Did you care to watch the follow-up to the 50 Shades Of Grey movie that released last month? If yes, did you really enjoy 50 Shades Darker?
Worry not, we understand the underwhelming feeling that remains. Which is why we’ve compiled this list of 10 European movies that are sure to make you forget the debacle of 50 Shades Darker in a jiffy.
Belle de Jour
Released in 1967, Belle de Jour is 50 Shades Darker from the Golden Age of cinema. The film stars everyone’s favourite French actress, Catherine Deneuve, who plays Severine Sevigny, the middle-class wife of a doctor. All is fine until she visits a local brothel and begins spending her afternoons as a prostitute while maintaining her virginal demeanour in front of her husband.
Jeune et Jolie
Translated as Young and Beautiful in English, Jeune et Jolie is a French movie that explores what it means to grow up. The movie follows the life of Isabelle (Marine Vacht) who explores her sexual side, soon after turning 17, by becoming a call girl. In most movies of this kind, there is an underlying motive for someone to act in such a risqué manner, but director Francois Ozon spares the audience the usual charade.
The Piano Teacher
Based on Elfriede Jellinek’s novel and directed by the revered Michael Haneke (of Oscar winner Amour fame), The Piano Teacher features this year’s Best Actress nominee, Isabelle Huppert, in vintage form as she plays a sexually repressed piano teacher named Erika Kohut, who opens up to a vain student with a masochistic flair that might shock viewers, especially towards the end when she leads herself into a mental meltdown.
An underrated jewel, Elles features powerhouse performer Juliette Binoche as Anne, an investigative reporter for Elle magazine writing about student prostitution. Nothing is as black or white as it seems in this pulsating movie. The erotic drama is sensual and serious at the same time, a rare combination that works in the film’s favour to great effect.
Venus in Fur
Why should boys have all the fun? That seems to the logic of Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur, wherein the woman controls the man when it comes to getting kinky. Based on a play that the two leads – played by Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric – keep rehearsing. The movie masterfully blends story arcs, so that the audience is constantly guessing which part of the movie is from the play and which part is ‘real’.
Blue is the Warmest Colour
The Golden Palm winner at Cannes Film Festival, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour is the most emphatic gay story you’re likely to see by a mile. They might have cried abuse by the director, but lead actors Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos give a convincing performance as star-crossed lovers who must let the vagaries of life test their commitment to each other as they fall in and out of love.
Let’s add in this Steve McQueen movie as long as the UK is still a part of Europe #SubtleBrexitJab. Featuring a powerhouse performance by Michael Fassbender, Shame is a warning tale for porn addicts everywhere. Fassbender plays well-off businessman Brandon Sullivan whose relationship with people is limited to sex, but the story takes a dramatic turn when his sister, played by Carey Mulligan, drops in unexpectedly. Fassbender brings the tortured character of Sullivan to life with a nuanced portrayal that is more about emotions than words.
Maitresse is a bondage love story featuring a burly common thief (played by iconic French actor Gerard Depardieu), a mysterious businessman pimp, and their common love interest, who is also a BDSM dominatrix played by Bulle Ogier. The 1975 film was considered scandalous for its time but has since turned into a classic for a select audience who appreciate the movie’s provocative torture scenes, graphic kinkiness and the merry abandon with which the movie seems to have been made.
Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, in two parts, is a four-hour plus exploration of sex in all the ways you know and never thought possible, including *gasp* the religious side. Featuring his favourite actress, Charlotte Gainsbourg, as the lead character named Joe, the film explores sex with Fibonacci numbers, with organ music and religious rainbows thrown in. The sex is graphic – so it’s not for everyone. 50 Shades Darker has got nothing on Nymphomaniac.
Let’s say hello to the actor-director combo of Gainsbourg and von Trier again for this utterly disturbing movie that also stars William DaFoe. Featuring extremely graphic sex and violence, von Trier tells a most unusual horror story about a couple who go into the woods to heal themselves, but end up falling for the evil that seemingly surrounds them. This is a tough movie to watch, but if you can digest Antichrist and understand the motifs underlying the storyline, consider yourself to be a cinephile of the highest order.
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Cover Image Courtesy: Jeune et Jolie (2013)