Oh, the misfortune of living in a Puritanical society. We can’t buy liquor on Sundays. Topless dancers can’t dance topless. And never in this Bible-thumping, God-fearing country would you have a government-funded television network sponsoring an erotic film contest.
Germany, however, is more progressive. There, a state-run network did sponsor such a competition, broadcasting the resulting short films in a series called Erotic Tales. But “erotic” is a highly subjective term; one man’s titillating fantasy is a peculiar – or worse, boring – scenario to another. And judging by the bland, hetero romance-novel exploits on display, plenty of filmmakers have never explored the wilder side of sexuality. An average episode of Sex and the City offers more thrills.
Now, three of the shorts from the series have been packaged for theatrical release. The best of the lot is a segment called “The Waiting Room,” a spot-on depiction of the fine art of cruising. In it, a leering businessman wordlessly hits on every woman he sees in a train station (too bad he’s not gay; he’d have a much easier time hooking up). When a woman finally does respond to his silent but aggressive come-on, a sexually charged game of show-and-tell begins.
Unfortunately, viewers have to sit through what might be two of the least erotic “erotic tales” ever captured on film first. Director Susan Seidelman’s laughable “The Dutch Master” sees Mira Sorvino playing a strangely mute girl who falls in love with a man in a painting. And “Angela,” about a 70-year-old man obsessed with younger women, contains the most hopelessly absurd domination scenes imaginable and the most clichéd of all sex-related “shock” endings.
No doubt quite a few people will be suckered into seeing Erotic Tales simply because of the seductive title. But if it’s true titillation you’re after, you’d be better off paying a visit to your local video store. Or catching reruns of Sarah Jessica and company.