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Kate Marie

Great nude scene -- the skinny-dipping scene in A Room with a View. It makes perfect sense for the narrative, as it contrasts Julian Sands in all his nakedness with the starched, priggish, fully dressed Daniel Day Lewis (in a *great* performance), and it ends up making Day Lewis appear, not only more uptight, but also -- and strangely --more vulnerable. And there's the bonus, for us women at least, of a rare male nude scene (actually we get three men for the price of one here).

Great sex scene -- Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in "Don't Look Now." That's one of the few sex scenes that I don't find distracting. Actually, I think it's beautifully done, as it manages to situate the sex in the context of their relationship with one another, partly by intercutting the sex with scenes of the two characters getting dressed to go out afterwards. The sex is at least partly presented as "flashback," in a way that tends to suggests their shared history together. It's one of the few sex scenes that succeeds in giving me a sense of the characters actually "making love" to each other.

Walter

I don't usually have a personal opinion concerning nudity in film. Just that it should be left up to the director and actress(or actor) in question.

But I can think of films where it was gratuitous and/or unnecessary - Short Cuts, Bully & My Favorite Season - are three that come to mind.

Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Tilda Swinton and Kate Winslet are other serious actresses who have done full nudity on screen.

oh and I've also seen male nudity this year in films like - Saraband, Cache & Mrs. Henderson Presents.

Shakespeare's Sister

Jack Nicholson's ass was hanging out in Something's Gotta Give.

(And yes, that is officially the strangest comment I've ever left anywhere.)

Exiled in NJ

Great nude scenes fill The Unbearable Lightness of Being. They have to so Daniel Day Lewis' command "Take off your clothes" can have any meaning, but perhaps the most lovely is Juliet Binoche and Lena Olin 'attacking each other' with cameras.

For one simple scene, see the young Kate Winslet in Jude, Hardy's summit of pessimism, looking like a Rubens woman as she gives herself to Jude.

You hit on the worst, Lance, when you speak of Nicholson in Postman. Three years ago I wrote about James Cain for a Mystery Newsletter:

"When the film was remade in 1981, Jack Nicholson played the part. He was quoted as saying that the Chambers of the book was sadistic and resorted to violence. He played him that way, a far different interpretation from the Chambers of John Garfield."

I concluded with: "I’ve read the book twice; I have seen the film countless times. Unlike Mildred Pierce, it is impossible in my mind to read the text without thinking of Garfield and Turner. As for the 1981 film, it is more faithful to the book, and the steamy sex scenes are more faithful to the intent of the author, yet I can’t help but hear the late Sir Kenneth Clark, talking about late 16th Century Art, “….the art of the time, which has recently and ominously come back into fashion under the catch-penny title of Mannerism…..Play it for kicks: that is the mannerist motto, and like all forms of indecency, it’s irresistible.”

Lance, your thoughts about Shampoo are splendid. I saw it when it came out, and watch my copy often today. Towne, Beatty and Ashby give us something that lasts, despite it being about one day in 1968. It is the perfect illustration to that Dylan line, 'money doesn't talk, it swears.'

Ashby died near in time to Stanley Kubrick, whose demise was treated with the reverence given Mother Teresa. In death Ashby was almost forgotten, and has never been given enough credit for his 70's masterpieces Shampoo, Last Detail, Coming Home and Being There.

Fritz

Best: Maurice, 1987

James Ivory, director

Rupert Graves and James Wilby's nude scene in a hotel bed. Ahead of its time, brief, not overly gratuitous.

Most recent gratuitous:

Dirty Deeds, NR version 2005

The loaf of bread masturbation scene in which a nude woman rolls between two giant slices of bread begging for "mayo" -- simply idiotic.

Toast

Favorite nude/sex scene? Renton and Diane in Trainspotting.

Mustang Bobby

I second the Maurice nomination; excellent film and tastefully done.

Anyone remember a B- film back in the mid-70's called Buster & Billie with Jan-Michael Vincent and Joan Goodfellow? I heard it had a frontal nude scene with J-MV, who was -- in 1974 -- my vision of HAWT. I went to see it alone at the Jesse James Drive-In in Toledo just to see that scene. Guess where the film broke...

(Cross-posted from ShakesSis)

Darryl Pearce

A Soldier of Orange tells a great story that so happens to have some nudity. There was a bad, European sex-comedy that had a terrific scene between a visiting monk and a local prostitute; not much nudity but a great line: "There's that little devil! Let's put him in hell, where he belongs!"

