Sunday, June 6, 2010

9 1/2 WEEKS (1986) - before Mickey Rourke started to look like Jason Voorhees with his mask off

this was the sort of thing people masturbated in the 80's, before the internet

I guess 9 ½ weeks is the most amount of time a superficial relationship can last before crumbling like a sexed up cookie, so the title becomes a sort of doomed prophecy. Either way, Mickey Rourke plays a N.Y. stockbroker that not only looks like the kind of guy that gets the Sharper Image catalog, but looks like he actually buys shit from the Sharper Image catalog. Kim Basinger manages an art gallery, a strong independent woman of the 80’s. Her studio, bright white and filled with art pieces, with many a quirky character coming through, is a complete contrast to Rourke’s Sharper Image furnished pad (see, I knew he was that kind of dude), which is spare, dark (both in color and lack of light), and cold, lacking in humanity and tricked out with the latest gizmos (i.e. a VCR). I bet Gordon Gecko had a similar apartment, although way more expensive (his penis was smaller than Mickey’s, after all).

Their eyes initially meet in an extended gaze while waiting in line at some Chinese butcher. This sets off a series of erotic encounters, always with an element of danger, with nary a relationship sit down talk in sight. At one point, to try and understand the mystery of Mickey Rourke, Kim tries to become him, in effect, by cross dressing. She throws on a suit and fake mustache and they hit the town, and the two are eventually chased down the street by a couple of guys that hate the homos. I think this little scene is less about the perception of gays in society then an opportunity to throw in a chase scene. It’s also dangerous and titillating to piss off the fag bashing fabric of society.

The point of view of the film belongs to Kim, and we see how she is swept away in these fantasies. The thrill of anticipation, and the danger of possibly being caught, are more erotic than any graphic depiction of sex. The thrill of the hunt, if you will, or the road over the destination, if you prefer. The editing becomes a metaphor for the sex act, simulating orgasms through cutting rhythms; the inserts of grinding gears in the clock tower, the succession of photographs projected during the masturbation scene, etc. All of this erotic styling (both in form and content) takes place amidst slices of N.Y. life, like an 80’s commercial that is trying to sell you that the world these product endorsing characters inhabit is real.

It therefore comes as little surprise that director Adrian Lyne comes from a T.V. commercial background, and could be said to be of a similar filmmaking mode as Tony Scott. Both are rooted in stylish 80’s commercials, and both love using foggy textures (i.e. a fog machine is a permanent fixture on either director’s set) and beams of light, sometimes cutting through the fog, or flaring the lens, or coming through a window shade. However, Tony tends to showcase popping colors and sharp movement and editing (although The Hunger seems to be an exception that is stylistically similar to Lyne’s work, minus the rapid cutting). Adrian tends to go for more sensuous textures, the camera silkily maneuvering through space, and for high contrast photography that, at times, seems to suggest black and white filmed in color.

Things finally fall apart when they meet up at the Chelsea Hotel (hey, it worked for Leonard Cohen), and Mickey tries to bring a prostitute into the equation. Kim apparently isn’t down with munching the rug, so she has a mental breakdown instead, wandering down 42nd St. and entering one of those sex show places (this was before Disney turned these jizz palaces into stores that stock Hannah Montana snow globes). In revenge, she starts making out with some random dude in front of Mickey in order to spark jealousy.

Soon after, she decides to pack up and leave, and Mickey finally tries to humanize himself. He starts talking about his family and his past, even crying, to try and convince Kim that he’s not merely an erotically charged façade. To summarize, he says that “there have been a lot of girls, but I’ve never felt anything like this before”, even using the dreaded L word (not lesbo; that word is awesome). Kim isn’t buying, seeing this display as just another fantasy like the others. I think she’s ready for something a bit more grounded in “reality”.

The film reminds me of Adrian’s earlier opus Flashdance, except that instead of a heroine wanting to become a professional dancer, she wants to fall in love with Mickey Rourke. Both are fantasies fulfilled, but the latter is built on a house of cards. Mickey exists to instigate fantasy, not to love. 9 ½ Weeks is also stylistically similar to Flashdance, despite having different directors of photography, which goes to show that Lyne is the real visual auteur of his films. Both films excel in the visual department, and in Adrian’s ability to add believability to potentially ludicrous material, without resorting to verite techniques. Few directors could have added as much as Lyne to scripts this paper thin. After all, Zalman King is not exactly the most varied writer around. Most of his movies (or Red Shoe Diaries) are variations on the theme of screwing someone you probably shouldn’t screw, in places you probably shouldn’t be screwing. Here, Adrian tries to add as much depth and style as he can, just as he did with Eszterhas’ retarded script for Flashdance. I mean, Jennifer Beals played a fucking welder. I rest my case.


  1. So, wear are the hottie pics of Mickey Rourke then?

  2. @anonymous
    Well, I just through in a perfunctory pic of Kim. If I ever do I Zalman King retrospective, I'll make sure to throw in some pics from Wild Orchid ;)