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Sex with Strangers
The swinging lifestyle ain't all it's cracked up to be
by Anhoni Patel on Feb 16, 2005
Do you dream of orgies? Are you in a committed relationship but really, really, really want to sleep with other people? Would you have sex with one of your friends' wives? In Sex with Strangers, directors Joe and Harry Gantz, the same guys who brought you HBO's infamous Taxicab Confessions, follow three couples, self-proclaimed swingers, for a year.
Julie and Calvin are a young couple involved in a complicated threesome with Julie. This dysfunctional minage a trois belongs on Temptation Island rather than Seattle, Washington. Calvin is a controlling jerk that basically just wants to fuck as many women as he wants but feels like toying with the fragile emotions of his girlfriend for kicks. On the other spectrum of relationships, James and Theresa are a devoted couple who seem to be total soul mates on a mutual quest for sex; they travel around in their mobile love palace picking up other people and seducing them. They have a maturity and level of communication that the other couple clearly lacks. The third couple, Shannon and Gerard, turned to swinging when a marriage counselor advised them to do so after a series of infidelities. They are in the middle of the other two in terms of emotional and sexual dynamics — they don't have an insane relationship but everything isn't fine and dandy either.
You follow them through their various intrigues and squabbles as they go to swing clubs and on outings. Sex with Strangers gives you the inside scoop on these clubs; you get a sense of how they function and what goes on inside. The sex scenes are very graphic — you won't see full on money shots but you'll see a whole lot of groaning and writhing. You enter the couples' world and get involved with their issues whether you want to or not. You might feel yourself calling Calvin an asshole under your breath or watch in awe as James and Theresa try to seduce other people. One brazenly funny scene occurs in a swingers club in Mississippi. As Shannon is interrogating a stranger about his bisexual girlfriend — she's shooting questions at him — how tall is she? Is she fat? What's the color of her hair? Is she pretty? Then she asks him as nonchalantly as asking someone if their partner has nice legs, "What kind of pussy does she have?"
Unlike The Lifestyle, another very interesting documentary regarding swingers (which focused mostly on older couples), Sex with Strangers has more visually edible, younger and better looking couples for those who can't quite picture their grandparents getting it on. The documentary has a raw home-video feel that seems to stay true to its subjects as if it were their own personal video rather than a highly edited and produced movie; natural lighting, hand-held camerawork and 'rough' editing combine to create this effect.
Although sometimes you feel like a voyeur watching Real World outtakes, the movie brings up many serious issues. Though it seems like everyone is fucking like rabbits and having tons of fun, there are cracks in the veneer and very complex emotional concerns about fidelity, boundaries, trust and love are explored. Sex with Strangers is a very well done and fascinating look into a subculture that many still don't know a lot about.
Sex With Strangers
1 hour 59 minutes
Produced & Directed by
Joe and Harry Gantz
by Anhoni Patel on Feb 16, 2005