History of Sex in Cinema:
The Greatest and Most Influential
Sexual Films and Scenes

(Illustrated)

1999, Part 1



The History of Sex in Cinema
Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description
Screenshots

American Beauty (1999)

Sam Mendes' Best Picture R-rated winning film was his feature film debut, a satirical and extremely dark comedy/drama about the emptiness of suburban life and a family's meltdown, and the last remaining year in the life of a husband in the midst of a mid-life crisis, experiencing both a spiritual awakening and a mental collapse. The major characters in the superb ensemble cast were:

  • Lester Burnham (Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey), a cynical, suburban dwelling husband with a meaningless life, job (advertising executive), and existence
  • Carolyn (Annette Bening), his judgmental, shrill and materialistic frigid wife, an emotionally-frayed yet falsely perky real estate agent, with color-coordinated gardening shears and clogs while snipping at roses ("american beauties")
  • Jane (Thora Birch), their glum, moody, but smart and uncommunicative daughter

Lester's highlight of the day, described in his opening voice-over, was masturbating in the shower. In the midst of a mid-life crisis in his manicured suburbia home, Lester was experiencing a breakdown (male powerlessness or castration, similar to the cut off roses) - he impulsively quit his job, bought a vintage car, and began lifting weights (in the nude) and smoking pot, while Jane was beginning a love affair with her next-door videographer neighbor, pot-selling Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley). (She intentionally showed herself topless to voyeuristic Ricky, at one point in the film.)

Ricky was abused by his angry, Nazi-loving, paranoid and homophobic Marine officer father Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper), who feared that his son was gay. Meanwhile, Carolyn was engaged in an affair with self-dubbed "King of Real Estate" Buddy Kane (Peter Gallagher).

Bored, frustrated, rebellious, feeling "sedated" and intolerant of life as it was, Lester was brought back to life by his lustful fantasizing over seductive, teenaged blonde nymphet cheerleader Angela (Mena Suvari), his daughter Jane's sexpot friend and a wannabe model. When the Lolita-esque female opened her team jacket during a basketball game to reveal her breasts, in his fantasy mind she let loose a cascade of red rose petals.

Also he envisioned her lying in a bed of rose petals and coyly beckoning him to deflower her, and fantasized touching her between her legs as she soaked in a rose-filled bath tub.

Cascades of Rose Petals ("American beauties") Surrounding Angela

His actual seduction of the vulnerable, seemingly-slutty and surprisingly-virginal Angela, when he opened her blouse and removed her pants, was aborted when she confessed: "This is my first time...I'm sorry. I still want to do it." He appropriately declined. Shortly later, latent homosexual Col. Fitts put a gun to Lester's head.



Cheerleader Angela
(Mena Suvari)


"This is my first time..."

Jane
(Thora Birch)

American Pie (1999)

Director Paul Weitz's wildly popular, raucous teen-sex comedy was typical of the late 90s and brought back raunchiness to this genre of film. The extremely 'guilty pleasure' film about losing one's virginity on prom night (coming up in three weeks) for four seniors took three rounds of censorship cuts to satisfy an R-rating.

The film was available in a theatrical R-rated version and in an "Unrated version" - The Version You Couldn't See in Theatres - for the home video and DVD markets with additional footage -- a burgeoning marketing trend.

It was about a sex-obsessed, awkward, coming-of-age high school senior named Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs). In one scene, he masturbated himself with a long athletic sock while watching scrambled porn on pay-TV, but was caught by his parents.

Its most notorious scene was the one of horny Jim Levenstein humping the family's fresh-baked hot apple pie on the kitchen counter (viewed from behind, his bare buttocks thrust into the pie) and being caught by his father Noah (Eugene Levy) (Dad: "Jim?!" Jim: "It's not what it looks like"), and then later deciding not to tell Jim's mother:

"Well, we'll just tell your mother that uh, that uh, we ate it all."

Jim also spied through the Internet with a web-cam (broadcast to the entire school) on frisky, busty Czech exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) as she undressed and then viewed his girlie magazines, and then was masturbating herself when he entered the room. Although she was prepared to have sex with Jim, he prematurely ejaculated twice and became humiliated.

Exchange Student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth)

Other scenes included Vicky Lathum (Tara Reid), who was being given oral sex in her bedroom by her boyfriend Kevin Myers (Thomas Ian Nicholas), loudly yelling out: "I'm coming!" while her clueless father stood outside her door, shrugged his shoulders, and then continued downstairs.

