There's a scene in "Boogie Nights" in which porno director Jack Horner, played by Burt Reynolds, spells out his life dream: to make a "real movie" with hardcore action, something with a story that would make people want to stay beyond the money shot to find out how it ends.

For Jack, and for most real-life directors as well, this turns out to be a pipe dream. True, there was a brief period in the liberated '70s when porn flirted with mainstream acceptance ("Deep Throat," "The Story of O") and art cinema flirted with sexually explicit content ("Last Tango in Paris," "In the Realm of the Senses"). But as "Boogie Nights" pointed out, the video player's fast-forward button swiftly obliterated porn's need for a story line. And censorship and the increasingly conservative climate of the '80s soon put an end to art cinema's experiments. Meanwhile, filmmakers found that the new NC-17 (no children under 17) rating in the U.S. was as bad as the old "X," a scarlet letter that automatically precluded films from advertising in most media or screenings in most theaters.

These days, though, it looks like "artcore" is undergoing a revival, as many serious directors -- led by the French -- bust taboos and explore sexual themes with strong content. Coincidentally, several of the most notorious artcore films of late are opening back-to-back in Tokyo this spring: Whether it's the bedroom philosophy of "Romance," the punk sex and violence of "Baise-moi," the raw S/M affair of "Lies" or the psychedelic sci-fi excess of "I.K.U.," there is something for any stripe of voyeur.