101 String Street
The 5-story building at the corner of Spring and Mercer Street, which is greatly remembered by 80s movie fans as the Art Gallery where Kim Basinger famously sat on the entrance steps reading a newspaper has recently been undergoing some major restoration work, and has now been officially heritage listed as it is the last standing example of a cast iron building in the area of SoHo.
In 1968, Donald Judd purchased 101 Spring Street, which had been designed by British architect Nicholas Whyte and constructed in 1870. It was the first building Judd owned, and he had an intense appreciation for its architecture. As one of the founding sites in the program of Historic Artists' Homes and Studios for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 101 Spring Street is the only intact, single-use cast-iron building remaining in SoHo. This distinction has earned it the highest designation for national significance as part of the SoHo Historic Cast-Iron District.
The building is long and shallow at twenty-five by seventy-five feet, and has an unusually open façade, with windows taking up two-thirds of the façade surface. Serving as the workplace for Kim Basinger’s character, Elizabeth McGraw in the 1986 erotic drama 9½ Weeks, 101 Spring Street was originally used as a button and hat factory before attracting Donald Judd to its vast expanses of full height glass windows in a very non-residential area at the time. In the film it is solely used as an art gallery, displaying the artwork of Elizabeth’s struggling clients. In fact the artwork was supplied by the famous New Jersey photographer, Sarah Charlesworth.
The title of the film, 9½ Weeks refers to the duration of a relationship between Wall Street arbitrageur John Gray played by Mickey Rourke and divorced SoHo art gallery employee Elizabeth McGraw played by Kim Basinger. John initiates and controls the various experimental sexual practices of this volatile relationship to push Elizabeth's boundaries. In doing so, Elizabeth experiences a gradual downward spiral toward emotional breakdown. Elizabeth first sees John in New York City where she grocery shops and again at a street market where she decides against buying an expensive scarf. John wins her heart when he eventually produces that scarf. They start dating, and Elizabeth is increasingly subjected to John's behavioural peculiarities; he blindfolds Elizabeth, who is at first reluctant to comply with his sexual fantasy demands. Yet she sees him as loving and playful. He gives her an expensive gold watch, and instructs her to use it to think about him at noon. She takes this imperative even further by masturbating at her workplace at the designated time. However, he ultimately confuses Elizabeth by his reluctance to meet her friends despite the intimacy of their sexual relations.
Elizabeth's confusion about John increases when he leaves her alone at his apartment. She examines his closet until she discovers a photograph of him with another woman. John asks her if she went through his stuff, declaring that he will punish her. Their ensuing altercation escalates into sexual assault until she blissfully concedes to his struggle to overpower her. Their sexual intensity grows as they start having sex in public places. Elizabeth's heightened need for psychosexual stimulation drives her to stalk John to his office and to obey his injunction to cross-dress herself for a rendezvous. On leaving the establishment, two men hurl a homophobic slur when they mistake John and Elizabeth for a gay couple. A fight ensues. Elizabeth picks up a knife from one of the attackers and stabs one of them in the buttocks and both attackers flee. After the fight, Elizabeth reveals a wet wife beater and has sex onsite with John with intensely visceral passion. Following this encounter, John's sexual games acquire sadomasochistic elements.
Rather than satisfying or empowering Elizabeth, such experiences intensify her emotional vulnerability. While meeting at a hotel room, John blindfolds her. A prostitute starts caressing Elizabeth as John observes them. The prostitute removes Elizabeth's blindfold and starts working on John. Elizabeth violently intervenes, and flees the hotel, John pursuing her. They run until they find themselves in an adult entertainment venue. Moments later, John and Elizabeth gravitate towards each other, finding themselves interlocked in each other's seemingly inescapable embrace. The following morning, John senses that he will never see her again. He attempts to share with her details about his life. Elizabeth tells him that it is too late as she leaves the apartment. John begins his mental countdown to 50, hoping she will come back by the time he is finished.
The film was fairly unsuccessful at the Box Office and it has since been compared to Fifty Shades of Grey. During the making, it is believed that the film’s director Adrian Lyne used emotionally manipulative tactics on Kim Basinger during the shooting to elicit the performance he wanted from the actress, which Basinger later criticized harshly. The film was initially supposed to be distributed by TriStar Pictures as they had a distribution deal with the film's producers. However, the film was dropped shortly before the originally planned December 1985 release date due to issues with the MPAA as the producers were obligated to deliver an R-rated film. After the smoke cleared and the film got an R rating, MGM stepped in and released the film.
Next year sees 9½ Weeks turn 30 years old. But it was only recently that leading actors Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger shared the silver screen again in the action crime drama, Black November. A film inspired by true events about an oil-rich Nigerian community that wages war against an oil corporation to protect their land from being destroyed.
Link: 9½ Weeks Film Locations
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