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Million Dollar Movie


Julie Bloom talks with Maggie Gyllenhaal about sex scenes from a woman’s perspective:

Q: Why is sex still such a complicated thing to tackle on film?

A: I’ve thought a lot about women in movies and sex and sex scenes. The question is why, if half of the adult population is women who have sex, why is it difficult to see? I personally think this doesn’t necessarily account for this movie, but the most interesting sex scenes that I’ve done or seen are the ones that are truthful from a women’s perspective — instead of what I think everybody got used to in the ’80s and ’90s: put on a black Victoria’s Secret demi bra and be lit perfectly and arch your back. That’s supposed to look like sex. But that doesn’t look like sex for most people, and if it does, I think you’re probably missing out on a lot. The more truthful you can be, the sexier it is and the more uncomfortable it can make you sitting next to a stranger in a movie theater.

Q: As an actress, do you look for roles that are more honest about sex?

A: Someone was talking to me about a film-school character trope, these women in their 20s, quirky, happy-go-lucky, don’t-need-anything kind of girl — that romantic comedy fantasy. But the problem with that fantasy — and I’ve been offered so many parts like that — mostly those women don’t have a lot of need. So you see a man kind of go, “This woman doesn’t care what I do.” I think everybody has great need and that’s so complicated. If somebody needs you, if you need them, all of a sudden you’re going to have responsibility and that’s part of what’s so scary about sex to begin with.

Q: What about these scenes makes them work or not?

A: There’s been such a history of sex scenes that don’t speak to me at all. So when you have the opportunity to do a sex scene and still be a real, thinking person in the midst of it, it can be an incredible way of expressing something about who you’re playing and something about the story. Sex on screen can be one of the most compelling ways of telling a story. Not if you stop acting — I think a lot of people stop acting and start pretending that they’re in a soft-core porn. But the women who don’t I get so interested in. It’s something we don’t talk a lot about in our culture and all of sudden there’s a comparable experience, like I had sex in this way and it felt disappointing and lonely or I’ve had sex in this way and experienced a connection I never could have felt any other way. That’s where I get really interested. Even if you’re talking to your friends, are you getting into the absolute deepest intimacies of it? Maybe, but to see someone act it well, it can make you feel like you have a connection to other human beings.

Wonderful insights. Move sex is often plastic and boring. By the numbers. You rarely see people have sex that is dissatisfying–unless it’s being done for laughs. I recently saw “Friends with Benefits” on TV and the sex scenes, between two attractive movie stars, were lifeless. They were filled with quick dialogue that was supposed to be witty and showed off the actor’s sculpted figures, but there was nothing erotic or sensual or credible about any of it.


1 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 26, 2012 6:52 pm

Convention turns me off anyway. It's more fun to explore than to expect. I laugh when I think about how many times a significant other has been on or near set on a film or TV show with an actor or actress who has a sex scene; the unsaid purpose being that they don't really get "too into it", the irony being that their presence means either they should not give a good performance or they are incapable of giving a realistic performance without actually being real. While anything can happen, it's gotta be tough to get an honest performance under those circumstances unless the real couple is confident in themselves and each other (or just very open). Just a thought...

2 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 26, 2012 7:26 pm

The sexiest sex is sex that doesn't happen.

Cases in point: Tristan and Isolde and Cairo Time.

3 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 26, 2012 7:26 pm

Eros, that's the ticket.

4 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 26, 2012 7:48 pm

[0] That picture has brightened up a rainy, dark morning here in ToxiTown.

Reminds me of Mrs.Jazz turning on a Discovery Channel doc on the research into female orgamsm, hosted by Maggie G. "Honey, you want to watch this show? Maggie G is hosting talking about female sexuality."
Me: "ummm...gulp...yes?"

5 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 26, 2012 8:17 pm

As we've mentioned before, the seduction scene from "The Lady Eve." And how about the story that Liv Ullman tells about the beach in "Persona"?

6 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 26, 2012 8:26 pm

[5] Think you got that backwards, Liv Ullman was the silent "patient" in Persona..i think?

7 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 26, 2012 8:45 pm

6) Thanks, you are so right.

The other thing that I find interesting is what is erotic for men could be so different from what turns women on. Course I'm talking in generalities but this is the kind of thing that I'm always curious about.

8 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 26, 2012 9:40 pm

Yes, of course, "The Lady Eve." Yes, yes, yes.

And the dancing scene between the aunt and the nephew in "Before the Revolution."

9 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Apr 26, 2012 9:42 pm

Not really a "turn on" but erotic & intense is the scene where the couple first make love in "Woman of the Dunes", after she washes the sand off him. Super primal.

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