My friend and fellow scholar TammyJo Eckhart and I discuss the 1997 Preaching to the Perverted.
L.A. Law S07E10 “Spanky and the Art Gang”, aired January 14, 1993
L.A. Law was an ensemble dramedy about a Los Angeles law firm. LIke detective procedurals, legal procedurals bring the characters into a variety of situations, and one popular topic is BDSM, usually in the form of pro dominatrixes.
In this case, the law firm takes as a client Claudia Von Rault, aka Mistress Zenia (played by Lillian D’Arc). She’s charged with involuntary manslaughter of Eric Schuller, who died during a session. The lawyers are initially reluctant to take the sensational case, but the deceased had business entanglements with the firm’s partners and they want it handled in-house.
Preaching to the Perverted (IMDB) is a 1997 romantic comedy written and directed by Stuart Urban, starring Guinevere Turner and Christian Anholt.
Preaching has a lot of similarities to Exit to Eden. Both are romantic comedies that try to present BDSM to the mainstream. Both feature dominant women who are rulers of kinky realms (with female aides de camp) who have difficulty opening up to intimacy until a special man comes along.
Preaching is a superior film in many ways. There’s no extraneous MacGuffin plot grafted on. Exit tried too hard to soft-pedal kink for a mainstream audience, and barely showed anything. This film has lots of different kink activities and more queer content. It at least considers the political realm, as the police and government act against Tanya’s parties.
Tanya Cheex (Guinevere Turner) is a notorious American performance artist who does elaborate stage shows at UK fetish clubs. A tabloid newspaper gets photos of this and editorializes about who will control this American filth. (Like the British need any foreign influence to be kinky.) Conservative Member of Parliament Henry Harding decides to make her a target of a moralistic crusade, and recruits a young Christian computer tech, Peter Emery (Christian Anholt) to infiltrate the fetish underworld with a hidden camera.
Exit to Eden (IMDB) is a 1994 romance/comedy/thriller movie, based on the sadomasochistic novel by Anne Rice.
Exit was the first feature film released based on an Anne Rice novel, mainly because Interview with the Vampire was tied up in development hell for a long time. I suspect this was a case of the author selling the film rights on the assumption that it would never actually get made into a film. Rice wrote and published Exit to Eden between the second and third books in her original Sleeping Beauty trilogy, and it’s full of hardcore sex, hetero and otherwise.
Even more bizarre, the film was directed by Garry Marshall, a guy with a long background in American sitcoms. Why would the guy who created Happy Days direct a movie about BDSM? The Bad Gay Movies podcast suggest it was because of the commercial success of Marshall’s film Pretty Woman (1990), which managed to be a sweet rom-com about LA street prostitution.
Marshall had his work cut out for him. Exit is about Elliot, a war photographer, who travels to the Club, an elite BDSM club on a tropical island, on a quest for self-knowledge. There he meets and falls for Lisa, the head trainer.
Bitter Moon (IMDB) is a 1992 erotic/romance film, directed by the notorious Roman Polanski, based on the novel Lunes de Fiel by Pascal Bruckner
Nigel goes on an ocean cruise with his wife, Fiona, where he becomes fascinated by a beautiful, mysterious woman named Mimi. Her husband, a paraplegic would-be writer named Oscar, demands that Nigel listen to his story of his obsessive love with Mimi before Nigel has an affair with her. Like another tale of twisted love, Nabokov’s Lolita, we shouldn’t take the narrator at face value. Mimi privately tells Nigel: “You musn’t believe all he says. He’s a sick man. He imagines things.”
In Oscar’s story, he is a self-consciously literary archetype, an independently wealthy young American living in Paris to become a writer. On a bus trip, he becomes smitten with Mimi, a young French woman.
Mimi is a cipher, with almost nothing more to her than being a beautiful French dancer, at least in Oscar’s telling. The early stages of their romance go from sweetly romantic to an adolescent’s idea of eroticism.
Oscar: (to Nigel) “I’m only going into such detail to show you how completely enslaved I was, body and soul, by this creature whose dangerous charms have made such an impression on you.”
Millennium is a 1996 horror/mystery TV series, loosely spun off from The X-Files. Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) is a criminal profiler for the mysterious Millennium Group, investigating serial murders and other occult-tinged crimes.
In “Loin Like a Hunting Flame” (S01E12, aired January 31, 1997), this week’s serial killer is Art Nesbitt, a pharmacist with a habit of drugging people, abducting them, videotaping them having sex, killing them, and then leaving their bodies in artistic tableaux in public places. The victims are selected because they match his fantasies of sexual experiences he didn’t have: a young heterosexual couple at a rave, a pair of married women from a swinger party, and a newlywed couple.
Crash (IMDB) is a 1996 psychological drama written and directed by David Cronenberg, based on the novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard.
Crash was a highly controversial film when it was released, and that is worthy of its own post. This post will focus on the film itself.
The film concerns James Ballard (James Spader), a film producer who, after a car crash, is drawn into a cult of car crash fetishists (for a lack of a better word) led by a visionary named Vaughan (Elias Koteas).
The documentary Bloodsisters, covering the San Francisco leatherdyke community in 1995, is currently streaming online as part of NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ+ film & media festival. The streaming will last until October 27, 2020.
You can view the trailer and some supplemental interviews and other materials on Vimeo. There was an online discussion with the director, Michelle Handelman, and others in August 2020, available on Youtube.
NOTE: I attempted to view this stream in Canada and was refused. It may only be available for viewers in the USA.
Sex and the City S02E12, “La Douleur Exquise!”, aired August 22nd, 1999 IMDB Title translates to “the exquisite pain”
Sex and the City was a popular dramedy series about single women in New York City around the turn of the millennium.
The opening narration of this episode makes it clear that BDSM is just another aesthetic to be adopted, consumed, and abandoned, befitting the series’ consumerist ethos.
Carrie (vo) “New York City restaurants are always looking for the next new angle to grab that elusive and somewhat jaded Manhattan palate. Last year it was fusion Cajun. Last month it was mussels from Brussels. And tonight, it’s S&M.”