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‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Director Rose Glass: Anyone Who Thinks ‘Sex and Violence Aren’t Some of Cinema’s Most Important Cornerstones Is Wrong’

Love Lies Bleeding” director Rose Glass can’t speak to the very online debate over movie sex scenes in the 21st century — whether audiences want to see them, and whether they’re necessary to films at all.

“In terms of speaking to the wider conversations about cinema, sex, and audiences, I don’t feel qualified to know. I know I’ve sort of read that people are saying that younger audiences are more sex-averse or sex-scene-cynical, but I’ve only read that in articles. I don’t know how true it is,” Glass told IndieWire over Zoom.

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In her hot and ultraviolent new midnight movie “Love Lies Bleeding” — a sort of lesbian white trash spin on “Drive” set in an excess-addled 1980s Southwestern town — the sex scenes between gym manager Lou (Kristen Stewart) and ‘roided-up bodybuilder Jackie (Katy O’Brian) are essential to the character-building. This wildly swinging, often out-of-its-mind thriller centers on Lou and Jackie as they become accomplices in a brutal murder against a backdrop of dreams both pursued and crushed — but it’s also about the first thrusts of falling in love, a period in which, you know, the parties involved have a lot of sex.

British filmmaker Rose Glass (co-writing with Weronika Tofilska) turns her camera from the religious horrors of her breakout-turned-cult-classic “Saint Maud” (2019) to the sex and death routines of a movie like David Cronenberg’s 1996 fetish thriller “Crash,” a movie whose placidly realized sex scenes of the ’90s Skinamax variety addled Cannes that year. It’s also a movie Glass showed to her cast in crew while prepping to shoot in New Mexico in a dusty swath of America far-flung from the North Yorkshire of “Saint Maud.”

Make no mistake: “Love Lies Bleeding,” in the words of IndieWire’s Kate Erbland, features “a series of genuinely hot sex scenes that more than prove the necessity for such sequences in films that hinge on actual human romantic relationships.” There’s fingering, sucking, and fucking of all kinds, when the movie isn’t zooming in on literally skull-crushing violence as Lou’s past in the shape of a bald, ponytailed Ed Harris starts to catch up with her.

‘Love Lies Bleeding’
‘Love Lies Bleeding’

“Just speaking for myself, anyone who tries to kid themselves that sex and violence aren’t some of the cinema’s most important cornerstones is wrong. [With] the kind of films I’m interested in, there is something like living vicariously through these sorts of stories and speaking to maybe sometimes more primal or shameful or difficult kind of instincts and putting them up there on screen,” Glass said.

The sex in “Love Lies Bleeding” is stylish and choreographed without ever feeling like scripted movie sex, bodies vaguely moving in tandem under bedsheets. “Sometimes, in films, it feels a bit like, ‘And now they have sex,’ and the camera moves away, and it’s all a bit tasteful,” Glass said. “Particularly with lesbian sex scenes as well. Everyone’s a little bit kind of like, ‘Oh, and stuff happens.’ Kind of like, ‘Oh, I guess they’ll kiss each other’ — and mystery! Cut to something else. Getting a little bit more detailed [is a way of] let’s just keep moving forward.”

The erotic realism on display is also abetted by the fact that both its stars, Stewart and O’Brian, are out queer women themselves who know a thing or two. They also worked with an intimacy coordinator on set.

“I’m so happy to be growing away from this, [but] it used to be very normal to just be like, ‘They start kissing. Somebody says this in the script, and then they fall down onto the bed, and they make love.’ And then it would just be a free-for-all,” said Stewart, who prefers the clarity of an intimacy coordinator. “How are we going to capture this? Then we’re just going to wing it. It’s like, what are we doing?”

“We were just talking about this discourse, where it’s like there’s kind of more of a puritan thing happening in the world right now. And I mean, it was hard to find, as a kid, queer sex that was realistic on screen,” O’Brian told IndieWire. “I think that that’s kind of important, especially when I was trying to be confident in myself as a person sexually. Obviously, there can be sex things that are harmful to that narrative of like, ‘Oh, that’s not how you’re supposed to do it.’ But just seeing it happen, I feel it’s maybe helpful for some people.”

Additional reporting by Kate Erbland and Anne Thompson.

Stay tuned for more “Love Lies Bleeding” coverage — including chats with O’Brian and Stewart and a more spoiler-heavy conversation with Glass — on IndieWire soon.

“Love Lies Bleeding” opens Friday, March 8 in limited theaters from A24.

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