HBO and producer-director Patti Kaplan have found a winning formula. In “Real Sex 8,” they don’t stray much from previous outings in the entertaining adult magazine docu series, which profiles men and women from around the world as they explore various sexual practices.
This provocative and titillating series presents the facts journalistically and thus never has to apologize for its content. This episode’s segments include a ballet teacher in the “new” Russia who teaches the art of striptease to young girls; a two-day retreat where men learn how to prolong and improve their orgasms; Brazilian husband-and-wife rockers who perform naked; a porn critic and San Francisco’s Exotic Erotic Ball.
The segments are interspersed with man-on-the-street interviews with people offering various observations on sex, which help keep the show light and humorous.
The Russian striptease seg flows particularly well: girls are profiled learning their routines and then executing their lessons at a gentlemen’s club. The teacher explains that “striptease is an art form,” but all the girls confess to having loftier ambitions (such as one who plans to become a physicist).
It’s a well-constructed piece managing to capture a particular slice of life in 15 minutes with humor, insight and honesty.
In another seg, a sex educator teaches men about increasing enjoyment in their sex lives by a combination of Gregorian chanting and hands-on lessons with other men. The camera catches men performing intimate exercises but by not focusing on closeups, “Sex” keeps it informative and avoids reducing the seg to the level of bathroom humor.
The husband-and-wife Rio rockers, famed for their onstage sexual antics, explain that they will stop at no lengths to satisfy each other. “I don’t mind him having sex with other people as long as I’m involved,” the wife explains. (She also refers ironically but sincerely to her previous marriage, saying, “It was traditional: we betrayed each other.”)
AIDS is never discussed, which seems odd in a docu that hints at alternative sexual behavior. That aside, it’s a very entertaining show on many levels. By combining that humor with sincerity and an appreciation for the absurdity that reality can be, “Sex” succeeds in the funny, provocative and entertaining departments without exploiting.