American exceptional-ism? Phooey! Countries across the pond have better food, more civilized health care, and way sexier films (what a buzzkill a Puritanical national origin can be). And our friends at the Sundance Channel aren’t afraid to embrace their frisky foreign friends: check out their line-up anytime, and chances are you’ll find a cool film with subtitles, bisexuality and equal opportunity nudity. Inspired by some of their recent indie imports, we’ve compiled a top 10 list of the sexiest foreign films. They’re not all necessarily erotic, with lots of skin. Nor are they all uplifting, life-affirming tales of carnal romance with happy endings. After all, we’re talking about European endeavors here. But they do focus on issues of sexuality and sensuality in artful ways — and that’s sexy.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1998)
Promoted as “A lovers story” on the poster, the movie is based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Milan Kundera. Tomas is a womanizing brain surgeon in Communist Czecholslovakia with a compulsion to see the unique individualism of every woman that’s visible only in her orgasm. Um, yeah, right. But the strength and independence of his longtime lover Sabina (Lena Olin) and his obvious tender affection for Tereza (Juliet Binoche) help make Daniel Day Lewis’s Tomas likeable. What Magritte did for the artistic appeal of the bowler hat, Olin does for its erotic potential.
SEX & LUCIA (2001)
We’ve long recommended Polaroids as a great way to take naked pictures of yourself and your luvva: no negatives or immediate digital files; a lack of crisp detail to hide imperfections, and an automatic retro artiness to them. So it was nice to see an example of just this in the Spanish erotic drama SEX & LUCIA starring Paz Vega. Is some of the nudity gratuitous? Perhaps. But what can we expect from a movie with the word “Sex” in the title?
THE DREAMERS (2003)
How could we not include this film? It made the cut in our Top 10 Cinematic Love Triangles, and director Bernardo Bertolucci was number 4 in our Top 10 Directors Not Afraid of Nudes. He directed THE DREAMERS more than 30 years after his infamous LAST TANGO IN PARIS. Now some might say that earlier film should have made this here list of sexy imports, but in this day and age it comes across as more silly than sexy. (Maybe seeing Marlon Brando at 70 in that Larry King interview
ruined it for us — those pants! Plus, we would never
recommend butter as anal lube.) So we’re picking his 21st century take on an attractive and dairy-free (albeit incestuous) threesome in 1960s Paris.
TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! (1990)
This is the story of a mental patient, obsessed with a former porn star, who beats, kidnaps, binds and gags her in the hopes that she’ll fall in love with him when she gets to know him better. The fact that she eventually does makes our inner radical feminists gag, but it’s hard not to include a movie that a) was directed by Spain’s sex-obsessed Pedro Almodavar, b) stars a smoldering Antonio Banderes, pre-Melanie-Griffith, and c) moved the MMPA to create the NC-17 rating.
AN AFFAIR OF LOVE (1999)
Also known as “A Pornographic Affair,” this little French film is super sexy for what it doesn’t show, what it leaves to our wildest imaginations. Via a magazine ad, a woman finds a stranger to fulfill her sexual fantasies: without exchanging names, they meet in a hotel room once a week to do who knows what. But as is always the case, reality (i.e. love) creeps into life and ruins the fantasy.
For more sensual cinema, don’t miss the films airing Saturday nights at Midnight during LOVERS LOUNGE, a night of uncut, uncensored, boundary-pushing films sure to earn their TV-MA.