Sister My Sister

In a provincial town in France, 1932, a widow, Madame Danzard (Julie Walters) and her daughter, Isabelle (Sophie Thursfield) live an insular, suffocated life with their maid, Christine Papin (Joely Richardson).

Christine’s younger sister, Lea (Jodhi May), comes to work at the house, which is when the action of the film begins.

Madame Danzard runs her home with an iron fist in a white glove that is run over every surface, in search of any speck of dust. A mere look sends one or other of the maids scrambling to correct the problem in silence.

Silence is the order of the day in the Danzard household.

When not scrubbing, polishing, cooking and serving, the sisters spend their time in their shared room—a request they made—sharing a room and bed. The savings delighted Madame, of course, who is tight as a drum when it comes to money.

And affection—though utterly silent with the maids, she hectors her daughter—never showing a hint of so much as liking the girl. Sometimes emotionally manipulating her for her own amusement—teasing her with a trip to Paris, then, once the girl is excited at the prospect of a trip, rescinding the offer, saying the fashions there wouldn’t suit her daughter. Another time she blows out the girl’s own birthday candle so she can sing along to the opera playing on the radio.

Christine and Lea are happiest being alone together—the elder sister protective of the younger, the younger in wide-eyed awe of the elder.

Their mother, who is never seen, is a wedge between them. Lea is the favourite, as she’s always done as she’s told—turning all of her earnings over to their mother.

The struggle between Christine and their mother to control Lea eventually comes to a head; the girls already close bond becoming even more so in the aftermath.

The Danzard’s rarely have visitors, so it’s chiefly the four women cloistered away in oppressive silence—mother and daughter working on various crafts or playing card games, playing their own mind games with one another; sisters working diligently or spending time in their room, though Christine does make lace and underthings for her sister to wear.

As time carries on, and the sisters’ relationship crosses into darker, illicit territory, they both become more careless in their work. Previously meticulous in every way, they begin missing spots, breaking things and Christine’s typically perfect sewing may (or may not) suffer.

The centre cannot hold, as it were, and, eventually, one mistake too many is made. Madame Danzard does the unthinkable—she insults Lea—and Christine cannot, will not, abide that.

This is yet another service porn film I was greatly enamoured with long before I had ever heard the phrase ‘service-oriented submission’, but I do enjoy watching someone clean properly. I also apparently have an affection for service porn films set in 1932. Go figure.

Speaking of things I’m interested in—there’s a psychological condition called folie a deux, which is when two people who would be law-abiding citizens otherwise become dangerous criminals when together.

You see, the Papin sisters in this film—and the events portrayed—are based on real events. Christine and Lea Papin were real people. There are other films, books and plays based on their case like The Maids, which is based on the Jean Genet play of the same name, La Ceremonie, based on a Ruth Rendell novel called A Judgement in Stone and Les Blessures assassines. The film Sister My Sister is based on a play called ‘My Sister in This House’ by Wendy Kesselman.

There’s an excellent, academic book about them by Rachel Edwards and Keith Reader called The Papin Sisters.

But, you know, I don’t find them interesting or anything.

Folie a deux’s are rather the polar opposite of a healthy power exchange, in that the latter brings out the best in both parties and the former brings out the absolute worst.

Another example of folie a deux on film (based on a real life situation) is Heavenly Creatures, which I recommend highly.

What’s kinky about this film?

Aside from service porn, this will appeal to people interested in sibling incest (as a consensual kink, I hope). If that’s a turn off for you—avoid this one. There’s not a lot of nudity, though there is a little, and not a great deal in the way of sex, but it’s still there. And it’s pretty hot. What can I say—I like my films dark.

Speaking of darkness—the cinematography is outstanding. The palette consists of browns and greys—even when the girls occasionally go outside it seems like it’s always half-way between autumn and winter. (In other words, I love it.)

An interesting note—the maids and the Danzards never speak to one another. They speak amongst themselves, but not across class lines. The film consists of long silences as it is. Like The Piano Teacher, the director allows the actors room to do what they do best.

Also, no men appear on screen—we hear male voices twice, but they aren’t even credited. Not over the end credits nor on IMDb.

The acting is impeccable. Sophie Thursfield is the only person I haven’t seen in anything before or since, but she’s hilarious as the put-upon yet sarcastic daughter.

