Indie Sex

Sex and movies share a long and complex history, filled with conflict and collusion, desire and decadence, upholding norms and challenging them. The documentary Indie Sex explores the interplay between sexuality and cinema by giving us commentary from people in the movie industry, clips from films used to illustrate the points made, and a timeline of historical events to place the topics discussed in context. The result is a brilliant lesson in the interplay of movies and sexuality.

Indie Sex is divided into three main segments: Censored, tackling the issues of movie ratings and movie censorship; Teens, looking at how teenagers and teen life are treated in the movies; and Extremes, how the movies handle the unusual or unusually intense aspects of sexuality. (The fourth segment, Taboos, is included as an extra on the dvd.) All the segments have commentary on a wide range of people: actors (including Peter Sarsgaard and Rosanna Arquette), directors (from John Waters to Catherine Breillat), film critics, writers, producers, even burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese (that's her image on the cover; sorry, but she's not dressed like this in the documentary) and musicians. These people provide a wide range of viewpoints and experiences, and while there's a definite bias in favor of independent films over mainstream Hollywood -- critic Jami Bernard comments, "Indie films are where you can get a deeper exploration of something" -- the end result is an excellent variety.

Hollywood films aren't attacked or ignored. In providing the history of sex and movies, Indie Sex covers quite a few mainstream films and trends -- such as the success of the American Pie franchise and the colossal failure of Showgirls -- to tell us not only how independent movies are treating sex, but also how movies in general deal with this topic.

The history here is extensive, going back to the first silent films (and anyone thinking that was an innocent time will be surprised at some of the movies here), to the original ratings system (G, M, R, and X), and on to speculation on what "the final taboo" will be for movies. The film clips buttress the points made by the speakers: Even when a film isn't discussed, a few racy seconds shown from it serve to demonstrate another way movies treat the topic of sex.

Directors Lesli Klainberg and Lisa Ades wisely resist interjecting their own views and thoughts, instead giving the spotlight to the people speaking on this. Unlike the flawed This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Indie Sex also avoids any cheap theatrics and stays focused on its topic. The people interviewed also don't hate Hollywood: some work in mainstream movies, and director Lee Daniels, defending the ratings system, observes, "The question is, what are we shielding [children] from? And the answer is, people like me, until they [the children] are eighteen."

As one might imagine -- from the title or the cover -- Indie Sex is definitely intended for mature audiences. With that in mind, Indie Sex is a tremendously informative and entertaining navigation of human sexuality, movies, and their inevitable combination.

Overall Grade: A+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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