Yesterday, we reported that acclaimed Japanese director Nagisa Ôshima died. The iconoclastic filmmaker pursued a path that was often considered taboo, explicit, and deviant — especially when compared to the traditionalists working alongside him throughout his career. Ôshima is probably best remembered for his 1976 historical drama, In the Realm of the Senses , which featured scenes of unsimulated sex between actors. Controversy and censorship followed, but it wasn’t his only dalliance with eroticism, and Ôshima continued to reveal the forbidden in his films, while shedding light on political and cultural grievances. Sexy is entirely subjective, and we wanted to remember other oft-forgotten foreign films that explored the provocative and erotic.
It would be easy to dismiss any film created by the director of the industrial erotic nightmare Tetsuo, the Iron Man as completely unsexy. The combination of metal and flesh can be off-putting. However, Japanese filmmaker Shin’ya Tsukamoto made a 2002 movie that some may find more erotic and still retains the dark, surrealist edge the director is famous for. Strikingly bathed in blue, A Snake of June follows the transformative sexual relationship of a couple. There’s an element of obsession, grimy paranoia, coercion, and Sadean philosophy and excess, but the erotic thriller is full of sexual tension (and eventual liberation) that recalls the best of Brian De Palma or David Cronenberg.
The seductive Manji is one of several Japanese films with the same title. The work is based on the 1928 Jun’ichirō Tanizaki novel of the same name, about a twisted cycle of sexual obsession. This 1964 version from Yasuzô Masumura — with a script from Onibaba writer-director Kaneto Shindô — follows a doomed love affair through the eyes of a married woman and a beautiful, young model. The couple embarks on a raw, tragic, contemplative, and sometimes melodramatic journey. If you believe that an embrace can be more erotic than sex, this is your film.
Do you want to see a sexy Italian comedy starring 1960’s bombshells Monica Vitti, Virna Lisi, Gina Lollobrigida, and Elke Sommer? Of course you do. The episodic Italian gem is one big tease that was probably more risqué during its release, but still offers playful moments of flirtation, Euro-style.
A 1978 Bollywood meditation on desire in rural India, scandalous for its sexual overtones and a scantily-clad Zeenat Aman.
We could list a number of films starring Brigitte Bardot, but Love on a Pillow — directed by the French star’s former husband, Roger Vadim, after the couple divorced — is often cited as one of her best acted movies. And God Created Woman secured Bardot’s status as a film sex kitten, but this lesser watched 1962 movie allowed her to explore a deeper relationship on screen — in this case, a dysfunctional one. BB is undoubtedly the sexiest part of the movie.
“It is about the desiring itself, not about what they desire. That makes it more intriguing than if we knew their secret — and sexier,” Roger Ebert wrote of the 1999 French film about an older woman and a younger man who meet for a casual fling and find more. Director Frédéric Fonteyne examines their evolving relationship with honesty.
A Sapphic remake of the better known 2005 Chilean film En la cama, Room in Rome takes place between the walls of a hotel suite where a heady sexual relationship between two women unfolds into a complex and intimate baring of the soul — all tastefully and gorgeously framed and captured.
A naturalistic, passionate, and moving portrait of sexual awakening amongst the sand dunes of Brittany about two young men who contend with difficult family drama during their summer of love.
French feminist art porn from Catherine Breillat, featuring an unsimulated sex scene and porn star Rocco Siffredi.
Despite its reputation as a quintessential French film and several Best Foreign Language Film award nominations in the States, this 1986 tale about an unstable young woman and her handyman lover is sometimes forgotten. Béatrice Dalle’s character embodies the steamy, dizzying intensity of amour fou.