Plutonic Rainbows

Nine & 1/2 Weeks

With the forthcoming release of ‘50 Shades of Grey’, I was reminded to look again at a film I have not seen in its entirety for quite a few years. The film is called 9 ½ Weeks, released in 1986 and directed by Adrian Lyne. It starred Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. At the time, it was a commercial disaster with low ticket sales and poor reviews. Lyne had previously made ‘Flashdance’ and went on to direct ‘Fatal Attraction’ which was a very pivotal film during the late 1980s. He also made ‘Indecent proposal’ with Demi Moore. Lyne has mostly constructed films that revolve around the powerful and destructive nature that govern romantic relationships. He was also part of a group of British directors that were more or less totally responsible for saving the fortunes of Hollywood during the 1980s. The others were Ridley Scott (and his brother Tony Scott) and Alan Parker.

Watching ‘9½ Weeks’ again, more than twenty five years later, I think it’s a real masterpiece that has been overlooked and forgotten. The story revolves around Elizabeth (Basinger) who works as an art gallery assistant. She becomes entwined with John, a very handsome and enigmatic Wall Street trader (Rourke). She quickly falls in love with him but their relationship soon begins to break all the rules. Cross-dressing, bondage and sex in public places. Doesn’t that remind you of a recently released series of books?

I haven’t read any of the ‘Shades of Grey’ books but just watching the trailer and reading the plot put me in mind of this film - one that had already covered similar territory very convincingly almost thirty years ago. ‘9½ Weeks’ was actually made in 1984 but shelved for two years.

It comes across now as a somewhat dated film in terms of fashion - although some will find a beautiful nostalgia in so many scenes, shopping at Commes Des Garçons, Elizabeth’s hair style and hat, John’s Nakamichi RX-505 cassette deck, McIntosh amplifier and Manhattan loft apartment. All these things were the height of cool once upon a time. Another point where the film excels is the beautiful photography with scenes filmed in a variety of atmospheric locations in New York. You can look here for a full list.

The soundtrack features many artists that were a staple of the 1980s but the best music is the main love theme written by Jack Nitzsche - a haunting and melancholic piece that somehow totally encompasses the emotions of the movie. Nitzsche was a master at this sort of thing. As a young man, this simple piano piece affected me greatly. Other composers included are Jean-Michel Jarre, Eurythmics, Stewart Copeland and Bryan Ferry

The acting in ‘9½ Weeks’ is really good and I cannot understand how it was so panned at the time. There is a real tension in the performances - which was fueled by rumors of on-set conflict between Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger.

I do not know precisely why this particular film has had such a strange hold over me all these years. The plot is slight and in many ways, it could be criticized for having more style than substance. And yet it continues to haunt me. I think partly it must be the nostalgic value due to the fact that I first saw it as a teenager. But that doesn’t explain it all. I think it is a smart and stylish movie with a soundtrack that suits it very well. The closing minutes are also particularly memorable - especially as the main theme is repeated there too after Elizabeth finally leaves John and walks away crying into the New York twilight, surrounded by strangers.

If you get time, I strongly urge you to check out ‘9½ Weeks’. It remains a classic film from decades past.

You can pick up the DVD from Amazon here.