Everything about the film is pitch perfect.

If you like character-driven, darker dramas, this is a great one for it.

5/5

Gosford Park

[You’re on the correct site—this film is here because it’s Service Porn. I haven’t lost my mind.]

It’s 1932 and roughly 900 British actors descend on a country house out in the …country. (The only British actors not present are Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Judi Dench, but Judi’s daughter attends in her stead. Hugh Laurie and Anna Chancellor are probably filming Fortysomething.)

There’s a shooting party being hosted by William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his much younger wife, Sylvia (Kristen Scott Thomas). We open with the house all a-bustle as people arrive with their various servants, and the servants who live there are preparing everything like mad below-stairs.

Servant-wranglers are Mrs Wilson (Helen Mirren) as the housekeeper and Mrs Croft (Eileen Atkins) as the cook, who hate each other and have done for so long most people can’t recall why. On the male side, we have Jennings (Alan Bates, RIP) as the butler and George (Richard E. Grant) as the first footman. One of the more important characters is a maid named Elsie, played by Emily Watson. (I can’t recall what type of maid she was in particular.)

The first away-servant we meet (as opposed to home-servant) is Mary Maceachran (don’t try to pronounce it) (Kelly MacDonald), who serves Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith). Dame Maggie is a catty, hilarious Oscar nominated glory to behold.

Other away-servants and their owners are Robert Parks (Clive Owen)/Lord Raymond Stockbridge (Charles Dance), Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipe, yes really)/Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban).

Yes, I should have listed owners then their servants, but I’m here for the servant porn and to learn how to serve so that’s who I’m paying attention to. Well-trained servants will always get my attention before the people they serve. Ironically, since servants are supposed to blend into the background.

There are many other home-servants bustling about, doing what needs to be done, but seamlessly.

There are also guests who didn’t bring servants with them, who must be attended to by the home-servants.

(If you’re curious about the Harry Potter connections, check the end of the review.)

I told you half of Britain was in this. The principle actors liked the script so much they opted not to be paid so it could be made.

Some of the downstairs staff having a whale of a time. (source)

Morris Weissman is a film producer visiting all the way from Hollywood, doing research for a Charlie Chan murder mystery involving a large number of English people in a country house and their servants. He’s been allowed along on this shooting party by accompanying a famous film star Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam).

Norvello was an actual star, but the events of the film never happened.

Old William McCordle is rather an arse and is known for being handsy with the servants.

He gets himself killed. Twice. Poisoned then stabbed, approximately two-thirds of the way through the film. He’s one of those types. Several people had motive. Half of the film is trying to keep up with the gossip flying around.

Then Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) and his much more capable assistant, Constable Dexter (Ron Webster) arrive to solve the case. (Is that a nod to the author of the Inspector Morse novels, Colin Dexter? Probably. Julian Fellows pre-Downton Abbey wrote the script.)

Aside from ol’ Misogyny McCordle and his couldn’t-happen-to-a-nicer-guy death, there is the sort of drama you’d expect from English films or books of a certain time. So-and-so’s father won’t agree to a marriage because whomever doesn’t have good enough prospects and that guy over there is going to cut back great aunt Constance’s allowance and whatEVER am I going to do with this rambling old house out in the country?

Oh, yes, and she is just so GAUCHE wearing that colour at this time of year, but I suppose some people don’t know any better.

Pictured: Britain. (source)

You know. The sort of film that will bore some people straight to tears. I get it. White people. It’s a very white film. And not just because everyone in it is white (which they are), but because we’re talking rich white people in England in 1932 and their servants. Just… You really don’t get whiter than that.

It’s a baffling sort of film for some Americans.

Some people though (ahem, me) find it hysterical. It’s like if Merchant Ivory hired a comedy writer. There’s also some pretty serious drama going on, as well. And there’s time enough for both—the film is a little over two hours long. If you enjoy this sort of film it doesn’t feel that long.

If you don’t, it will seem like nothing happens and it’s just a bunch of spoiled people talking. A lot.

Watching it in the cinema when it first came out, the people behind me just didn’t get it. They couldn’t understand the accents…they didn’t laugh once… I don’t know what they thought they were going to see, but they were let down.

