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9 1/2 Weeks

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1986

‘…due a re-appraisal; it’s actually got a fierce female perspective and dares to look at how to resist controlling men in a fairly unflinching way…’

After my positivism regarding Dakota Johnson’s excellent performance in Cha Cha Slide, I’ve been reminded of her truly awful work in the 50 Shades of Grey series, which I described as a ‘laughing stock’ at the time, a view I won’t be reconsidering any time soon.  Erotic drama rarely floats boats, but rather than appearing to be too much of a fuddy-duddy, I took a fresh look at Adrian Lyne’s erotic epic 9½ Weeks. This was a box office flop in the US back in the day, and was widely derided by stuffy-old critics who were anxious for everyone to know that such voyeurism and crude exhibitionism didn’t turn them on in any way.

Screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop died back in August 2019; 9½ Weeks was written with her husband and producer Zalman King, and also with double Oscar-winning documentary-maker Sarah Kernochan, and adapts a slim, far darker book originally written back in 1978 by Ingebord Day. There’s a lot more going on here than in the fairly limp 50 Shades, but it’s essentially a story of a woman Elizabeth (Kim Basinger) who is initially attracted and then repelled by a wealthy man called John (Mickey Rourke), who turns out to be manipulative in every sense.

Lushly photographed, and with a busy hit-filled soundtrack featuring Bryan Ferry and Joe Cocker, there’s plenty of surface pleasures as always with Lyne’s work, but there’s also unexpected depth in the views of Elizabeth’s work in the art world and also her relationship with an older artist. There’s also an early appearance from the great Christine Baranski, and it’s not surprising that Lyne’s film became a secret success on home video. Unlike 50 Shades, it’s notable that this is a story of a woman who recognises and rejects manipulation; not everything is more forward thinking these days…

Lyne himself delved deeper into obsession with Indecent Proposal and Lolita, but this 1986 film is due a re-appraisal; it’s actually got a fierce female perspective and dares to look at how to resist controlling men in a fairly unflinching way. John’s pathetic begging at the end reveals how Elizabeth always held the power in their relationship, even if she didn’t know or understand at the time. A sequel, Another 9½ Weeks, failed to generate the same heat in 1997 despite being written by a physio from a Scottish premier league football club; as part of my bid to further my understanding of cinematic art, I’ve watched it and will report back with my full findings soon. It’s currently got zero review on RT, and I fully intend to be the first.

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  1. I saw the realer, raunchier EU version and was familiar with the book, which was semi-autobio per author. Still, it was disappointing to see they took out the most telling scene (spoiler) where the obsession and manipulation had become so huge they took poison pills (actually only sugar). That’s when Kim realized how bad the game they were playing was and left for good. At beginning of next 9 1/2 week movie, he’s obsessed with finding out what happened, suicide, nervous breakdown, distain? Zalman King (died 2012?) went on to create Red Shoes Diaries… always thought both movie 50 Shades and Weeks… were in imitation of PR’s French Story of O…. though Weeks is also about a lustful, taboo rich initiation by a bad, older mage. Hits home….. didn’t Lynne also make Fatal Attraction and Indecent Prop? Word was he brutal manipulator.
    Regarding Liz’ tastes: horrid 80s art, bad hat, and taste in men and what one does for kicks. Roarke apparently stayed in his role whole time of filming off and on camera. The food scene felt menacing, not sexy. And what was with the alone in her office scene? She wore different, sexier clothes than worn earlier…was that her sex uniform? Always wondered why 9 1/2 weeks? At 9 weeks pregnant woman is likely to begin experiencing morning sickness. #9 is number of rebellion, judgment, and completion…initiation completed, women sadder but wiser; pathetic man slowly realizing, as you state, he held little power. Her strongest power was the power of goodbye. Happy viewing of Another 9 1/2 weeks. New year cheers!

    • Regroup, rethink, and revise…the EU cut was, as usual, raunchier, but I think you’re correct to say that while it was a cause celebre, there are some crucial bits missing from all versions. Although the suicide pact aspect is missing, I do think there’s a real element of danger about John, although the fridge scene is much lighter without any notion of poison. Lyne is reputed to be tough on actors, and would probably have gone darker in his pomp, but this was more than dark enough for audiences at the time. But you are also correct to feel there are continuity lapses for Basinger’s character, but I’d argue that these are forgivable because her arc is very much rejecting the notion of being John’s toy. I’m not sure there’s any other subsequent Zalman King projects that have the same depth, so it’s still worth celebrating for me!

  2. For some reason I can’t remember anything of the film, and the fridge only vaguely, but I do have a positive connotation for it! Erotic movie wise, I think The Handmaiden was a definite good one. Looking forward to the review of Another 9 and half weeks! 😀 Happy New year!

    • Nice one Helene! No reason to think that emptying the fridge should be erotic; defrosting it certainly isn’t. The Handmaiden is one I’ve got in my in-tray, thanks for the suggestion! It’ll be a while before I can express my feelings about Another Nine and a Half Weeks, but I’m glad to know someone’s going to read it! Happy 2023 to you too!

  3. All I can remember now is the fridge scene, and how it got sent up in Hot Shots. I don’t much care for erotic movies. There’s nothing wrong with porn, and if you want porn, watch porn. Not this fake stuff.

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