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The Letterboxd Show 3.07: Karina Longworth
[clip of Body Double plays]
HOLLY Fucking freaky actors, that’s what there is here. Masochistic directors! I should have known when he didn't even know what a cumshot was.
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
SLIM Hello and welcome to The Letterboxd Show, a podcast about the movies people love watching from Letterboxd: the social network for people who love watching movies. I’m Slim, she’s Gemma, and each episode we are joined by a Letterboxd friend—or two—for a chat about their four favorite films. This week on the show, we’re being taken deep into the heart of the erotic ’80s by a very special pal. Somebody we, and likely you, have admired for her incredible work over the past decade on a podcast delving into the forgotten and/or secret herstories of Hollywood. [Gemma laughs]
KARINA Thank you guys. Thanks so much for having me.
GEMMA Karina, you’ve fully embrace the spirit of our four favorites format, by selecting for erotic thrillers from the 1980s to discuss with us today. Relevant to your new season of You Must Remember This. And for that, I just want to say... thank you. [Slim & Karina & Gemma laugh]
KARINA Well, thank you guys for are bingeing some difficult material.
SLIM I had to go deep into my basement to watch these films this week, since I work from home. [Gemma laughs] Son had half-days, it’s Spring Break. I was like “Nope, stay upstairs please!” And I do have to—I feel like Gemma is understating her appreciation for this week, because Gemma has had to watch some movies that she would not normally watch this season on the podcast.
SLIM So I feel like you’re finally getting into the swing of things, or movies that…
GEMMA Yeah, pretty much. Slim had had me—I don’t know, he’s had me watching Jean-Claude Van Damme, he’s had me watching Commando. [Slim laughs] He’s had me watching every Tom Cruise movie that he will make me suffer through. So this feels like my... my comeuppance. [Karina laughs] To get to the point, the films we will be exploring inch by sexy inch are in chronological order: Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo from 1980. Brian De Palma’s Body Double from 1984. Adrian Lyne’s Nine 1/2 Weeks from 1986. And bringing it all the way back home to New Zealand, Roger Donaldson’s 1987 erotic-political-intrigue, No Way Out. So... [Gemma laughs] Where to start? I mean, we’ll go in chronological order but I think we start with, you know, the current season of You Must Remember This is focused on erotic ’80s. We are two episodes in at the time of recording. And I was just thinking about that amazing quote about Richard Gere being a liberated woman’s himbo and thinking... Slim, what would you be?
SLIM I feel like I’m the “dollar-store podcast himbo”. [Gemma laughs] I compare myself to the “dollar-store Sean Fennessey” so maybe I’m the “dollar-store podcast himbo”. But Karina, what what brings you to the erotic ’80s? What finally brought you into this theme for this season? What was like the onus for it?
KARINA Well, I guess I just started watching a lot of these movies in early 2020, when I suddenly had a lot more free time to watch things. And first of all, I just really like a lot of them and thought there were so many things to talk about, but it also kind of raises the question of why movies like this aren’t getting made anymore. And why blockbuster Hollywood movies have just become so sexless. And so it just got me thinking a lot about this period of time, the ’80s and the ’90s, when sex was such a bigger part of popular culture. And I had a child’s memory of it because I was born in 1980. And so on the one hand, a lot of things happening in the late ’80s and early ’90s were really important to me in terms of like my development, as a person going through adolescence. But on the other hand, I was not old enough to understand the complexity of these things at all. And so it felt like a really important thing to try to unpack it and understand it.
SLIM Richard Gere in American Gigolo will be the first one that we get into in just a moment. But Nine 1/2 Weeks to kind of like look at the four as a whole. So when I was a kid, Nine 1/2 Weeks, I heard whispers of this movie growing up, that this was kind of like the sexiest movie ever made, and it almost was like a mystique about that movie. So this was actually the first time I finally sat down to watch it after, you know, growing up as a kid with this shroud of mystery around this movie. So I’m excited for us to get into talking about Mickey Rourke. Mickey Rourke, what a character Mickey Rourke is, right?
GEMMA Oh my god. [Karina laughs] I can’t wait.
[Call Me by Blondie fades in]
SLIM American Gigolo, 1980, Paul Schrader. It’s a 3.3 average rating. It’s only 22 fans on Letterboxd! When we go through these four movies, I actually thought that these were kind of like low fans, because the American Gigolo poster you see kind of everywhere on Letterboxd. And Richard Gere, the character, makes a lucrative living as an escort to older women in Los Angeles area begins relationship with Michelle, a local politician’s wife without expecting any pay. But one of his clients is murdered, and [an] investigation begins. So he’s sort of the suspect in this murder. And, you know, I highly recommend everyone check out the podcast as you delve deeper into the Richard Gere character in this film, but where does it stand for you in the history of, you know, ’80s erotic thrillers?
KARINA Well, for me, it’s the first and one of the best. You know, I think that not only is American Gigolo responsible for setting a certain style template for the ’80s with the Armani suits, and this, in general, Italian-inspired production design. But it’s, you know, in a lot of ways, the first of its kind of the decade. And it really sets a template for, you know, almost all of the movies that I’m talking about this season are about, whether they’re thrillers or not, which is just this intersection between sex and danger and money.
GEMMA Mmm. I was thinking a lot about how that character of Julian has made quite a nice life for himself within the context of being a callboy, with the older ladies of Beverly Hills. So he’s got access to all the clubs, he’s got the beautiful suits like—they take the time to show him packing and selecting shirts, with jackets, with ties and going back and going “No, that tie with this suit”. And it’s really interesting to then watch him have to get himself deep into the muck of the rest of the industry that he works in. That for me was the fascinating journey that I went through watching this. Not the romance with Lauren Hutton. But the... you know, the idea that he’d sort of somehow built a quite comfortable corner of the industry for himself. But it’s sort of built on sand. It’s built on that, you know, it just takes one of those rich ladies to cast him out and his house of sexy cards crumbles.
KARINA Yeah, I mean, I think that the film is very interesting about class. And Paul Schrader, the writer and director, has talked about how the American part of the title is a reference to a sort of Horatio Alger idea. That this movie is is not so much about gigolos, as it’s about Americans.
SLIM I mean, I’ll be honest with you, I was googling “How do I become an American gigolo?” after watching this movie. [Gemma & Karina laugh]
GEMMA Suits! Suits! [Slim laughs]
SLIM Suits, yeah suits under my chest. His pants were so high up. I was like, “My god, Richard, how do you do it?”
KARINA You have to get those boots that let you hang from the chin up bar, upside-down.
GEMMA Oh my god!!
KARINA That’s the prerequisite.
GEMMA Those boots are wild! And then when his phone goes off—
SLIM What do you think he was pulling down? What do you think he was pulling down after taxes as a gigolo in 1980? [Karina laughs] I was like—I spent maybe ten minutes thinking about it.
KARINA I think he was probably reinvesting most of his profits back into the business.
