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Do you need sex scenes in movies? Anna Karenina, Downton and Dallas

Tom Winnifrith
Sunday 14 October 2012

It is less than one hour to Downton Abbey. Obviously the clock is ticking on what is the highlight of the week. Will the IRA man stay in England and stand by his wife for feel compelled to go back to fight for Independence? Will Bates get hope that he might be found innocent and released from prison? Will Thomas finally come a cropper downstairs as a result of his predatory sexual antics? Will Lady Edith become a high profile political agitator as a substitute for love? And will someone explain the point of the dull prig Matthew Crawley & annoying Lady Mary now that he has handed over the dosh? Surely they can have another whip round and encourage them to emigrate? 52 minutes and counting… I cannot wait.

Meanwhile, in my BBC free existence, I have this weekend got up to date with Dallas and am finding it compelling viewing. This is odd for a sequel. I suppose having Bobby and JR still dominating the show helps but John Ross Junior and whatever Bobby’s son is called, plus the succession of mad and criminal women they seem to shag adds to the spice. And we have a new series of DCI Banks as well. Being a quality programme it is naturally not on the BBC either and this series looks to be as gripping as the last.

Speaking of Lady Mary, I saw her cropping up in Anna Karenina today as I made a rare visit to the cinema. I had forgotten just how relaxing it can be to spend an afternoon slumped in a cinema seat and given that The Sweeney was not showing I plumped for Anna Karenina. And I really enjoyed it. I find Keira Knightley utterly vacuous, airheaded and annoying and so she was superb playing the utterly vacuous, airheaded and annoying Anna. I guess she had to start acting when Anna starts to go mad. Jude Law, as her husband, was superb.

The sub-text of an utterly foppish, out-of-touch and pointless ruling aristocracy was played out well. I am not normally one for communist revolutions but if ever an aristocratic elite deserved to be lined up against a wall and shot it was the Russian elite. That came over very powerfully as did the well meaning but rather hopeless attempts at reform by some of the more enlightened aristos.

My one quibble was the numerous sex scenes. They are not in the book. There are no passages involving lingering tongue-wrestling of a pretty explicit nature. They actually made me wince. I cannot say that they added anything at all to the storyline. Were they really needed? Do modern movies have to include a requisite number of sex scenes? I am no prude. If folks getting their kit off and getting it on adds to the storyline or is a key element go for it. But that was not the case here. The staging of the film, centred on a stage in a theatre, was excellent, the costumes wonderful and the acting (even Keira) was wonderful. But I could have done without the tongues.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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