If you’re looking for examples of impeccable service—this is a good one. Besides simply watching people provide service—some things are blatantly explained when a person new to service makes a mistake. For example, below-stairs when the staff eat together, the staff sit according to the rank of the people they serve. The higher the rank of your ‘owner’ the higher up the table you sit.

As mentioned in another post, I saw this long before I worked out that I was service-oriented or that Victorian power exchange was my Victrola-powered jam, and even then I wanted Helen Mirren’s housekeeper dress and envied the hell out of Mary’s job as Countess Trentham’s maid. Most people would probably want to be the Countess. It should have been a clue for me, but nope.

If you’re into Downton Abbey or British period drama/comedy: 5/5
If you’re not and don’t care about service, either: DON’T
If you’re interested in service but think White people are boring, it’s pretty valuable and service is happening constantly: 4/5

Book porn. (source)

As promised: The Harry Potter Connection

Maggie Smith: Professor McGonagall
Michael Gambon: Dumbledore mach 2 (i.e. GOBLET OF FIAH Dumbledore)
Geraldine Somerville: Harry’s Mother.
Sophie Thompson: Mafalda Hopkirk
John Atterbury: Phineas Nigellus Black

Stephen Fry (Read all of the audio books for the British version—Rowling trolled him and for good reason.)

[Considering how large the Gosford cast was and how massive the HP cast was, it’s a feat there wasn’t more overlap, really.]

Billions (Season One)

U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) has the hate horn on for hedge fund genius Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis).

Rhoades knows Axelrod has built his fortune from nothing using less-than-honest means—primarily insider trading—and it’s his job to prosecute people who break the law on behalf of the American people.

But this instance is personal. Rhoades really wants to take Axe down.

His desire is so strong he’s willing to do things that are beyond certain lines.

Axelrod is a popular figure in New York, though. He was the sole survivor from his firm after 9/11 and made it his goal to take care of the families of his late colleagues. Coming from a blue-collar background, he is a completely self-made billionaire who’s given hundreds of millions to the fire department, as well as doing other good works.

If Rhoades is going to take him down, his case has to be air-tight.

And he wants to take him down forever.

A potential difficulty is that Rhoades’ wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), works for Axe—she’s a therapist to his many traders. (People who handle that much money are under a great deal of stress and need a therapist close to hand.)

Wendy Rhoades has been with Axe since the beginning—they’re more than colleagues—they’re friends.

The relationship is strictly platonic, though, as Axelrod is madly in love with his wife, Lara (Malin Akerman), a woman with a similar hard scrabble background and the mother of his two children. She is not a woman to be fucked with. If someone messes with her husband she will Lady Macbeth them. Except she’ll actually do something to them, rather than puss out.

Due to his wife’s position at Axe’s firm, Rhoades’ Chief Assistant Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) and the ultra-capable Assistant DA Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad) urge him to recuse himself.

Also advising him at every turn is his highly-connected father, Chuck Rhoades Sr (Jeffery DeMunn). Chuck the Elder constantly offers advice and guidance whether it is requested or appreciated—the viewer gets the impression Chuck the Younger isn’t living up to his father’s expectations in one way or another no matter what he does.

That said, Chuck Jr has no scruples about asking his father for a favour when it suits his purposes—if you want clear cut good guys and bad guys go read a fairy tale. This show is not for you.

Over in the Axe camp there’s Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner, played by the hilarious David Costabile as well as the shadowy Hall (just… ‘Hall’) played perfectly by Terry Kinney. He’s a sort of sinister adviser on what Axe needs to do in any scenario in order to avoid jail time or prosecution. He procures spies and offers various options in a straightforward way.

There’s also a variety of traders, each with their own personality quirks and foibles. And nicknames. Pouch is called Pouch because he has no balls. His ballsac is empty. It’s a pouch. Like that.

A scene involving Axe and a trader called ‘Dollarbill’ Stearn later in the season was what my husband called the ‘funniest scene in a dramatic series ever’. It was pretty fucking funny.

Then there are the cameos. Penn Jillette makes an appearance, as does Metallica (?!)

While I’m sort of on the topic of music—this is the first show I’ve seen that has a dubstep soundtrack (it’s by Eskmo and it really works).