SLIM That’s true.
KARINA You know, in the Westwood apartment... the Mercedes... the cocaine.
SLIM Gotta reinvest in the cocaine. It’s 1980, you have to. [Slim laughs]
GEMMA I have one question. Why... are venetian blinds so goddamn sexy? [Karina & Slim laugh]
KARINA Well, it’s sort of it, you know, they mimic—and they do this on the poster of the movie, right? They sort of mimic a blindfold. It’s sort of about what you can see, the interplay between what you can see and what you can’t see—lightness and darkness.
GEMMA Yeah, of course. It’s just so funny because, you know, I’m living—you can see them—I’m living in a house with venetian blinds on every window and I’m like “They’re not sexy. They’re just annoying!” They flap in the wind... [Gemma laughs]
KARINA Well you know what else flaps in the wind? [Gemma & Slim] I’m sorry, I just... I’ve really been liberated to make a lot of puns and dirty jokes.
GEMMA Please! Please, please, please. Also Héctor Elizondo, cigar king. I really appreciated him in this. I mean, Héctor, I really only know as a television actor. And so this was a really lovely moment to see him, in a I would have liked to have seen him play more of on the big screen.
KARINA Well, he and Gere will reunite in Pretty Woman in ten years, so...
SLIM That’s true.
GEMMA Yes, this is true.
SLIM Jack who puts our facts together, this ranks [ninth] in Paul Schrader’s filmography. Letterboxs lists that it does appear on: These films have the D., Male Frontal Nudity In Cinema, and Psychosexual dramas, nihilistic fever dreams & surrealism with a touch of humor. So some good lists so far for American Gigolo.
GEMMA Oh no, I like the list that is Actually Sexy Films. Because there is that, you know, let’s talk about that sex and danger line that runs through your season and all of the films we’ve chosen. Because that—my god—that scene when he picks up the trick in Palm Springs for his mate in the industry. And he heads out there and it’s clear that the husband of this woman has a real piece of work. And that moment where it’s just, you can see the husband in the background, the angle of the camera is on Richard Gere’s face, husband in the background, and he’s like, “Don’t look at him”.
[clip of American Gigolo plays]
JULIAN Forget about him. This has nothing to do with him. This is just you and me.
GEMMA “I’m here for you. This is all about you.” That, for me... Yes, we got to see the D. We got a beautiful shot of Richard Gere lit by the venetian blinds, full-frontal, gorgeously naked. But no, for me, it was the words coming out of his mouth in that scene. Can we get more of that in movies, please?
KARINA Yeah, I mean, I think that was very radical to draw this character as being somebody who feels like it’s his job to give women pleasure. And to sort of help them, you know, understand that they can ask for what they want, in 1980 that was very radical.
SLIM I just love seeing him walking around, you know, helping shop, art galleries, you know, he’s just like a side-arm-piece for some of these women. In some cases, that’s all they really need at that time. You know, come with me to go shopping and find some expensive art, let’s hang out. [Gemma laughs] I could do that! I’m on Google again right now.
KARINA There is something about the way that cities are shown, in all of these films actually. New York, LA, DC, the way that the cities themselves are so much a part of the affairs that these people are having, right? What did you love about the way that LA was portrayed in American Gigolo?
KARINA You know, I think that they’re, the very beginning of the film, like the first two images you see are of the Mercedes logo on his car, and then of the sparkling coastline. And I think for so many people, that is just, it captures in just two shots very succinctly what the American—or the Californian experience, like the ideal California experience would be. It’s money and it’s the beach. And then, you know, this film sort of takes you from there, like down into the darkness a little bit. But it’s still so seductive, just the night driving, and then Rodeo Drive. And yeah, it’s all part of this tapestry of sex.
GEMMA Yeah, it’s interesting. I think one of the questions I’ve seen come up a few times in publicity around this season of You Must Remember This, is, you know, how many of these films would be canceled if they were released now? And I feel like this is one that wouldn’t, because I feel like it’s one that you could just take the script and put it on 2022.
KARINA I don’t know about that. I mean, they are doing that they’re making a TV show with Jon Bernthal. But I don’t know if it’s set in the present day or set in 1980. I mean, for me, this movie is very much a time capsule. And I think like the specific things that it’s—certainly, like, the way that it’s talking about relationships between men and women, I’d think that there would need to be some updating. And then the way that it encounters sort of the queer underground as it’s pictured in the film, that would also need some updating.
GEMMA Oh yeah. Oh yeah, for sure.
KARINA You know, Paul Schrader has said fairly recently, I think, in a 2020 interview, that if he made the film today, the Gere character would be overtly gay rather than sort of coded as being, you know, maybe bisexual, having it be so ambiguous.
SLIM One review I wanted to spotlight before we move on to our next film, this comes from wood: “Young Richard Gere as a sensitive gigolo is the most on-brand casting I’ve ever seen.” Richard Gere, come home. We want more from Richard Gere.
[music from Body Double plays]
SLIM I think it’s De Palma time.
GEMMA Oh my god!
SLIM 1984, Brian De Palma, 3.7 average, 333 fans. We’re moving up on the list right now with Body Double. After losing an acting role and his girlfriend, Jake Scully finally catches a break: he gets offered a gig house-sitting in the Hollywood Hills. While peering through the beautiful home’s telescope one night, he spies a gorgeous blonde dancing in her window. As they do at night. But when he witnesses the girl’s murder, it leads Scully through the netherworld of the adult entertainment industry on a search for answers.
GEMMA Does that say “the girl’s murder”? Is that a synopsis on Letterboxd? Witnessing “the girl’s” murder? [Slim laughs]
SLIM That’s what it says...
GEMMA She’s not some ten-year-old! She’s a grown-ass woman!
SLIM We’ll put a change in the TMDb, “the woman’s murder”. [Gemma & Karina laugh] We’ll see if we can get that updated. [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Oh my god, I wrote an alt-synopsis by the way. I just, I really struggle with these. Okay. ‘A middling actor who’s lost his job his girlfriend and his apartment, witnesses a neighbor’s murderer, then suddenly becomes a private detective after seeing the dance routine of an adult star named Holly Body while watching some porn on the revolving waterbed of a Hollywood Hills house-sit.’ [Gemma laughs]
SLIM That’s pretty good. I’ll give you props for that one. So what’s your history with Body Double?
KARINA Brian De Palma is a filmmaker about which I have impassioned mixed feelings, as do a lot of people. And I find his movies sort of more interesting intellectually than satisfying as entertainment often. And this is a film where I think this is probably my favorite of his films in this vein. And I think it’s the most sophisticated of his films that seem to be trying to be to Alfred Hitchcock what some of Todd Haynes’s films are to Douglas Sirk, in the sense that they’re sort of semiotic essays, while at the same time attempting to be dramatically satisfying as well. And this is the one that that feels the most successful to me.
