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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:36 pm 
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A review from the last two men you want to hear talking about sex.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 4:20 pm 
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flyonthewall2983 wrote:

Ebert may not be attractive (I assume that's what you mean by not wanting to hear him talk about sex), but his view of Crash is laudably sophisticated: the movie, at least to him, puts together a typical erotic scenario and then alienates the audience from the erotic content as a way to explore the nature of obsession, sexual or otherwise. Siskel was embarrassingly puerile, and I have no doubt he didn't try to understand the movie on any level whatsoever. Ebert could easily have followed suit, and it's to his credit (he doesn't get much around here) that he doesn't.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 5:20 pm 
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Yeah but he also seems to think that "the movie" agrees with Siskel's dismissal of the characters' pathology/psychology/philosophy. Which is bullshit.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:44 pm 

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I disagree with Ebert when he says "None of the sex scenes in this movie are directed in a way to be erotic". I remember at least one other critic on TV saying something similar to this and I was amazed. I can't see how any movie with gorgeous women like Rosanna Arquette, Deborah Unger and Holly Hunter indulging in lots of sex scenes can fail to be erotic.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:02 am 
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Robin Davies wrote:
I disagree with Ebert when he says "None of the sex scenes in this movie are directed in a way to be erotic". I remember at least one other critic on TV saying something similar to this and I was amazed. I can't see how any movie with gorgeous women like Rosanna Arquette, Deborah Unger and Holly Hunter indulging in lots of sex scenes can fail to be erotic.

In which case you're talking about the physical attributes of the actresses, not the qualities of the direction.

John Cope wrote:
Yeah but he also seems to think that "the movie" agrees with Siskel's dismissal of the characters' pathology/psychology/philosophy. Which is bullshit."

Well, he's clearly flustered, which can lead anyone to speak imprecisely.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:03 am 
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I'll just speak to my own experience and go from there. I'd like to hear if others had the same. While I found some of the earlier scenes quite arousing, ironically by the time the film climaxes I lost any sort of arousal I had. This is achieved principally for me as the camera zooms in on Unger's nude body, slowly bringing to light and focus her bruises. Her face's ambiguity (to be sure at least there is no sign of pleasure) quickly takes any remnant of arousal I might have and perhaps doesn't so much extinguish it but transforms it into a very sick and disgusting feeling that I've experienced very few times in contact with art (the other that comes to mind being Piggy's death in Lord of the Flies). I don't know if this says more about me and my attitudes towards certain types of sex (to be sure art should have the effect of drawing out multivarious reactions from different people) or the film. Regardless, this experience can't but contribute to my interpretation of the film's themes and I don't think it should work any other way if one is viewing a film from the proper place in respect to art (that is, any place that isn't objective and scientific).

All this being said, I respect any work that can elicit such a feeling and rate this and Dead Ringers as Cronenberg's best (or at least my favorite) work.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:14 am 
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Robin Davies wrote:
I disagree with Ebert when he says "None of the sex scenes in this movie are directed in a way to be erotic".

That's a common claim by critics trying to "elevate" certain films to the point of being something that a large audiece could consider Art. They seem to think that anything that has any discernible erotocism somehow falls short of that lofty standard. It's not something that Roger always claims, but it's still a frequent occurrence for a lot of middlebrow critics.

That goes back to the decision to allow Ulysses to be published in America. The judge was very careful to state that none of the sex was really meant to be erotic (which would obviously have been quite a shock to Joyce), so therefore it could be taken seriously.

If Ebert had simply said "...conventionally erotic" or maybe "merely erotic", he would have been on firmer ground, but the plain fact is that someone, somewhere, was bound to find those scenes erotic, or the whole film is pretty pointless, since it spends it's length depicting people who do.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:43 am 
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Polybius wrote:
That's a common claim by critics trying to "elevate" certain films to the point of being something that a large audiece could consider Art. They seem to think that anything that has any discernible erotocism somehow falls short of that lofty standard. It's not something that Roger always claims, but it's still a frequent occurrence for a lot of middlebrow critics.

This is a major reason for Walerian Borowczyk's fall from critical grace from the early 1970s (when Sight & Sound nominated him the most plausible successor to Buñuel and Bresson) to the end of that decade, when most mainstream critics gave up on him.

To be fair, the patchy distribution of his films didn't help – as I said in my S&S Borowczyk obituary, they generally opened in London in decidedly specialist Soho venues in badly mangled prints that had lost a three-round fight with distributor, censor and dubbing studio – but even when they premiered at festivals there was a definite sense that most critics simply weren't prepared to take them seriously because of their overt and unashamed eroticism.

