From ‘Pink Flamingos’ to ‘Stranger by the Lake’, see a real history of sex on screen.
There have always been rumors about the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice . Rumors that eventually became a myth: that one of the sex scenes in the film – in which Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange make out in the kitchen – was not faked. That the two actors simply had sex in front of the camera. Postman isn’t the only film to be talked about this way; the 1973 horror classic Don’t Look Now had a similar response, and the sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie became the subject of controversy.
Some mainstream films – which are not pornographic – have gone further than Postman and Don’t Look Now , and contain real, not simulated, sex. And with Bruce LaBruce ‘s new film from New Queer Cinema, The Visitor (a remake of Pasolini’s Theorem , which contains actual sex), now is the perfect time to look at the feature films that chose to go all out.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
John Walters’ work is the ideal starting point for any list of films that push the boundaries of good taste, something that Pink Flamingos, the director’s most infamous film, is filled to the brim with. Whether it’s Divine’s final act of eating dog shit, or the hard-to-watch sequence with the chicken, Pink Flamingos is full of things that shock precisely because they’re real.
And as if all that wasn’t enough, the film also contains unsimulated incestuous oral sex. Divine and Crackers are so turned on by the chaos they cause at their rivals’ house that mother and son end up taking their relationship to another level. Pink Flamingos will always live up to its own description: “An exercise in bad taste.”
In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
Worlds away from John Walters when it comes to ideas of good or bad taste, In the Realms of the Senses exists at the intersection of erotica and arthouse films. It tells the story of an affair between a sex worker who becomes a hotel maid and her employer.
With explicit sex and shocking moments of intimacy, the film was censored and banned upon release, and questions such as “Is it pornography?” – and all the baggage that question comes with – still lingers.
Time was kind to In the Realms of the Senses, though . From strong reviews to its release through The Criterion Collection—a distribution company that emphasizes important films, both classic and contemporary— Realm makes it clear that unsimulated sex isn’t just there to shock, and that even the most explicit films still have artistic relevance.
The Idiots (1998)
Lars Von Trier is no stranger to controversy these days , but his early work shows that the director has always been provocative, and the dark comedy The Idiots proves that there’s nothing he won’t do.
The Idiots was somehow made according to the rules of Dogme 95, a creative manifesto dreamed up by Von Trier and director Thomas Vinterberg. Dogme was a kind of radical minimalism, one that refused to indulge in special effects or post-production alterations. And it was through this framework that Von Trier built The Idiots , the story of adults trying to shed their inhibitions by releasing their “inner idiot.”
Controversial for more than its moments of unrequited sex, The Idiots also asks questions about what it means to represent disability on screen; questions that are more important than ever to answer now.
The Raspberry Reich (2004)
As sexually honest as it is politically … more