4 posts categorized "Erotic"

April 10, 2018

LAST TANGO IN PARIS

Last_tango_in_parisBorn of one of Bernardo Bertolucci's fantasies about carrying on a purely sexual affair with a complete stranger, Marlon Brando's Paul and Maria Schneider's Jeanne meet regularly in an empty Parisian apartment for unbridled sexual trysts. Paul insists that neither one reveal their names or express any elements of their lives outside their insular world. Theirs is a relationship built purely on carnal intention and experimentation. The stark atmosphere that Bertolucci creates allows for sensual realism to thrive.

Jeanne doesn't know that Paul is coping with his wife's recent suicide. Paul knows nothing of Jeanne's obsessive filmmaker boyfriend Tom (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who is on the brink of proposing to Jeanne.

Lasttango

Written with assistance from Franco Arcalli and Anges Varda, Bertolucci plays liberally with dualities to address deep-seeded emotions that can only be expressed indirectly. Even the filmmaker’s noir-influenced image system plays with angles.

For the first time, Paul drinks with Tom, his wife's neighbor and former lover, who wears the same robe as Paul. The over-enthusiastic Tom represents an outwardly preoccupied inversion of Paul, who tests Jeanne's temperamental boundaries in similar but altered ways.

After revealing his identity and troubled situation, Paul tells Jeanne, "When something's finished, it begins again." He breaks the carefully guarded code the lovers have adhered to up until now. Paul's sudden turn from cynic to optimist (late in the story) must be punished. His refusal to adhere to his own rules is unacceptable. Not everything is permitted.

Lasttango2

For all of the critical and public controversy about “Last Tango” being a pornographic film at the time of its release, the movie is a painstakingly theatrical mood piece that relies heavily on judiciously coded musical cues from Gato Barbieri's repeated motifs.

Significant is Philippe Turlure's bold art direction that draws on the work of the artist Francis Bacon. Two of Bacon's paintings introduce the film during its opening credit sequence. They influence the look of the movie’s saturated color scheme for the interior of the apartment where much of the story takes place. A two-foot high rust colored waterline surrounds the interior walls as if to suggest that the apartment had been submerged in a mixture of blood and water for an extended period during its storied past. The ravages of wars fought have left their mark here.

“Last Tango in Paris” is a masterwork of post-modern existential angst that attempts to reconcile a depth of social existence through its sexually liberated characters.

Mike broke out Wavy Tropics Guava Pale Ale from Kills Boro Brewing for our discussion of Bertolucci's LAST TANGO IN PARIS even if we had planned to do Lars von Trier's MANDERLAY for this, our 99th episode. Check out my silent shout-out to THE STRYPES if you go to ColeSmithey.com. Bon appetite!

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March 08, 2014

NYMPH()MANIAC: VOLUME I

Nymphomaniac Just as with Harvey Weinstein’s famous mistake of splitting Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” into two parts, the producers of Lars von Trier’s 240 minute film have seen fit to split it in two, rather than deliver the movie as the filmmaker intended. Big mistake. The result is exactly what you would expect, that of watching half of a movie. It is not a fair way for an audience to screen the film, much less an acceptable format for a critic to judge and contextualize it by. To make matters worse, there will also be a 5.5 hour director’s cut that will demand interested viewers cover old ground if they are invested enough to want to see von Trier’s entire film. Meh. Pshaw. 

Volume I establishes the character of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a self-hating nymphomaniac rescued from the cold ground of a brick-wall-surrounded courtyard by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), a thematically-charged character whose sole purpose — in Volume I at least — is as a human sounding-board and harmonizing influence for Joe's litany of sexual transgressions. Seligman is a lonely guy, a bit too pleased to have in his company a piece of female damaged-goods who wants nothing more than to spill the beans about her life of wild and naughty sexual diversions — indeed her sexual experiences are many and varied. Joe is one carnally voracious girl. The titillation dial is stuck on ten.

The film opens on a black screen. Water tinkles. The viewer is left to imagine its source. Is someone taking a leak? No. Snow is falling, and melted ice drips down a tin drain.

