The fun thing for you world-weary cinema addicts is that, contrary to popular belief, there is still at least one type of genre cinema that hasn't been done to death, still one movie-watching experience with room to grow, that won't bore you to tears; still one type of film that's got plenty of room to roam (or ram). Yes, we're talking about that rarest of cinematic beasts (with two backs) - the non-porn film that features hardcore sex. I've seen one or two, and heard of more, (9 Songs, Shortbus) and still consider them to be a novelty. Sex Stories is just such a picture, and it raises an interesting specter, can such movies be artistically successful, and if so, to what end?
Stories has a lot going for it as far as porn is concerned, namely, its actors can act, and they look more-or-less like real people. Plus, it has the bare minimum of plot. Those of you who've ever gotten into watching porn as a couple's endeavor know of which I speak. It gets real tiring after about ten minutes of watching poorly-silicone-enhanced bimbos getting artlessly pounded by gross looking guys before receiving the obligatory shot in the eye. For studiously avoiding any of this, Sex Stories earns much good will. But where do we go from here? I guess you have to ask yourself why it's necessary to show people actually doing the nasty on screen? Is it to advance the plot, add a degree of verisimilitude to whatever you've otherwise got going on, or simply to turn on your viewers? Good questions, all, and why I say that there is so much more to explore in this realm.
As for Sex Stories, I'd say it would probably be a fantastic date movie for those truly settled into their relationships. The plot really is minimal; a group of dating friends split up to enjoy either a guys' or girls' night out. The men meet at one residence, the girls at another, and they proceed to chew each other's ears off with stories of their respective sex lives. It may bear out that there's a moral somewhere herein about fidelity and trying to please your partner, but what's really on display are exceedingly racy scenes centering mostly on comic or conflicted characters - either folks constantly looking for that next lay, or trying to figure it out with their partners, or simply trying to understand sex at all. As a truly vital part of most people's lives, it's probably a very good subject to examine. So we must leave it to the French to actually talk about it frankly in film. Or we could just go back to our collection of Seymour Butts DVDs.
Written and directed by Ovidie and Jack Tyler, Sex Stories is refreshingly free of intellectual and artistic pretension, though it's by no means stupid. If anything, it might be a bit too simple, representing not much more than an episodic series of somewhat stereotypical tales of sexual complications, with only the incidental fact that the two groups constitute couples offering any through-put from story to story. In that, the movie does follow the typical porn formula, but with much more realistic and engaging circumstances.
Trench coat sporting duffers will be put off by a number of factors; the couples mostly look like real people, their French insouciance may rub the wrong way, and there is no gynecological focus to speak of. In other words, this isn't a porn movie. But foreign film fanatics with a fondness for things racy will feel the need to loosen their collars after a few minutes. While Sex Stories goes a long way towards legitimizing the presence of real sex in mainstream cinema, it's simplicity won't help it turn into a classic. Yet, it doesn't want to turn into a classic, it just wants to turn you on. Check it out with someone you know well.