GEMMA This movie... Slim, how did this land for you? [Slim laughs]
SLIM This is the first time I’ve seen this. I feel like I’ve seen bits and pieces of it. And the first sit-through I was actually like really confused and perturbed. And then I saw some reviews, you know, obviously way over my head. Like I said, I’m the podcast himbo here. But some of the reviews call out, “Oh my god, the Alfred Hitchcock homage, like this is Brian’s Hitchcock take.” And then I slap my forehead and I was like, “Oh my god. Yeah, it does totally feel that way!” [Gemma & Slim laugh] I don’t know why I didn’t catch that at first, because I was like, it was like the whole movie, I was like yelling at some of the characters like, “Why are you doing this? What’s that cop doing? He’s not helping them at all. She’s obviously getting murdered!” But after I actually read some Letterboxd reviews, it kind of just woke me up to the fact that I think I just viewed it from a just totally different incorrect lens on my viewing and it just opened up my eyes to some of the fun of the movie, which I didn’t kind of appreciate it first.
KARINA I think it’s really fun.
GEMMA I was blown away. I am so—like every single podcast episode, I just say “thank you” to our guests for one specific movie and this is the one for me. Brian De Palma’s Body Double. Oh my god. So weirdly, I also saw Ti West’s X in the same week, but basically I saw X and then I watched Body Double and I feel like in a way they are a pretty good double-feature in the way that they look at the construction of adult movies. And the kind of, the fantasy-versus-reality in terms of what actors and actresses go through. But X, I found the slowness of it—which is what Ti West is known for and which a lot of people love him for—I did not enjoy. But when, I mean this, when Frankie Goes to Hollywood appears and start singing and there’s this whole... we get to see the movie-within-the-movie. I mean, when Melanie Griffith says “We had one of these in Star Wars” about the revolving waterbed in the spaceship house. When she kicks him in the shin and calls him a weirdo. When she meets the other “serious” actress and gives her the business card and they have that amazing conversation. The fun De Palma is having with the film industry here, whilst also making sure that every crane shot is above and beyond, every lighting decision, every camera move, just like fully bringing the camp to Hitchcock. I love this film so much! I don’t love Craig Wasson. We could talk about that. But I love this film. Only thing wrong with it, I thought is that Melanie Griffith shows up way too late. Because once she arrives, that’s like a whole other film that I wanted to see two more hours of.
SLIM You know, we talked about the current season of the podcast, but how do you place this movie in that kind of echelon of ’80s, you know, erotic films?
KARINA Well, there is an episode about this film coming up in a few weeks. And I mean, for me like there’s, it sort of fits in with this trend of a few other films. The fourth episode is about these two neo-noirs that come out in 1981. The remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, directed by Bob Rafelson. And then Body Heat by Lawrence Kasdan, which is sort of an unmarked remake of Double Indemnity. And so I think like there was an impulse amongst a certain generation of filmmakers, many of whom kind of grew up watching these classical Hollywood films and, you know, maybe having like... you know, sexual feelings about actresses like Barbara Stanwyck or Kim Novak, or whoever it was, wanting to kind of recreate some of the genre aspects of those films, but do it in the time that they were working in where they could have more explicit sexuality. So for me, what Body Heat and [The] Postman Always Rings Twice and a few other movies start, Body Double finishes, especially in terms of sort of making Hollywood do a car crash with the porn industry. And you know, when De Palma was developing this film, he consulted with Annette Haven, who was a major adult-film star. And when it came to casting the role of Holly Body, it came down to her or Melanie Griffith. And Melanie Griffith was at this point in her career where she was, you know, sort of considered washed-up. She had started working when she was sixteen or seventeen and then, her career had kind of gone downhill, and she’d had some personal problems. And she had just sort of made her return to cinema, making a film that hadn’t been released yet, directed by Abel Ferrara called Fear City, which if people haven’t seen that, it’s worth seeking out. I think that there are a few different versions floating around. But it’s an interesting film, and she’s really good in it. And so she really, it was like, it was almost taking as much of a chance on Melanie Griffith as it would have been taking a chance on an adult-film star that had never done a non-porn film before. Even though she had that lineage of being the daughter of a Hitchcock star.
GEMMA I love that. She is incredible in this but what I found, I mean, compared to all of the other films on this list, Craig Wasson, not a sexy guy! Like... [Gemma & Karina laugh]
KARINA That’s kind of what I love about, that’s one of the things I love about Body Double, is that first of all, Wasson is obviously absolutely an avatar for Brian De Palma. You know, and in ways in which De Palma doesn’t even really try to hide when he talks about the film in terms of his own voyeurism and his own like, feelings of like, ‘I love to watch women because I want to help them...’ and so I think that it’s kind of important that Wasson not be a Cary Grant-type or a Richard Gere-type. That he not be somebody who you’re fantasizing about having sex with, because the whole movie is about his fantasies.
SLIM I’m like envisioning Jimmy Stewart in the role and it’s cracking me up. [Gemma & Karina laugh]
GEMMA I mean, I get that. I get that. You know, the only person I was attracted to was Melanie, as well, so it’s fine. It’s totally fine. [Gemma & Slim & Karina laugh]
SLIM One of the lists that this appears on is one that has come up before. It’s the Help! I Got Too Horny and Now Everything’s Bad list. [Gemma & Karina laugh] And also Cocaine Noir, stoner canon, and movies it should be illegal to watch before 9PM, as I referenced my basement viewing earlier… [Gemma laughs] I can confirm this.
GEMMA I liked Joe Carson’s Letterboxd review that just says: “Best end credits of any movie. Ever.” And it reminded me that there was a really intriguing credit: “Body by Jake” and I was thinking whose body do we think Jake worked on for this film? [Slim laughs] And it’s got to be Melanie, right? Because it certainly wasn’t Craig!
KARINA So I don’t remember that credit but is it referencing like “Body by Jake”? Because he was a personal trainer with like a workout system.
GEMMA Yeah. Yeah, totally. Yes. Referencing the “Body by Jake” Jake.
SLIM Maybe he was always on set just given tips for people, you know, giving shoulder rubs. Like, “You’re doing great. You look great.”
GEMMA Yeah. Because I was thinking it made sense to have him, you know, on American Gigolo giving Richard his upside down, chin-up... thingies... [Slim laughs] advice. But yeah, it was quite, I was intrigued to see that. Also, why are ankle bracelets so sexy? [Karina laughs] I’m building up a list here of things that are ’80s sexy. Venetian blinds, ankle bracelets, there are more as we go through the next two films, there are more.
KARINA Very thick carpeting that takes a long time to drill through. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA Yes! Oh my god. Oh my god!
SLIM That was another thing that perturbed me. He was such like, he was so worthless for three quarters of the movie. Everything he tried to do, he was the worst at. [Gemma laughs] Like everyone he was trying to save or follow, they all got murdered!