A passed-out Joe lies bloodied on the pavement of a well-concealed courtyard outside of Seligman's apartment. Seligman awakens her. He offers to call an ambulance or the police. Joe threatens to run off if he does. It’s tea that she wants. He invites her inside his sparsely appointed place and puts her in bed. The defenseless Joe begins to recount her sexually adventurous life that led up to her present wounded condition — possibly from some act of revenge or semi-public bit of BDSM. Seligman not only isn’t judgmental about Joe's checkered past, he finds all sorts of reference points from his own life — related to things such as fly-fishing. He sees similes in her troubled tale of bedding as many as ten men per day. Seligman is a dilettante counselor who is patient, and effete enough to listen to Joe’s outrageously erotic stories without becoming visually aroused or making a pass that would surely be easily received.

Nymph()maniac2

Not all of Joe’s flashbacks are sexual. She fondly remembers walking though a winter forest with her doting father (Christian Slater). Joe’s erotic journey is broken into chapters — four for each film. “The Compleat Angler” is the first section. Joe recounts playing a sexual conquest game with her best friend, in which the two teenage girls would compete for a bag of candies by seeing how many men they could seduce during a train ride. Joe gets extra points if she can extract a load from a married man on his way to impregnate his ovulating wife. His cock does indeed find its way into Joe’s hungry mouth. No surprise how that scene ends.

Joe’s flashback description of losing her virginity — at her own request — to Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), a local London boy with a moped, brings up the fact that he "humped her three times in the front, and five times in the back." Seligman identifies Joe’s “most humiliating numbers” as following a Fibonacci series. Von Trier steals a page from Peter Greenaway when he superimposes graphic onscreen sub-titles and diagrams of the way Fibonacci numbers are used. Referenced is the way they approximate the natural order of a seashell. The numbers themselves flash on the screen as Jerôme pumps away at a younger version of Joe (played by a fearless Stacy Martin).

As Joe’s personal tales of kneejerk seductions go on, the sex scenes become gradually more graphic, and the sideline humor more sly. During the film’s third chapter “Mrs. H,” Uma Thurman plays the vengeful and curious wife of the man who has left her in order to be with Joe. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. H has any idea that they are interrupting a busy evening of carefully timed assignations that Joe has planned with various men.

Nymph()maniac3

Nymph()maniac is a sly piece of anti-slut-shaming cinema aimed at demystifying female carnal desire. It is a character-study of an ostensibly rare type of sexually ravenous woman. Von Trier creates a new breed of social satire that is equally daring and tame. While the film is fiercely pornographic, it does not represent pornography per se. “Love is the secret ingredient” that Joe denies and yet secretly seeks. Her loss of the ability to orgasm coincides with her father’s imminent death. Volume II promises to follow Joe’s experimentation into fetishized BDSM. 

To be continued...

Not Rated. 117 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

 



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February 21, 2014

YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL

Jeune & JolieFor his latest filmic exploration François Ozon addresses a complex mix of sexual, personal, social, familial, gender-based, and technological issues, inexorably honing in on a striking synthesis of generational catharsis. That he does so via a story about Isabelle (exquisitely played by newcomer Marine Vacth), a beautiful bourgeoisie and a 17-year-old DIY prostitute, reflects the growth of one of France’s most consistent filmmakers — one of few who develops in proportion to the promise of his well-seeded career.

Set over the course of a year, the film uses the age-old narrative form of seasonal changes to mark Isabelle’s fluid transition from virgin to sensual mistress. Most of her clients are men old enough to be her grandfathers. To call Marine Vacth’s fearless performance extraordinary barely scratches the surface of her finely crafted, transparent portrayal. Vacth isn’t merely precocious; she is a force of unbridled feminine and intellectual nature. Isabelle has important lessons to teach, as well as to learn.

Ozon takes “meta” liberties when he shows Isabelle and some of her high school classmates reciting quotes from Arthur Rimbaud’s poem “No One’s Serious at Seventeen.”