Gratuitous sex scene: Top Gun.. (ugh)... whole movie comes to a screeching halt for a "blue scene." However, Kelly McGinnis was terrific in Witness, which had the washing scene.

Idyllopus

I'm not one to post on this really as all I've seen for the past eight years are kid movies, and my own passion for films cooled considerably some time ago, when they became so formulaic that each nearly each one had the scene in which "the song" played and there is generally rambling about underneath with no development. But...

First agree with Kate Marie on "Don't Look Now". Effective use in a tragic disturbing film.

Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange". Rape scene on stage, about as frightening and vulnerable nudity as I've seen in a film. Followed by the dispassionate, pick-up nude sex scene in Alex's bedroom.

Successful non-gratuitous full-frontal of Keitel in "Bad Lieutenant", in sync with the strip-away look at the raw breakdown of his character. And then again in "Holy Smoke" the nude scenes with Keitel and Winslow, because again of the catastrophic breakdown in character, plunging through psychosis in the isolated world of their disordered mutual deprogramming. Not about older-man younger-woman sex.

I didn't see "Last Tango in Paris" for a while because of everything I'd read and I was convinced it was going to be all gratuitous. Then when I saw it I was surprised that it wasn't and that the film was quite different from everything I'd read. It's not however a film I ever felt compelled to see a second time. Don't know how I'd feel about it on a second viewing.

"Slaughterhouse Five", not at all gratuitous. There are those who view its nudity as sexist for some reason, when it's instead a contrast of near luminous compassion compared to the horrors of war time.

Julianne Moore's flying nude scene in "The Big Lebowski" is hysterical and wouldn't have said the same thing had she been clothed.

Sandro Milo in the the treehouse scene in "Juliette of the Spirits". Funny and overpoweringly iconic. Should be noted, however, that nothing at Suzy's house is near as seductive and sensual as whatever comes under the influence of Juliette.

The majority of films in which nudity appears is however just pandering, box-office eroticism that contributes nothing and is distracting because it's extraneous and there only for the purpose of making money, is distracting and uncomfortable because it's dumped in there only to tittilate and is therefore kind of just plain rude. Just like the majority of love scenes contribute absolutely nothing and could be clipped.

"Shampoo" is yes a wonderful picture. Each viewing always has surprises for me.

Ginger Mayerson

Richard Gere in "American Gigolo" does a full frontal nude scene by a window and has this long long speech about... something. Nicely lit, too, as I recall.

Hal Ashby also directed "Harold and Maude." I don't know if you want to count Harold blowing bubbles in bed next to the sleeping Maude in all that gorgeous yellow sunlight as a sex scene or just heartstoppingly beautiful.

daveminnj

i remember a great,great french movie-"going places" (1974) every sex scene, every bit of nudity, male and female both, was nongratuitous and moved the story forward, and was very funny.
one of the things that made it original was
the likable lack of nobility of the two leads.clueless in the very best sense of the word.

Night Bird

Hi Lance,

I would love it if you would stop by for cake...

Chris Clarke

Least favorite nude scene: Salma Hayek in Frida. I was all "no, no, NO! She's WAY too buxom and conventionally beautiful and moustache-free."

Although that movie did have the absolute best Trotsky-related sex scene of the year.

Night Bird

Lance...e-mail me I have a question to ask.

Angie

First I have to admit I haven't read the whole post, but I do want to voice my opinion that there should be more male nudity in movies. :)

Now I'll go back to finish reading the post.

Earl Bockenfeld

An example of a great nude scene or sex scene for me is Body Heat, with William Hurt [Ned Racine] and Kathleen Turner [Matty Walker]. The movie, like the title, is HOT and the first half is really erotic.

William Hurt and Kathleen Turner wanted the crew to feel comfortable filming their love scenes. So they lined up the crew and both actors introduced themselves to each member. When they did this, both stars were naked.

Some of the great dialogue:
Matty: [to Ned] You're aren't too bright. I like that in a man.

Ned: I need someone to take care of me, someone to rub my tired muscles, smooth out my sheets.

Matty: Get married.

Ned: I just need it for tonight.