Later in the film, one of the four male teens named Paul Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) had sex on a basement pool table with Jeanine (Jennifer Coolidge), the mother of lacrosse player Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott).

[Note: The many official (and unofficial) sequels, with some of the same cast of libidinous high-schoolers, included:

American Pie (1999), d. Paul Weitz
American Pie 2 (2001)
, d. J. B. Rogers
American Wedding (2003) (aka American Pie 3), d. Jesse Dylan
American Pie Presents: Band Camp (2005), d. Steve Rash, straight-to-DVD release
American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile (2006), d. Joe Nussbaum, straight-to-DVD release
American Pie Presents: Beta House (2007), d. Andrew Waller, straight-to-DVD release
American Pie Presents: The Book of Love (2009), d. John Putch, straight-to-DVD release
American Reunion (2012), d. Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg]


Jim Levenstein
(Jason Biggs)



Jim & Nadia
(Shannon Elizabeth)


Vicky
(Tara Reid)

Audition (1999, Jp.) (aka Ôdishon)

Director Takashi Miike's horrific romantic drama was a metaphoric, satirical commentary upon Japanese men's sexist attitudes towards women and relationships (and their misogynistic fear of deadly women), usually treating them as objects.

Middle-aged, sad and lonely widower and movie producer-filmmaker Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), seven years after his wife's death, was urged by his teenaged son to remarry. Aoyama subjected potential 'perfect' brides-to-be to a rigorous casting-call "audition" - a match-making process to select a partner to help him overcome loneliness and find love. The wannabe actresses thought, however, that they were auditioning for a movie.

He selected the final candidate when he became smitten by the seemingly-demure, polite, virginal and dutifully-humble 24 year-old Asami Yamazaki (fashion model Eihi Shiina in her debut role), described as "beautiful, classy, obedient." She was a soft-spoken ballet dancer whose career had been sidelined by a hip injury - and she had a long history of abuse by her step-father.

Although all her references on her resume were fake, Aoyama finally called Asami, who had been sitting tensely by her phone for some time. After a brief night together during a weekend, she disappeared when she discovered that the audition was fake. She came back, illustrated in a series of flashbacks and dream sequences, to exact painful and sadistic, torture and dismemberment revenge on him (while wearing black rubber gloves).

She drugged and temporarily paralyzed him (with a syringe), and then terrorized him with acupuncture needles (stuck into his eyelids) and razor-sharp piano wire (used to amputate or wire-saw off his left foot) to the sound of a Japanese bird: ("Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri..." or "Deeper, deeper, deeper..."). She made him eat a diet of her vomit fed in a bowl. It was unclear how much of his torment was within his own imagination.




Asami Yamazaki
(Eihi Shiina)

Black and White (1999)

Writer/director James Toback's independent urban drama was about white upper-class teens emulating and exploring the New York hip-hop music scene (with the tagline: "Black and white: what happens when you mix it up?"). The film - filled with profanity and sexual encounters - was originally rated NC-17 before re-editing.

The MPAA ratings board specifically objected to the opening scene filmed outdoors in Central Park in which an inter-racial menage a trois sandwiched three people together as they made love while standing up (and partially clothed):

  • Kim (Kim Matulova), a classmate - in front
  • Charlie (Bijou Phillips), a plaid-skirted skinny high-schooler - in the middle
  • Rich (Oliver "Power" Grant), a New York gangster/rapper - against the tree

A second instance of a threesome involved a white male and two black females (Sabine Lamy and Michelle Dent).




Charlie (Bijou Phillips)
in the middle

Threesome

Body Shots (1999)

Director Michael Cristofer's and New Line Cinema's edgy and grim date-rape film was filled with strong sexual content including graphic sex-related dialogue (including a detailed discussion of oral sex), language, violence and scenes of alcohol abuse.

The controversial film, available as R-rated and in a lengthier unrated version, was criticized as being exceptionally vulgar and crudely-made.

After an evening of LA nightlife by eight self-obsessed 20-something Generation X-ers (4 males/4 females), Sara Olswang (Tara Reid) claimed she had allegedly been raped by brutish football star Michael Penorisi (Jerry O'Connell).

