18 posts categorized "BDSM"

August 26, 2014

WETLANDS

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One-Woman Revolution
Charlotte Roche’s Novel Goes Big, and Nasty

ColeSmithey.comChallenging and provocative, co-writer/director David Wnendt’s nervy adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s long-presumed unfilmable popular novel breaks new cinematic ground.

Mapping out the terrain of cinema’s previously uncharted psychosexual possibilities, Wnendt opens up a wide range of Roche’s proto-feminist issues around Helen, an 18-year-old German girl with pressing bodily issues.

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Helen’s childhood of abuse by her now-divorced parents turns her into an autodidactic bisexual sexual adventurer obsessed with filthy toilets and other taboos, to provide her with sexual expression.

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Foreign pubic hairs found on never-cleaned public-restroom toilet seats turn Helen on — big time. An early scene allows the filmmaker to take the audience on a humorous microscopic tour of dentally enabled microbes lurking on the alien terrain of just such a hair. The visually exciting scene makes virtuosic use of its graphic potential.

Impromptu sexual assignations with boys, girls, men, and women — whether in public or private places — feed Helen’s voracious appetite for the bizarre. Helen likes to keep her unclean vagina in a constant state of smelly flux. Some guys appreciate the foul odor and taste of her “cottage cheese” discharge; Helen certainly does. She uses her vaginal juices as perfume.

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Not a movie for the squeamish, “Wetlands” nonetheless functions exquisitely on the shoulders, breasts, and troubled anus of its anti-heroine protagonist — as confidently played by relative newcomer Carla Juri. Anti-heroines don’t come much more twisted than Helen. An early flashback reveals an incident in which Helen’s mother (Meret Becker) encourages her young daughter to jump from a high platform into her arms before letting Helen crash to the ground instead of catching her. Mommy wants to teach Helen a lesson — “never trust anyone, not even your own parents.” That mom is a stickler for good feminine hygiene, provides Helen with an ideal device for her rebellious instincts to expand. Trading used tampons with her also bisexual best friend Corinna (Marlen Kruse) is on the menu.

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Traces of Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” pop up in the filmmaker’s dynamic approach to the outré subject matter. Wnendt uses evocative music and songs to comment on, and energize, the fast-edited action. Static and natural imagery provide breathing room to the frequently shocking narrative. Flashbacks, reveries, and forward-moving action collide in imaginatively stylized sequences that serve to put the audience in a disoriented state. You’re not always sure of what’s real or imagined. The movie takes no prisoners. You either give yourself over to it or shut down to survive. Helen prides herself on doing things rough. She skateboards barefoot in the street.

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A sloppy self-shaving session at home cuts into one of Helen’s perpetual hemorrhoids, causing a generously bleeding anal fissure that sends her to the hospital for an emergency operation. Our atheist heroine seizes the painful event as a chance to reunite her wacked-out parents — mom is a serial religion-dilettante — if she can protract her hospital stay long enough to get them in the same room together. Helen’s deception relies on her not moving her bowels.

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Robin (Christoph Letkowski), an accommodating male nurse, falls under Helen’s charismatic spell thru her conversationally exclusive topic of sexually related stories and questions. It’s not an ethically responsible decision on Robin’s part, but there’s nothing morally reliable in Helen’s sleazy worldview. 

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“Wetlands” is a palpable coming-of-age story that daringly embraces a thoroughly liberated (read individualistic) response to familial abuse. In so doing, the film creates, and acknowledges, a feminist position of untold potential that is equally constructive and destructive. Helen’s confrontational self-help program sprouts directly from her body and all of its dirty mysteries.

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Here is a female force of nature that rejects religion and societally imposed rules of conduct, in favor of a DIY approach rooted in outrageous sexual behavior that weeds out 99% of the riff raff. Helen represents a different brand of one-percenter. The means and the end are evenly justified.

Not Rated. 109 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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August 25, 2014

FRANK MILLER'S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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Black, White, and Red
Greed, Lust, and Violence Do It Again for Frank Miller and Robert Rodriquez

ColeSmithey.comOozing with more hard-boiled wit than a dozen Dashiell Hammett novels and more visually compelling than every comic book movie Hollywood has put out in the past three years combined, “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is an action-packed feast.

Graphic novelist Frank Miller once again shares directing credit with Robert Rodriguez in creating a sequel that is every bit as narratively gripping and visually stunning as their original “Sin City” (2005).

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Though its perfunctory 3D treatment leaves much to be desired, the film’s noir atmosphere is beautifully lush. Ink-dark blacks reflect against stark whites to give Sin City and its bold characters a place for their many gray shades of seething violence and sex to exist. Precisely situated splashes of color emphasize the visual dynamic on display. A blue dress, emerald green eyes, and a candy-apple red convertible with fins conspire to set your imagination reeling.  

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Four intertwining tales of lust, revenge, corruption, and wanton violence play out with a gallows humor as razor-sharp as it is delightful for audiences attuned to the pitch. The movie is all about panache, and it has plenty to spare.

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“I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Johnny has the hardened perspective of a card shark who never looses. Slot machines dump out their coins like vomiting drunks to Johnny after he insures his luck with a kiss on the coin from a girl he picks up for the night. Her blonde hair cuts across the black-and-white surroundings like a banana peel on asphalt. Johnny’s primary objective is to clean out Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) in a backroom poker game where he’s warned he’ll be torn apart. Johnny’s agenda to humiliate Roark by taking him to the cleaners at poker has a personal motivation. Roark is Johnny’s estranged father. No love-loss sits between them. Johnny may be smart, tough, and mean but Roark covers his bets with goons, guns, and [notably] pliers. Ouch.