KARINA Yeah, I think there’s something interesting. There’s like a strain and some of these movies where it’s like, people can’t even, you know, perform as men in their fantasies. You see this at the beginning of Risky Business as well, the Tom Cruise character is having a sex dream that suddenly before the moment of consummation becomes like an “I’m late for school” dream.
KARINA And so I think that that’s a big element of Body Double too, is like for a lot of the movie, it’s like a sexual-fantasy-slash-nightmare about not being able to perform.
SLIM I mean, the one thing he did do that was shocking was he did talk his way onto an adult-film set. [Karina laughs] In the span of 24 hours! [Gemma laughs]
KARINA Well I think the joke is that the barrier to entry is not so high... [Slim laughs]
KARINA Certainly for a male performer. [Gemma laughs]
SLIM So I’m googling: “How do I become an American Gigolo? How do I become an adult-film star in 24 hours?”
GEMMA These must be the things that delight and inspire you and keep you curious all day long. You’ve been making the podcast since 2014. And it’s such a gift to film lovers.
KARINA Oh, thank you!
GEMMA You told Longreads, you know, talking about feeling burned-out as a film critic seeing seven movies a week when, you know, you were only personally interested in maybe 30 films in a year. And I’m feeling that, given that Slim and I watch at least four films a week for this gig, let alone everything else. And so I guess reflecting back on eight—count them—eight years so far of making the podcast, how has that changed your relationship with movies?
KARINA I don’t watch new movies much at all anymore. I really only watch them when my husband is like voting for the Oscars or if we have, you know, a friend made a movie or if there’s just like, you know, a filmmaker, who I’m already interested in put something out. But I don’t like, I don’t feel the pressure to keep up with festival films. And I don’t feel the pressure to see almost anything that Hollywood releases. So I’m just not part of that conversation at all.
GEMMA You’re like the opposite of Film Twitter. I love it. [Karina & Slim laugh]
KARINA I don’t know. I mean, I’m active on Twitter and the people I followed tend to be more interested in films of the past. But obviously, you can sort of select your own audience and you can select your own reading material there. But yeah, I don’t care. I don’t care at all about Marvel or anything like that.
SLIM You mean you weren’t first in line to see the Spider Man: Far From Home event in theatres? [Gemma laughs] You weren’t front-row?
KARINA Yeah, I haven’t seen a Spider-Man movie since the first Andrew Garfield movie, which I had to see to review it. And, you know, that kind of movie is one of the reasons why I wanted to get out of film criticism.
GEMMA What is the last movie you remember seeing as a film critic and going, ‘Thank heavens I’m a film critic, because I get to write about this in an exciting and intellectual and loving way.’
KARINA I don’t think I really felt that.
KARINA I felt excited to be able to go to festivals like Cannes. And to be able to, you know, sort of be amongst the first audiences to see international masterpieces. But I never felt like, I never felt lucky to be able to write about anything. I mean, it always just sort of felt like a chore... which is why I shouldn’t be a film critic. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA But you should be a film historian. The Polly Platt season is my favorite, I think.
KARINA Oh great!
GEMMA They’re all so good. But I love that one in particular, because it really shows up how the entire series and conceit is such a brilliant way of exploring how women and many marginalized people have navigated, I guess, the patriarchal and misogynistic Hollywood nooks and crannies, in order to be able to build meaningful careers for themselves, even and often at huge cost. And I really love the journey of Polly in that sense, and the way that it was told. And yeah, I love all the links back to past episodes. There’s this beautiful relationship going on from season to season. I just, yeah, there’s no question in there. I just needed to tell you that I love it. [Gemma laughs]
KARINA Oh, thank you so much. Well, that was a really, I mean, talk about feeling lucky. I felt really lucky that Polly’s daughters, Sashy and Antonia, trusted me with her unfinished, unpublished memoir. And so that just felt like, you know, the most exciting opportunity I’ve ever had is to be able to help tell Polly’s stories in Polly’s own words.
GEMMA Do you have some intriguing voices coming up this season? Or is it all you?
KARINA I’m still really writing the season. I usually like to be a lot further along than I am right now. But I don’t know why, it’s just been really hard to write this season. So I’ve only written seven scripts of the first twelve, and then I have to write the whole ’90s season. So never say never, like I might get in a situation where I come across the perfect voice actor or I decide that I absolutely have to interview someone. But generally my approach so far has been that—I did have the opportunity to interview one director and I decided not to do it because so much of the season as I’ve already constructed it, is media criticism. It’s so much based on all these vintage magazines that I’ve bought. And kind of talking about the way these things were written about in their moment, that there almost isn’t space for a voice of somebody still living looking back.
GEMMA I need to ask, because it is my personal mission to make sure that this film was mentioned in every single episode of The Letterboxd Show. Will you be traversing Jane Campion’s In the Cut?
KARINA No. Because the season ends in 1999.
GEMMA Of course... [Gemma laughs]
KARINA And I may mention it. It’s interesting though, people have asked me about that film quite a bit, as I’ve been talking about this season. And I have vivid memories of when it came out. I actually wrote something about it in graduate school. But this season is really specifically about the ’80s and ’90s.
GEMMA Yeah, 100%. What are your memories of when that film came out? Do you—where does it sit for you? Because in terms of what you are exploring in this season, as I was watching these four films even, over the last week, I just kept thinking about, you know, as a young feminist in that milieu of “all heterosexual sex is rape”, seeing In the Cut and going, “Oh my god, this is what danger and sex in a movie together can be,” in a way that makes me feel turned on, even while a character is losing their head—literally.
KARINA Yeah, I mean, when it came out, I think I was really grappling with it and trying to understand it. I was only 23, I think, 24 maybe. And, for me, I found myself really drawn to it, but at the same time feeling like, I didn’t understand Meg Ryan’s performance in it. And so that was actually what I wrote about is, I wrote about the film in terms of her sort of star-persona, and how the thing, one thing that she had been very famous for before that film was faking an orgasm in a movie, right? In When Harry Met Sally… And then as far as I know, this is the first movie where she performs an orgasm as if the character is actually having it. So I wrote about that, and just sort of the sexuality of Meg Ryan and her persona and why, you know, it felt like In the Cut was an intentional departure but one that I wasn’t sure was so convincing for her. And now, I watched the movie again, you know, maybe four or five years ago. And I think I liked it more than I’ve ever liked it and felt, you know, I think it’s a really great film. I still am like not entirely sure Meg Ryan is the best actress for that.
GEMMA Mmm. And you know that it was originally Nicole’s?
SLIM I didn’t love Meg Ryan’s hair in that movie. That was my main thing. [Gemma laughs]
KARINA I actually think, I think she looks great. I think the costumes are fantastic. And, you know, I mean, Mark Ruffalo in that movie is just kind of like... God-level hot. [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Off. The. Chain.
KARINA I think Jennifer Jason Leigh is so great.
KARINA But yeah, I still feel like, I feel like Meg Ryan’s performance draws attention to itself, because it’s such a self-conscious departure from her kind of “America’s sweetheart” persona.
