May 182024
 

Remedy is a 2013 drama directed by Cheyenne Picardo and written by Picardo et al.

A young woman known only by her nomme de domme, Remedy (Kira Davies), explores the world of professional domination and submission. She has some experience with BDSM at a night club, where she met a woman named Astrid, who hooked her up with a dungeon in NYC. Her motivation isn’t clear, whether it’s money or something else. (She has an unseen boyfriend and works as a children’s tutor.)

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May 132024
 
Natalie (Nicole LaLiberte) speaks with her fellow pro dommes

My Normal is a 2009 comedy-drama about a professional dominatrix living in NYC, directed by Irving Schwartz, written by Abdul Malik Abbott, Renee Garzon, Keith Planit, and Adam Sales, and starring Nicole LaLiberte.

Natalie (aka “Ashley”) juggles her work as a pro domme with pressures from her family to get married and have kids, and looking for love as a lesbian. She gets her break to work in the film industry but encounters a new set of problems.

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Apr 112024
 

Mary Gaitskill’s short story “Secretary” (previously discussed) was first published in 1988, then was eventually adapted into the 2002 film Secretary. I’ve already discussed the differences between the script by Erin Cressida Wilson and the film directed by Steven Shainberg, so there’s a kind of family tree connecting the story and the movie.

Gaitskill herself has described the film as “the Pretty Woman version of my story.” (Gaitskill, Mary. “Victims and Losers: A Love Story; Thoughts on the Movie SecretarySomebody With a Little Hammer: Essays, Pantheon Books: New York, 2017) Last year, the New Yorker magazine published (March 27, 2023) Gaitskill’s follow-up story “Minority Report”. It tells the story of Debby and her life after her encounter with “the lawyer,” now given the name of Ned Johnson.

“Minority Report” is less a sequel than a retelling of the same event from Debby’s changed perspective as a woman in her 50s, and her difficulty in understanding and expressing her experience. The title explicitly comes from the Steven Spielberg film of the same name, in which precognitive people experience flashes of future events while kept in a sedated state, and a team of detectives have to interpret these scattered, impressionistic glimpses of possible crimes and decide what to do.

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Apr 092024
 

Secretary (2002) has taken up a disproportionate amount of time in researching and writing The Celluloid Dungeon. I already knew there were a lot of differences between Mary Gaitskill’s original short story and the finished film directed by Steven Shainberg, but I’ve since learned there were significant differences between Erin Cressida Wilson’s script and the finished product. (See Ariel Schudson’s “Secretary and Adaptation: the Telephone theory”) Thanks to inter-library loan, I’ve borrowed a copy of the script book, which also includes essays by Wilson and others.

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Jan 252024
 

Roman Scandals is a 1933 American musical comedy, pre-Hays Code film. Eddie Cantor stars as Eddie, an oddball handyman in the present-day, corruptly governed town of West Rome. Without explanation, Eddie is transported back to ancient Rome and gets tangled up in a plot to kill the corrupt Emperor.

For our purposes, it’s noteworthy for two of the musical set-pieces, both designed by Busby Berkeley, famed for his production numbers involving vast arrays of women in identical, often fetishistic costumes.

The first is an elaborate dance number set at the Roman slave market. Women, naked but for long blonde wigs, are chained to walls. Other, brunette women do synchronized dances in scanty outfits on a tiered display like a giant wedding cake. Reptilian-looking men in the crowd eye the captive women. One of the brunette women is dragged to the top of the display, and then jumps off and dies, ending the number.

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Jan 142024
 

Dead Ringers (1988), directed by David Cronenberg, starring Jeremy Irons and Genevieve Bujold.

The film is based on a true story of a pair of identical twin gynecologists who died in a murder-suicide. Irons plays both Doctors Beverly and Elliot Mantle, and Bujold plays actress Claire Niveau, who catalyzes their disintegration.

In the story, Beverly does most of the work that makes them wealthy and famous in their field, while Elliot does the glad-handing and schmoozing. Beverly is fascinated by the “trifurcated uterus” of Claire, a troubled actress searching for a cure for her infertility. As they have done before, the confident Elliot seduces Claire and then passes her on to the shy Beverly, who claims to be Elliot. However, Beverly develops deeper feelings for Claire, and that reveals a hairline fracture in the partnership of the Mantle twins.

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Dec 172023
 

A Woman in Flames (Die Flambierte Frau) is a 1983 German film about a woman who leaves her husband to become an escort.

Eva (Gudrun Landgrebe) is a housewife whose husband criticizes and disdains her. When he ignores her at the party she set up, Eva suddenly packs a bag and walks out.

After learning how to be an escort from a friend, Eva hooks up with Chris, a male escort who sees both men and women. He aspires to run a restaurant with an art gallery.

Eva moves in with Chris, and they become like a husband and wife who are both sex workers.

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Nov 152023
 

I Love a Man in Uniform (also released as A Man in Uniform) is a 1993 Canadian psychological drama. IMDB

Henry Adler, a bank clerk and would-be actor, witnesses a police officer be shot. He seems excited by this.

Henry auditions for a secondary role, Officer Flanagan, on a TV cop show, Crimewave. He shows an aggressive and domineering side as he pushes around a female production assistant.

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