By Kerstin Gehmlich and Mike Collett-White
Directors at the Cannes film festival this year say they are using
radical images of sex to challenge mainstream pornography and its
widespread availability on the Internet.
A series of filmmakers say Internet porn alone now shapes many young
people's perception of sex and, in many cases, replaces the experience
of real physical relationships.
"There are kids who have seen pornography from a very early age,
before they are ever gonna have sex," said Larry Clark, one of the
directors of the eccentric "Destricted" -- a compilation of explicit
In his own short film, Clark interviews young men about their sexual
preferences and then allows one candidate to appear with his favorite
"When I was a kid no one told me anything. Now you can go onto the
Internet and find out anything ... every other URL is sex. (Young
people) are looking at pornography and they are thinking that this is
the way to have sex," Clark said, noting his film was educational.
U.S. director John Cameron Mitchell, who has brought "Shortbus" to
Cannes, agrees that young people are increasingly using the Internet
to replace real sex.
In Shortbus, he has collected an ensemble of non-professional actors
who engage in real on-screen sex and masturbation in an attempt to
de-mystify the subject. He does not consider his film to be
He said that the United States had a puritanical view of sex which
turned it into an issue in young people's minds. In one particularly
provocative scene in his film, three gay men engage in a sex session
while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
"I really believe our country specifically needs to take a look at
that stuff. You crush something, it pops up somewhere else, it comes
back to haunt you," he said.
Journalists watching the film generally agreed that Mitchell had
succeeded in taking much of the eroticism out of the sex.
Film critics in Cannes say risque images, which would be considered
distasteful by many were they to be shown in a mainstream movie
theater, are unlikely to shock a film festival audience, and in any
case are not necessarily new.
Michael Winterbottom used real sex, for example, in his 2004 film "9
"When you have run the whole gamut of sexual positions, you've lost
the power to shock," Screen magazine wrote. "When so many URLs on
the web are devoted to sex, there is little more one can say
which will shock or offend a nation's sensibilities."
Danish director Anders Morgenthaler reverted to animation to hit out
at the porn industry in his film "Princess," which disturbed some by
portraying child abuse and violence.
Morgenthaler tells the story of a priest who is determined to destroy
all films of his deceased porn star sister and to take care of her
five-year old daughter, a traumatized child.
"I chose animation for the obvious reason that if I had made it a live
action piece you would have probably left the theater. It would have
been too terrifying to see a girl go through that," Morgenthaler told
"I decided to make a film about porn influence in society because I
saw porn seeking its way into everything, into clothes or toys. There
is a 'porn way' of selling things because it sells very well. I got
very angry at the role of porn, and now the Internet is becoming
Digital sex will feature in the British-Norwegian co-production "Free
Jimmy," while ex-porn star HPG shows a porn actor trying to get into
regular films in "We Should Not Exist."
(Additional reporting by Mike Davidson and Claudia Doerries)
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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