Two major exceptions were the Financial Times' Nigel Andrews and Time Out's Chris Peachment, who both made a point of going to see Docteur Jekyll et les Femmes (1981) even though it wasn't press-shown. Though their rave reviews almost appeared too late (Andrews' was published on the morning of the final day of the week-long run), I just about managed to catch the film – which remains one of my all-time faves to this day, and without question it's as provocative, challenging, visually rich and generally intriguing a film as any of his more fêted works like Blanche (1971), regardless of the fact that one of its key set-pieces involves a woman being shagged from behind while bent over an old-fashioned sewing machine.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:30 am 
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Mr_sausage wrote:
flyonthewall2983 wrote:

Ebert may not be attractive (I assume that's what you mean by not wanting to hear him talk about sex), but his view of Crash is laudably sophisticated: the movie, at least to him, puts together a typical erotic scenario and then alienates the audience from the erotic content as a way to explore the nature of obsession, sexual or otherwise. Siskel was embarrassingly puerile, and I have no doubt he didn't try to understand the movie on any level whatsoever. Ebert could easily have followed suit, and it's to his credit (he doesn't get much around here) that he doesn't.

I just said it to be snarky.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:52 pm 
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I thought so.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:54 pm 
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One wouldn't really expect the screenwriter of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens to be a total prude.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:05 pm 

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Mr_sausage wrote:
Robin Davies wrote:
I disagree with Ebert when he says "None of the sex scenes in this movie are directed in a way to be erotic". I remember at least one other critic on TV saying something similar to this and I was amazed. I can't see how any movie with gorgeous women like Rosanna Arquette, Deborah Unger and Holly Hunter indulging in lots of sex scenes can fail to be erotic.

In which case you're talking about the physical attributes of the actresses, not the qualities of the direction.

Not entirely. Cronenberg could have taken a much more gritty, realistic approach to the sex scenes if he wanted to but instead he chose the standard soft porn technique (immaculate hair and makeup, flattering lighting, lingerie) presumably to draw people into the film. In fact I seem to remember Cronenberg admitted this in one of the (many) Crash interviews I've read.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:45 pm 

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I found the climactic scene where James Spader mounts Elias Koteas to be incredibly erotic.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:37 pm 
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David Ehrenstein wrote:
I found the climactic scene where James Spader mounts Elias Koteas to be incredibly erotic.
I would say that's easily the most erotic scene in the film, and typically Cronenbergian that in a film filled with beautiful women, he would inject the man-on-man scene with the most eroticism.

I think depriving or providing the scenes with the tag of eroticism (at least in its common usage, which links it closer to pornography than art) misses the point. It's the hot-and-cold quality, the elements of both a recognizable blatant eroticism, and an unnerving clinical detachment, that provides the the sex scenes in the film with so much power, and is very much in line with the sex throughout Cronenberg's career.


Last edited by Cold Bishop on Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:42 pm 
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I think I read somewhere (probably Chris Rodley's interview book) that Cronenberg structured Crash's sex scenes in linked pairs to both mirror the structure of porn films and to have the pairings comment on each other by their placement together.

I felt that the film worked so well because the subject matter might seem extreme but really deals with a common notion - the tension between safe and acceptable yet vanilla and 'boring' sex versus dangerous, forbidden, illegal and 'exciting' couplings.

It is just taking recognisable concepts and pushing them to an edge, so taking the idea of car as sex object and the sexualisation of our environment made commonplace through advertising and pushing the idea further into an obsessional fetish (why is one acceptable and the other is not? Because one is corporate funded and the other is made up of enthusiastic amateurs taking material intended for one purpose and refashioning it to fit their own interests?) Then it asks us to observe the behaviour of that group and to enter into their world and try to empathise with them, even though we might personally be left cold by their particular fetish.

The most wonderful aspect of both the book and the film is the suggestion that perhaps just thinking about such acts is a much more dangerous and subversive act than actually doing them, with the event itself sometimes seeming absurd and ironically slightly anti-climactic in how quickly it is over! It is the anticipation and planning of the act, or savouring of the aftermath, that carries the true erotic charge.

It is perfect material for a Cronenberg film in many ways since there is that idea of people adrift or searching at the start of a film then finding their purpose or calling that brings them into a new relationship with their world. There also seems to be the idea that the pursuit or fulfilment of that quest usually leads to willing self destruction in order to move on to another kind of existence.

