Say what you will about Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie — but it was, at the very least, a more competently made endeavor than Fifty Shades of Grey, the book. Along with Dakota Johnson, who brought a disarming wit to a flat Mary Sue character, the credit for this belongs to director Sam Taylor-Johnson. Previously known for music-inspired projects such as the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, she managed to condense 500 pages of Cinderella capitalism and awkwardly rendered sex into two hours of solid Hollywood Romance Product. But, likely due at least in part to clashes with Fifty Shades author E.L. James, Taylor-Johnson has announced that she’s exiting the franchise.
Considering that Universal has already greenlighted adaptations of the final two books in the series, the obvious question is: Who will direct the next film, Fifty Shades Darker? Though, frankly, I’m doubtful that Taylor-Johnson’s replacement will be anyone to get excited about, here is an unnecessarily lengthy list of audacious and entirely unlikely suggestions. Only a few of them are American, because Americans rarely make great movies about sex.
The year’s best, most honest movie about sex (so far) is Akhavan’s debut feature, Appropriate Behavior. As a fellow millennial, I’d expect her to play up the aimless-20-something aspect of Anastasia Steele’s storyline. Oh, and something tells me that a woman who doesn’t hesitate to film herself on the toilet would never have excised James’ much-discussed tampon scene from the first Fifty Shades movie.
If you want a movie about sex and power, Breillat is perhaps the world’s best filmmaker to deliver it. She has a history of casting porn stars and shooting scenes of unsimulated intercourse, but more importantly, she’s keenly attuned to the subtle dynamics that govern relationships of all kinds, be they between siblings or lovers.
Jamie Dornan apparently hates playing Christian Grey so much that he couldn’t manage to make the character as delightfully dominant as he should have been, to the film’s great detriment. Something tells me that Haneke would find a way to coax a much more terrifying performance out of Dornan…
Japan’s foremost cinematic sadist gave us one of the most horrific love stories in film history with 1999’s Audition. It would be kind of thrilling to see him drag the Fifty Shades franchise — whose next installment is, after all, titled Fifty Shades Darker — into the realm of extreme sex and extreme pain. As a bonus, the wildly prolific director would probably get the final two movies finished within a single three-month period and have the whole series off our lawn before the year is out.
If you want to make a movie that women will find sexy, why not hire an award-winning feminist pornographer?
Hamri has made videos for some of music’s sexiest voices, from Prince to Mariah Carey, and her romantic drama Something New was a study in relationships between people from different worlds. She was also behind the camera for a few of Empire‘s steamiest episodes — which suggests she’d know just what to do with a plot as over-the-top as Fifty Shades‘.
This beloved Spanish director has made some of the best dark sex comedies of our time — one of which was, it’s true, the NC-17-rated Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! But even beyond the racy stuff, Almodóvar understands women (and female audiences) better than any other male filmmaker. He’s also consistently at his best exploring relationships that get deeply weird, and what is more bizarre than the inexplicable union of Grey and Steele?
French filmmaker Denis does her best work in closeup, both literally and figuratively. She specializes in working closely with actors to create films that are both psychologically realistic and visually gorgeous. Sounds like an enticing way to make a sex movie, huh? Wouldn’t it be a great, albeit unlikely, direction to see Universal go in for Fifty Shades Part Deux?
Because if you’re going to make a movie about BDSM, why not find a director who’s already made a great one?
More than anything else, the Fifty Shades books are strange, psycho-sexual fairy tales about a man with a very particular obsession. The director of Holy Motors and The Lovers on the Bridge specializes in precisely that kind of story. And if you’ve seen his bizarre incest epic Pola X, you know he eats relationships like Ana and Christian’s for breakfast.
Lars von Trier
Whose last film featured plenty of unsimulated sex, a psychologically rich and utterly brutal depiction of BDSM, and one of the most compelling female protagonists in cinema? LVT’s, of course.