6. La Belle Noiseuse
Released in 1991 and almost four hours in length, the film never fails to keep the audience captivated. It was directed by Jacques Rivette, who won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes and was also nominated for the Palme d’Or.
The film tells the story of Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), an artist of sixty in search of fresh inspiration, which arrives in the form of a gorgeous young model played by Emmanuelle Beart. His wife Liz (Jane Birkin) is displeased with this new arrangement, as the striking young model could pose a threat.
The film examines creativity and how beauty can be an inspiration in this process. Art itself can be viewed as erotic, as can any form of creation. The film also explores the complicated and often difficult relationship between an artist and their muse. A beautiful film that draws the viewer into its world and holds them there throughout.
7. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
Director Peter Greenaway is no stranger to challenging or controversial material, with this film being no exception. Georgina (Helen Mirren) is married to gang leader Albert (Michael Gambon), who treats her sadistically and with cruelty. Albert entertains his associates every night in lavish fashion at a French restaurant he has recently purchased.
Increasingly tired of the behavior of her husband, Georgina finds a lover at the restaurant and they consummate their passion in various locations with the silent permission of the cook (Richard Bohringer).
The film explores the connection between eating and sexual pleasure, while at the same time examining various other taboos. While undoubtedly erotic, the film contains material that some viewers may consider shocking or disgusting. Not for every taste, this highly provocative film will reward viewers who can accept the disturbing and unconventional elements that are presented.
8. The Handmaiden
Director Chan-wook Park is probably most renowned for the film Old Boy, but with The Handmaiden, things may change in that regard. Inspired by the British novel Fingersmith, Park has moved the story to Japan and Korea of the 1930’s, where a young Japanese woman living on an isolated estate hires a Korean woman to be her new handmaiden.
The handmaiden, however, is not the loyal servant that is intended, but is involved in a plan to steal the inheritance of her Japanese employer. While the film has a classical sheen, there is a subversive underside that bubbles to the surface in the hands of Director Park.
This is a multilayered plot where the sexual tension between the handmaiden and her employer threatens to undo the plot to steal the inheritance. There is deception after deception in this complex, riveting tale. The two female leads give outstanding performances and create a sensual chemistry that cannot be denied.
Winner of eight Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscar), including Best Picture and Best Director for Atom Egoyan, the film focuses on a man named Francis (Bruce Greenwood) who becomes obsessed with a dancer named Christina (Mia Kirshner) at a club called Exotica after the passing of his daughter. Most of the action takes place within the club, where the various dancers attend to both the psychological and sexual requirements of their clients.
As the story unfolds, the relationship between dancer Christina and customer Francis is explored. Francis is erotically obsessed with Christina, but in Egoyan’s sure hands, his obsession is seen as stemming not simply from sexual desire but also from isolation and desperation. Perhaps the best film directed by Egoyan, the film uses its erotic surface to explore relationships, alienation, and the profound mystery of human personality.
10. Y Tu Mama Tambien
Before Alfonso Cuaron became the internationally known Director of a Harry Potter film, Children of Men, and Gravity, there was Y Tu Mama Tambien. Starring Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, and the stunning Maribel Verdu, the film is essentially a road movie/coming of age story involving two teens and a much older married woman.
The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The character Verdu portrays is named Luisa, a very liberated woman who throughout the course of the journey teaches the two immature boys many lessons about love, life, and passion.
The film is sad, humorous, raunchy, and definitely provides an emotional impact that lasts far beyond the final credits. While highly sexual, the film also imparts a philosophy of life that many viewers will find uplifting.