When a show opens like this you know it’s going to be good. Or someone’s been kidnapped. (source)

The reason I’m reviewing the show on this site is because the Rhoades are into kinky sex—Chuck is sexually submissive. The opening scene is Chuck tied up on the floor and Wendy putting a cigarette out on him then easing the burn by… well. He’s very into it.

The kink doesn’t feature heavily, but it’s accurate, thanks to a company called Kink on Set. In a later episode, Chuck goes to see a Mistress he refers to as ‘Troy’ which is a head nod to the woman who runs Kink on Set, Olivia Troy. (I learned about the show through an article about the company on Vice.)

It’s so nice to see accurate kink in the media. I wished there was more of it in the show. What is there is mostly implied.

Still, the show itself is compelling enough I’m looking forward to the next season starting in February.

If you’re only looking for the kink, there probably isn’t enough to make it worth your while. If you enjoy shows with morally-ambiguous characters who aren’t necessarily likeable or easy to root for then I highly recommend this one.

Because the characters are insanely wealthy there are a great deal of very nice material possessions on display including helicopters and sweet-ass cars. I’d hate to think what the production budget is like but it’s fun to look at.

5/5

Billions airs on Showtime in the States and the rights are owned by Sky in the U.K.

Bibliotheque Pascal

A film poster like this does not scream ‘darkness this way lies!’ (source)

Mona (Orsolya Torok-Illyes) arrives at a bleak social services office, where a man informs her that a report has been made concerning a child of three years of age. The child was in the care of the child’s aunt and she was made to perform for money and has also drunk brandy to make her sleep.

The social services officer understands Mona would like to resume custody of her child, but in order to do so she must explain why she left Hungary for England and what she did there. This story requires her to go back to prior to her daughter’s birth, even.

Flashback to a street party—the colours are vibrant, unlike the social services office. Some very sexy music and Mona dancing turns into a fight due to double standards. (One man fights another because man one is allowed to kiss any woman he wants but Mona isn’t allowed to dance with another man. Like I said, double standards.)

Sick of that nonsense, our lady goes to the sea and straight into a Fellini homage. There are a couple impressive dolly shots.

The sea is also where she meets Viorel (Andi Vasluianu). The third helpless man she’s met within the first ten minutes of this film.

Turns out, Viorel the Helpless is on the run from the cops for beating up a gay guy. Viorel can eat a dump. But, he has a gun, so she can’t get away from him. Personally, I think she could wrench it from his wimpy wrist, but that’s just me.

He falls asleep and she considers stealing the gun and escaping, but he has a dream about her that she can see. It gets rather Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I didn’t know if she was hallucinating or what but it turns out Viorel the Helpless Asshole can project his dreams onto other people. This endears her to him long enough to… well… now we know where the kid came from.

Cut to Mona doing a delightful puppet show at another street fair and the girl is now three or so. It’s an inventive way of getting a character’s back story without having one character state their story to another in dry exposition.

Mona’s father (Razvan Vasilescu) arrives on the scene behaving like the cover model for Skeeve Monthly and convinces her to accompany him to Germany for a ‘doctor’s appointment’.

Sigh.

She’s sold into human trafficking and sent to England, where she is purchased by Pascal (Shamgar Amram), the eccentric owner of an underground cabaret/sideshow which is where the title of the film comes from.

The man who purchases her is the first male who seems to have his act together…which could have been more unsettling than the previous set of idiots out there. He’s still gross as hell—he’s just more organised about it.

Bibliotheque Pascal is, literally, a library—there are bookshelves between leather platform/beds where couples of any mix are doing their thing.

It’s the most stylish, artistic bordello you’ve ever heard of. Where very rich English people partake in very specific fetishes involving literary characters like Joan of Arc (from Saint Joan), Lolita, Pinocchio, Desdemona and others.

Aaaaaand there’re a couple rapes. I mean, of course. She was forced into prostitution so she’s not going to jump for joy, but I’m so tired of the use of rape as plot point. Neither are graphic or brutal, as film rapes go, but they are there. She also makes it clear she doesn’t want to be kissed and someone kisses her anyway. It doesn’t go well for them. So there’s that. But consent, people.

The ‘Lolita’ set in the bordello. I don’t remember the dildo in the novel… (source)

This film was far darker than I thought it was going to be. I said ‘what the fuck’ under my breath on more than one occasion and one ‘what the ever-loving hell?’ It was also heavy on the magical realism or another way to look at it would be a fairytale for adults.

