Bliss (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

We split strongly on this film. One thumb way, way , way down  from Scoop, but a thumb up for selected target audiences from Tuna.

"Bliss" has the appearance of a docudrama, or maybe an ABC Afterschool Special for adults. It describes the relationship of a couple with a severe sexual dysfunction. The wife (Sheryl Lee) admits in a therapy session that she has never had an orgasm with her husband. This leads them down a long path toward her sexual rebirth, aided by a sex therapist named Balthazar (Terence Stamp).

The therapist first gives the wife a good schtupping. Then he teaches the husband how to schtup. The dialogue from this sexual education is pretty much identical to Finch's study of tantric sex in American Pie 2, except in this case the screenwriter lacked the realization that these sincere discussions often leave a whiff of bullshit in the air.

"This is a little thing we like to call the nurturing position"

Could anyone but Terence Stamp deliver a line like that without cracking up? Maybe Harry Shearer, but Shearer would understand the underlying irony.


Sheryl Lee showed her breasts clearly in several scenes. There were many instances of full body nudity for both lee and Craig Sheffer, but the lower half of the body was always presented discreetly and subtly.

There are several sex scenes, but they are more clinical than erotic. In most cases, the doctor's voice is heard while we watch them practicing one of his recommendations.

Finally, after the couple learns how to do the deed properly, it turns out that the wife can't stand the sight of her husband anyway, because her newly discovered pleasure in sex brings back a suppressed childhood memory. It reminds her of how much she used to like sex with her father, and then reminds her the guilt she felt when she later found out that that pleasure was evil. She can't separate her father and her husband in her mind.

If you are about 14, or have no concept of the relationship between tenderness and sex, are in a sexually dysfunctional marriage, or are married to a non-orgasmic woman, you may find this movie somewhat educational. If you don't watch movies for education, you should avoid it. It is boring, the characterizations are lifeless and artificial, the lead actor is barely alive, and the film has no entertainment value at all. It is basically an "educational " three character stage play. In the rare instances where additional characters are introduced (the wife's parents, the husband's friend), we don't really have a good sense of who they are or why the scene took place at all.

The biggest problem with the script is that all the earnest sexual training, which comprised 80% of the story, turned out to be irrelevant. Their sexual dysfunction turned out to have been generated by her childhood incest experiences, and had nothing to do with their previously "faulty" sexual technique. If the husband had taken all the tantric training before their marriage, and had known more about pleasing a woman than a combination of the Terence Stamp guru and Casanova himself, they would still have had the exact same problem until the wife confronted her repressed childhood memories.

On the other hand, the filmmaker's attitude toward sex is completely mature and sensitive, which is surprising in a contemporary movie

... and probably explains why the film had no commercial audience, and virtually no audience at all. Sincerity has its places. I'm not convinced that a movie screen is among them, unless there is no consideration for making a profit or reaching a mass audience. If you read about all the sex scenes and go to this film expecting titillation, you will have about the same feeling as if you go to a "party" expecting a wild time and are immediately beset by people asking you to accept Jesus as your personal savior.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Two versions: full screen and widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1.

The actual sexual advice dispensed herein may or may not be useful to you, but at worst it is harmless, although it often smacks of scientific irrelevance and new-age whiffiness.

I did learn one important thing. You must masturbate several times a day. If you don't learn to make love to yourself, how can you expect to make love to someone else?

Based upon this lesson, I am unable to complete this article.


Bliss (1997) was the first effort from writer/director Lance Young, and it is a very good one, but probably not to everyone's taste. Sheryl Lee and Craig Sheffer are married, but he expresses some concern about her on the way to the wedding, as she is compulsive at times. Six months later, the two are in therapy, and we find that they both have "issues" in the way of their happiness, but they do love each other. Then comes the startling revelation, that she has been faking her orgasms. Not long after, Sheffer discovers that Lee is also seeing a sex therapist (Terence Stamp) who "operates on the edge of the law." His theory is that through sexual bliss, people can become cured.

At first, Sheffer is furious, but later listens to Stamp, and becomes his disciple, learning about self-acceptance, tartaric sex, and the nine levels of bliss. Then comes the final revelation, that Lee was sexually molested by her father, but all memory had been repressed. The film had lots of chances to go wrong, but didn't. It treats sexuality between adults on an honest and adult basis, and good writing and good acting kept it on course. Although Lee and Sheffer gave good performances, the film found its pace when Stamp was introduced.

Lee showed breasts in several sex scenes. 

The Critics Vote

  • The critical opinions covered a wide spectrum. For example, Roger Ebert awarded 3.5/4, while Cranky Critic gave a a flat-out ZERO.

The People Vote ...

  • The box office was virtually nil for this film. It grossed $200,000.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description - well, viewed as a dramatic film, it is an E. Just about as boring and completely uninvolving as anything I've ever seen. Viewed as an educational guide covering how to make love with a woman, how to deal with female frigidity, or how to understand the effect of childhood sexual trauma on adult behavior, it could be considered a C-, I guess. Tuna says, "I am not convinced to run out and merge yoga and sex, but the concepts were interesting, and the story avoided all of the expected cliches, so was a fast watch for me. C+.

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