Different Versions of the Sex/Rape of Sara (Tara Reid) - The Consensual Sex Version
The Rape Version

The film followed the events of the previous evening - dubiously imitating classic films such as Rashomon and Citizen Kane for the 'he said/she said' flashback portions of the film. Both Michael and Sara provided their own versions of the 'horizontal shuffle' or 'rape'. He argued: "She wanted me. I wanted her." There were other non-traditional techniques, such as characters directly addressing the camera with banal conversations.


Sara vs. Michael

Boys Don't Cry (1999)

Director Kimberly Peirce's feature film debut, an Academy Award-winning film, was a psychological docudrama based on a true story about a 20 year-old small-town Nebraska boy trapped in a girl's body - transgendered Teena Brandon (Hilary Swank in a Best Actress Oscar-winning role). It was originally slapped with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA, in part for the intensely brutal rape scene. Distributor Fox Searchlight demanded and forced cuts (in the sex and rape scenes) to bring the film down to an R-rating.

Teena 'masqueraded' as male Brandon Teena while suffering an identity crisis/confusion and awaiting a sex-change operation. Her cross-dressing routine involved taping down her breasts with gauze, stuffing her crotch with a wadded-up white sock, and wearing a cowboy hat.

Teena's (Hilary Swank) Cross-Dressing Routine

One of the film's most controversial elements was Brandon's involvement in a heartbreaking covert lesbian relationship with teenaged, white-trash factory worker and love interest Lana Tisdel (Chloe Sevigny in a Best Supporting Actress-nominated role) after confessing his/her true sexual identity. This film included lesbian kissing, sex in a car, and their prolonged and affecting outdoors oral sex scene. The film ran into ratings issues with the homophobic MPAA when it was criticized for three sexual issues:

  • the moment that Brandon wiped the 'cum' from his lip after 'going down' on Lana
  • the lengthy, pleasurable and satisfying female orgasm for Lana
  • the revelatory disrobing scene of Teena before being anally raped over a car - the film's most disturbing scene
The Most Controversial Lesbian Scene - Oral Sex Between Brandon and Lana (Chloe Sevigny)

During a sickening scene in the film's conclusion, Brandon was shot at point-blank range in the chin by jealous ex-convict John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard). After Brandon slumped to the floor, John stabbed Brandon's lifeless body before fleeing. Brandon's helpless, blonde, white-trash factory worker/girlfriend Lana Tisdel screamed and watched in horror.


Lesbian Kiss -
Teena and Lana


Forceful Disrobing


The Rape Scene

Death of Brandon

But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)

Writer/director Jamie Babbit's feature film directorial debut was this R-rated teen picture (originally rated NC-17, but reduced to R after editorial cuts). The independent film was a satirical comedy (with stylized production design emphasizing the color pink) about deprogramming (or reprogramming) clinics and sexual disorientation.

It starred Natasha Lyonne as a 17 year-old, red-haired high school cheerleader named Megan Bloomfield whose parents (Bud Cort and Mink Stole) were worried about her lesbian-leaning behaviors (she had bikini pinups in her locker, "vaginal motifs" in her bedroom and a Melissa Etheridge poster on her wall). So they sent her away to a harsh, homosexual-rehabilitation camp named 'True Directions' to make her heterosexual.

The camp, where "no inappropriate behavior" was allowed, enforced typical stereotypical behaviors (e.g., fixing a car for males, vacuuming - with the sexual connotation of "in and out" -- and taking care of babies for females). Her "cure" had the opposite effect, and in fact accelerated her "coming out" as a lesbian. There she fell for a fellow straight-in-training bad girl college student named Graham Eaton (Clea DuVall).

The film's dialogue had to be modified (the line "You ate Graham out" was deleted), and the masturbation scene of prim-looking Megan masturbating up against a wall while whispering to herself -- over her pink nightgown and mostly off-screen!! -- had to be cut short to get an R-rating for the film.

In one scene with the 'students' dressed in full flesh-colored body suits with fig-leaf patches over their sexual parts, homophobic True Directions founder Mrs. Mary J. Brown (Cathy Moriarty) - during a simulation of heterosexual love-making - instructed that foreplay was for sissies and totally unnecessary: "Real men go in, unload, and pull out."

In another scene, Mrs. Brown's studly gay son Rock (Eddie Cibrian) fondled/stroked the long handle of a garden implement (in between his legs) in front of a group of gay men.

