LOS ANGELES, California -- When a
longtime married couple bounces all over the bed in every imaginable position in
"Shortbus," or when a particularly limber character bends into a yoga pose that
proves he, um, never has to leave the house, that's all real sex, not simulated.
|Promotional photo from the
But writer-director John Cameron Mitchell says his intention is to educate,
Unlike in porn, the sex in "Shortbus" (read EW's review) and other recent
films featuring actors in the act ("9 Songs," "The Brown Bunny") is injected as
a means of character exploration. We learn that despite her creativity in the
bedroom, the wife in the married couple (Sook-Yin Lee) is incapable of having an
orgasm; even more ironically, she works as a sex therapist.
"We have to keep reminding people it's not pornographic -- it's not a film
that's meant to arouse," Mitchell told The Associated Press. "We try to
de-eroticize the sex to see what kind of emotions and ideas are left over when
the haze of eroticism is waved away."
But the inventive filmmaker and performer behind the 2001 critical hit
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" knows some people will merely write off his latest
movie as porn. That's why he's purposely placed much of the graphic content at
the beginning, to get it out of the way and make room for his intertwined
stories about New Yorkers who visit an underground salon to explore their sexual
curiosities and relationship hang-ups.
"When they have seen it, my guess is that by the end of the film the last
thing they'll be thinking about is sex," Mitchell said. "We always tell people,
'This film isn't a one-night stand, it's a relationship,' and by the end if
you're thinking only about the sex, then you have a problem."
All of the recent movies that feature real sex have arrived in art-house
theaters, unrated, from independent distributors -- Wellspring released 2003's
"Brown Bunny," in which director-star Vincent Gallo was on the receiving end in
a now-infamous oral sex scene with Chloe Sevigny; "9 Songs," in which a couple
alternates between rock concerts and romping in bed, was released by Tartan
Still others that suggest actual sexual activity -- such as Bernardo
Bertolucci's "The Dreamers," from Fox Searchlight and "Young Adam" from Sony
Pictures Classics -- have gone out with the dreaded NC-17 rating, severely
limiting where they can be shown.
Mark Urman, head of U.S. theatrical distribution for
ThinkFilm, said he wanted to pick up "Shortbus" after seeing it at the Cannes
Film Festival and finding that "it didn't function as an erotic experience, it
functioned as entertainment."