-----------------------------------
An example of gratuitous nudity or sex scenes for me is Body Double. This movie is all about sex, but it's not sexy. Brian de Palmn originally planned for this to be the first Hollywood movie to boast unsimulated sex scenes. The studio thought differently.

What if Vertigo and Rear Window had a baby, this is a tribute/rip-off of Hitchcock with great stuff with claustrophobia, sexual need, voyeurism and a grotestque murder with a hugh powerdrill but it doesn't have Grace Kelly.

This movie is one of those movies, within a movie. So the use of body doubles in movies is expressly shown and is to my knowledge the most explicit showing about the mechanics of how body double are setup and used in films. An example of dialogue shows how it misses:

Holly: [Melanie Griffith] I do not do animal acts. I do not do S&M or that particular bent, no watersports either. I will not shave my pussy, no fistfucking and absolutely no coming in my face. I get $2000 a day and I will not work without a contract.

Most of commenters did not go into this much detail, but I expect that my choices will be so oddball, that I wanted to give some justification for my selections.

Chrys

Thanks folks. I now have a nice long list of movies to rent. :)

maurinsky

Kate Marie already mentioned Room With A View, which only has male nudity, and it's a great scene, not at all gratuitous, very joyful and not sexual.

Return of the Secaucus 7 also has male nudity in a skinny dipping scene. Not overtly sexual.

On the subject of the double standard...I was just thinking that I've seen more dicks than tits in the live theater - Corpus Christi, Angels In America, Equus...

Morgaine Swann

I just skimmed the comments above, but I didn't see any Queer As Folk references. I wish I could make every adult sit through the two first episodes of that series. The demographic of that show's audience took everyone by surprise. Even though it was marketed almost exclusively through gay media, half of the audience was straight women. Just as many men prefer watching 2 women together, lots of women like watching attractive young guys together. The makers of Brokeback Mountain knew this.

There's less homophobia with the girls, though. Women are more likely to view women in sex scenes from a competitive standpoint, so when it's two guys they aren't distracted by comparing themselves to the woman on screen.

Seriously, rent Queer as Folk. The sex scenes with Gale Harold and Randy Harrison will never be surpassed. Anybody that can watch that and think there's anything "unnatural" about gay sex just isn't human.

Matt

Non-Gratuitous and Sexy
Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor in The Pillow Book
The entire French filmmaking industry

Non-Gratuitous and Not Sexy
Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet
Courtney Love in The People Vs. Larry Flynt

Gratuitous and Sexy
Uma Thurman in Dangerous Liasons
Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (sue me)
Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgmont High
Jane March and Tony Leung in The Lover

Gratuitous and Not Sexy
American Pie and similar movies

Can’t Remember Whether or Not It Was Gratuitous, But I'm Sure That It Was Sexy
Diane Lane in Rumble Fish


I think that what the French director Catherine Briellat does with nudity is pretty interesting. I’ve only seen Romance, which has tons of nudity (and real sex), but very little of it is erotic. All of the sex is harshly lit and has a clinical feel to it.

I really hate to say it (really really really hate to say it), but I thought that the blowjob scene in Brown Bunny was pretty hot. But whether or not it was hot isn’t as interesting as the issues surrounding it, especially in relation to Lance’s post. I understand that actors and actresses are uninhibited, but what were they thinking? Well, I can guess what what’s-his-name was thinking, but Chloe Sevigny? No idea.

Here is a site with an extensive list of sexual/erotic films from the very beginning of film to the present time.

Exiled in NJ

Diane Lane in Unfaithful, or for that matter, anything.

I second Body Heat, one of the few remake/revisions of an old film that is as good as the original.

Lance

Chris, you are a man devoted to art and historical truth which explains why you might be the only person to object to a nude scene on the grounds that the person getting naked looked too good naked.

Earl, I don't think your choices are oddball at all, but I'm glad you gave us the analyses.

Matt, great lists. As for Sevigny, I could devote a post to trying to explain what I think she was thinking.

NJ, I'm with you! Diane Lane out of everything in anything.

blue girl

I thought all the sex scenes in "Unfaithful" were, um, really, um, artistically done. Really.

No one's mentioned 9 1/2 weeks. Wasn't that just an awesomely sex-soaked movie? Or was it really dumb? I don't remember the *quality* of the movie. It had that great song, "You Can Leave Your Hat On." Every time I hear it, I feel like there's a great sex scene just waiting to happen.

