‘No sex, please – we’re British?’
Sex, sensibility and British cinema
in Sex and desire in British films of the 2000s
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Chapter 4 primarily focuses on a number of British films from the 2000s which emphasised the life of the body rather than the mind, privileging the sexual over the cerebral and favouring explicitness over implicitness. These were films continuing some of the ‘low comedy’ traditions developed in the Carry On series and sexploitation films of the 1970s (which will be discussed in the opening section of the chapter). Films with titles such as Sex Lives of the Potato Men and Dogging – a Love Story were clearly meant to be provocative and controversial in certain ways, and the chapter will consider how they use comedic strategies to present characters’ sexual desires in a new and occasionally lurid light. Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love sought to investigate how Paul Raymond helped to bring about significant changes in the sexual culture of post-war Britain, particularly around the ‘male gaze’ of female nudity. 9 Songs aimed to continue that process by featuring a male and female actor having real sex on screen in a feature-length narrative aimed at general exhibition in cinemas. This latter film is compared and contrasted with On Chesil Beach, which details how a couple’s sexual inexperience and incompatibility leads to their separating for ever after their first night as husband and wife. The films in this chapter therefore offer a unique and stimulating look at sexual matters in a British cultural and cinematic context from distinctive and imaginative viewpoints.

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