Is it pornographic or photographic?

March 7th, 2012 by Ron
The Script Blogger 
Sex scenes in movies are more often voyeuristic than cinematic.  But please do not blame the screenwriter for sex in the movies, everything on the screen is not their fault; the director, producers and actors have had a hand in the finished product.


None more than in a sex scene, that often brings nothing to the story, the characters or the quality of the movie. In fact it often degrades the movie and the actors because the scene is too explicit, too long or just unnecessary and poorly portrayed.


Admittedly sometimes a flash of flesh adds something rather than subtracts as in the wedding night scene between Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend in ‘The Young Victoria’. Where the director, Jean-Marc Vallée, uses the imagery sparingly, increasing the impact and sensually.


A good example of getting it right and getting wrong in the same movie is Michael Mann’s ‘Miami Vice’ (2006).


The shower scene with Jamie Foxx and Naomie Harris is totally unnecessary and almost voyeur in presentation but the love scene between Colin Farrell and Gong Li, works, although it may go on longer than was necessary for the point in the story to be established.


In another of Michael Mann’s movies, ‘Heat’, what did the love scene between Al Pacino and Diane Venora bring to the movie?


Did David Cronenberg capture the loving atmosphere between a husband and wife in ‘A History of Violence’ or satisfy a personal fetish in filming a 38 year-old actress dressed as a cheerleader in a torrid sex scene. 


In Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan’ Natalie Portman has to go beyond the call of duty in proving she is the right person to dance in the ballet. No doubt Tchaikovsky turned in his grave.


Even in television productions there appears to be no consideration as to whom maybe watching the small screen.


I am sure the masturbation scene in ‘The Tudors’ added nothing to this custom drama. Neither did the vision of Damian Lewis masturbating in his love scene with Morena Baccarin in Homeland. However I am sure they were included more to enhance the viewing figures than the dramatic interpretation.


Have directors forgotten that less can be more and that quality actors can project sexuality with a look, a small gesture or a great line of dialogue. ‘Less is More’ is something instilled in good writers.


A perfect example of a director using a visual metaphor is in the successful film ‘Ghost’, when Jerry Zucker suggestively uses a clay pot to demonstrate the effect Demi Moore is having on Patrick Swayze.


It appears that when a sex scene is used in a movie, imagination is sacrificed on the altar of ‘cheap thrills’ and pornography becomes an escape passage for the lack of creativity. 


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  6. Ivan Nelson says:

    Ron, I agree with all your very good points but would like to add that studio executives have taken notice that sex sells, and it sells a lot. Since Hollywood is in the business of making money, it is not surprising to see that sex found its way in movies. And to your point, there is nothing wrong with that if it serves the story.