex film, plus top-drawer production values, great stars, and an interesting plot. Body Heat spawned numberless clones, and soft-core sex films were squeezed hard. Where was the consumer to rent a film with anonymous soft-core sex acts performed by unknowns when he could rent Body Heat for the same price? On the right flank of the soft-core films, hard-core filmmakers used the relaxed legislative climate to gain wider distribution and a stronger presence in mainstream video stores. With much of the social stigma removed from harder fare, where was the consumer for soft-core sex films when hard-core action was available at the same rental outlet for the same price?
Soft-core films responded by adapting and mutating. To defend the left flank, grade-B filmmakers tried to make their sex films more like Hollywood products, with some familiar faces and/or fairly complex plots. On the other front, they upped the ante on the sex acts and moved toward harder fare, adding increasingly more explicit content, but often stopping short of penetration or money shots. As the mutation continued in the late 90s and 2000s, those new forms merged and formed the latest phenomena, medium-core sex films (sometimes even with some hard-core action) with familiar B-list actors and some artistic aspirations ...
... which brings us to some recent films like Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs, which is a hard-core sex film starring a B-list actor and a screen newcomer; and Lie With Me, which is a medium-core sex film starring two fairly familiar TV faces. These are the results of the struggle of the soft-core sex film to survive the changes in American society and the film marketplace in the past three decades. In essence, they are to the new millennium what drive-in soft-core films were to the early seventies.
Frankly, I am not the right guy for the job of reviewing these films, because I don't like most of the permutations produced by the evolutionary process I just described, as pictured in the chart below:
For example, I don't like types "b" and "c" above, so I also dislike type "bc," which is simply a hybrid. I do like type "a," so I have at least some tepid enthusiasm for pretty good "ab" movies like Warm Texas Rain, but less for "b2," because they move further away from what I like. My problem with showing sex acts on screen is not a moral one. I love to watch beautiful women getting naked. I'm all in favor of it. My problem is that taut cinema and explicit sex acts have never gone hand-in-hand. The custom in hard-core sex films is to show sexual activity in real time. It is virtually impossible to make a worthwhile 90 minute film with five or six such sex acts. First of all, that leaves no time for any plot or character development other than what can be accomplished in a few minutes. Second, cinema works best when moving forward. Sex acts, by nature, are fundamentally static. At maximum efficiency, two people grind their hips and lips together for six or seven minutes. In terms of the development of a film, seven minutes is an eternity. It's seven minutes when not a goddamned thing happens. I like watching the first hip thrusts, and the changes of position, and hearing a little dirty talk, but hip thrusts #2-#50 look exactly the same as #1, and that slows the film down to such a degree that whatever had been happening before the sex is basically forgotten by the time the humpin' ends. I fall asleep during these films, and Lie With Me was no exception.
Basically, I think filmmakers still haven't the first clue when it comes to erotic cinema. There are some exceptions, but in general, they can come up with good erotica or good cinema, but not both. As I say, there have been some good exceptions - Basic Instinct, Body Double, Last Tango, and Body Heat work well on both levels, but I really can't name many more.
The logical extension of the trend, and the Holy Grail of all the cross-fertilization I have described, would be a solid movie with hard-core sex scenes starring A-list stars and made by a director who understands how to pace a movie. I don't know of any major director who would try this except Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Showgirls), and he seems to have wandered back to the Netherlands. I don't know of any A-list stars who have expressed a willingness to do hard-core sex scenes on camera except Sigourney Weaver, and while I like and admire her very much, I think her code date has expired, at least for sex films. But I still like the idea in principle. Imagine a slick film like The Italian Job with some hard-core sexual activity between a major male star and Halle Berry or Jessica Biel, all directed by Verhoeven. That's hot. It ain't gonna happen soon, but something like that will happen some day, and then I'll get back into reviewing sexually explicit films. In the meantime ... move down to Tuna's review below.
Tuna's notes in yellow
Lie with Me is a Canadian Erotic Drama. A sexually free woman (Lauren Lee Smith) has no problems with physical intimacy, but finds her sex life less than completely fulfilling. After sex, she feels like "pleasure sticks to her belly. There are pieces left inside." She meets a man at a club and the sparks between them are obvious. The night she first sees Eric Balfour at the club, he is with another woman. She leaves with a stranger, and gives him a blow job then screws him outside the club, all with Balfour watching. He is hooked at that point, and pursues her. There was a sparseness of dialogue, beginning with the opening sequence. During the open credits, we start with a unfocused shot of Smith's eye. The camera slowly pulls back to reveal that she is lying on a sofa masturbating while watching a porn tape. She dresses, heads to the club, makes eye contact with Balfour, and hooks him by having public sex with the stranger, all with no dialogue. There is some voice-over, as the film is completely from her point of view. Smith was excellent at telling the story with acting, making dialogue unnecessary.
That first act had me totally hooked.
They do get together sexually, and the sex scenes are red hot, including extensive full frontal nudity from both Balfour and Smith. Toronto is a character in the film as well, as director Clement Virgo uses a sweltering Toronto summer as a backdrop for their sexual heat. The film was shot on super 16, which allowed more intimate camera angles, and the director used that intimacy to make a film nearly as explicit as the recent French films which go into great bedroom detail. Lie with Me should be a strong entry in the voting for the best sex scenes of 2006.
The couple struggles when the relationship turns from lust to intimacy. Apart from their sexual encounters, they are two real people with normal lives. Her parents are splitting up, and her cousin is getting married. He takes care of his ailing father. The two find the sex easy, but as they develop needs for more intimacy, both have trouble sharing their lives.
I felt the film begin to drag when they reached the point where their need for intimacy begin to diminish the lust. Nonetheless, this is an outstanding effort, and I hope director Clément Virgo makes more films in this vein. It is also in major chick-flick territory with a female-male disparity of 6.9 to 5.1 at IMDb, with women in the 18-29 group scoring it 9.1! Hint - with full frontal nudity and hot sex, this might be a good date flick if you have a lustful partner. Despite the explicit content, Lie With Me will offend only the most uptight.
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