That are actually good. If you, like me, fear the sun and would rather spend your time hiding out in a cool dark room, here are a few sexy arthouse films – in no particular order – to increase your cultural capital and get you in the mood for the summer fling you’re procrastinating finding. By Sophia Larigakis.
Fuses (Carolee Schneemann, 1965)
The iconic experimental artist and filmmaker’s short film Fuses is an electric, visceral, multi-hued and super-salacious interrogation of sex and sexuality. Play it on loop at your next sex party (it’s on VIMEO), or watch it alone with an elaborate and brightly coloured drink in hand.
Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967)
You can’t really have a roundup of sexy art house films and ignore the French. They’d get upset. Plus, Catherine Deneuve, ooh la la. Deneuve’s character Severine takes bored housewife way beyond Betty Draper getting off on a washing machine, all the way to moonlighting (or, afternoonlighting) in a brothel. The film is a surreal, daydreamy caper through Severine’s S&M fantasies and experiences.
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
If you’re looking for that special cocktail of terror and titillation, Lynch is your guy, and Mulholland Drive is your ideal watch. Set in L.A., the film features amnesia, a dumpster monster, Naomi Watts, breaking and entering, highways, spooky singing, dead people, wigs, and lesbians.
Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
David Lynch was undoubtedly influenced by Persona when he made Mulholland Drive. The two films have basically the same plot, but instead of L.A., Persona is set on a remote Swedish island (and was released 35 years prior). The sexual tension between the two female characters is apparent in Persona, but in more of an unconsummated, angry, desperate and mimetic way than Mulholland Drive.
In the Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
Speaking of being in the mood, Hong Kong Second Wave darling Wong Kai-wai is a mood-setter extraordinaire. This film is basically universally beloved. More about heartache than consummation, In the Mood for Love nevertheless oozes a palpable eroticism.
The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)
Fassbinder’s frequent collaborator Hanna Schygulla plays the titular character in this post-WWII German dream-nightmare. Fassbinder loved to interrogate the ways capitalism permeates all human relationships (romantic and otherwise), and this is particularly true in this film. If sex under capitalism is an exchange of commodities, no one knows this (or comes to know it) better than the ambitious and extraordinary Maria Braun. See also: Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)
No, not The Handmaid’s Tale. Way fewer bonnets. The Handmaiden is a South Korean “erotic psychological thriller” that features a densely layered love quadrangle (??) involving conmen and conwomen, illicit sex, a sneaky handmaiden, and light bondage.
The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
Speaking of love quadrangles, Bertolucci (though absolute creep he may be) choreographed a particularly enchanting arrangement of that sort in his adaptation of the 1951 novel of the same name. A political thriller that leaps between World War I and the fall of Fascism in Italy, the film follows Marcello, a psychopath (read: fascist), who falls in love with a married lesbian anti-fascist who in turn falls in love with Marcello’s wife.
Sophia Larigakis is a Canadian writer living in New York City, and an editor at Slutever.