Increasingly common in bookstores over the last few years have been literary anthologies of "erotica--by women for women." Erotique is probably the first such collection done for the movies. Like Boys Life, which opened last week in the Valley, it's an omnibus of three half-hour shorts by as many directors. Unlike those in the elegiac Boys Life, however, all three of Erotique's films were written and directed by women, all three are sexually graphic (though soft-core) and all three are plainly intended, first and foremost, to arouse. To one extent or another, all three succeed, and they do so without the thudding tedium of most porn. These small but well-produced and stylistically lively films give the lie to the absurd belief that the intellect must be thrown overboard before a movie can generate serious sexual heat. They also make laughable the even more absurd, and more persistent, belief that women tend always to fantasize in gauzy, romance-novel terms--Erotique's visions are raw, and infused with raunchy wit.
My favorite of the three was the first, Let's Talk About Sex by Lizzie Borden of the U.S. It centers on a young, unemployed actress in L.A. (the spunky, likable Kamala Lopez-Dawson) who pays the bills as a phone-sex operator. She's desperately bored with the repetitive litany of drab fantasies she hears from the guys who call, and her boredom is about to cost her her job, when she strikes up a relationship with a regular caller (Bryan Cranston) who persuades her to tell him her fantasies. Although these are depicted as she narrates them, the title of this short proves apt--most of its erotic force is verbal. The second film, Taboo Parlor, is by Germany's Monika Treut (Female Misbehavior), and is set in Berlin. Two delectable women lovers (Camilla Soeberg and Priscilla Barnes) go out one night in search of a man to defile and abuse.
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This is the weakest of the three films; it spends too much of its slim running time wandering through artsy, Euro-trash decadence--it's rather like an episode of the Saturday Night Live sketch "Sprockets." But once the ladies find their macho stud/patsy (Michael Carr) and get down to the business of destroying him, it becomes reasonably hot.
The final episode, Wonton Soup (good pun!), is about sex and a culture clash. Directed by Clara Law of Hong Kong, it concerns a young Australian man of Chinese descent (Tim Lounibos) who tries to prove his seriousness about Chinese culture to his Hong Kong girlfriend (Hayley Man) by demonstrating his mastery of traditional Chinese "pillow book" sex positions. This is the most frenzied and orgiastic of the three entries, and the most cinematically flamboyant. It's also the only one that uses the sex acts themselves for physical comedy. A sweet little vignette, the film has two problems. First, it has a lighthearted tone until an oddly pretentious ending. Second--and this failing might have been unavoidable--the Aussie-Asian accent of the hero is mostly impenetrable to the American ear. Though all three films are in English, this last one could do with subtitles--early on, at least. Toward the end, understanding the dialogue becomes less and less necessary.