The film ended with its final chapter "GRADUATION," when Megan staged a 'commando raid' in an attempt to rescue Graham from the school's outdoor graduation ceremony, held for all of the "happy heterosexuals" who were graduating and had become "straight" - "out of homosexuality." When Megan failed to drag Graham away, she changed into her orange cheerleader uniform (complete with pompons), and delivered a sappy cheer in the main aisle to Graham:

"One, two, three, four, I won't take no anymore, five, six, seven, eight, I want you to be my mate, one, two, three, four, you're the one that I adore, five, six, seven, eight, don't run from me 'cause this is fate."

She ended with a proclamation of love: "I love you," and then ran for the back of a getaway pickup truck, where she was joined by Graham. They were driven away, vigorously kissing each other in the back of the vehicle.



"True Directions" School

Megan (Natasha Lyonne)
Masturbating


Rock
(Eddie Cibrian)


Graham (Clea DuVall)
and Megan (Natasha Lyonne)

Coming Soon (1999)

Co-writer/director Colette Burson's debut film was this expurgated R-rated, mediocre sexual coming-of-age teen comedy (without nudity or explicit sexuality). The unrated DVD version was threatened with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA in a decision that was accused of being gender-biased. The romantic comedy was poorly distributed and disappeared fairly quickly.

It was taglined: "It's All About Feeling Good," referring to female-centered sexual pleasure - a concept that usually makes the film industry nervous. Its tagline was: "You'll Want What She's Having."

The film explored the lives of wealthy Manhattanite private high-school preppies at Halton School, including three high-school seniors:

  • Stream Hodsell (Bonnie Root), a strawberry-blonde
  • Jenny Simon (Gaby Hoffmann), with fishnet-stockings
  • Nell Kellner (Tricia Vessey)

Stream finally lost her virginity but still had never orgasmed and felt sexually and romantically unfulfilled, and resorted to reading self-help books ("Becoming Orgasmic"), browsing women's magazines, and seeking advice from her peers. While having sex, she had the following conversation with her male partner Chad (James Roday):

"I think I was getting closer, but..."
"What are you talking about? You totally came?"
"I did?!"

In another scene in a crowded party bathroom, one redhead spit out the results of oral sex into the sink: "I just can't swallow." Other girl: "Well, who can? A mouthful of sperm has, like, seventeen grams of fat?" The females admitted that sex with a guy was "kind of a drag," and that they felt forced to engage in fellatio with their expectant male partners - usually having their heads pushed down to crotch level.


Stream Hodsell
(Bonnie Root)



Cruel Intentions (1999)

Writer/director Roger Kumble's teenaged version of Dangerous Liaisons (1988), an adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' novel, used sexually-voracious teens as its main characters. Its direct-to-video prequel was Cruel Intentions 2 (2000).

It told about an amoral, bitchy, teen-vamp Manhattan step-sister named Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Geller) who demonstrated her manipulative intentions toward innocent and chaste Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair) to destroy her reputation - she taught her how to slow- and wet-kiss in the park.

As they drew their lips apart, a long stringy strand of saliva stretched between their mouths, and Cecile assessed the kiss:

"That was cool!"




The Wet Kiss Between
Cecile (Selma Blair) and
Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Geller)

The End of the Affair (1999)

Director/writer Neil Jordan's adaptation of Graham Greene's autobiographical novel told of a torrid love affair during WWII between:

  • novelist Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes)
  • Sarah Miles (Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore), married
The Affair Between Maurice and Sarah (Julianne Moore)

Their affair was told in flashback by Maurice, two years following the abrupt breakup of their relationship, and Maurice finally learned the reason for its end.

They had sex together amidst air-raid sirens and bombs exploding in his dusty and dark apartment. In one scene, they were caught during furtive love-making as her oblivious civil servant husband Henry Miles (Stephen Rea) returned home:

Bendrix (whispering): "What if he heard?"
Sarah: "He wouldn't recognize the sound."

Their affair ended when Sarah thought Maurice was killed by a bomb blast and she vowed to God (who had answered her prayer and allowed Maurice to live) that she had to break up their affair no matter how painful and lonely it would be.

The Escort (1999, Fr/UK) (aka Mauvaise Passe)

Writer/director Michel Blanc's film was a grim and bleak drama. The film's tagline referred to the protagonist's new profession-for-hire - as an escort:

"He'll be your friend, he'll be your lover, but it's strictly by the hour."