The projection of the dreams reminded me of lucid dreaming a bit, which isn’t something that comes up in films, so that was different.

It had a jazzy, upbeat soundtrack during transitions, which provided an interesting contrast to the dark oddness off the film. I often found myself bopping in my seat.

Bibliotheque Pascal was visually compelling. The story was unpredictable and the acting was quite good. Mona was a particular stand out.

The end of this one… There was an ending then there’s an extra scene that just made me confused. I said, ‘Well what is that supposed to mean?’ at my screen.

3/5 While I enjoyed this one, there are other films that cover the same ground better (apologies for the vagueness—I can’t say more without spoiling the entire film). If you’re into the kinks portrayed I would recommend it. I’m glad I watched it but I probably wouldn’t watch it again. Not out of distaste—just out of meh.

What’s kinky about this film: Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, Latex (full-body suit x 3), one of those vacuum suck bed deals. There’s forced head-shaving, but you don’t see it happen. The actresses head was actually shaved, though. Respect to her for that commitment.

Romance 1999

This is the happiest anyone looks in the entire film. (source)

A couple who’ve been together a few months are having difficulties because the man—Paul (Sagamore Stevenin) is no longer interested in sex. He doesn’t think it’s important. Marie (Caroline Ducey) heartily disagrees. She wants to be with him every night.

He gives her tacit permission to have an affair—or at least wouldn’t be bothered if she did (they are French, after all)—but she hasn’t.

In bed that evening she attempts to fellate him after he clearly says no (this is obviously unsimulated) and they discuss his decision to not engage in sexual intercourse.

His motives are unclear, but they don’t need to be articulated. I wanted to say to Marie that no is a complete sentence. It was interesting to see a man being the one refusing sexual advances and the woman trying to coerce and guilt their way into sex.

I also wanted the woman to get her hair out of her face. It seemed permanently rumpled.

Unable to get what she wanted, Marie went to a bar and picked up a stranger for anonymous make outs. She likes controlling men. I chose this film for the unsimulated sex, but it would also appeal to men who like women who control their pleasure.

There’s lots of tortured French angst and whispered conversation. Marie cries frequently. Or I should say tears roll down her pale face. There’s no sobbing or expression of sadness. I’m going to call that French weeping from now on.

Both of the leads only wear beige and white, and his very nice apartment is done in the same muted tones. Subtle metaphor for their tepid sex life, there.

She meets up with the guy from the bar and, after putting a condom on his, not unimpressive cock, they have sex (most likely simulated, but for a realistic length of time). And we learn she’s into objectification, though she doesn’t call it that.

Then she winds up having a conversation with someone who is either her colleague or boss—it’s unclear. Either way, his name is Robert (Francois Berleand).

And he is the human equivalent of black mould.

‘The only way to be loved by women is via rape.’

Fuck you, you fucking fuck.

I mean, no one in this is particularly likable, but shit.

There’s a scene with this person that made me want to drag both parties to an educational on enthusiastic consent. After punching him in the face with a billy club. I haven’t so disliked a male character since the Tom Cruise character in Magnolia.

Finally, some sort of consent is requested and granted and they engage in a kinky scene.

Aaaaand there’s a rape scene (not with the colleague/boss). Not consent violation, but what would be called rape by even a vanilla person. Trigger warning there. Around the hour six minute mark. It’s over pretty quickly, but what is the message? ‘This woman has lots of sex so she deserved to be raped?’

Immediately after, though, as the guy is running away she screams:

I’m not ashamed, you asshole!

Which was weirdly empowering.

Still, I am so over rape-as-plot-device the light from it won’t reach me for a thousand years.

This film has some janky-ass shibari. I wanted to fix it—it’s not difficult to do some really simple ties.

Their lives continue on in French angsty whispers and philosophies about men and women and their ultimate incompatibility and sex and blah.

And there are shots of a live birth. Because why not.

Classic French ending of where is this going? Oh right, sure. The credits. There was a kind of sense of closure but it seemed a bit extreme.

She turned the gas on and left the apartment so it exploded, killing both him and his cat. You can just break up with the guy. Not having sex with you hardly warrants murder.