GEMMA Ah, so interesting.
KARINA And it would have been, I think, interesting to see what would have happened with an actress like Nicole Kidman or even if Jennifer Jason Leigh had played that part instead of the sister part, with an actress who I think could disappear into the role a little bit more.
GEMMA I think what’s been really interesting, I’ve talked about this before, but not in the context of what you’ve been saying, is that over the ten years of Letterboxd history, the rating for In the Cut has risen slowly over time, and in a really significant way, as more and more people explore it and either revisit it or come to it for the first time. And I think what is happening—I’m going to theorize here—is that those who did not know Meg as America’s sweetheart, as Tom Hanks’s perennial love-interest, don’t bring that with them to their film. And so maybe there’s an accessibility that we didn’t have, because we were so much about Sleepless in Seattle and so much about You’ve Got Mail, that it was quite hard to make that shift. Although I found it quite exciting at the time. I remember feeling quite liberated and empowered by seeing somebody who was clearly, clearly very good and very famous and very well-paid for what they do, going, “I’m going to do something else”.
GEMMA That was like a shock to the system, professionally.
KARINA I felt like that was happening quite a bit at that time, though. You know, another example from around that time is Charlize Theron in Monster. Like I think that at that time, it was sort of—I was feeling like it was sort of cliché for very famous actresses to kind of change their look and do something that was the opposite of what was expected of them.
GEMMA Mmm, true, true, true.
SLIM We need to continue on...
GEMMA Do we? [Karina laughs]
SLIM We’re trying to heartthrobs... [Gemma laughs] Let’s get to the one and only, Mickey Rourke.
GEMMA No! Oh god! [Gemma and Karina laugh]
SLIM From 1986, Adrian Lyne’s Nine 1/2 Weeks. 2.8 average! So we’re under the threshold of the 3.0 right now. 23 fans though on letterboxd. An erotic story about a woman, the assistant of an art gallery who gets involved in an impersonal affair with a man she barely knows about his life only about the sex games they play. So the relationship begins to get complicated.
GEMMA Another terrible synopsis! Who writes these things?
KARINA Yeah, what a bad synopsis...
GEMMA We may need you to rewrite most of our synopsis for this podcast.
KARINA As though the one of the most important things about that movie is that she works at an art gallery... [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Yeah! Right!
SLIM We must know that going in. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA Impersonal! Wow. Okay, so Adrian Lyne. First off, have you seen Deep Water?
KARINA Of course! [Slim & Gemma laugh]
SLIM What did you think of Deep Water?
KARINA I quite enjoyed it. I think that I’m very deep into Adrian Lyne’s filmography right now and so I’m very aware of the ways in which it sort of doesn’t match up to what I think are his best films, including Nine 1/2 Weeks, you know, as as I’m sure we’ll discuss that Nine 1/2 Weeks has this really baroque sexuality. It has all these scenes that are almost surreal. And it is almost doesn’t even matter if they’re sexy. But they are, you know, florid and over-the-top. And Deep Water doesn’t have any of that. But I still think it’s so much more interesting than so many movies being made today. And I think that the lead performances are really great. And I found it, you know, just sort of exciting as a movie about the decadence and depravity of a war-profiteer.
GEMMA Hmm. True, true, true. Whereas I was distracted the whole time by how weirdly Ben Affleck rides a bicycle. [Karina laughs] And the clothing he chose to wear whilst riding said bicycle. That was just...
SLIM He’s got a huge upper body. I wouldn’t be able to ride a bike with that kind of muscle structure up there.
SLIM I’d be falling over!
GEMMA The placing of the seat, he needed to just sort of shift the saddle itself back a bit and raise the handlebars. I don’t know. I just felt—yeah, very distracting. But Ana de Armas, I would look at her all day long. Speaking of which, is Kim Basinger one of the most beautiful humans to have ever been made?
KARINA Well actually, I’m writing about, I’m writing the episode about this movie this week. And I just read this article from Vogue when this movie came out, that was just David Denby writing, you know, 500 words about how beautiful he thought Kim Basinger was and in language that I don’t think would fly on Twitter today.
GEMMA Right? And so I was very thankful to also come across the New York Times article from the same year, about... specifically talking to her about her experience on set.
KARINA Yeah. And actually, if you’re interested in that article, it is microscopic compared to this interview she did with Interview magazine, where she talks about the same things in incredible detail. And you can find that on Archive.org. They have the whole archive of Interview magazine.
GEMMA So how do you approach a film like Nine 1/2 Weeks, knowing what we know about the actresses experience, but wanting to experience it as an audience member?
KARINA Well, first of all, I think that, you know, I think it’s tempting, especially in the context of this podcast season, to talk about Nine 1/2 Weeks away. We now talk about Last Tango in Paris, which I talked about in the first episode of this season. You know, it was received for decades as being a document of the sexual revolution, of sexual liberation. And now because Maria Schneider came out and talked about what her experience was really like on set, now we can see it as a document of abuse. With Nine 1/2 Weeks, there wasn’t that time lag. Kim Basinger was talking about her experience as the movie was in theaters, and people almost ignored it. At the same time, her experience is more complicated because she doesn’t say this felt like rape. And she also, in most of the interviews where she talks about how, you know, Adrian Lyne and Mickey Rourke used these tactics to sort of create real situations to get real reactions from her, she also says that she felt making the film was cathartic and it took her to a next level as an actress and she sort of needed it, like, to experience things in her personal life. So I think it’s not the same thing at all. That doesn’t mean that the methods that Lyne and Rourke used were okay. And certainly, I think that the way that Adrian Lyne talks about his movies, I almost want to tell him—go back into the past and tell him to shut up.
GEMMA Yes, oh my god!
KARINA Because I think it tends to do them a disservice.
GEMMA Not just about his movies, but about his actresses. You know, he talked about Kim Basinger and said, “You know, she’s not an intellectual, she’s not clever...”
KARINA Right. But I mean, to the credit of the author of that New York Times piece, which I think was Nina Darnton, she gets Basinger’s response to that. You know, she allows Kim to defend herself against those charges. So I think it’s a very complicated situation. This is my favorite Adrian Lyne movie. I think it’s him working at the highest level. And I think that, you know, you can understand that the methods for making it were complex and bad. This—I mean, this movie was kind of a disaster in terms of production and post production. It took them eighteen months to edit it. All the test screenings were extremely negative. And Mickey Rourke ended up kind of disowning it because he said he didn’t feel like the movie went as far as he wanted to go. And so then he went and made this movie called Wild Orchid, which we’ll also talk about on the podcast. But so you can put aside all of that, you can put that to one side of your brain. And then the other thing you have to put to the side of your brain is the source material, which is a memoir-slash-novella written under a pseudonym by a woman who was writing about her own experience of what began as a consensual S&M relationship, and then left her with a nervous breakdown. So like, those two things can be in your head when you watch the movie, but I also think the movie stands on its own and is somewhat undeniable as a portrait of a relationship, through the eyes of the woman, that is extremely ambiguous and it’s very unclear the whole way through where the line is in terms of consent and abuse, and pleasure and pain. And I think its unwillingness to make declarations at every step of the way is fascinating. And yeah, I just think it’s a very powerful, beautiful film. Troubling but beautiful. For me, it works for me the way that I think Last Tango in Paris works for other people.
