Waltz, Swing, Cha-cha-cha

by Barbara Hamby

I’m like Carrie Nation at a whiskey bar when it comes to sex scenes
in movies. Who needs to see Michael Douglas’s flat ass again? I, for one,
do not. I just sat through the new Bertolucci—The Dreamers—God, what
a snooze. And he used to be God. Was there ever a sexier part
in a movie than Sanda and Sandrelli glued together in that last tango
in Paris? Or Sandrelli’s rumba with herself—in both scenes fully clothed, I

might add. In The Dreamers the girl’s breasts were unrelenting. I
wanted to scream, “Put on a shirt.” When did the human body become obscene?
In The Postman Always Rings Twice, when Lana Turner and John Garfield go
around the living room in each other’s arms, you know no one
will come out of that room alive. And what about the giddy dance in Bande à part
erupting in the middle of so much black-and-white Godard-a-rama. What

kind of magic was that? Once skin seemed so recherché, but what’s
dished up today is like stale saltines with water soup. Ginger Rogers said, “I
did everything Fred did, but backwards and in heels.” Ginger, that was only part
of it. Remember The Gay Divorcee? You loathed Astaire until the scene
when he waltzed with you—the black totem of his tux, your swirling skirt—one
dance and bingo! You saw stars. In Pulp Fiction—Uma and John go

dancing, but they might as well have had sex. Think of those girls in white go-go
boots in cages—was that a sixties’ male bondage fantasy or what?
Hollywood directors, I implore you, yours and the porn industry are not one
and the same—the breasts, the pecs, the suction cup mouths—Argghhh. I
love documentaries these days because there’s no bump and grind, only scenes
of spelling bees, Robert McNamara explaining, Rio de Janerio blown apart

by a city bus taken hostage, Louis Kahn’s son trying to figure out his part
in his father’s life. My skin crawls like a rattlesnake when Bolero or Mood Indigo
slithers out in full-metal Dolby, and the camera starts its obscene
caress of the body doubles. Oh, give me Audrey Hepburn with her 100-watt
smile, dancing with over-the-hill Astaire, or even The King and I
chrome dome Yul Brynner and tight-ass Deborah Kerr don’t even sneak one

little kiss, but their waltz is more romantic than Mickey Rouark’s one-on-one
with Kim Basinger in 9-1/2 Weeks. When the camera parts
Joseph Cotton dancing with his first love in The Magnificent Ambersons, I
know I’m in the hands of a master, Orson Welles’s vertigo
like the natives’ wild dance to keep King Kong at bay. And what
moviegoer doesn’t dream of a hoedown the likes of which was last seen

in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or Sally Porter’s lone quest in The Tango
or scarf-clad Salome’s dance that parted John the Baptist’s
body from his head. Oh, Cecil B. DeMille, now that’s what I call a sex scene.