It was something else, I’ll say that. The unsimulated sex was interesting to see as part of a mainstream film.

There were a few conversations about oral sex (female on male) where it was clear it was not a popular act—Marie said she didn’t do it (with the stranger) then with her boyfriend she said she liked the smell of his dick and he called her disgusting. Fellatio with him included just the head. It reminded me of a show from the late 90s called Taxicab Confessions, I think, where cab drivers in New York talked to people in their cabs. One conversation I still recall was between a driver and two French guys who said they liked American girls because French girls didn’t do blow jobs. ‘Maybe if you got them really, really hot they would suck your dick.’ But American girls just did them anyway.

So now I’m curious if that’s changed or if it’s still true.

Aside from the actual sex and the kink it’s a pretty typical, French film about feelings and relationships where you don’t particularly like any of the characters but you want to know how they’re going to make themselves more miserable next.

3/5

Kelly and Victor

The titular Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Victor (Julian Morris) meet at a club on his 28th birthday. After which they go back to her place and snort something called meow meow then have unprotected sex where it becomes apparent she’s something of a sadist, strangling him (with no negotiation and what appears to be without his consent).

Kelly’s dominatrix friend, Victoria (Claire Keelan) offers her cash to watch her with a client. I wonder how many times this trope has appeared in film/television. (I could not find this trope listed on TV Tropes, but it must be there! Will search further. For science.)

Meanwhile, a couple of Victor’s hopeless and hapless friends are on their way to try to start their drug-dealing business. ‘Hopeless’ is the key word. You know it’s going to go terribly.

Then it’s time for The Vanilla Watches the Dominatrix with her Client. Parts of this are interspersed with Victor thinking about his time with Kelly—she’s very much into breath-play.

Aside from the kinky aspect, it’s one of those films where, within days of meeting, at least one person says they would do anything for the other person. Perhaps I’m not romantic, but this will always make me roll my eyes. After two days this new person could be a serial killer and you wouldn’t know. Hell, she could be the sort of person who’d clean out your bank account the second she had a chance.

Isn’t there some saying about not sticking your dick in crazy? Or about how crazy chicks are always good in bed?

Is it: I try not to stick my dick in crazy, but crazy chicks are just so good in bed?

Whatever it is, it’s like this film was trying to be an extended metaphor for it. I expected one of Victor’s friends to show up at the end and tell his kids what happened to ‘Uncle Victor’ like some warped version of How I Met Your Mother.

There’s some very unconsensual cutting with a piece of glass—where he’s actually saying he doesn’t like something and she does it anyway. It doesn’t show blood or her doing it—just his reaction—but that was intense and especially horrible.

Then another trope happens later that’s a big eyeroll, but I can’t say what it is without spoiling anything. Kelly’s into kink due to an abusive ex. Can you hear my sigh from where you are? Trying going outside and waiting for the wind to shift direction.

She's cute as a button, but you can choke to death on a button, too. (source)

She’s cute as a button, but you can choke to death on a button, too. (source)

They eventually sort out a non-verbal safe signal, but, by the time they got to that part Bean collapsed over and said, ‘Do any movies get kink right?!’

When your vanilla friend is exasperated by this sort of thing it’s time to call everyone and say, ‘Hey, folks… No. Even the aware vanillas are fed up.’

It’s based on a novel of the same name by Niall Griffiths, which has me somewhat intrigued, but also not. I have a feeling the appeal lies mostly in the scenery and the performances, which were quite good.

Kelly and her dominatrix friend had an interesting conversation about why she did what she did for work. She seemed far more knowledgeable about human nature than Kelly, who thought the man who was paying them was weird.

But unconsensually strangling and cutting people during sex without so much as a, ‘Hey? Know what I think is fun?’ is normal?!

There are many scenes of the countryside, which is stunning. IMDB says it was filmed in Liverpool, but it also says it’s an Ireland and U.K. production, and the countryside looks quite Irish to me, so take that as you will.

The acting is top-rate, as is the cinematography; my only complaint is the lack of accurate BDSM, but that’s sort of a given in films, as I’ve discussed on the show.

