DestrictedReviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 03/27/06 12:15:12
SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: It’s funny that all roads on the MPAA ratings system eventually lead to pornography. That’s where the dreaded “X” came from and remains a restrictive labeling for any artform. The irony is that in an ever-shifting society, the lines keep getting moved and for decades, no one could provide a viable definition to what constitutes keeping those under 17. After all - one group’s porn is hardcore sucking and thrusting and another’s is Mark Twain. The seven filmmakers called upon to provide their own take on the subject deal more with the XXX variety than riverboats and when it comes to their sexually unrestricted work, it’s a very up-and-down affair that alternately has us reaching for a smoke and wishing it was enough already so we can just get some sleep.”Hoist” (Director: Matthew Barney)
The auteur of the Cremaster series starts things off with the shot of a flaccid penis reacting to the tracks of a Halloween sounds record. Actually, it’s the Fantasia-ish combo of watching the shwantz slowly rise to attention while the sounds of hoisting machinery plays on the soundtrack. As Ford Fairlane once said – “Slightly amusing, but mostly painful.” A statement which will be rethought once the film’s true setpiece reveals itself. The synopsis reads that “it is a film about the meeting of chthonic libidinal energy and the destructive forces of technology.”
Or you can call it what it is – A naked man hoisted under a 50-ton Caterpillar smoothing his crank with the driveshaft with a giant squash jammed up his ass.
Man and machine becomes one, with man a servant to the underbelly of the industrial complex which controls the means of production. Eh – you can go all day applying the art school metaphors. If Barney had gone more Koyaanisqatsi with it, the point could have been intensified – foreplay leading to explosive orgasm. But the film rests on cornucopia crack and the pottery shlong without exploring much of anything except our patience. (* * ˝)
”House Call” (Director: Richard Prince)
Prince, best known as a photographer, had Brooke Shields (in her “Pretty Baby” days) naked and oiled up and called the picture “Spiritual America”. For Destricted he has taken an old porn film, re-dubbed it a couple times and that’s that. How this film made the cut is anyone’s guess since it is what it is and nothing else – an old porno with John Saint John (as the doctor) and Kora Reed (as the patient) and you can fill in the rest. It reminded me of the time in film school when a classmate in my Video Productions class turned in for his final film project – the Chicago Bulls animated opening TV logo and put his own music over it. I believe he got an “F” too. (ZERO STARS)
”Sync” (Director: Marco Brambilla)
The proceedings get a much-needed spike from the director of Demolition Man of all people. In under three minutes, Brambilla has assembled a rapid-fire collection of clips from both mainstream and adult features into a fluid semblance of a sexual encounter. This is sensory overload of the first order as the editing matches up positions, thrusts and actions from commencement to climax. It’s both stunning and a lot of fun to utilize your own memory to match frames you have stored away. That alone makes for a more interesting discussion than either of the previous two films combined. (* * * * *)
”Impaled” (Director: Larry Clark)
The longest of all the films by more than double (38 mins) is also the strongest of the lot. Clark has never shied away from the sexuality of youth. It’s led to highly praised (Kids) and highly criticized work (Ken Park) that would have some believing Clark flirts the line with the dirty old man down the block who should be on a watch list somewhere. Impaled may just be his best work to date.
It begins as a series of interviews with young men between the ages of 19-23. Clark asks them extremely intimate questions about their fantasies and their access to porn growing up. There’s a shyness to their answers but all are very open about the sexual experiences they’ve had and aspire to. After all, each is auditioning for the chance to shoot their very own sex scene with a porn starlet. (Jasmine Byrne, Dillan Lauren, Sativa Rose, Angela Stone, Nancy Vee & August are amongst those in the running, each giggling about their love of oral and anal pleasures.) What’s fascinating is how each guy is reluctant to reveal their manhood for fear that it’s below average; the result of measuring up to an industry that boasts treetrunked elephant wang as the standard. Then when the chosen one is given his dream the indication is just how unsexy and impersonal it is. Sure, there’s obvious pleasure but it lacks the intimacy and promise of further exploration that makes sex with a loving partner so wonderful. By becoming a culture obsessed with sex, we’ve lost what makes it so great in the first place. This is solid work by Clark. (* * * * *)
”Death Valley” (Director: Sam Taylor-Wood)
Death Valley is an interesting complement to Clark’s film, but is hardly as stimulating and not as entertaining to watch. In it, a dude walks out to the middle of John Ford’s stomping ground like an extra from Van Sant’s Gerry, strips down and begins stroking the love hammer…for EIGHT STRAIGHT MINUTES. Endowed he may be, but perhaps he could have used Matthew Barney’s “Hoist” if you catch my drift. Poor bastard. No connection, just the fantasies from his head in the “lowest point of the Western Hemisphere and one of the hottest places on earth.” (Press kit’s words, not mine.) The camera never shifts from the stroke victim and misses the opportunity for the kind of symbolism that film school artistes would jerk themselves off over. Maybe add a bowl of soup, a casket and a little girl with a teddy bear next time. (* *)
”Balkan Erotic Epic” (Director: Marina Abramovic)
Thankfully some comic relief is in store for us with this enjoyably nude-filled examination of Balkan folklore. Use that fertile imagination for a moment and think how they went about trying to grow crops (hint: seed) or protect the sick against evil entities. Basically it’s a number of naked women exposing their breasts, appeasing the ground with their own bush and a group of men doing their best to fertilize the garden. (Not a euphemism, an actual garden.) We get the point after a few minutes as some of them go on about a minute too long, but its still quite funny and welcome after the previous film beat itself to death. (* * * *)
”Babysitter” (Director: Gaspar Noe)
This film confirmed something to me that I’ve suspected for a while now. Gaspar Noe wants to kill you with his movies. Not that any of his work NEEDS a disclaimer after Irreversible, famous for three things: (1) The nine-minute unbroken rape scene of Monica Bellucci, (2) one of the most graphic beatings ever put onto film and (3) a herky-jerky, upsy-downsy camerawork that was more nauseating than riding the Zipper in an IMAX film about vomiting. Now, along comes Babysitter which warns us off the bat that its recurrent strobe-light effects may be damaging to those with epilepsy. Great. Ironically, if he would have turned it off his tale about the images of pornography invading our homes would have been easier to stomach. As of now, its just an endurance test for the audience to read between the flashes, get his point in spurts and turn away before we discover we are actually epileptic. (* * ˝)Like any anthology, Destricted was bound to have its highs and lows. I was actually surprised how many highs there were being familiar with the histories of many of the directors involved. Those looking will also be able to piece the seven works together to form a whole, if certainly not wholesome view of how sex has evolved (or devolved) in our culture. Americans and Europeans have always deferred in the casualness of sexual situations, but it’s certainly evident at how repression can lead to dark discoveries and an impersonality disorder which can lead, albeit a minor collective, to deviancy and acts of violence. It’s hard to recommend Destricted as a complete film. Even while its parts work better as that whole, you still have to switch those parts on-and-off as individuals before piecing everything together to formulate your own level of conformity. Of course, maybe you just like to watch porn. Who doesn’t?
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