The plot was about the life of a middle-aged, married, French university lecturer and would-be writer:

  • Pierre (Daniel Auteuil)

In the midst of a mid-life crisis, he moved from his family in Paris to London where he lived by himself in a dank apartment and suffered impoverishment and writer's block. Through the assistance of Irish cafe owner Tom (Stuart Townsend), he decided to support himself by becoming a part-time professional escort (or gigolo) through an agency.

Although his lifestyle changed in some ways for the better, his dehumanizing sex-on-demand profession in London's Soho underworld and his use of drugs became more complicated when he began to exploit and present false promises to a vulnerable, married regular named Patricia (Claire Skinner) for lucrative motivations.

In one scene, while performing oral sex between her raised legs, he suavely, insincerely and reassuringly told her: "Relax, everything's fine." By film's end, male prostitute Pierre had completely sold out - he wrote a best-selling novel of his degrading experiences that further disintegrated his life.





Eyes Wide Shut (1999, UK)

Director Stanley Kubrick's last film was an exploration and confessional of marital infidelity, betrayal, jealousy, trust, and erotic desire and gamesmanship. The film was an adaptation of a 1926 novella by Arthur Schnitzler entitled Traumnovelle (Rhapsody: A Dream Story).

It was especially notable for starring the sexy, celebrity real-life (at the time of filming) couple of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, as the film's two main characters and their sexual misadventures:

  • William "Bill" Harford (Tom Cruise), a social-climbing, wealthy NY physician
  • Alice (Nicole Kidman), his wife, an ex-art gallery curator

The film opened eyes immediately with Alice's initial undressing sequence in preparation for going to a Christmas party. During the party, both attracted opposite-sex admirers. Harford - with two seductive female models Gayle and Nuala (one on each arm) promising to take him to "where the rainbow ends" - was called away from the party by his half-dressed host, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), to attend to a drug overdose of naked Amanda 'Mandy' Curran (Julienne Davis) (sprawled in a chair), someone that Ziegler planned to have sex with before she passed out when shooting up (a combination of heroin and coke). During his absence, Alice was propositioned by a suave Hungarian named Sandor Szavost (Sky Dumont) who suggested she read Latin poet Ovid's Art of Love, but she rejected his advances. In the next scene, often used to promote the film, the married couple were narcissistically viewed caressing and kissing each other in front of a mirror.

The next day, there was a montage of their regular weekdays - Alice was a stay-at-home mother, while Harford was at the office where he briefly examined the heartbeat of a beautiful, starkly half-naked female patient. After smoking dope, Bill and Alice discussed their encounters with their would-be seducers. Alice asked hypothetically about his patients: "Let's say, for example, you have some gorgeous woman standing in your office naked and you're feeling her f--king tits. Now, what I want to know, I want to know what are you really thinking about when you're squeezing them." He claimed it was very "impersonal" and professional and there was always a nurse present. She went further: "When she is having her little titties squeezed, do you think she ever has any little fantasies about what handsome Dr. Bill's dickie might be like?"

When he claimed that he thought that she would never be unfaithful to him, as the mother of their seven-year-old daughter Helena, she began to confess her feelings of abandoning her husband and daughter for a young naval officer (Gary Goba) (imagined and viewed in her fantasy in bluish tinged black-and-white images) the previous summer during a family holiday at Cape Cod. She contemplated risking her domestic life and marriage by carrying through on the dalliance for just one night ("I was ready to give up everything"). At any moment, she could potentially betray and leave him - and then he was interrupted by a phone call to begin a long journey.

During his long two-night wanderings with other tempting offers of marital infidelity during his odyssey, Harford contemplated seeking sexual revenge (were all the circumstances a dream or reality, the film asked). He was propositioned by engaged female friend Marion Nathanson (Marie Richardson) - the grieving daughter of deceased patient Lou, but he rebuffed her. He was also tempted to engage the services of an HIV-positive (later revealed) hooker named Domino (Vinessa Shaw), but didn't carry through when he received a phone call from Alice. Then, he was offered the underage, bra and panties-adorned daughter (Leelee Sobieski) of pimping Mr. Milich (Rade Serbedzija), a costume shop proprietor.

