Sep 182021
 
Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner) meets Nigel (Hugh Grant) in the company of her husband Oscar (Peter Coyote)

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.”

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Apr 282021
 

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. 

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Jan 052021
 

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). 

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Oct 172020
 

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.

Aug 202020
 

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.”

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Jul 142020
 

The General’s Daughter (IMDB) is a 1999 mystery/thriller. 

US Army Captain Elizabeth Campbell, a psychological warfare expert and the daughter of a famous general, is found staked out nude and dead on a training ground. Two warrant officers from the Criminal Investigation Division investigate and discover a web of sexual abuse and coverups. 

The discovery of Campbell’s body
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Jul 012020
 

Body of Evidence (IMDB) is a 1992 erotic thriller/neo-noir film starring Madonna and Willem Dafoe. It was part of the genre epitomized by Fatal Attraction (1987) and Basic Instinct (1992), but didn’t inspire their level of critical attention.

To quote Sean McGovern at The Film Experience:

Body of Evidence arrived at a particular nexus of Madonna’s career. Riding on the wave of Like A Prayer, pushing boundaries with the Blonde Ambition Tour and the exuberant Truth or Dare, Madonna’s imperial phase began to dip with her boundary-pushing take on sex and erotica; namely, SEX and Erotica. While Madonna would remain unapologetic, Body of Evidence, and the accompanying explicit period in career concluded with one of the most consistent criticisms of Madonna: rigid-perfectionism and managed-spontaneity…

[…]

The most grating problem with Body of Evidence is how reductive derivative it is. Released a mere 8 months after Basic Instinct, it’s shocking to see how much of it feels directly lifted from it and other films of its genre.

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Jun 012020
 

“Stocks & Bondage” First aired November 29, 1999 IMDB

“Stocks & Bondage” opens with a familiar scene: a woman found dead in bondage gear. However, as the detectives investigate, the case turns out to be more about shady financial dealings on Wall Street than sexual deviance. 

“Stocks & Bondage” includes some of the same tropes as the earlier Law & Order episode “Prisoner of Love”, particularly the discussion over whether the death that started the story is an accident, a suicide, or a murder. Unlike the dual focus on detectives and prosecutors of its parent series, Special Victims Unit is mostly about the investigation, not the legal complexities.

Detective Benson views the body. Notice the handcuff visible in the background.
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Apr 072020
 

Romance is a 1999 French drama film, written and directed by Catherine Breillat. 

[Unless noted otherwise, all quotations are from the subtitles.]

Breillat is notorious for explicitly showing sexual acts in her films, as well as her unsentimental view of heterosexual relations. Sex between men and women is always a conflict in Breillat’s films, though who is winning isn’t always clear. 

The protagonist is Marie (Caroline Ducey), a young woman who lives with her boyfriend Paul (Sagamore Stévenin), a model. In the first scene, Marie watches from a distance as Paul is posed as a matador in a photoshoot with another female model. The photographer instructs Paul and the model in performing proper masculinity and femininity.

Marie (Caroline Ducey) tries to arouse Paul (Sagamore Stévenin)

They return to their apartment, where their clothes and the furnishings are all white and off-white. Instead of innocence, it suggests sterility and emptiness. Paul rejects Marie’s sexual advances again, in a reversal of the usual gender roles. 

Paul’s passive-aggressive head game is that if he completely eliminates sexual desire in himself, he gains the upper hand in his relationship with Marie. Having her dance on the end of his string is more interesting to him than actually fucking her. 

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Apr 062020
 

Love & Human Remains is a 1993 drama film. It tells several interwoven stories of people in the big city, while in the background a serial killer murders women. The main character is David (Thomas Gibson), a gay former actor who coasts through life as a waiter and nightclub regular.

Love definitely has some resemblance to Cruising: paranoid people in an urban environment, a serial killer who could be anybody, masculinity in crisis. We get glimpses of the killings on news shows, but the characters, too self-absorbed, skip past them. 

Benita (Mia Kirshner) seems to vibe on that urban paranoia. She’s primarily a dominatrix, often telling classic urban legends (e.g. “the guy with the hook” or “the baby sitter and the extension cord”) during her sessions with men in her apartment. 

Benita (Mia Kirshner) in full dominatrix gear
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