Lips unused to thee—
Bashful—sip thy jasmines—
As the fainting bee—
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—alights—
And is lost in balms!
— Emily Dickinson, "Come Slowly —Eden!"
There are films that have the power to move us to tears. Some outrage us, since we find their images so offensive that they stir something within us that makes us feel anger and disgust. I like to watch films that envelop me in mesmerizing images, taking me into a deep and beautiful dreamlike trance. These are the films that drown us in an ocean of sensations, unlocking hidden emotions within our bodies that we didn't know were there.
The Pillow Book (1996), Peter Greenaway
Telling the story of a young model obsessed with calligraphy and a Japanese court lady's book, Greenaway enfolds the viewer in an arousing and experimental cinematic narrative that not only appeals to their sense of sight, but also touch, hearing, and smell. Through its lush narrative, the film develops on the intricacies of childhood, pleasure, pain, and memory.
In The Mood For Love (2000), Wong Kar Wai
A melancholic tale about finding love as a cure to loneliness, In The Mood For Love tells the tale of a man and a woman who fall into a passionate affair after realizing that both their spouses are cheating on them. The movie has a slow and steady rhythm, with the camera always keeping a distance from the subjects, making us feel as if we were spying the characters from outside their windows. An intimate story of longing, delicate passion, and the inescapability of time.
Identification of a Woman (1982), Michelangelo Antonioni
Deemed as Antonioni's most erotic film, Identification of a Woman recounts the passionate weeks of a recently divorced film director who's searching for the leading lady for his next film. Using the casting process as an excuse to jumpstart his love life, the filmmaker finds himself in an affair with two cryptic and beautiful women. This film is a spellbinding exploration into the erotic corners of our psyche and the raw carnality that all of us desire.
Arabian Nights (1974), Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pasolini was known for making passionate and steamy films that show the most visceral aspects from our lives. His series The Trilogy of Life revolved around the idea of exploring our sexuality through the erotic adaptation of classic works of literature, starting with the Decameron and following it up with The Canterbury Tales. The last of the trilogy, Arabian Nights, however, was perhaps the most successful of his three explorations, giving life to a millenary text and leading it to a humorous dimension of flesh, sweat, and frankincense that engages the viewer in the famous story.
The Handmaiden (2016), Park Chan-Wook
Although Chan-Wook Park has been hailed for his violent and gorily alluring films such as Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, he has shown that he's capable of expanding his horizons by making a thriller that is pumped with electrifying sexual energy. Park's use of the cinematic language is lavish and elegant, building erotic and dramatic tension with subtlety while also pushing the viewers to the edge of their seats.
In the Realm of Senses (1976), Nagisa Oshima
Taking inspiration from the case of Sada Abe, a real-life Geisha who asphyxiated her lover and afterwards severed his genitals in 1936, Nagisa Oshima's film became a cult classic. It first came out in the seventies and, to this day, it is still censored in Japan. An explicit depiction of a chaotic relationship where two lovers engage in the most bizarre sexual activities, the viewer gets trapped in the steamy and destructive affair it portrays.
Contempt (1963), Jean-Luc Godard
Based on Alberto Moravia's novel by the same name, Godard makes a movie that explores the horizons of one of the most visceral emotions that we could ever feel: contempt. However, the sensuality of the film binds the viewer to it, not only through erotic scenes, but also by the lushness of the Mediterranean landscapes where it takes place and the magnificent architecture where its characters roam. There's nothing as entrancing as watching a nude Brigitte Bardot describing the magnificence of her body while being fully nude, expressing a sinuous beauty that looks as if it came from a luscious sculpture.
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