The most talked-about sequence was an upper-class masked, choreographed orgy function (attended only by ultra-elite) that Harford snuck into at a large country manor on Long Island, while wearing a rented tuxedo, cape, and mask from Rainbow Fashions. Harford entered, after giving the password 'Fidelio' (a reference to Beethoven's conjugal love opera). The function began with Satanic-like incantations by a crimson-cloaked high-priest, a circle of black-cloaked figures, and many naturally-endowed, almost-nude, G-stringed masked females with black thongs, kneeling in an inner circle who were there to ritualistically service the masked men in anonymity and isolation.

A masked party principal (known in the credits as a Mysterious Woman) (Abigail Good), identified with a large dark blue headdress, was one of the the last women to be selected from the circle. She strode over to the masked Harford, gave him a soulless, ritualized and dehumanized kiss, and then led him down a hallway, and seemed to recognize him. She warned him: "I'm not sure what you think you're doing. But you don't belong here...Please, don't be foolish. You must go now." Without identifying herself, she cautioned: "You are in great danger. You must get away while there's still a chance." She was led up a long staircase by one of the masked leaders.

The Controversial Orgy Scene
Censored Scenes (above)
Uncensored Scenes (above)

The sequence included tracking shots of Harford roaming through the ornate mansion's rooms filled with emotionless, loveless copulating couples (in mechanical and sterile stances of intercourse - front and rear entry, also a 69 sexual position, and a lesbian three-some, while many participants voyeuristically watched). The sexually-explicit images were digitally censored, obscured and obstructed (cloaked with computer-generated people) in various releases by Warner Bros. to prevent an NC-17 rating, angering American audiences.

An unidentified nude female came up to Harford and asked: "Have you been enjoying yourself?" She propositioned him: "Do you want to go somewhere a little more private?" When he replied: "That might be a good idea," they were interrupted by the appearance of the Mysterious Woman again (now completely naked) (was it Mandy?) - she led him away, but promised to return him in a few minutes. She again warned him about more danger: "You can't fool them for much longer. You've got to get away before it's too late." When he asked her identity, she responded: "You don't want to know. But you must go, now!" She refused to leave with him, citing: "It could cost me my life and possibly yours." When his trespassing as an interloper was revealed and he was brought before the entire black-garbed court, he did not know the second password. When ordered to remove his clothes by a mysterious man in a red cloak, the Mysterious Woman (on the second floor balcony) called out: "Stop! Let him go! Take me! I am ready to redeem him." Harford was freed and led to a taxi when she sacrificially volunteered herself to be punished instead of Harford, although it was possibly staged as a charade or scare tactic.

Later, ex-beauty queen Mandy was found dead of a drug overdose at the morgue (was she deliberately overdosed or was it simply an accident or suicide?), seen in a top-view full-frontal shot. When Harford looked down at her, he was urged to kiss her face - her death mask. Was her death the end result of saving him at the orgy? Harford took the advice of Victor and others to stop being so inquisitive, and avoid danger by returning home, where he and his wife both safely emerged from their adventures and both valued fidelity. Alice expressed to him her uncensored desire to make love without their deceptive masks, but with real 'eyes wide open' intimacy:

"I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible...F--k."


Alice - During the Credits

Amanda 'Mandy' Curran
(Julienne Davis)


Bill and Alice Harford
(Nicole Kidman)


Harford's Female Patient

Alice
(Nicole Kidman)


Alice's Fantasy


The Chanting Circle

Mysterious Woman
(Abigail Good)
with Bill Harford


Unidentified Female
with Bill Harford



Mysterious Woman
(Abigail Good)


"Mandy" (Julienne Davis)
in Morgue

Forever Mine (1999)

Writer/director Paul Schrader's film was a melodramatic and risqué romantic noirish thriller (a direct to video/cable release, shown in its debut on Starz! Cable-TV). Its erotic themes were obsession, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, and guilt. Although beautifully filmed, Schrader received the most negative reviews of his career for it.

It opened with the quote from Walter Pater: "It is the addition of strangeness to beauty that constitutes the romantic character in art." The film involved two characters who were overtaken by each other at a plush Miami beachfront resort in 1973, and a third individual (the husband), to create a doomed love triangle:

  • Alan Riply (Joseph Fiennes), a university student and 23 year-old cabana "towel boy"
  • Ella (Gretchen Mol), a beautiful, curvacious, neglected, unhappily married blonde honeymooning guest
  • Mark Brice (Ray Liotta), a sinister and ruthless NYC politician newly married to Ella

Told in flashback from the year 1987, it began as well-dressed, international financier, criminal attorney and heavy-accented Latino drug lord Senor Manuel Esquema (Joseph Fiennes) was on an airplane to NY. He was recollecting his younger years 14 years earlier as Alan Riply (also Joseph Fiennes), his secret love affair with Ella in Miami, now holding his only remembrance - a string of Catholic rosary beads. His face was horribly disfigured and maimed.

