SEX WITH STRANGERS
Harry and Joe Gantz follow three ordinary, self-proclaimed swinger-couples for a year, from house parties to trailers and swing clubs. James met Theresa in a hospital where she was working as a nurse (cleaning a male post-op patientís genital area with down to earth abandon) and he was a paramedic delivering a patient. They began swinging and six years later their love is as strong as ever. Calvin and Sara are twenty-something and have been experimenting sexually since they were teenagers. Sara considers herself bisexual. Shannon and Gerard are married and both had affairs. Their marriage councillor suggested they try swinging.†
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
They [the subjects] call sexual swinging a lifestyle, and it certainly seems as though they have little time for anything else. Lifestyle means planning for each weekend of shared sex; it means having sex on your mind pretty much all the time. But you canít imagine the banality that drapes over the proceedings as sex becomes such common currency, and such a practical matter. None of the swingers seem particularly depraved; rather normal, actually, which adds to the sense of banality.
By the same token, the Gantz guys get into enough situations with their subjects to explore them as people, and as relationships. There are moments of deep insight that balance the banality.
The odd thing about it all is how sex is demystified and defused for some of the swingers (like James and Theresa) yet they enjoy it the most, and their relationship is the strongest. For Calvin and Sara and Julie, sex is still a ticking bomb which swinging canít defuse. And for Shannon and Gerard, the least active swingers, itís almost like low dose therapy. Not very effective therapy, mind you.†
There are a handful of swinging scenes, all with a somewhat mechanical, logistical quality to the sexual exercises Ė a bit like army exercises, where people have to be deployed in the right place. And then there are moments that capture the grit in these relationships with brutal honesty. The couples behave as if the camera didnít exist Ė a benefit of spending so much time with their subjects for Joe and Harry Gantz.†
These are the guys who created the Taxicab Confessions; they are instinctive doco makers. But Sex With Strangers owes a great deal of its power and grip to the editing; cutting a yearís footage into something cohesive and revealing and meaningful is a major challenge.
The end result is a film that sheds light on one of the great social taboos, and provides unbiased, unsentimental yet often strangely moving character portraits. And touches of humour. It also prompts us to ask ourselves some difficult questions.
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SEX WITH STRANGERS (R18+)
PRODUCER: Harry Gantz, Joe Gantz
DIRECTOR: Harry Gantz, Joe Gantz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Roth, Kary DíAlessandro
EDITOR: Alysha Cohen, Tod Scott Brody
MUSIC: Eric Avery Weiss, Larry Cohn
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Level Four Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: November 28, 2002