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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Mar 242020
 

Live Nude Girls is a 1995 comedy-drama film, about a group of women who gather for a bachelorette party and mostly talk about sex.

The film starts with women as tween girls having a slumber party in a tent with a poster of David Cassidy, the dawning of their sexuality. In the present, the women mostly talk about their early experiences in the 70s, like reading page 26 of The Godfather, or sneaking peeks at their fathers’ copies of Playboy. Some of these are acted out in fantasy sequences. These women have a complex tangle of desire, vanity, anxiety and shame in their past and present sexual lives. 

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Jan 292020
 

Aired December 4, 1990 IMDB

Another episode bucks the cliche by not opening with the discovery of a dead sex worker. This time it’s a controversial artist named Victor Moore (loosely modeled on Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989), found strangled to death with a noose around his neck, inside his workspace/dungeon. The investigation delves into the sexual fringe and its intersection with the city’s elite. 

Law & Order is usually more thoughtful and less sensational than other procedural shows, and this story does engage with the issues of sadomasochism. 

Greevey, one of the two detectives on the case, is the most prejudiced against Moore and his art. “Some work. If I did stuff like this, I wouldn’t advertise either.”

The detectives question a man who knew the victim casually, but wouldn’t date him. 

Logan: “Let me get this straight. You’re asked out on a date by a guy who published pictures of people hanging upside down in chains. And you’re tempted, but there’s something about him you don’t trust?”

While it’s entirely possible that Moore was coming on creepy to the guy, the Implication is that a person who makes sexually violent art must be dangerous. 

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Dec 312019
 

IMDB First aired 18 November 1998

DaVinci’s Inquest was a Canadian crime drama that aired from 1998 to 2005. The lead character of coroner Dominic DaVinci is based on real-life Vancouver coroner and later mayor Larry Campbell. 

As is typical for this sub-genre, episode S01E07, “The Stranger Within”, begins with the discovery of a dead sex worker. In this case, she’s dumped in a parking lot. 

The medical examiner reveals, first, that the victim, Allison Cody, had signs of multiple beatings, which leads DaVinci to suspect sadomasochism. One of the major threads of this episode is the indeterminate cause of her death, which appears to be a pulmonary embolism that might be caused by the bruises from her beatings.

Mistress Harriet (Lisa Howard) is on guard against Dominic Da Vinci (Nicholas Campbell)
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Dec 262019
 

Silk Stalkings (IMDB) is a much weirder show than I remember. It was supposed to revive the “MTV cops” style that made Miami Vice such a hit in the 80s. It has bizarre interior design, and one of the detectives has flashbacks to her childhood in a communion dress. There are attempts at noir/hardboiled narration and dialog but it’s just gibberish. For example

“If Jerome Eagleton was playing golf with Harlan Cameron and his pretty young wife, it was undoubtedly a best-ball threesome. They were playing on a jagged course with too many physical hazards. These golfers dressed for pain, and most of the balls probably ended up in the rough.”

Episode S01E02, “Going to Babylon”, begins with a dumped old dead guy with bondage marks and a dead pro dominatrix in a car. Murdered sex workers are a staple of this genre, though this episode bucks the trend by not finding the female victim in the teaser. The dominatrix was previously charged with “sexual sadism”, which makes no sense as a charge; she would probably be arrested for solicitation or bawdy-house violations instead.

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Oct 082019
 

Zipperface is a 1992 erotic thriller/slasher film, directed by Mansour Pourmand, who also wrote the original story. It also includes some Italian giallo influences. 

Someone in a full leather outfit and hood is killing sex workers in an unspecified city. As the city’s female mayor is up for re-election, she wants action on this. The case falls to newly promoted female police detective, Lisa Rider. 

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