Alan first spotted Ella emerging stunningly in slow-motion from snorkeling in the ocean in a white bathing suit, at the hotel where he worked. They soon engaged in a passionate adulterous affair (glossily and sensually photographed in various love scenes in Miami and the NY area), in which they flagrantly and undiscreetly showed their affections for each other at the hotel and in the area. When the married couple returned to New York, Alan followed her and took a lowly bank job in the area, and was living in a cheap room at the Queen Hotel in Yonkers. Haunted by his presence, Ella met with Alan and made love again in Room 31 of his tawdry room (with the words "Give All to Love," the film's tagline, scrawled on the wall).

When Ella confessed and revealed their affair to the jealous Brice, he was angered at the "love-sick cabana boy" following her around. He had Ripley arrested and jailed by police for harrassment. When Alan was insistent that his unwavering "purpose" in life was to be with Ella ("like plants turning toward the sun, or death or taxes"), Brice accused him of uttering "gibberish" and threatened: "There's two types of people in this world. Assholes and pricks. You're an asshole, and I'm a prick. Do the math. Ella's mine." He ordered his henchmen to inflict deadly retribution on the cheating "loverboy" at a construction site, and Alan was believed dead when shot in the face and buried alive. As it turned out, Riply survived, but his face, even after reconstructive surgery, was permanently scarred and he had limited vision and use of his right hand.

He had also adopted a "new identity" for himself. The lovelorn Riply emerged in another guise 14 years later on his way to NYC as Senor Esquema, to reclaim Ella and to seek a more violent vendetta, at a time when Brice was under indictment for corruption, and had called upon "banker" Esquema to be a legal advisor and "fixer" - to broker a deal with Justice Department government attorneys and help City Councilman Brice avoid court. When he met with Ella in private, he frightened her when he boldly affirmed: "I want to know you better." Her volunteer job was reading to the elderly at the Pine Grove Retirement Living, her favorite book Madame Bovary. Esquema returned the rosary necklace to Ella's jewelry box in her bedroom when he snuck into her house one evening, and then when Ella returned home, he confessed: "You're all I care about. I came here for you" - and after a kiss, she realized he was Alan and they made love. She proposed that they "go away and start over," and added: "I don't want to be a part of your revenge."

As part of Esquema's compensation for arranging a lesser plea bargain, he told an astonished Brice: "I would like to take your wife Ella from you...I love your wife, she loves me." After Ella and Alan drove away to a new life, they were followed and traced by a gun-wielding, humiliated Brice to their overnight accommodations at Barrington Lodge, where Alan was confronted by the crazed husband: "I'm gonna kill you, I'm gonna kill her, and then I'm gonna kill myself. We're all gonna die for love. See, I'm a romantic too." Alan was shot in the upper right thigh and then in the side of the neck, but was able to wrestle the gun from Brice before smashing his head against the concrete porch step.

On the way to the hospital in an ambulance, Ella urged Alan as he was dying to keep conscious - and they engaged in a remembered (mostly in voice-over) sentimental conversation together about their first fateful idyllic meeting, shown in a collage or montage of images:

Ella: "Think back. Remember Key Biscayne. Come on, try. Alan, come on, I'm right here. Remember, the hotel was on the beach. It was spring. The sun shone every day. You worked at the hotel. You were 23."
(Alan: "I was a cabana boy. The season had just begun. It was my second year at the hotel. I was taking classes. Javier was my friend.")
Ella: "I was visiting with my husband. He was older than me. We had only been married eight months. He was in politics."
(Alan: "I saw you coming from the ocean. You were wearing a white suit. Jimmy Buffett was singing on a beach radio. You ordered water.")
Ella: "I watched for you everywhere. I had never done that before. I had never felt that way before."
(Alan: "I realized nothing would be the same. I realized my life had changed. I realized it would be important. I realized you would be forever mine.")



Ella
(Gretchen Mol)




Ella with Alan Riply
(Joseph Fiennes)


Sex in Cinematic History
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
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Index to All Decades, Years and Features


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