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. 

Continue reading »
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
Continue reading »
Apr 012020
 

Tomcats is a 2001 sex comedy. 

Tomcats is a catalog of white heterosexual male anxieties at the turn of the millennium: castration, marriage, children, public humiliation, romantic and sexual rejection, unruly female bodies, being outperformed by women professionally, women turning into lesbians, and women who are too sexual. For the purposes of this project, the relevant scene has the same comedic premise as in Euro Trip: that even the horniest man can be overwhelmed by the most voracious woman.

What lies beneath the meek exterior of librarian Jill (Heather Stephens)?

The premise is that a group of male friends made a bet that whoever is the last unmarried gets all the money in a large mutual fund. Our protagonist, Michael (Jerry O’Connell), tries to impress a woman at a Vegas casino, ends up owing $50,000, and has to get his womanizing single friend, Kyle (Jake Busey) married by the end of the month so he gets the money. 

Michael finds Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), the one who got away for Kyle, who turns out to be a police detective. They set about seducing Kyle, while our protagonist starts falling for the woman. Natalie tells Michael that she’s falling for Kyle, prompting Michael to seduce the first woman he sees, which goes spectacularly awry.

Continue reading »
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. 

Continue reading »
Mar 022020
 

Bound (2015) (not to be confused with Bound (1996), the lesbian-noir thriller directed by the Wachowskis) has an interesting pedigree. It was made by The Asylum, best known as the producers of numerous “mockbusters”, low budget, direct-to-video knock-offs of popular Hollywood films. Usually, these are science fiction, disaster and horror films (e.g. Transmorphers, based on Transformers), but a few belong to other genres. Bound is The Asylum’s take on Fifty Shades of Grey (which, in turn, is a take on the Twilight series of books and films). 

Let’s get one thing clear. Bound is not a great film. The production values are low, the acting isn’t great, entire scenes seem to be missing from the story, and there are more than a few plot holes.

And yet….

It is a better cinematic treatment of a woman’s introduction to BDSM than Fifty Shades of Grey. 

Continue reading »
Nov 192019
 

After Hours (IMDB) is a 1985 comedy directed by Martin Scorsese. This is one of the single-scene works covered in this project.

Paul, a lonely word processor in mid-80s, midtown Manhattan, meets Marcy in a late night cafe. She invites him to visit her downtown in Soho, which leads to a bizarre series of late night encounters.

One of them is with Kiki (Linda Fiorentino), Marcy’s roommate. We’re introduced to Kiki in just a bra and a skirt, spattered with paper mache. She’s a sultry contrast to Marcy, who is blonde and innocent-looking.

Kiki (Lina Fiorentino) and Paul (Griffin Dunne)
Continue reading »
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.

Nov 052019
 

Hardcore (IMDB) is a 1979 crime drama film written and directed by Paul Schrader.

The plot is that Jake (George C. Scott), a mid-Western family man and devout Calvinist, searches through the sex work underground for his daughter after she disappears in Los Angeles, then turns up in a porn film.

Hardcore bears a strong resemblance to 8MM. Both are Orpheus narratives: a man descends into the underworld to find a lost loved one. It also taps into the American captivity narrative. It provides an interesting glimpse into the sex work underworld of Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Again, like 8MM, there’s no particular investigation of the people who work in the sex industry. (Somebody did do enough research to drop names like the Mitchell brothers.)

Continue reading »