Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Body Heat

The second sex-filled movie I saw on that fateful day in 1982 was Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat. And while a lot of the sex in American Gigolo was implied, there's nothing subtle about the sex in Body Heat. At all. (Again, here's a totally NSFW clip, dubbed in Italian, of the film's first love scene.)

And yes, I suppose this really wasn't a movie an eleven-year-old should have been seeing, but to me, the sex was just something slightly embarrassing I had to sit through to get to the good parts, which were the dialogue and funny bits, and it's those things that led to me re-watching the movie over and over again. (In fact, I still know this movie so well that I can tell you a moment in the trailer above, which also seems to be featured in the clip's screen grab, isn't in the final movie at all.)

Another thing that kept me coming back to it is this scene featuring Mickey Rourke. A few months later I'd see him again in Diner, and a full-on crush would be born. But it's here that he made his first impression, by totally stealing this scene from William Hurt.

I wish I could find some clips of the movie's dialogue, because it's as good as anything in classic noirs, if a tad on the blue side, but here's an example:

Matty: My temperature runs a couple of degrees high, around a hundred. I don't mind. It's the engine or something.

Ned: Maybe you need a tune up.

Matty: Don't tell me. You have just the right tool.

I think I can thank Body Heat for introducing me to the genre in the first place. Eventually I'd see The Big Sleep, and Double Indemnity, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, and many others, and love them all as much as I loved Body Heat, and I believe the movie deserves to be in the same company with those classics. I say phooey to the critics who panned it (including Pauline Kael!) as nothing but pale imitation.

I can understand some of the criticism--that since film noir was an organic reaction to a time, and not a definable genre until years later, that any later noir is really nothing but an exercise in style--but don't really agree in this case. I think it succeeds in being both a stylish homage and a legitimate entry into the genre.

Recent viewings made me realize that for so many years I was under the impression--because he is played by William Hurt, who is not a dumb guy--that Ned Racine was intelligent, but just too emotionally and sexually wrapped up in Matty Walker to think rationally. But really, he's just plain dumb, and lives up to one of the first things Matty says to him: "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man." Matty may be a femme fatale, and a manipulative bitch, but that doesn't mean I didn't look up to her. I mean, at least she was smart!

Like American Gigolo, I had a Body Heat poster on my walls for years. It's a bit faded and stained now, and rolled up in a tube, but I'd still proudly display that poster today...perhaps next to a window and some wind chimes...

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