(Think that you can't rent movies at Netflix that contain legitimately explicit sexuality? Think again, my frustrated friend! In this special essay series, I look at a total of thirty mainstream films made over the last forty years, all of which contain scenes of such actual graphic sex acts as fellatio and penetration, reviewing them not in only in terms of the movie's quality itself but also the amount of sex it portrays, and whether this sex is any fun or not to actually watch. For more about how these movies were chosen, as well as the full list of all thirty titles, you can click here; and don't forget, these reviews are also mixed into the master list of all movies reviewed here, over at CCLaP's main movie page.)
The story in a nutshell: A literal one-film genre unto itself, the unclassifiable The Wayward Cloud (a massive hit in its native Taiwan, and that country's official entry into the 2006 Oscars) is set during a sultry heat wave and subsequent water shortage one summer in Taipei, leading to a city where the population is already walking around in a nearly nude, perpetually overheated state; and it's within this environment that two old acquaintances (interestingly, two minor characters from Tsai Ming-liang's previous film, What Time Is It There?) end up becoming neighbors and getting to know each other better, sharing a series of tame yet erotic Nine and a Half Weeks-style encounters, even as the woman has no idea that the man has recently become an adult film star, shooting bizarro sexist porn in the neighboring apartment that sometimes involves participants who are completely passed out. Now combine this with a healthy dose of surrealism, including several scenes that play out as elaborate Hollywood dance numbers, and a climax so strange and shocking that people are still arguing about it six years later, and you have yourself one hard-to-forget film, and a movie that in Asia has made twenty times the normal amount of the usual domestic release there.
What I thought: Well, this is certainly as naughty as its reputation has it, although it's important to note that its eroticism is more of the mental than explicit kind; because really what this film is about, when you stop and look at it metaphorically, is a very human person who's a little obsessed these days with getting in touch with her animal side, and a loner whose new job sorta turns him into an anonymous animal, and how he needs things in his life these days to help humanize him again. As such, then, the movie easily transcends the usual tropes of the dirty art-film, in order to comment on things much deeper, but issues that by their nature are going to be a bit of a turn-on as well, pretty much the definition of a flick that can help get smart couples "in the mood;" or, that is, if you can get through that visually conservative but mentally disturbing final scene without suddenly feeling all unclean and in need of a long, hot shower.
What makes it an explicit movie? Like I said, not a lot, with most of this movie's eroticism inherent in what it's saying than in what it's showing; except for a few tiny glimpses of genitalia, most of the sex scenes are the same carefully edited "hard R" stuff of late-night cable television.
Is the sex actually fun to watch? Oh my, yes; but only if you're intelligent, jaded, and interested in exploring the line where desire, fantasy and reality come crashing together. Otherwise you're out of luck; or in other words, lonely sixteen-year-old boys desperately seeking something juicy through their family's Netflix account, today you might want to turn elsewhere.
Strangest piece of trivia: Around half the audience ended up getting up and leaving during this movie's screening at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Worth your time? Yes