Night Bird

I am going to agree with Angie. Liam Neeson in any scene!!

mac macgillicuddy

"It had that great song, 'You Can Leave Your Hat On.' Every time I hear it, I feel like there's a great sex scene just waiting to happen."

BG-Not in my experience. I remember the scene and the movie. Didn't like the movie overall, but the song and scene were good. Anyway, I keep playing that song over and over, but...

harry near indy

WHAT?! NO PICS?!

shame on you, lance.

i remember a very erotic scene in the movie jo jo dancer, your life is calling. it starts richard pryor and is based on his life story.

in the scene, debbie allen, iirc, is undulating in a dance club to the song "for the love of money" by the o'jays.

even tho i saw it about 20 years ago, your post brought it up to the forefront of my mind. and i remember is as if i saw it last week.

cali dem

Lance - thanks for the plug for the Swimmy Awards. Actually, there were a couple political films with some nudity this past year...Given the intense interest in your discussions a new category may need to be considered.

tigtog

Someone else mentioned "the whole French film industry" as filmmakers who know how to make nudity non-gratuitous and sexy. I'll second that, and note that their film nudity is not nearly so gender imbalanced either.

Same throughout most of European fimls. Apart from wanting to slit my wrists at the end of Lars von Triers' Breaking Waves, the scene that stands out for me from that film is early when the couple were happily just married and lounging around naked in the bedroom without any interest in sex for the moment, and the man was filmed full frontal and laughing at some silly joke. Non-gratuitous, not especially sexy, just very very human. (Couldn't be more removed from Von Triers' current work)

I'm glad you enjoyed the Spirit Fingers VF post, Lance.

Kevin Hayden

I'm gonna go to the movies with Exiled in NJ because his tastes mirror mine. I agree that The Unbearable Lightness of Being has some of the sexiest nude scenes I ever experienced. With or without Lena Olin, Juliette Binoche became a favorite of mine ever since. And his echo of Maurinsky's suggestion of Body Heat also ranks high in my book.

Of course, my taste was not always so refined. As a teen, the seemingly cutting edge Barbarella, with the young Jane Fonda au natural, seemed a gift from the heavens. Decades later, upon renting the video, I was confronted with a cheesy 70s movie as forgettable as Jane was rememberable.

Other standouts:

I found 'Sex, Lies and Videotape' oddly compelling, though I can't recall how much actual nudity it included.

'The Last Picture Show' captured Cybill Shepherd in her physical prime.

'9-1/2 Weeks' was wicked and inspiring with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke.

Susan Sarandon's breasts in 'Atlantic City' definitely caught my interest, but it was a brief highlight in an otherwise solid, but unsexy movie.

Likewise, I fell for Jacqueline Bissett's wet t-shirt scenes in 'The Deep'. She set the standard for a new fad that has rarely been 'topped.'

And on my 'gotta see' list is an HBO movie, 'Norma Jean and Marilyn', which features Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd in the buff.

dan

The double standard, at least in the minds of male actors and audiences, grows out of the fact that our culture has such an immature attitude about penises, specifically penis size. A small-breasted actress can go topless without provoking gales of laughter. When this becomes true of an actor showing a small penis, the double standard can be laid to rest.

mac macgillicuddy

"Non-gratuitous, not especially sexy, just very very human. (Couldn't be more removed from Von Triers' current work"

Literature and art are filled with stirring moments when nudity stands for vulnerability, pathos, hope, rebirth and redemption. Heck, it's a central symbol in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, and also in Classical mythology. Hollywood films don't seem to be able to pull that off (pardon the pun--it IS intentional) with their images, but many films do.

I agree that nakedness makes an effective symbol, but when it's not used symbolically then it's just, well, you know...

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

PS-Please lets agree not to use the term "skinny dip" any more. It sounds so...dopey.

daveminnj

let's not snub the shower scene in porky's.
it holds up better than you might think.

Exiled in NJ

Porkys? Now that we are getting down to that level, where do we put Alan Bates and Oliver Reed's wrestling match in Women In Love, or any nude scenes in Ken Russell films? Now Russell is truly an equal opportunity man behind the camera.

Catch The Magdalene Sisters on ITV sometime. The scene with nuns and naked young women is central to the film.

David Ehrenstein

So glad everyone remembered Julian Sands, who has never been shy about getting naked on screen. Last week I had the great pleasure of chatting with Mr. Sands (fully-clothed at the time) at the opening the Gavin Lambert tribute here in L.A.

