Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wild Orchid

Wild Orchid posterWild Orchid, a 1989 erotica film, begins with Emily Reed (Carré Otis), a ‘whiz-kid’ lawyer and translator of several languages, obtaining a job with a prestigious law firm in New York City. The only catch to accepting the job is that she must leave for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the following day with fellow lawyer Claudia (Jaqueline Bisset) to try to close a deal with Chinese investors regarding the construction of a resort and hotel complex. Claudia proves to be a confident and ambitious woman who takes charge of her life. Thus, when Elliot (the construction site consultant) isn’t in Rio when they arrive, she takes it upon herself to fly to Buenos Aires to collect him; leaving Emily the task of taking Claudia’s place at a dinner date that night. Before leaving the construction site, Emily explores the ruined hotel, climbing through dark stairways with dripping water, until she inadvertently comes upon a local couple having passionate sex in one of the empty rooms. At first she is stunned by the spectacle, but then their absolute rapture proves too much for her meek demeanor and she races away.

Emily dresses glamorously for her dinner date with the mysterious and extremely wealthy James Wheeler (Mickey Rourke), who is instantly mesmerized by Emily’s beauty. They walk through the street markets at night, James’ bodyguards in tow, as Emily takes in the sights and sounds of a culture that captivates her. They end their stroll at a lavish restaurant teeming with tokens Brazilian ethnicity. There they play a game of guessing the different lives of all the guests. They choose one seemingly unhappy couple and Emily tells the made-up story of how they met, which eventually leads to the wife cheating on her husband in an old run-down hotel, much like the scene Emily had witnessed earlier that day. James is bizarrely perceptive of Emily’s discomfort with the subject of sex, and so he leads her into the adjacent ballroom where the guests wear extravagant masks and dance extremely provocatively to the tribal beats. Emily is enthralled by the spectacle until an unknown guest slips behind her to nibble at her neck, causing her to bolt back to the hotel. The next morning, she awakens to James sitting in her room. He attempts to make amends on the previous night by taking her for a motorcycle ride with the unhappy couple, Hanne and Otto Munch, they had seen the night before, to whom James had introduced himself and discovered that Emily’s ‘made-up story’ wasn’t too far off the mark. During their motorcycle ride, they stop at a road-side dance. While there, Hanne is accosted by several drunken US sailors and then has her top ripped down as someone attempts to steal her elegant necklace. The four of them run for James’ bodyguard’s car, and as Otto attempts to cover-up Hanne’s breasts, she surprisingly becomes emotionally distraught at this ‘insult’. Safely in the limo, James then acts as marriage counselour to the Munches as he helps them to overcome their troubled past together and find their passion in the moment. Much to Emily’s revulsion, they mount each other right there in the backseat of the limo. Emily quietly pleads with James to ask them to stop, but James replies that he couldn’t if he tried. The Munches have given in to their primal emotions, and where Emily sees them as only having filthy sex, James sees it as them making love. The car then stops at the construction site, and James walks Emily up through the stairwells, all the while commenting on his own make-believe story of her life. His account is inexplicably accurate and causes Emily to become emotional. She reaches out and holds James, who immediately stiffens and explains that he can’t handle being touched.

Emily returns to the hotel and sits naked in front of the mirror, reconsidering the visions of passions she had seen in the last two days. This excites her and she returns to the restaurant from the night before, mask in place, to try to find James. Sitting at the bar, she orders a drink in Portuguese and is then approached by an American named Jerome who thinks she is a local. He offers her cash for sex which insults her. She coldly walks away and comes across James who eerily explains that she is only feeling insulted because the prospect excites her. With this she goes to Jerome’s room and at first is frightened by his forcefulness, but then gives into the sensations of this sexual encounter and overcomes her emotional barriers. The next day when Claudia returns, she and Emily begin negotiations for the construction site and coincidentally Jerome ends up being the opposing lawyer. He believes that due to Emily’s nervousness he will win the deal, but as soon as Claudia is informed of their situation she coyly reminds Jerome of his wife and kids back in America, causing him to back down and the women to win the negotiation.

Claudia then reveals to Emily that she has always had an obsession with James, who used to be a stuttering orphan in Philadelphia before constructing his empire of wealth from scratch. Then, just before Claudia and Emily go to the contract signing with the Chinese investors, they are informed that Jason has bought the old hotel on the construction site. This enrages Claudia as the old hotel was the deal-breaker for the Chinese. She decides to go ahead with the contract signing anyways, even though Emily advises her that this is misrepresentation. The deal goes through and then the crowd of investors begins to celebrate as Rio’s famous festival of Carnival kicks off. The next morning, Claudia decides to get rid of her obsession with James as she invites a handsome Brazilian into her hotel room and gets Emily to translate for them. Just as the sexual tension in the scene is at its climax, James suddenly appears in the room and glares at Emily as he throws down the Brazilian. Emily chases James out of the hotel and he rides away on his motorcycle to ponder his actions. He then, in an act of reconciliation sends to Emily the deeds to the old hotel, which saves the misrepresented deal just in time. That night, James again appears mysteriously in Emily’s hotel room with orchids and she attempts to coerce him to touch her, but he continually refuses. Finally, as she turns away from him in disbelief, he grabs her body and the two of them finally both feel the hunger for each other. As they make love, they finally understand the passion that permeates the city of Rio.

Wild Orchid displays striking similarities to Blame it on Rio. In both films, the characters discover sexual impulses which they never would have dreamed of before coming to the fervent city of Rio. The theme of facades is etched into the plot of Wild Orchid as the wealthy foreigners constantly don masks, literally and figuratively, in order to release their pent-up passions. These tycoons may be enjoying Carnival, but it is their living of double lives which is the true masquerade. Rio de Janeiro is seen as a constant party of music and dance which always leads to sex. It’s as if this formula is threaded into the culture and the foreigners yearn for that liberation. Ultimately, Rio stands for a place of distraction which escorts its revelers to happiness by means of sexual arousal.

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