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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Romanceis 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.