Overall, I’d recommend this one if you’re into relationship films that aren’t the typical light-hearted fare. 4/5

Taxidermia

Morosgovanyi (Csaba Czene) is an orderly to an exceedingly harsh lieutenant in the Hungarian military during the Second World War. Life is brutal so he spends time exploring his perversions (including sticking something flammable in his urethra) and fantasies (like getting a handjob from the Little Match Girl).

One of these fantasies—which turns into one of the more, shall we say, visceral scenes—has rather dire consequences.

But it leads to the second section of the film.

Around two decades or so later (no years are provided, but it’s the height of the Soviet era) the product of Morosgovanyi’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad decision, Kalman (Gergely Trocsanyi), is a champion speed-eater. His close friend is a top athlete as well and they are in competition for the affection of the same woman—the female champion speed-eater, Gizi (Adel Stanczel). Ah, love.

I won’t tell you who gets the girl, but a child is eventually born and that brings us to the final section of the film.

Which seems to be present day. Giving the audience dates is so over, apparently.

The child of the union, Lajoska (Marc Bishoff) is grown. Unlike his parents the speed-eaters, he’s pale and painfully thin. He’s also a taxidermist—every space in his workshop covered with evidence of his trade. He even carries a change purse made of something that used to be alive and appears to still have tiny feet attached. He is exceedingly awkward when talking to women.

Lajoska is the sort of person where, if he was discovered to be a serial killer, no one would be surprised.

He looks after his father, who is now so gargantuan he can’t stand up and who keeps three show cats behind a locked gate, as they are only fed butter and are starving for meat.

After a client comes into his workshop asking for a mount of something unusual, Lajoska changes. He fights with his father with tragic consequences, which has a knock on effect, leading to one hell of an ending.

I owe the Wikipedia article (spoilers ahoy there) much gratitude for helping me understand this film—apparently it’s a ‘metaphorical retelling of Hungary’s history from the Second World War to the present day.’

In which case—Christ, Hungary.

Technically and artistically it’s excellent. Writing, acting, directing, all outstanding. The visual and practical effects were great.

It’s difficult to categorise this one. It’s comedy, drama and horror. Specifically body horror. So, you know. Be aware.

If you liked/could stomach The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, then I would definitely recommend this one. I really enjoyed it, but it’s certainly not for everyone. And it was easier to follow than pretty much any Peter Greenaway film.

I want to show it to everyone who could take it right now. That’s how much I liked it. But:

This film is NOT for vegans or vegetarians. I really cannot stress that enough. I’m pretty sure that was a for real pig slaughter in the first section. In the third segment there is a fairly protracted sequence of up close taxidermy on what is probably a pig. And I mean Up. Close.

Also not for people who just can’t deal with viscera.

Also… I think Morosgovanyi is having sex with the slaughtered pig? It’s hard to say with him. Pretty sure he is, though.

Warning for people who are emetophobic. Don’t. The entire middle section of this film would need to be avoided. It’s clearly a visual effect, but that won’t matter if it’s an actual phobia for you.

There’s a scene where Morosgovanyi has a little girl (8 or 9 years old) put her hand in his jacket/trousers in his fantasy.

Why is this kinky? Morosgovanyi is a voyeur who likes playing with fire (touching it to his skin/mouth/dick). He also likes putting his dick in icy water. He jerks it a lot. That’s not kinky. He just does.

There’s what looks like actual sex during one scene, but it all goes to hell pretty quickly so it’s not hot. Well, it’s probably hot to someone. Everything’s hot to someone.

If you’ve seen this, please let me know. I would love to hear other opinions/comments. But, for god’s sake, don’t watch it if it will be traumatising.

5/5 Must-watch if you’re up for it.

0/5 STAY AWAAAAAY if any of the warnings above apply.

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen) is a successful fashion designer. She’s also rather self-absorbed and doesn’t appear to leave her house—the world comes to her.

She loves a wig and extravagant outfits even though she doesn’t go out. (This isn’t due to agoraphobia—it’s more down to the film being based on a play.)

Her assistant, Marlene (Irm Hermann) does everything she asks. She’s a sort of secretary, maid and co-designer. Petra thinks of her as a servant and ignores her for the most part while expecting her will to be carried out posthaste.

Marlene is rather a modern day Mrs Danvers (well, more modern—this was made in 1972). You know, a female servant obviously in love with her boss. Service-oriented submissives will identify with this character.

