You sexy thing

Cinema - How should the most explicit film in recent memory be viewed? With pleasure

There was everything against me enjoying Michael Winterbottom's new film. Explicit sex in cinema usually makes me cringe; indie music just plain irritates me. Yes, even Franz Ferdinand. I may be a tolerant, 21st- century twentysomething, but that doesn't mean I have to celebrate X-rated action and shoe-staring rock in a film with virtually no plot or script. Watching 69 minutes of unsimulated sex, punctuated by live footage from gigs at the Brixton Academy, is not my idea of a good time. But a girl has to keep an open mind. So I sloped off to see 9 Songs, alone - keen to avoid any sticky hand-holding situations or whispered apologies during the naughty bits.

Fortunately, modern gals can also change their minds. I found the "muckiest film ever" to be honest, brave and oddly compelling. What's more, it failed to reach full throttle in the cringe stakes. There are, admittedly, a lot of naughty bits, and the tabloid blaze regarding the ejaculation and oral sex shots is unsurprising. But it is normal sex; nothing disturbingly kinky. The opposite, in fact: playful eroticism of the sort that all of us should be up for - kept within the responsible boundaries of a loving, monogamous relationship.

Best of all, unlike slick, humptastic Hollywood sex - choreographed to the point of irrelevance to us mere mortals - 9 Songs does not make you feel like a heffalump in the sack. It shows the squashed, stubble-rash-ridden face of sex that we recognise. Here, an unflattering camera angle is not the enemy; the way bodies look is not glossed over. And the feelings captured on the faces of the two actors (thankfully we're spared the porno trick of following only genitals during intercourse), as well as the images, blur the lines of what is faking it. The results are both provocative and comforting, serving to remind that sex on screen doesn't have to be porn.

There is something triumphant about it, too. Early on in the film, after an impromptu encounter in the kitchen, the two characters hold each other's gaze, smiling and smug, in a celebration of their shared orgasms. "Look what we have done!" their dancing eyes seem to say to the camera. It's a bold moment. Seconds later, Lisa (played by Margot Stilley) leaps up asking: "Coffee?" The scenes jerk along with this youthful perkiness.

That said, don't expect to be gripped. What held me was the random observations of a relationship. At one point, Stilley says: "Sometimes when you kiss me, I just want to bite you; really fucking hard." This is the kind of meaningless banter that finds its way into the language of love between two people. There is a voyeuristic delight in watching such foolish intimacies. These barely formed characters are blank slates that reflect back at you your own. They could be you and your partner.

Consequently, choosing to go alone was the one thing I got right. I drifted happily in and out of my own thoughts. I would recommend it as a solitary indulgence on a Sunday afternoon, with a glass of wine. A far cry from the enduring image of the man in a mac in the back row, with something less savoury in hand. After all, there are far worse ways to spend an idle hour than musing on the bedroom antics on which we put such high value. There are also better ones - doing them yourself, for one. But it's nice to get a different perspective.

9 Songs (18) is released on 11 March