Nov 212020
 

Going Under is a 2004 drama film directed by Eric Werthman and written by Werthman and Jessica Gohlke. IMDB

Peter (Roger Rees), a married therapist, regularly sees a pro dominatrix, Suzanne (Geno Lechner), with the permission of his wife. On a summer when Peter’s wife is out of town and Suzanne has quit the business, they try to form a romantic relationship outside the dungeon. 

Peter (Rees) in session with Suzanne (Lechner)
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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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Nov 072019
 
Pets playbill from May 1969

In my discussion of Pets, I neglected to mention that it was based on an off-Broadway play. The Temple of Schlock has a post on the history of the original work and its adaptation into film.

Pets was originally three one-act plays, first produced in May 1969, all based on the idea of women being kept as pets.

It’s not surprising that few critics gave PETS a clean bill of health. Newsday‘s George Oppenheimer summed it up by writing, “Mr. Reich has given us three playlets which, to put it kindly, stagger the imagination,” while Daphne Kraft of the Newark Evening News commented, “PETS, the three one-act satchels of emotion which got hurled on the stage of the Provincetown Playhouse last night, suffers from bad dialogue. The plays sizzle like wet firecrackers and make all of life look like exercises in hysteria.” In the Manhattan Tribune, Clayton Riley wrote, “Nothing to recommend but a superb air-conditioning unit at the Provincetown. Doubtless it will outlive, by a good while, Richard Reich’s slender trio.” Worst of all were the opinions of a critic in Cue: “Richard Reich is a playwright who has discovered a fascinating new toy — sadomasochism. So enthralled is he by the S&M mystique of discipline, power, sexual mastery and submission, torture and self-flagellation, that he has written no less than three one-acters in which people cage, whip, stab, and rape each other with gay abandon, all the while pontificating in language duller than an Abnormal Psych textbook.”

The film combined the three young women characters into one character, Bonnie, combined two older women into Geraldine, and added a few other scenes.

Feb 142014
 

Brown, Carolyn E. “Erotic Religious Flagellation and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure”, English Literary Renaissance, Vol.16, Iss. 1, Dec 1986

Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure (first performed in 1604) links religious asceticism and flagellation with deviant sexuality and political tyranny. The Duke of Vienna, the judge Angelo and the novice nun Isabella claim to be pious and chaste, while their sexuality is repressed in such a way that it emerges as indifferent voyeurism, aggressive sadism or masochism, respectively. “…by drawing parallels to historical or topical events, Shakespeare suggests that the protagonists’ very asceticism, ironically, causes this deviant desire and that they associate their austere religious practices with pleasurable feelings.”

Woman in nun's habit kneels facing away from man in suit, sitting on couh

Isabella and Angelo

The plot revolves around a couple, Claudio and Juliet, who have not properly observed all the rules of engagement and marriage. While the Duke travels through Vienna in disguise as a friar, he hands power over to the judge Angelo, who decides to make an example of Claudio and condemn him to death for fornication. Claudio’s friend Lucia asks Isabella, the novice nun and Claudio’s sister, for help. Angelo offers to free Claudio in exchange for sex with Isabella.
The trio of the Duke, Angelo and Isabella are all ascetics (though none are actually clergy), and are hostile to sexual desires, believing that “pain kills the libido and thus subjecting themselves and others to physical abuse.”

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Mar 092012
 

Research in the previous post brought my attention to Venus in Fur, a Broadway play adaptation of the classic of male masochism, Venus im Pelz by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.

Judging by the description, it’s strongly metafictional, as the two leads play a director and an actress auditioning for a stage adaptation of Venus. This presents an interesting angle on the story, in which Severin has an image of the cruel woman in his mind before Wanda appears and slots herself into it. This is very much a story about roles and scripts.

As I’m nowhere near Broadway, I have little chance to see this. Hopefully it will tour. I’m curious to know how this play was adapted for a mainstream audience. If female masochism is regarded as a problem, male masochism is regarded as a joke at best, and rarely if ever a sexually desirable trait to heterosexual women, at least not in mainstream media.

Aug 132010
 

A friend in Rostock, Germany, is producing and directing a stage play based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s classic (or it should be) novel of male submission and female domination, Venus in Furs, or Venus im Pelz.

The play stars Dino Gebauer as Severin and Meike Faust as Wanda, and directed by Florian Dedio. There are two shows, on September 11th and 15th.

Wish I was in Germany, and could understand German.

I’m glad to see this kind of project as I believe Sacher-Masoch is much neglected as a historical and literary figure, and his work deserves wider exposure and his life more academic study. For a man whose name was attached to an entire realm of human behavior and emotion, he is curiously forgotten. Freud’s two essays on masochism make no mention of Sacher-Masoch or his work

Jun 302008
 

BalconyExecutioner-793488

The 20th century’s answer to Sade is probably Jean Genet, a novelist and playwright who developed a strange kind of ascent through descent, finding a kind of apotheosis. If heroism is impossible, one distinguishes oneself through cultivating betrayal and abuse.

One of his plays was The Balcony (1956), a surreal exploration of fantasy and fetish.

Most of the scenes occur in the Balcony, a “house of illusions” or a brothel, depending on the mood of Irma, the house’s madam. Irma presides over the constantly shifting boundaries of fantasy and reality, dealing with clients who want to be Bishops and Generals, and may in reality be those things, a pimp who is actually a cowardly crossdresser and a whore who wants to be a saint. The Judge insists on hearing “true confessions” from a whore dressed as a criminal, who technically is a criminal, but the Judge shrinks from the thought that the woman actually committed any crimes.

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