And Crash provides lots of opportunities for the juxtaposition of warm, soft flesh against sleek, shiny, cold metal which can be coded as something very erotic (see all those models posing on car hoods in adverts!) but at the same time feels sterile. I'm thinking of Catherine Ballard's first sex scene where she presses her breast against the wing of the plane. It seems that the inclination is there but subconsciously, waiting to be explored more fully but for now she is just using the wing as an inanimate object to rub against.

The interesting thing is that there is a disconnection shown by the Ballards in their supposedly 'normal' lives at the start of the film, a lack of interest in the people they are having sex with - whether it is the hot Asian babe or the hunky muscle stud. When the film moves into what might seem to be a more enclosed, disconnected from real life environment, the Ballards actually create meaningful relationships with people around them that, although they are mediated through sex, are more of a mental understanding and connection with the feelings of others. The cars become not just sex toys to use in addition to sex but become an outgrowth of the sexual act themselves - the person becomes the brain, the consciousness inside a metal shell. They are not just pounding at each other using any old vehicle to disguise their lack of connection but their use of technology is incorporated into their intimacy. That, I think, takes the film beyond the notion of jaded characters just looking for the next thrill - instead they seem to be looking for a way to create meaningful connection in a world where everyone is separated into their own little wheeled cages.

Though there is that sense that even though connections and understandings have been forged inside the group that there is little feeling for people outside of their world, which adds a disturbing frisson to the scenes of posing in the wreckage of crash scenes that have been chanced upon, or of the faceless nature of the other drivers on the road (a seeming never ending tide of traffic lending a sense of futility to the characters lives at the start of the film could contrast with the way our protagonists constitute the greatest threat on the road by the end. They've asserted themselves over the rigid tide of the daily commute but in so doing they run the risk of destroying bystanders in the collateral damage from their crashes).

(Spoiler!) I love the ending of the film in which Ballard and his wife come together as a couple again and James seems to be about to assume Vaughan's role as leader of the group to begin spreading his message to the outside world. In a way this seems to strongly resonate with the end of Shivers as all the parasite infected residents of the apartment block leave their enclosed environment to 'spread the love'! (Or even with the end of The Fly when Seth wants to force Veronica into becoming a part of a new kind of family with him)

It is equal parts happy (for our characters) and disturbing (for everyone else who might not subscribe to their world view and who just want to drive safely to work or not get taken over by a parasite that turns you into a sex maniac), I guess!


Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:51 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 6:49 pm 
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Robin Davies wrote:
Mr_sausage wrote:
Robin Davies wrote:
I disagree with Ebert when he says "None of the sex scenes in this movie are directed in a way to be erotic". I remember at least one other critic on TV saying something similar to this and I was amazed. I can't see how any movie with gorgeous women like Rosanna Arquette, Deborah Unger and Holly Hunter indulging in lots of sex scenes can fail to be erotic.

In which case you're talking about the physical attributes of the actresses, not the qualities of the direction.

Not entirely. Cronenberg could have taken a much more gritty, realistic approach to the sex scenes if he wanted to but instead he chose the standard soft porn technique (immaculate hair and makeup, flattering lighting, lingerie) presumably to draw people into the film. In fact I seem to remember Cronenberg admitted this in one of the (many) Crash interviews I've read.

A distanced, clinical approach is more likely to be un-erotic than "gritty realism." Reminds of some dialogue from Videodrome:

Max Renn [referring to some softcore Japanese porn]: What do you think?
Board Member 1: I don't like it. It's not tacky enough.
Max Renn: Not tacky enough for what?
Board Member 1: Not tacky enough to turn me on.

I wouldn't dispute with anyone their turn-ons. If Crash does it for you, great. It obviously didn't do it for Ebert.

As for Ebert, prudery, and artistry, here's an excellent sentence from his review of Mulholland Drive that should reveal his position:

Roger Ebert wrote:
...Betty and Rita have two lesbian love scenes so sexy you'd swear this was a 1970s movie, made when movie audiences liked sex.

Sounds like he includes himself in that latter category.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:42 pm 
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Snarky Comment #2: I was wondering when someone would mention Videodrome. It's like the costume Crash would wear for Halloween.

But as for the erotic quality of the film, singling out one scene would be pretty hard. I think where James and Catherine are in bed and she is putting the idea in his head to ultimately fuck Vaughan is the one that immediately springs to mind. It's voyeuristic in two ways, us watching the married couple have sex and her projecting her fantasies about her husband screwing another man.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:58 am 
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Mr_sausage wrote:
As for Ebert, prudery, and artistry, here's an excellent sentence from his review of Mulholland Drive that should reveal his position:

Roger Ebert wrote:
...Betty and Rita have two lesbian love scenes so sexy you'd swear this was a 1970s movie, made when movie audiences liked sex.

