Ever since we first discovered the ability to record moving images, sex has rarely been far from the thoughts of those holding the camera. I remember with some fondness a film released a few years ago called The Good Old Naughty Days, which was an eye-openingly explicit compendium of pornographic films from the earliest days of cinema, and sex has been a driving force behind other technological developments; becoming a key factor in the VHS vs. Betamax war, for example, or the internet boom. With that in mind, we shouldn't be surprised that 3D has now been put to use capturing the ins and outs of sexual intercourse, but the resulting film is not the salacious, sensationalistic work you might expect. In fact, one of the most notable things about The Lovers' Guide 3D is how un-erotic it is, for all of its explicit content. As the title suggests, this film has been made for education rather than titillation, and it does its job perfectly well.
The Lovers' Guide is taking this leap into the third dimension on its 20th anniversary. Since its first instalment in 1991, the series has been an enormous success, with its various sequels exploring every aspect of sex, but with this one the filmmakers appear to be getting back to basics. It feels like something of a beginners' guide, with chapter headings such as Flirting, Touching and Kissing introducing us to very first steps of a sexual relationship, and everything is laid out in clear and simple terms. Each section of the film unfolds in a similar fashion, with an attractive couple on screen slowly going through the motions being described in the voiceover narration, which is provided by Gemma Bissix and Jeremy Edwards. They take turns reading from the script but both employ the same flat, passionless tone throughout.
Having never seen one of the Lovers Guide films before, I wasn't sure what to expect when I was invited to a special screening of this new feature. The film is shot in a pleasingly frank manner, with the composed and well-lit cinematography leaving little to the imagination as it shows a variety of couples having sex. The use of real couples is one of the film's better points, as they display a real sense of intimacy and actually seem to be genuinely enjoying each other. Although the advice offered by the film is simplistic throughout, the script Edwards and Bissix read from does appear to be detailed and well-researched (there's a great aside about Victorian doctors manually inducing orgasms in female patients to cure hysteria). That's not to say the voiceover doesn't drop a couple of amusing clangers, however, and the matter of fact way in which a line like, "You may want to get an all-clear from him before sticking your finger in his anus" was delivered prompted a few laughs among the preview audience. Another memorable tidbit was, "A bruised testicle is a sure-fire way to get a man out of the mood" – Amen to that!
The biggest problem with The Lovers' Guide 3D is the pacing. Every single scene in the film plays out at the same languid pace and with the same style and tone, and this lack of variation ensures a sense of tedium eventually sets in. The film is only 65 minutes long but it has a tendency to drag, although at least the 3D is a little easier on the eye than it has been with some features I've seen recently. Apart from one startling erection shot, the film generally avoids thrusting things at the audience, and instead the 3D is used to give each sequence a sense of depth and focus. The Lovers' Guide 3D is a curious film that might have a limited audience, but you have to say that it achieves everything it sets out to achieve, delivering a straightforward guide to sex that's very easy to watch. Viewers looking for something a little more thrilling may be advised to look elsewhere, or bide their time waiting for a more adventurous director to take the plunge and explore the sexual possibilities of 3D filmmaking. Gaspar Noé, I'm looking at you...
The Lovers' Guide 3D will be playing for a limited time at the Apollo Piccadilly Circus, but most people will see it on DVD or Blu-Ray, where it will be available in both 2D and 3D versions. The disc contains a 17-minute behind the scenes feature that details some of the difficulties involved in the 3D production, as well as interviewing key members of the cast and crew.
The Lovers' Guide 3D will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on February 7th
Buy The Lovers' Guide 3D here