Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Sex isn’t always, well, sexy, especially when it comes to how it sounds. And since nobody really wants to hear breathless grunting and sweaty, matted body hair slapping against bare flesh, the foley artists working on sex-laden flicks tend to have their work cut out for them. Foley artists, if you’re unaware, are the blessed souls tasked with replicating the small, idiosyncratic sounds of an actor’s performance, and Vulture just spoke to several of them about the wonders of chamois, Ben Wa balls, and the “surprisingly gendered” sounds of kissing.

You might be saddened to learn to that the majority of onscreen smooching is actually just a weary foley artist making out with their own hand or—and this is real—just making “eating sounds,” but the ingenuity on display elsewhere should get your juices flowing. For the Fifty Shades Of Gray trilogy, for example, foley artists replicated the sound of Ben Wa balls, um, doing their thing using the same sheepskin chamois cloths people use to dry off their car. Later, tasked with the prospect of making bondage sound “pretty,” the crew basically scooped up varying grades of metal chain and slammed, brushed, and dragged them across whatever furniture and flesh happened to be in the vicinity. One imagines there’s plenty of trial and error.

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But the piece also captures the nuances of this kind of work. “If it’s an intimate scene where two people are gently making love, it’s going to sound a lot different than two people banging the shit out of each other,” says Alchemy Post Sound’s Leslie Bloome. Another artist, Joanna Fang, discusses the difficulty of creating sound for a sex scene that’s imbued with tough, complicated emotions. Citing Derek Cianfrance’s 2016 film The Light Between Oceans, she touches on how the scene touches on the “shame and guilt” that can exist even between a couple that loves each other. “So how do you communicate that with Foley?” she says. “You can’t get the sense of that from a library effect. You have to have someone like me sit there and perform it.”

And while nobody interviewed worked on last year’s Call Me By Your Name, that didn’t stop them from theorizing how the film’s foley artists brought that infamous peach scene to life. One theory posits “the manual manipulation of the inside of an overripe plum, peach, or grapefruit,” but “mic’d pretty close to get all that high-end squish to it.” Yum!

Read the full article over at Vulture.

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