Sounds like he includes himself in that latter category.

I can also remember him writing indulgent apologias for sex scenes in films as dispirate as Lost and Delirious and Cat People. Within the context of the actual film, he seems to get the point that they're a tool (no pun intended) that should be at the filmmakers' disposal. He just does, occasionally, go to that "This isn't really erotic" well that I pointed out before.

And just for the record, while neither is exactly my ideal guy to see discuss cinematic sex, I can think of plenty of other people I'd less rather see. I think Michael Medved and Henry Kissinger would be the "winners" of that particular contest.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:05 pm 

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Mr_sausage wrote:
A distanced, clinical approach is more likely to be un-erotic than "gritty realism."

By "gritty realism" I meant unglamorous. Glossy soft porn techniques must have developed for a reason and the most likely one is that many viewers of mainstream films find them more of a turn-on than a more realistic style (i.e. with harsh or dim lighting, spotty skin or (worst of all) participants who look like real people rather than flawlessly gorgeous actresses!)

I agree this does all depend on personal taste to some degree. I can see how the "distanced, clinical" style of the rest of the film might affect how people regard the sex scenes but I'm still genuinely surprised that people can describe them as unerotic.

And I'm certainly not blaming Cronenberg for making those scenes so sexy. It was a very tough film to get past the censors (especially here in the UK) and if the film had gone for a more documentary style (complete with realistic crash wounds and expressions of pain) I doubt whether it would have been released at all.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 4:37 pm 
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I think it was kind of appropriate (if stupid) that the Daily Mail treated the film as if it were committing a thoughtcrime!


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:24 pm 
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Robin Davies wrote:
It was a very tough film to get past the censors (especially here in the UK)

Actually, it had a relatively smooth passage through the BBFC, for all the controversy - the problems were entirely external (national and local government and the tabloid press).

The BBFC was more cautious than they might otherwise have been with a Cronenberg film, but there was never much question that they'd pass it - the then BBFC director James Ferman was an outspoken Cronenberg fan, and defended it to the hilt.

(I wrote a university essay about the Crash censorship saga, which I published online here)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 9:25 am 
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flyonthewall2983 wrote:
But as for the erotic quality of the film, singling out one scene would be pretty hard. I think where James and Catherine are in bed and she is putting the idea in his head to ultimately fuck Vaughan is the one that immediately springs to mind. It's voyeuristic in two ways, us watching the married couple have sex and her projecting her fantasies about her husband screwing another man.

This is also a development of their relationship from the beginning of the film where they are both having flings with other people but cannot even find the energy or interest to talk about it with each other or care. At least for James and Catherine the film is a slow and painful return to intimacy with Vaughan as their mediator - they both need a relationship with the same person and then his removal to come together again, this time with renewed vigour and purpose.

The more I watch the film the more I become more interested in Helen Remington and her fascination with the group. I suppose her initial involvement was a way of coming to terms with grief but I'm not sure that I yet have a handle on her character.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:34 am 
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MichaelB wrote:
Robin Davies wrote:
It was a very tough film to get past the censors (especially here in the UK)

Actually, it had a relatively smooth passage through the BBFC, for all the controversy - the problems were entirely external (national and local government and the tabloid press).

The BBFC was more cautious than they might otherwise have been with a Cronenberg film, but there was never much question that they'd pass it - the then BBFC director James Ferman was an outspoken Cronenberg fan, and defended it to the hilt.

(I wrote a university essay about the Crash censorship saga, which I published online here)

I saw a video quite awhile ago, on the imdb forums, that was an interview with David about the difficulties with censorship, with the boards, and indeed with the American distributor itself. David said that he had heard Ted Turner say that he didn't want it to be released because he was afraid "kids would start having sex in cars". Unfortunately I wouldn't know where to look for it, as I know when I tried to watch it again the video was removed but it was a fascinating and certainly entertaining interview.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:27 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
(I wrote a university essay about the Crash censorship saga, which I published online here)

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

I must say, this headline:

Quote:
BAN THIS CAR CRASH SEX FILM (9 November 1996)

just made my day.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:23 pm 
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Binker wrote:
I must say, this headline:

Quote:
BAN THIS CAR CRASH SEX FILM (9 November 1996)

just made my day.

That's a modern classic, and I've always liked the way that it has the weird implication: "(but the other car crash sex films are OK)"


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