Besides "A Room with a View" (which was very popular in the south as its heroine's dilemma reflects that of the Classic Southern Belle) there's the babe-a-licious Rupert Graves in "Maurice."

But the most spectacular example of cinematic male nudity remains Peter Beard running naked thorugh the snow in Adolfas Melas "Hallelujah the Hills" (1963), flaunting the most gorgeous ass I've ever seen.

pebird

It was only on TV, PBS at that, but it had the greatest effect on me, at 14 - Valerie Perrine in Steambath.

Whit

Men don't like to get naked in films because they don't want anyone to know how big their dicks really are. The other thing is that IT fluctuates so dramatically in size--so being nude on a set you either have a hard on--which is embarrassing--or it's a shriveled little thing and everyone is going to say whatsit has a tiny one. It has to be just right--in the middle stage between erect and flacid--and that's hard to maintain on a cold soundstage with teamsters all around. That's what I imagine anyway.

Ewan MacGregor

Whit: absolutely spot-on, mate.

binkieandmarcel

I was also thinking of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in Women in Love, the one point where Ken Russell's overheated sensibility meshed with Lawrence's very differently overheated sensibility. I think it's the most memorable scene in the movie for good reasons, not just because of the shock at the time. I really don't want to think about why someone would associate to this from Porky's.

A few other thoughts:
Sexy and not gratuitous:
Maria Bello and William Macy in The Cooler.

Not gratuitous and not supposed to be sexy either:
Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in End of the Affair.
The sex in Last Tango.

Not gratuitous, very sexy, but disturbing, too:
Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen in History of Violence.
Naomi Watts's audition in Mulholland Drive.

Things I thought were sexy when I saw them but I'm not sure now:
Daria Halprin and Mark Frechette in Zabriskie Point.
Genevieve Bujold and Clint Eastwood in I forget the name of that movie.

Ooo la la

here are a couple that are a bit more graphic:

Romance (graphic but not erotic)

The Dreamers (the woman is hot, hot, hot)

The Piano Teacher (one mega graphic scene, and a lot of disturbing sexual imagery)

Earl Bockenfeld

Whit, speaking about dicks in films. It has to be just right--in the middle stage between erect and flacid--and that's hard to maintain on a cold soundstage with teamsters all around. That's what I imagine anyway.

I thought the solution was the special art and practices of the "Fluffer".

whit

No respectable actor, unless in a porno, can have a fluffer about. If they could, perhaps this might work. Anyway--you still are walking around with that embarassing hard-on. Easy to hide at the gym--not so easy to hide on a set.

Ken C.

From http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,804025,00.html , more than you wanted to know about Jack Nicholson:

"But when he got the starring role in the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1981 opposite Jessica Lange, he saw his chance to "do the most erotic performance of my life". He and the director Bob Rafelson, who had also directed him in Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, collaborated closely, especially in choreographing a famous lovemaking scene on the kitchen table. Nicholson says he wanted the scene to be so authentic that he convinced Rafelson to show him fully aroused beneath his clothes. On the shoot, however, Nicholson found his anatomy would not cooperate. "That would have been something different," he says. "But I couldn't do it." He persuaded Rafelson to let him try again when they filmed Man Trouble in 1992, and this time Nicholson's attempt was a success, he says - though he adds that no one has ever said they've noticed it in the movie."

Kara

Actually, way back in 1986, Helena Bonham Carter (and Cary Elwes) got fully naked in Lady Jane. I felt that was truly non-gratuitous (although to me, at age 16, it was certainly shocking), because it showed a depth of closeness and love that didn't seem to exist in movies about the middle ages (or whatever time that was - I suck at history, so anything where they walk in muck & live in castles counts as the middle ages to me).

Fairly brief shot, shortly before she's executed, and I felt it really showed how much the characters had grown to care for each other.

Garry

No one has talked about the issue of actors and actresses having actual sex on screen in many of the films mentioned here. Let's face it, there are some things that are virtually impossible to fake on-camera (unfortunately, this includes things such as the killing of live animals, which shouldn't happen at all, but happens far too frequently in films). It's quite disturbing to me that "mainstream" actors and actresses are agreeing to have actual intercourse on camera in major films--I think it is far more common than we are led to believe.

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