Controversial when it was released in 1989 and still potent today, Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed Palme d'Or Prize-winning debut film broke new ground in adult drama. Although it deals primarily with sex, eroticism and fantasy, it isn't an explicit skin flick; this would have been an easy, well-worn and hackneyed path for Soderbergh to tread. Instead he uses frank dialogue and intimate, grainy scenes to convey the themes, and the format - very fresh at the time - remains impressive.
John Millaney (Peter Gallagher) is a smug lawyer, living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and married to prissy Ann (Andie MacDowell, pictured). Their marriage is in difficulties, not helped by the fact that John is having a strong, erotic affair with his sister-in-law - and "free spirit" - Cynthia Bishop (Laura San Giacomo). John's old college friend Graham Dalton (James Spader, pictured) suddenly descends. After some years away, this mysterious drifter has decided to return to Baton Rouge and becomes the Millaney's temporary guest while he looks for an apartment.
It emerges that Graham likes to interview women about their sexual experiences, filming them on videotape. Ostensibly compiling the tapes for research, it's a front, as he achieves satisfaction by watching the frank footage. Surprisingly both women agree to be interviewed by him, forcing them and John to re-examine their inhibitions, erotic impulses, desires and motives...
Primarily an art film, the movie - made on a very tight budget - became a surprise crossover hit in mainstream cinema. It romped home at the 1989 Cannes Festival, taking the Palme d'Or and giving Spader the Best Actor award. Soderbergh was also Oscar-nominated for his script and - along with Giacomo - Bafta nominated.