KARINA I didn’t know there were three!
GEMMA Oh my god! There’s three?!
SLIM Mickey’s in the second one at least, but he does not return.
KARINA The second one is... [Karina laughs] Yeah it’s not... I think they’re both sort of unofficial sequels.
SLIM Yeah, the average rating on Letterboxd for two is like 1.9 or something very, very low. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Thing is, I remember watching this as a baby teenager to, you know, watch the thrilling sexy bits and not remembering much about it other than that the food scene has been much parodied. But watching it this time round, I felt everything that you’ve just described Karina, about, I felt like the discourse around the film back then was all about how freaking erotic and weird and dangerous it was, apart from the gross cough medicine bit. But, I felt like for me, it was kind of a gold-standard blueprint for what to watch for and an abusive relationship. And it was for me, not just the way in which Adrian films New York—I mean, the shot of the cat with the rat in its mouth. But also the flea-market sequences, the sequence inside the Chinese grocery store, the way we get to see and know and understand what the city is like to live in. But it was also... the melancholy elements of Farnsworth, the painter, and Liz going back to her apartment and watering her sad plants that she’s been neglecting because she’s been bound up in John’s needs. And yeah, really... I really loved the way that it threads that needle of when it all turns from fun and games and your sexy secret into sad and stressful, and you start observing other people laughing and other people having a good time and the kids over the fence from your apartment jumping up and down and playing and smiling and reflecting on what it is you’ve lost by taking on this relationship. I just was really struck by how much deeper Nine 1/2 Weeks is, than the film that you think it is when you hear the title.
KARINA Absolutely. I mean, I think it does have this reputation as being sort of a silly softcore film. And, you know, it takes I think something like 45 minutes for there to even be a sex scene.
KARINA You know, I think it’s just about... it’s about sex and and how it fits into this woman’s life. And it’s a very complicated sexual relationship. But it’s, you know, the movie ends up being so much about what it feels like to be vulnerable and powerless. And in some ways, enjoy that and then in other ways understand how self-destructive it is and how to destructive it is.
GEMMA And it’s also got a fair dollop of humor. I mean... [Gemma laughs] Nora’s review on Letterboxd: “Wow the ’80s was such a wild time. Like what psychosexual thriller today will include scenes such as: the main couple paying a small child to fart the theme from Jaws.” [Karina & Slim & Gemma laugh]
KARINA Yeah, yeah, there’s some some wild, wild stuff in this movie. And most of it is not sexual.
GEMMA No! I do, I’ve got another ’80s thing to add to my list of things that are at ’80s sexy. Why is Roxy Music so goddamn sexy?
KARINA The scene set to the Bryan Ferry song ‘Slave to Love’ in this movie is really interesting, I think, because it’s put together like it’s a romcom montage, but what you’re actually watching is this man make his girlfriend stand in the rain without an umbrella while he has an umbrella. And then feed her soup in bed when she gets sick. So it’s basically Phantom Thread, like in a montage. [Gemma & Slim laugh] But stylistically, you know, it’s like we’re being delivered it as though it’s romance.
SLIM Jenna’s review, which I agree with: “Mickey Rourke has one facial expression and it’s a devious smirk.” I mean, from the get-go...
KARINA Well, he couldn’t even do that facial expression a couple of movies later after he got his cheek implants. So... [Gemma & Slim laugh] Savor the moment!
SLIM I did want to talk about Mickey Rourke a little bit.
GEMMA Yeah, can we?
SLIM Going back into some older movies. You know, I think I grew up with Mickey Rourke, probably like, The Wrestler was maybe one of my first introductions and The Expendables movies, and his various, you know, facial surgeries today. Looking back on his filmography, and he almost feels like a Shia LaBeouf character, like he reminds me of Shia for some reason. I don’t know if it’s the quote bad boy for better or worse image because, you know, he eventually went astray. But I think he has such a fascinating career. He’s such a strange character in some of these movies. And you know, it makes me want to watch other ones. I think I watched like [Harley Davidson and the] Marlboro Man... what was that other one he did?
KARINA Yeah, with Don Johnson. Yeah, you know, I mean for me, I am as I said, I’m writing about Nine 1/2 Weeks and there’s going to be an episode in which I talk quite a bit about his star persona. For me, this is kind of the end of the line, like it stops being interesting for a long time after this. You know, you could, another one shortly after this that you could try is Angel Heart, the Alan Parker movie.
GEMMA Oh yeah.
SLIM I like that, yeah.
KARINA But that movie is pretty crazy and I’m not sure it’s good. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA “I like that” says Slim. [Gemma laughs]
KARINA And then, you know, there’s just kind of a long slide including this movie Wild Orchid, which I’m going to be speaking about on the podcast. Yeah, but I also really liked The Wrestler and I was, you know, kind of rooting for him on that Oscar season, but I think the more you read about Mickey Rourke, the harder it is to root for him.
SLIM Found my Angel Heart review, I want to medal myself again, three and a half stars on Letterboxd. My last line: “Mickey Rourke has a flatter ass than I do.” [Karina & Gemma laugh] My main takeaway from Angel Heart.
SLIM Yes. Thank you, thank you.
GEMMA Because I was gonna say in terms of Nine 1/2 Weeks, not that I necessarily these days would want to see Mickey Rourke, you know... all as God made him, but I feel like you know he’s not a good guy when you never see him naked in the film.
KARINA Yeah, actually, it’s funny. I think it was, he did this long interview in Playboy shortly after this movie was made. And, you know, somebody’s like, “Well, you know, it’s a very sexy movie—” and then he interrupts the interviewer and says, you know, like, “I never take my pants off. Go back. Watch. You’ll see. I never take my pants off.”
SLIM Oh god.
KARINA It’s this weird sort of point of pride. I mean, this is not a movie with a ton of nudity in it. You know, oftentimes they’re having sex in public furtively, so nobody’s taking their clothes off completely. But certainly, Kim Basinger does disrobe more than Mickey Rourke does.
GEMMA I did get quite upset, especially in a Covid-infected environment, about a lot of those sex in alleyways scenes. I was just like, no, just no. No! No, no, no. [Karina & Slim laugh] But I feel like so far... in all of these films, we’ve only seen all of Richard Gere, which was very, very nice. And there’s just not enough of that. I remember who I was thinking of now. It was the 1972 Cosmopolitan insert—
KARINA Oh, Burt Reynolds.