"On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade

And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need

You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.”

The unapologetically poetic direct-to-camera sequence captures much of the naiveté, seething lust, and directionless ambition that Isabelle seeks to shed through her computer-facilitated double life of erotic experimentation. Her journey will be a quicksilver submersion into a lifetime’s worth of sexual experience and ever-changing needs and desires.

In keeping with Ozon’s non-judgmental approach to his characters in such films as “Hideaway” and “In the House,” the filmmaker never veers into melodrama or exploitation regardless of how tempting the subject matter might seem on the surface. That’s not to say that Ozon doesn’t regard the erotic nature of Isabelle’s endeavors with the sexual directness they deserve. The audience experiences her erotic journey in relation to the sense of liberation she discovers along the way. If that freedom comes with a cost of cynicism, then the lessons are all the more truthful for her paying that price. There is a cost to wisdom — regardless of how it is achieved.

Young & Beautiful

When Isabelle witnesses her judgmental mother Sylvie (Geraldine Paihas) secretly flirting with a man with whom she may be having an adulterous affair, it seems to support Isabelle’s bold if hazardous attempt at getting to the bottom of a romantic illusion that is too limited and naïve for her mature constitution. Isabelle always gravitates to the bottom line in human relations. An uncomfortable sequence where she gauges her step-father’s lustful ambitions presents one of the film’s more challenging scenes. 

Gorgeously filmed by cinematographer Pascal Marti, “Jeune & Jolie” (“Young & Beautiful”) is a patient film that delves thoroughly into the generational mindsets of its age-disparate characters. Charlotte Rampling helps send the narrative to its evocative conclusion as a woman called Alice, the wife of one of Isabelle’s clients. You will never forget this truly mind-blowing film.

Not Rated. 95 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)  

October 12, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping_BeautyA bold feminist think-piece about the perceived and disguised societal demands placed on women, "Sleeping Beauty" is a hauntingly erotic film that languishes in the recesses of your sub-conscious. Novelist-turned-filmmaker Julia Leigh explores what she terms "Wonder Cinema" by way of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale which she embellishes and extrapolates upon.

Yasunari Kawabata's "The House of Sleeping Beauties" and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" are meaningful tomes of reference. Waifish Emily Browning is Lucy, an Australian college student working various jobs to make ends meet. She gives her esophagus and stomach up to paid medical testing, works in a restaurant, collates copies for a tyrannical female boss. She takes on a high paid position as a nude banquet server for private dinner parties put on in the private mansion of an elegant Madame named Clara (Rachael Blake). After serving her first dinner party Lucy burns a hundred dollar note from her ample pay. Capitalism isn't her motivation in life. The fearless femme de provocation is promoted to the position of a sleeper. Mistress Clara administers a sleeping potion that ensures Lucy's unconscious state for a male client to do with as he pleases with in bed--short of marking or penetrating Lucy's impossibly nubile body. The idea of semi-impotent older men paying to lie down with an unconscious nubile girl connects to the obvious choice one such man might make to end his life during the experience. The three episodes we witness reflect on damaged male psyches grappling desperately for a self-identifying conquest of a clinical nature.

Sleeping-Beauty

In her private time Lucy likes to spend time with her best friend, an alcoholic bachelor edging closer to committing suicide. The two communicate in a shorthand of polite repartee that disguises their deeper emotional issues. The subplot is the most forced in the film, but contributes a layer of altruism to Lucy's transparent identity.

The free spirited lass likes to indulge in spontaneous meat-market pick-ups with random men and women. Ideals of shame or restraint are not in Lucy's vocabulary. The deeply sensual character exists at the polar opposite extreme to American cinema's Mumblecore movement of dumbed-down lazy slackerdom. Lucy takes action with gusto even if it means giving herself wholly over to an experience she can't consciously interact with. "Sleeping Beauty" is an artistic exploitation film meant to rankle bourgeoisie attitudes of propriety. It’s a dirty job, but Julia Leigh has done it with panache.

Not Rated. 104 mins. (B-) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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