Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coming-of-Age Sex Films

My roommate organizes his Netflix list by subject matter. For example, he had an entire series of films coming to the house in a row about “brothers in trouble.” We watched Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Cassandra’s Dream, etc… His new trip is coming-of-age sex films. You know the type- a young girl exploring her sexuality. This is classic subject matter for first time female filmmakers looking to make a “personal film.” It is a great genre. I'm only going to discuss singular stories that are told from one perspective. I'm leaving out a lot of 80's classics or films I havent seen in a long time because its too hard to remember and I don't really want to watch stuff like Heavenly Creatures or Sixteen Candles again. So the following are reviews of some of the films that document those adventurous and tremendously awkward years. I’ll keep adding to the list as more films come.

Water Lilies

A recent French indie about 3 young synchronized swimmers exploring themselves and each other for the first time. It seems every shot is framed around the girls’ breasts, each girl is at different stage of development. I think the filmmaker did this on purpose to make us feel uncomfortable about possibly being turned on by underage breasts, as the girls are pretty young. The best thing about the movie is the cinematography- beautiful camera work and colors everywhere. Between that and the innocent sex, it's pretty fascinating film. Lots of people I know saw it and loved it.


Said roommate said it best- “an after school special.” It’s the only film a woman named Christina Wayne made. It’s about growing up in an upper-class New York. Obviously a personal story, she must have got this funded by her rich parents or friends. The sound was way fucked up, inexcusably bad. The films only saving grace is an amazing performance from the late Brad Renfro. He plays an addict and a thief that takes advantage of his rich friends. Bijou Phillips also does a great job playing a sassy rich girl on drugs. The big tragic ending comes when Renfro kills Phillips when she catches him sucking an old mans dick and threatens to narc. Unless you’re REALLY into this genre or a hardcore Renfro fan, stay away.


Everything Tart was not, this is. This is an amazingly realistic and engaging film. I can’t really see the genre getting better than this. Evan Rachael Wood gives an incredible performance as Tracy, a girl trying to fit in and grow up in modern day Los Angeles. She and her bad girl hottie friend, played by co-writer Nikki Reed, shop on Melrose, steal, huff, drop acid, make-out, fight, and generally be naughty girls. The director, Catherine Hardwicke, did an excellent job of depicting bratty confused teenage behavior; and we are there every step of the way on Tracy’s tortured journey. Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona) plays the mom and Brady Corbet (Funny Games) the brother. I watched some of the commentary and that was pretty insightful as to how a first time director got the film made.


This one is told from the less-documented male perspective. It takes place in a Mussolini run Italy. A kid becomes obsessed with Malena, the town hottie, played by the stunningly perfect Monica Bellucci. He follows and spies on her and through his fascination he learns to jerk off. Malena is also the town slut and gets beaten up and humiliated in the town square by all the other wives in town. It would have been nice to see more of Malena in sexual situations, instead of just alluding to them. But I guess we see Bellucci having sex in Irreversible (ha ha, just kidding). It’s a nice little period piece but I found it ultimately forgettable.


This one isn’t exactly coming-of-age but it’s about a woman in her 20’s exploring her sexuality. It is by French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, who has made a career of making films in this genre like A Real Young Girl and the incredible Fat Girl. Marie lives with her male model idiot boyfriend who won’t make love to her or even let her give him head. This makes her feel horrible because she is emotionally in love with him. In order to deal with it and get one up on him she starts having sex with all sorts of other people. She finds solace in being tied up and gagged by the principal of the school she works at. When she finishes with her bondage sessions she goes home to her boyfriend and feels empowered, not needing a thing from him. Not since Larry Clarks’ masterpiece Ken Park have I seen a film depicting sex this graphically. There are lots of dicks, pussies, fucking and cumming. It works in favor of the film. There are really long beautiful takes of bondage and sex acts from start to finish. They are done in a way that isn’t gratuitous and serves as a study of sexual relations. Ultimately this is a totally unromantic film about roles of power in relationships.

A Nos Amours

This was amazing. Maurice Pialat directed this in 1983. This was the debut of the beautiful and gifted Sandrine Bonnaire. She plays a troubled 15 year old that sleeps around with random guys because thats the only time she feels happy. Her home life is a nightmare, there are some disturbingly realistic scenes of the family fighting at home. Her mom is a nutcase and her brother is a weirdo that beats her. I like the costumes in this a lot, Bonnaire wears some really cool stuff. Also check her out in another underated French film called Vagabond.


This one generated some contraversy here in consevative America but I found it to be pretty mild. Its about a 13 year old Iraqi girl, Jasira, living in Texas with her annoying and close-minded father. The actor plays him being a dickhead so well he is almost unwatchable. Jasira gets taken advantage of by an older neighboor until some other neighboors step in to save her. The film is refreshing in that it doesnt ram any morality down your throat. It kind of lets the viewer decide whats right and wrong and what the characters real motivations are. Good stuff.


warren said...

i think renfro may be the most under-estimated and therefore tortured artist of his neglected time... {when hunniebuns like mischa barton were just forming boobies (still forming)} ... he is an american portrait of the late 90s an early 00s...misunderstood times in human development and evolution.. renfro may be the cobain of acting... the sorry sod. i wish he could've been around to party with his contemporaries when obama is inaugurated (god bless and protect his soul) next (this ) year you sorry slags!!! -jihaad

Gail said...

Really good list - I'm going to go and check out Water Lilies.

Actually I've been trying to compile a list of Coming of Age Films for Girls and there is actually way way more than I originally thought.


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