Erotic Film

Many films celebrate the power of the erotic. Here we recommend books by leading critics that survey the enormous impact sex on film has had on modern culture. They highlight the artistry with which directors have presented erotic themes and explain why we are so captivated by "moving pictures."

Recommended Books on Erotic Film

Erotic Cinema by Douglas KeesevErotic Cinema

Since the first kiss recorded on film in 1896, erotic moving images have stimulated viewers and outraged public bodies. This book explores the meaning of eroticism and gives an overview of sex on the big screen by exploring different forms of sexual behavior or taboo-breaking in film. Included are intimate looks at ten of the most erotic movies ever made: including Last Tango in Paris, Betty Blue, In the Realm of the Senses, Romance, Law of Desire, Kids, Basic Instinct, Crash, The Night Porter and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Coverage includes erotic films from the silent era, pre-Code Hollywood, film noir, cheesecake and beefcake, the international art cinema, softcore and hardcore X-rated films, gay, lesbian, and New Queer Cinema, and the latest trend toward real sex in independent and art films. 2005, Taschen

The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry by Legs McNeil and Jennifer OsborneThe Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry

This compulsively readable book perfectly captures the pop culture zeitgeist. It doesn't hurt that the history of American pornography is inextricably intertwined with all the subjects that captivate us: sex, drugs, beauty, fame, money, the Mafia, law enforcement and violence. McNeil (Please Kill Me) focuses on the industry's dark underbelly: suicide (Savannah), fratricide (the Mitchell brothers), Mafia hits (John Gotti whacked Robert DiBernardo, the mob's point man in the porn business) and gangland slayings (John Holmes). But beyond the scintillating subject, it's McNeil's skillful technique that elevates this oral history, coauthored by journalists Osborne and Pavia, above the tedium of a courtroom transcript. Most chapters contain multiple story lines, which McNeil cleverly weaves together by the end. And the book's two most fascinating stories -- about the making of Deep Throat and the Traci Lords child pornography case -- involve unreliable narrators, which gives them a Rashomon-like quality. In the case of Deep Throat, the movie that catapulted hardcore pornography into the mainstream, its star, Linda Lovelace, claims she was forced to perform in the movie, though everyone else connected to the film contradicts her. As for Lords, her detractors make a compelling argument that far from being the victim she portrays herself to be in her book, she deceived the industry about her age so she could make a fortune and leverage her sob story into a mainstream Hollywood career. Whether recounting high-profile scandals or answering trivia about the origins of porn films and lap dancing, this is a relentlessly gripping read.

Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History by Joe Bob BriggsProfoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History

Profoundly Erotic, a collection of essays on sex in film explores the most seminal films -- from cult classics to Hollywood blockbusters -- that both shaped and reflected America's changing mores and codes about sex. Briggs, who has been called the Leonard Maltin of cult movies, makes good on his reputation as an off-kilter and daring movie guru in this revealing look at filmed fornication. Now Joe Bob takes on the key films that turn us on, such as It Happened One Night (1938), Lolita (1962), Belle de Jour (1967), and sex, lies, and videotape (1989). Illustrated with lurid stills and posters, the book strips down the hottest screen moments in history with the bodies we adore. 2005, Universe

Screening Sex by Linda WilliamsScreening Sex

There's an impressive amount of research here, and Williams -- the preeminent scholar of cinematic eroticism -- casts a wide net to draw examples from mainstream fare such as Casablanca and The Graduate, controversial titles such as Last Tango in Paris and Blue Velvet, foreign art films, and varied selections within the hard-core sector. This informed and thoroughly frank study provides a close, critical analysis of the plot, treatment, symbolism, and technical approach of individual films in terms of their sexual content, discussing these elements in relation to contemporary culture. 2008, Duke University Press

The X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to the Movies that Turn Us On by Jami BernardThe X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to the Movies That Turn Us On
Jami Bernard

New York Daily News critic Bernard has selected arousing movies varying wildly in quality, from the classic romantic noir Laura to the grotesque Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. What makes the book stimulating is the uniform cleverness of the writing. Jay Carr brings the soft, sensual vividness of The Fabulous Baker Boys to life, noting, "It's an after-hours nocturne of dead-solid serendipity"; Bernard characterizes Gilda as a "coyly sadistic exercise where sex is a weapon that's constantly being unsheathed." There's loose, tongue-in-cheek humor from Rob Nelson in his review of Eyes Wide Shut (he describes Stanley Kubrick as "one seriously perverse dude"). J. Hoberman's witty pan of Basic Instinct is delightful, and Liza Schwarzbaum's enthusiasm for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid will create new excitement for the DVD. There's much more! 2005, Da Capo Press

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