A second excursion into literary erotica from Philip Kaufman (THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING), this is notable as the first film to be released with the MPAA's NC-17 rating, created in 1990 to distinguish steamy-but-serious movies from hardcore porn. The film isn't nearly sexy enough to merit the new rating or the ensuing controversy. Novelist Henry...read more
A second excursion into literary erotica from Philip Kaufman (THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING), this is notable as the first film to be released with the MPAA's NC-17 rating, created in 1990 to distinguish steamy-but-serious movies from hardcore porn. The film isn't nearly sexy enough
to merit the new rating or the ensuing controversy.
Novelist Henry Miller (Fred Ward) has been sent to France by his wife, June (Uma Thurman), a former taxi dancer who has been supporting his career on her earnings as another man's mistress. The purpose of the trip is twofold: to get Henry away from distractions in New York so he can finish the
novel, and to allow June, a bisexual, more freedom to frolic with a new girlfriend. The film actually opens not with Henry or June, but with Miller's lover, lifelong friend, and literary advocate Anais Nin (Maria de Medeiros), upon whose diaries the screenplay is based. Legendary poseur Anais is
hot to trot; when a college professor stiffly kisses and fondles her during a meeting, she transforms the mild indiscretion into a full-blown seduction in her diary, which she hides from bland, likable middle-class husband Hugo (Richard E. Grant). Anais generally chafes at her mundane existence
and yearns for a more bohemian social life and, especially, for a big, swarthy lover. Enter big and swarthy Henry, brought to Anais's house by her husband, who is friends with Henry's eccentric roommate (Kevin Spacey). Initially, Anais and Henry are tentative friends, providing each other with
support for their respective writing projects. And though Anais has polite erotic palpitations when she is around the earthy but cultured Henry, it is June, briefly in Paris to check up on Henry, who brings Anais's passions to a furious boil.
The couplings in HENRY & JUNE are as explicit as any to be found in mainstream American cinema; still, the sex here seems mild compared to the erotic imaginings of Almodovar, Bertolucci, Imamura, Oshima, and many others. Kaufman tries to project a kind of professorial sobriety, hoping his film
will seem classy and serious instead of raunchy. We think it could've used more raunch, and we're sure Henry Miller (whose favorite film was L'AGE D'OR) would have agreed.
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