GEMMA Burt Reynolds. My mum had that on her wall. I grew up with that as my first, you know, kind of like, ‘You can thirst after a man and he’s a hairy bear of one’. And then we see Richard Gere in American Gigolo, and finally we come to not a lot of Kevin Costner, but we do need to talk about the jeans, with the top button undone, the snail trail, the low-rise jeans in Roger Donaldson’s 1987 political-thriller No Way Out. This is a 3.3 average on Letterboxd and only six fans. So if you are one of those fans, go and find the other five and have a dinner party and talk about Kevin Costner and those jeans. Oh my god.
KARINA Well, hopefully there’ll be more fans after my episode of the podcast...
KARINA …where I talk about Kevin Costner as an all-American wholesome sex symbol. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
GEMMA Let’s go there. I love this film. This is only the second time I’ve seen it, the first time around all I really remember is watching with my dad at the movies, which didn’t happen very often. So pretty exciting.
KARINA It’s a big dad movie.
GEMMA Yeah, it’s a big dad movie. And being quite appalled by the Kapa Haka Māori concert party, which were not Māori actors at the New Zealand Embassy event, that Navy Lieutenant Tom Farrell finds himself at at one point. But anyway... so plot-wise, as you said, Kevin Costner, all-American man. He’s a Navy Lieutenant who is brought in by the Defense Secretary David Brice, played by Gene Hackman, to basically prop up his political ambitions by having this naval hero with him. And along the way... Tom Farrell meets Susan Atwell, and they share a passionate fling in a limousine. We will talk about this scene. And then Farrell finds out that his superior, the Defense Secretary is also romantically involved with her. There is sex, there is a death, there is a very long second half of the movie set solely in the Pentagon. And it’s great! I love Roger Donaldson! He made the film Sleeping Dogs which brought Sam Neill to fame basically, this was his first major leading role. And it’s a great film. Even now, I love it so much. And I just love Roger’s grasp of action and these kinds of characters. You know, this kind of politics-meets-sex meets... Yeah, I love it.
KARINA When you say that the second half of the movie is set in the Pentagon, I mean, for a movie where the second half is set in one building, I mean, it’s really thrilling. It’s really well done.
SLIM This is the first time I’ve watched this movie, but I’ve seen the poster many times over the years. I was gonna make one of those quirky-joke Letterboxd lists afterward, because this is the second movie I’ve seen this year, where Will Patton plays a closeted gay man working for a powerful boss, and he commits murders for his boss. The other one was Thomas Jane’s The Punisher.
KARINA Oh, interesting! I’ve never seen that.
GEMMA Ohhh wow!
SLIM A strange double-feature for this film.
GEMMA I also did not know that this is the third adaptation of the source novel The Big Clock. So there’s 1948 version and a 1976 version, Police Python . Have you seen those?
KARINA I don’t know about the 1976 version. But I’ve seen The Big Clock, the film noir. Yeah.
GEMMA So how does this stack up?
KARINA This one is quite different than than The Big Clock. But, you know, I chose this movie to talk about on the podcast and here, kind of like at the end of my process of doing research, to try to figure out what I’d be talking about. And it was because of really of like the chemistry between Kevin Costner and Sean Young, which is, I think, you know, pretty exciting. You talked about this limo scene, these two have sex before they know each other’s names and they do it in the back of a limo, which is, you know, just not something you’re going to see in a movie anymore. [Karina laughs] And it really kind of sets the tone for this movie where it it feels like it really is, it is thrilling in a lot of different ways.
GEMMA I mean, you might see it in a movie, but it’ll be someone having sex with the limo if you are Julia Ducournau. Right? [Karina & Slim & Gemma laugh] That’s the kind of sex we’re getting in films these days.
KARINA Yeah, I guess I should have said a Hollywood movie. But... [Gemma & Slim laugh]
SLIM So would you have approached Kevin Costner at that party if you were Sean Young? After you see him waltz around in his uniform?
[clip of No Way Out plays]
TOM Stoli, straight up.
SUSAN So I was impressed.
TOM Yeah, want a drink?
TOM Make it two.
SUSAN You one of them?
TOM One of who?
SUSAN These hypocrites, all fat and shiny, gearing up for another four years of ramming it to the rest of us. Are you one of them?
KARINA I mean, I think he’s—I never really understood why people thought Kevin Costner was sexy until I saw this movie.
KARINA Yeah, The Bodyguard, I think he’s kind of uniquely unsexy in, which is too bad because when that film was made, it was still extremely unusual to have an interracial couple in a Hollywood movie. And it feels like there’s sort of a missed opportunity there. But the only other movie in which I think that, you know, I can really see him as being sexy is Bull Durham.
GEMMA Speaking of, I just want to say, the wonderful Film School Rejects who do the hard work for us of listening to directors commentaries, they listed the 27 best things they learned about No Way Out from Roger Donaldson’s commentary. And on that limousine scene, do you know about this? So he visited DC to scout locations, and he was met at the airport by a long stretch limousine, and being an Australian-born New Zealander, and he was like, “I don’t like it. This is not me. I’m gonna sit up front with the driver.” So... he’s chatting with the driver, asking him if passengers ever get up to mischief in the back and the driver’s obliging with stories, and describing how he just adjusts the mirror to get a full eye-full. And so then when it came to shooting that scene, Roger Donaldson tracked down that driver and cast him as the limo driver.
GEMMA And that is why he was so convincing! [Gemma & Karina laugh] He was good because he wasn’t creepy about it! He was just like, “Oh, yeah, here we go. I see it all the time. I’m just gonna adjust the mirror...” [Gemma laughs]
SLIM Like I said, this the first time I saw it. I thought the ending was pretty shocking to me.
KARINA There is a big twist.
SLIM Without going into a full reveal about that.
KARINA There’s a big twist and I—well, the first time I saw it, I was pretty mad at the twist to be honest. [Karina & Slim laugh] But, you know, there’s another film that I’m talking about this season called Jagged Edge, which also has a twist ending. And I think this movie’s twist ending, as mad as it made me the first time I saw the film, I think it’s much more successful.
GEMMA Yeah, 100%. And I think I had forgotten, fortunately, I mean, it’s been so long since I saw it that I had forgotten. So I got to be shocked and mad, and then intrigued all over again, and able to go back and plot certain moments where he orders certain types of drinks, you know, for example. Or just all sorts of things. I was just thinking about, made me think obviously, it sounds really Film School 101 to say, but about about all of the different meanings of No Way Out, you know, as they apply to there’s no way out as a woman in this world... There’s no way out of the Pentagon... There’s no way out of the KGB... [Gemma laughs] Yeah. ’80s sexy... sailing. Why is sailing so sexy? Oh my god, that sailing scene is just insane! [Karina laughs] He’s in his little shorts. She’s in her shorts. Ah, they’re just having a nice time. They don’t actually have sex on the boat, but it’s just sexy. I love that. However, I do think Letterboxd needs a master list of all the people who die in movies by falling onto glass tables.
