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Balkan Erotic Epic: 13m
dir Marina Abramovic
Death Valley: 8m
dir Sam Taylor-Wood
Hoist: 15m • dir Matthew Barney
House Call: 12m • dir Richard Prince
Impaled: 38m • dir Larry Clark
with Daniel, Nancy Vee
Sync: 2m • dir Marco Brambilla
We F**k Alone: 23m
dir Gaspar Noe • with: Katsumi, Manu, Shirin, Richard
release US Jan.06 Sundance,
This feature is made up of seven artistic shorts commissioned to examine the changing attitudes and trends regarding explicitness in cinema.
Abramovic hosts her Balkan Erotic Epic, describing Serbian folk remedies for infertility--either of people or land. It's filmed in a matter-of-fact but artfully symbolic way that's both funny and unsexy, despite the nudity and, ahem, bodily fluids. Surreal and strange, but fascinating.
Taylor-Wood's Death Valley is a single take of a porn star wandering into the desert, where he pleasures himself until the petit mort. It's bracingly simple and yet also strangely lonely and sad, as Taylor-Wood clearly references the Biblical story of Onan.
Barney's Hoist is a surreal, erotic exploration of a huge truck with a naked man, covered in oil and muck, writhing inside the machinery. Shot in extreme close-up, it's often tricky to figure out what we're seeing, But the imagery and sounds eerily capture the sensual symbiosis between man and machinery.
Prince's House Call reworks the standard porn scenario of a large-breasted woman who's, erm, examined by a well-endowed doctor. It looks like 1970s home-movie porn that's been heavily degraded. Much of the imagery seems quaint and silly now, but it's also provocatively explicit, with unsafe sex that's clearly of another time.
Clark's Impaled is an involving doc about the attitudes of young people who have grown up with porn. First we meet a series of young guys auditioning to perform a sex scene. Daniel, age 21, is chosen to then interview a series of porn actresses, selecting 40-year-old Nancy Vee. Along the way they all get naked and talk openly about fantasies and experiences. Explicit but never salacious, this is a provocative observation of society's shifting morality.
Brambilla's Sync is the shortest and most striking film, made up of hundreds of images from mainstream and adult movies, half a second each, assembled into a single sex scene. Besides the technical skill, it's clever for all kinds of reasons, mainly as it expresses both how and why sex is so ubiquitous on film.
And finally, Noe's We F**k Alone centres on two people separately watching a porn video. The girl fantasises about love with her gigantic teddy bear, while the boy plays with an inflatable sex doll, eventually getting frighteningly violent. The pulsing images are a little annoying over 20 minutes, especially when combined with the eerie soundtrack. But Noe sharply catches the isolation and emptiness of these fantasies.
In the end, it's hard to escape the fact that these shorts are essentially obscene. But they're also artful and intriguing, provoking deep feelings and strong reactions. These are examinations of both pleasure and necessity. Clark's piece puts it into perspective, while Brambilla skilfully reminds us how many images of sex we see every day. But essentially the whole thing is arthouse porn.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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