The countdown continues…again!
The erotic drama is a unique subgenre unto itself. There’s always been a stigma associated with it in terms of the inherent sleaze juxtaposed with often revealing explorations of lust, love, sex, sexuality and the specificity of emotions associated when two or more individuals connect or attempt to connect on a physical and/or emotional level. The infamous classic Nagisa Oshima film, In the Realm of the Senses made it a point to juxtapose his lead lovers’ fiery passion with their self-imposed solipsism. Luca Guadagnino’s gorgeous A Bigger Splash sets itself in a rather “on the nose” yet still effective metaphor for this specific form of myopia and hedonism: most of the action takes place by a swimming pool on a private island surrounded by the sea. Essentially a riff on The Big Chill and 9 ½ Weeks, this vibrant tale is about the lustful intertwining love square between four individuals.
The films of Argentinian director Gaspar Noé (Irréversible, I Stand Alone, Enter the Void) are obsessed with the intertwining of “authenticity” and “artifice” and thus: every scene of pain or desire is purposefully made overlong to leave the impression that they leave no stone unturned. Noé is a filmmaker who pushes audiences uncomfortably deeper into moments that are usually reduced to a suggestion or glimpse if they are not censored altogether. Some call him a “pornographer,” others consider him a “provocateur” – but whatever merits his work may or may not have, he is at the very least a challenging artist if only for the discussions his films provoke. Perhaps the most famous example from his work is the 12-minute-long rape scene in the middle of his dizzying revenge flick Irréversible; which used such scene to deal with the entire nature of consequence by contextualizing all the problems of the male-id “lizard-brain” thinking. Love is the title of Noé’s interesting-yet-difficult to see/unsee film, which opens with a man and a woman explicitly performing an unsimulated sex act to careening violin music (the film earns its X-rating immediately). Of course Love will undoubtedly be referred to as “that 2015 unsimulated sex movie,” a type of film that has been equally derided as taboo and praised as transgressive in the history of cinema. The modern “art house sex” movie has been a staple of festivals and young film fans and recent examples include the digitally inserted (i.e. computer animated) porn star genitals in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac; Vincent Gallo receiving oral sex from Chloë Sevigny in Brown Bunny; and the body-double orgy in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. However, in the case of Love, does dabbling in taboo inherently make for worthwhile art or are we merely content to guise up pornographic indulgence with “artful” posturing? Where does art end and porn begin or are they intertwined beyond distinction? Likewise, which is more authentic: “lust” or “love”? Continue reading What Gaspar Noé Talks About When He Talks About “Love”
There comes a time when people ask, “Is this art or is this porn?” Depending on who you are talking to the answer can change and the definitions change. Art is about making you think and feel something and porn is supposed to be about pandering to you, but isn’t that just another way form of artistic engagement? Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s (Traffic, Erin Brokovich, Ocean’s Eleven) underrated drama Magic Mike is probably the biggest mainstream film to argue such a case. The original film used the indulgent setup of the world of male “adult-entertainers” (strippers) for a downbeat fall-from-grace versus re-invention saga. Magic Mike XXL, on the other hand is a straight-up road comedy that’s far less concerned with the surely-true seediness that grips the adult entertainment industry, and instead focuses on the most constructive side of what “male entertainers” and the like offer. In switching genres and the mission statement, the film becomes a surprisingly layered spectacle that is at once pure unadulterated indulgence (for the crowd who loves physically gifted half-naked men showing off), and at the same time a nuanced look right into the heart of woman-loving sex positivity. All the while the movie still functions as a rather earnest and frank portrait of male friendship in a way that Entourage forgot how to do rather quickly. We live in a world where “bros before hos” is antiquated at best and “#NotAllMen” is a thing, Magic Mike XXL dares to boldly position a present or future where us guys can still be guys (frat humor, party shenanigans, obsessed w/ food, sports and picking up chicks/getting laid etc) while still treating everybody with pure and sincere kindness and respect. It’s a smart “bro comedy” designed to be a safe space for the titillation of its intended audience (primarily women).