9 1/2 Weeks **** 1986

The quote seems absent from the internet, so corrections are welcome, Gore Vidal once suggested that ‘a man finds it impossible to recommend something to another man on the grounds that it gave him an erection’. He might as well have been talking about Adrian Lyne’s erotic epic 9 ½ Weeks, which was a box office flop in the US back in the day, and was derided by critics who were keen for everyone to know that such crude exhibitionism didn’t turn them on. The death of screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop in August 2019 is a good time to reassess the virtues; Nine ½ Weeks was co-written with her husband and producer Zalman King, and with double Oscar-winner Sarah Kernochan, and adapts a slim book published in 1978 by Ingebord Day. There’s a lot more going on here than in 50 Shades, but it’s essentially a story of a woman Elizabeth (Kim Basinger) who is attracted and then repelled by a sexually manipulative man John (Mickey Rourke). Lushly photographed, and with a busy soundtrack featuring Bryan Ferry and Joe Cocker, there’s plenty of surface pleasures, but there’s also unexpected depth in the views of Elizabeth’s work in the art world and her relationship with an older artist. There’s also an early appearance from Christine Baranski, and it’s not surprising to learn that Lyne’s film became a secret success on home video. Lyne himself delved deeper into sexual obsession with Indecent Proposal and Lolita, but his 1986 film is due a re-appraisal; it’s got a fierce female perspective and dares to look at male abuse in an unflinching way; John’s pathetic begging at the end reveals how Elizabeth always held the power in their relationship. A sequel, despite being written by the fitness coach at Celtic Football Club, failed to generate the same heat in 1997.


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