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One-handed card shuffling is one of Johnny’s impressive tricks of his trade. The movie revels in details like these to give the audience little delights with every sequence. Still, Johnny bites off more than he can chew. It’s a dilemma that every character in the story suffers from at one time or more.

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Mickey Rourke returns from the first movie as Marv, a hulking badass who lives to kick self-righteous butt whenever he gets the chance — which is pretty frequently. Marv keeps busy in the punch-‘em-up department, coming to the rescue of Jessica Alba’s revenge-seeking erotic dancer Nancy, and backing up Josh Brolin’s private detective character Dwight.

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Eva Green’s Ava is a femme fatal few men can resist, especially Dwight, whose body and soul Ava owns. Layers of noir-inflected shadows do little to hide Ava’s nude body that she uses to flaunt, taunt, and screw her way up the ladder of financial supremacy. Not even Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” had anything on Ava’s hot-and-cold personality. When Ava takes a midnight swim in her mansion pool, the filmmakers take full advantage of the opportunity to frame Eva Green’s sensuous body from above and below the water’s surface. The erotic effect is spellbinding.

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Blood spills like so much spilled milk — sometimes white, sometimes red, sometimes black, blood is the all-encompassing bodily fluid that connects the doomed citizens of Sin City. Miller and Rodriguez conspire to create a contained adult play land of sleaze and brutality where greed, lust, and revenge lead to spasmodic episodes of climatic eruptions. All lives are destroyed. All sins are paid. Sin City soils all those that live there. You know, it’s a place just like the one a lot of people are in; it’s called America.   

Rated R. 102 mins.

4 Stars

Cozy Cole

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June 16, 2014

VENUS IN FUR — CANNES 2013

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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Kinky Boots
Roman Polanski Gives Takes Venus All The Way

ColeSmithey.comRoman Polanski’s 20th film is an exquisite deconstructionist articulation of a quicksilver sadomasochistic tug-of-war between a middle-aged theater director and an enigmatic actress auditioning for a role in his upcoming play “Venus in Furs.”

She just might be Venus incarnate.

As he did with his last film, “God of Carnage” (2011), and his 1994 film “Death and the Maiden,” Roman Polanski returns to the theatre for inspiration.

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David Ives’s theatrical adaptation of Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella “Venus in Furs” already contained subtle thematic threads common to Polanski’s oeuvre — think “Bitter Moon,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “The Tenant.”

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Obsession with sexual domination, confined spaces, and an unreliable protagonist are all on display. Here is an energizing spoonful of soup-to-nuts fetishism, with teasing desert courses strewn throughout.

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From a gloriously long tracking shot down a rainy Parisian boulevard, we are inexorably lured into a private theatrical vortex by a sudden crack of lightening. A playful musical score (by Alexandre Desplat) sets a mood of percolating voodoo. The disused set for an ostensibly failed production of an adaptation of John Ford’s “Stagecoach” sits on the stage of the rundown theater where director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) wraps up his day of auditions for the character of Wanda von Dunayev. An unusually tall prop cactus provides a strangely appropriate phallic symbol for the action that follows.

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Thomas complains on his cellphone in misogynistic terms about the actresses he has seen. A lack of “sexy-slash-articulate young women with some classical training and a particle of brain in their skulls” has left Thomas feeling dejected. Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) arrives like a bolt of feminist Goddess lightening when she bursts through the theater door.

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Cursing like a sailor in a low class French accent, Seigner’s Vanda insists her agent sent her, although her name is nowhere to be found on the call sheet. Dressed in a leather corset and sporting a dog collar, Vanda has come prepared — very prepared — she has memorized every line of the play. Still, Thomas remains skeptical. Only when Vanda convinces him to read opposite her as the character of Severin von Kusiemski does her resolute skill as an actress convincingly transform her into the archetypal 19th century dominatrix for his play.

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The story-within-a-story-within-a-movie teeters on the ambiguous tight wire dance that Thomas and Vanda perform. Emmanuelle Seigner’s performance is cleverly delicious. Her effortless transition between the four nesting-doll types that she plays (gypsy, consummate actress, feminist sophist, and Venus) creates a hallucinatory effect that pushes the drama in multiple directions at once. The dialogue is as intellectually sharp as it is sensually perceptive.

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Vanda and Thomas mime their characters’ actions on stage in the same way that student actors are want to do when working without props. With five weeks of rehearsal under their belts, Polanski’s actors connect with such precise execution that the constant shifts between their self-reflexive characters are seamlessly exact.

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Constant kicks of irony exhort audience laughs as the dueling pair keeps up the charade of an audition process where Thomas is the patriarchal judge to Vanda’s hopeful ingénue. Along the way the polarity of power switches back and forth between them. When Vanda commands Thomas to dress her in a pair of dominatrix knee-high boots, his quest for “annihilation” in her service takes shape.

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With a Tony Award nomination under its belt, and the dubious honor of being America’s most produced play in the 2013-14 season, “Venus in Fur” represents another S&M signpost of our ongoing global societal clampdown.

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There is a reason that “50 Shades of Grey” hit a popular nerve. Willing humiliation under the lash of omnipresent corporate-political-totalitarianism could be construed a logical path for some. Audiences have every reason for their curiosities to be piqued over what Roman Polanski can do with such ingeniously loaded material.

Not Rated. 96 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

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