KARINA Oh, yeah. Well, that that can go with your venetian blinds on your list of ’80s sex-films tropes. [Gemma & Slim laugh] Just broken glass in general.
SLIM Yes! There was a list that I loved going through: When you have to investigate a murder you committed or one where the evidence points to you. And there’s like 40 movies on that list. I thought it was a dynamite list.
GEMMA I looked up, do you listen to Fatal Attractions pod?
KARINA No. What’s that?
GEMMA Fatal Attractions, it’s a podcast where they go through erotic thrillers. I looked at where these films rank on their ranking. So as they review each erotic thriller on each episode, they rank them. Body Double is at number 27, American Gigolo is at number 36, Nine 1/2 Weeks is at number 65. And I don’t think they’ve done No Way Out yet. But speaking of Letterboxd lists...
KARINA I can’t imagine what’s in the top ten if these movies are so low down.
GEMMA I am gonna tell you...
KARINA I mean, maybe they’re all from the 90s.
GEMMA Well, what do you think number one would be when it comes to erotic thrillers?
KARINA I mean, if that’s called Fatal Attraction Pod then... [Karina & Slim laugh] It’s like a clue...
GEMMA Well, you’re close...
KARINA Either that or Basic Instinct.
GEMMA So there’s yeah, those are the top three.
SLIM Namesake of the pod and it’s not even number one.
KARINA Dangerous Liasons is not a thriller though.
GEMMA Yeah... True, true, true.
KARINA I mean, my season is not about all thrillers either, but...
SLIM Right. Well, what can we expect? I know that the ’90s are coming later on the pod but how has your thought process been for which to select and which to choose down the line?
KARINA For the ’90s I haven’t figured it out yet, to be honest. But for the ’80s, you know, once I kind of locked into this idea that it’s basically one or two films per year. Once I was thinking about things that way, it became pretty evident, you know, what was gonna go for each episode. Actually, the only thing that was sort of in question was the year of 1988 and once I decided that I wanted to include No Way Out, which is actually from 1987, that’s when I kind of hooked into this idea of talking about Kevin Costner and his emergence as a star, because Bull Durham is 1988.
KARINA And so I can sort of talk about him as this weird like cornfed sex symbol. And also at the same time talk about his co-star in No Way Out, Sean Young, who had a really fascinating career, kind of short lived, was sort of chewed-up and spit-out by Hollywood, in a really interesting way.
GEMMA Will you go into any teen films? Because, you know, I think a lot about films like Pretty in Pink and James Spader in that film, and the way that he as Steff just looks Andie up and down. And although they never have sex, it’s just... infused all the way through his performance. And there is sex in that film! Well, we don’t see it. But you know, I feel like teenagers had a lot more sex in American movies in the ’80s than they do now. I mean, everybody did. Everyone had a lot more sex than they do now.
KARINA So I am going to talk about James Spader, but not in the context of that film. At the end of the ’80s season, I’m going to talk about him in two movies: Bad Influence by Curtis Hanson and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. But in 1982, that was sort of the year of the teen-sex comedy, so I have an episode about that, in terms of Porky’s, which is a terrible film.
GEMMA Oh, awful.
KARINA And Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is a better film,
SLIM Is James Spader the ultimate sex symbol, the 1980s, yes or no?
KARINA Well, actually, I mean, I think that some of the stuff you did in the ’90s is sexier and more interesting, like Dream Lover and Crash. You know, I think that—but I mean, Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a really interesting sort of bridge moment between the two decades. And, you know, that it comes out sort of right before the rating system changes. So the X-rated becomes NC-17, which is also an important part of the story of all these movies that I talk about this season is how they play games with the rating system.
GEMMA And you need to listen to You Must Remember This for that, because it’s just, it explains so much about why we’re seeing and not seeing what we’re seeing and not seeing now. But ’80s, ’90s or otherwise, what for you is the sexiest film you’ve ever seen? Or the one that first gave you teenage feelings? [Karina laughs]
KARINA Well, um... gosh, I don’t know. I think that, I think probably the first like really sexy movie I saw in a movie theater where I was sort of uncomfortable was Sliver, starring Sharon Stone.
KARINA Which I saw at the Universal CityWalk when I would think I was in seventh grade. And you know, that movie, she was like, definitely having sweaty-gym-sex with William Baldwin and he’s videotaping everyone in the apartment buildings. So you’re sort of seeing like grainy footage of other people have sex. And I think that was just a movie that like, had a vibe that was sort of unable to, like, you couldn’t deny that there was a vibe in the movie theater.
GEMMA Now, you don’t have a Letterboxd and that’s that’s fine. We don’t—this is a safe space.
SLIM This is a safe space.
GEMMA A judge-free zone. But a Letterboxd member by the name of Beth Winchester has done an incredible job of documenting all the films you’ve ever mentioned.
KARINA Ah! Wow.
GEMMA In every season of You Must Remember This. So she’s got a You Must Remember This master list. Have you seen it? You aware of it?
KARINA No, I mean, we’ve been doing that on our website. I guess we don’t have to if she’s done it for us! [Slim & Gemma laugh]
SLIM I will say, maybe the last note of this episode, there’s 1,564 movies on this list of which—this might shock you—I’ve seen 9% of... [Gemma & Karina laugh]
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
GEMMA Thanks for listening to The Letterboxd Show and thanks to Karina Longworth for allowing some of her podcast excellence to rub-off on this humble, little show. You can’t follow Karina on Letterboxd, but you can and should follow You Must Remember This on Twitter, and all good podcasting platforms. And you can follow Slim, myself and our HQ page on Letterboxd using the links in our episode notes. [Gemma sighs] Slim... I... I think I need a week off after those four films... [Slim laughs]
SLIM Gemma, we will be taking a week off next week from The Letterboxd Show.
GEMMA Ah, thank god.
SLIM We need to recharge your batteries after the last four faves that we just watched. But there’s some good news, we still have our other podcast, Weekend Watchlist dropping every Thursday with Mitchell, Mia and myself. So thanks to our crew this week, Moniker for the theme music ‘Vampiros Dancoteque’, Jack for the facts and our booker Linda Moulton for looking after our guests and Sophie Shin for the episode transcript. And to you... for listening. The Letterboxd Show is a Tapedeck production. See you in a fortnight—that’s two weeks—when Gemma has recovered.
GEMMA Slim... you knew it would be over when one of us said stop, but you wouldn’t say it. [Slim laughs]
[clip of Nine 1/2 Weeks plays]
JOHN I’ll tell you my darling, it’s a hell of a life. You work and you work and you work. Meet with people that you don’t like. That you don’t even know. That you don’t even want to know. They try to sell you things... you’re trying to sell them things. Then you go home at night, listen to the wife nag, the kids bitch. You turn up the TV, you tune everything out, you get up the next day, you start all over again.
[Tapedeck bumper plays] This is a Tapedeck podcast.