>9 1/2 Weeks (1986)

 Warning! NSFW! Contains footage of fictional couple performing acts of a sexual nature!

”What is it men in women do require?
The lineaments of gratified desire.
What is it women in men require?
The lineaments of gratified desire.” – William Blake (c.1791-1792)

I was far too young to watch this film on it’s original release. I was about ten years old but even amongst my circle of mates, the film was a notorious title at the local video store- frequently rented by couples due to it’s racy sexual content.

Controversial at the time for being a mainstream Hollywood movie that was unusually graphic in it’s depiction of several erotic acts, one in particular being the famous scene involving the contents of a fridge, it’s worth mentioning that Adrian Lyne’s film was that it was a failure at the box office on it’s initial release and only became a success on home video.

This led to several shabby, excruciatingly dull soft porn imitators in the late Eighties and early Nineties with titles such as Two Moon Junction, Wild Orchid and The Red Shoe Diaries, all of these works of art being either produced, written or directed by Weeks producer/co-writer Zalman King.

One of the key reasons for this may have been that the privacy of one’s sitting room made the act of watching such a guilty pleasure slightly less embarrassing than being stuck with a bunch of strangers in a cinema as Mickey Rourke gives Kim Basinger a good seeing to in an alleyway.

Now that it’s original notoriety has passed, it can be seen for what it is, a dated, superficially stylish and I was going to say shallow…but then I watched it for the first time only a couple of years back. I was going through a period of watching Mickey Rourke films, catching up on his back catalogue in anticipation of his comeback role in The Wrestler and it turned out to be less shallow than it’s sensational reputation had suggested. In fact, it proved to be surprisingly perceptive and was extremely well acted.

The film does have problems. All of the periphery characters are thin and one dimensional to be almost practically non existent, Lyne’s far too tasteful eye makes the whole affair look like a feature length perfume ad or pop/rock video with the use of music particularly clumsy at times(the above clip being the exception) and the motivations of Rourkes Wall Street stockbroker character are murky to say the least, leading to an unsatifactorily ambigous conclusion.

Adversely, these problems may also be conscious creative decisions illustrating that these two lovers have created their own private sexual universe- one in which everybody and everything else falls away- inhibitions, professional responsibilities,families reality. They live and breathe only for each other. Nothing else matters. They exist in a sexual fantasia, a dream. One soundtracked by Brian Ferry.

The characters are drawn into a sadomasochistic dynamic that is shown rather than explained to us through dialogue and whatever realism it contains at it’s core is there in the performances of Basinger and Rourke who make this coupling believable as they conduct an intense affair in which the boundaries between pain and pleasure, love and contempt are blurred.

The clip, a montage/music video and it’s content may seem absurd at times, certainly overwrought in it’s aesthetic but it showcases the playful chemistry between the two leads, capturing both actors at the peak of their physical charm and the forlorn romanticism of Ferry’s underlines the volatile mixture of tenderness and desire on display throughout.