This is Marlene. She's the best. (source)

This is Marlene. She’s the best. (source)

In the first act Petra has a guest stop by, her cousin Sidonie (Katrin Schaake), and they have a long, philosophical conversation about marriage and relationships between men and women. Then Sidonie says she invited over a woman she recently met who was planning on resettling in Germany. The woman had been in Australia.

And instantly she’s there. Her name is Karin (Hanna Schygulla) and Petra is instantly taken with her the way impetuous, melodramatic people you want to run the hell away from are. She invites her back to her place again later where there’s more long conversation about life and relationships between men and women.

This is not a film for people who enjoy explosions or boobs. Or exploding boobs.

Right away (and to Marlene’s consternation) and the two women are living together—the younger one is beginning to model for older one. As is required for good drama, one person is more enamoured than the other, and because this is a German film, this means the melodrama is whacked right up to ten by the end of the scene.

Act three and the teeth gnashing and breast beating has reached peak levels. It’s this act that the film’s basis as a play is most obvious. Not in a bad way—but both the play and film were written by (and then the film was directed by) Rainer Werner Fassbinder so it’s pretty close to a straight translation from stage to screen.

It’s in the staging.

Staging like this, for example. (source)

Staging like this, for example. (source)

Unlike many European films, perhaps because this is based on a play, this film has an ending—it sort of has two endings. One for the typical audience and one for the service-subs that—made me clap my hands with glee. It was a wink and a nod to us.

After Petra has a break-through about what a jackass she is through the events of the entire films, she decides to apologise to Marlene and treat her as an equal and friend. Well. Marlene is having none of that. She immediately packs her things and leaves. And that’s the end of the film.

It’s the sort of thing that if I’d seen the movie before I knew what service was I would have understood her response exactly, but not why.

Oh yes, and Marlene doesn’t say one word the entire film. She just does as she’s told.

General notes: Well, it’s Fassbinder. So you know you’re going to get something memorable. And…kinda weird at times.

The costumes alone are something to behold. In a way, the sets and clothes are almost timeless in a couture sort of way. Other than the shag carpet, that is.

Music is used specifically. As in—the only time there is music is when Petra puts on a record.

Kink-wise, the characters talk about power-dynamics a lot and several characters are in constant power-battles with one another. One character, when her masochistic desires are denied, decides to leave.

This is a very intellectual, melodramatic film. There is no nudity or sex—just one passionless kiss—and no physical kink, just mental domination and submission.

I’d watch it again, though, as I loved Marlene and understood her. I’ve already got some Marlene fanfic going in my head.

This one isn’t easy to rate—you’d either love it or hate it.

Maitresse (1975)

Olivier (Gerard Depardieu) has just moved to Paris, and he doesn’t have a place to stay. He asks an acquaintance in the city, Mario (Andre Rouyer), who has recently begun earning his living honestly if he may stay with him, as he doesn’t start work until September (we aren’t told what month it presently is).

His friend’s new, honest living is selling books door-to-door. Olivier helps him on his route during the day but they have no luck until he blags his way into a woman’s place who’s tub is overflowing. She’ll buy all their books if they can stop it. That done, they say to warn her downstairs neighbour and are informed she’s away on the Riviera, but the woman, Ariana (Bulle Ogier) will write a letter to let her know.

Not entirely reformed, Mario breaks into the downstairs apartment, dragging a reluctant Olivier along. They find an impressive array of fetish attire for a variety of scenes. Different areas of the flat are dressed for different types of play. When Olivier stumbles across a man in a dog cage he is startled and hurries his friend to leave but the exit is blocked by a barking Doberman. Stairs descend from the ceiling and spiked-heeled leather boots make their way down, followed by leather-clad legs, eventually revealing the woman they’d helped earlier.

She calms the dogs, the door buzzer goes and she handcuffs the men to one another and the radiator before letting in another man and leading him into an adjoining room.

Then we have the popular trope of paying a vanilla to watch/participate in a scene led by a dominatrix.

Seventeen minutes into the film and we have non-simulated boot worship, a swipe of a riding crop and piss drinking (just off screen).

The client leaves and Olivier asks Ariana to dinner. Thus begins their relationship. I don’t know what that’s called. Meet kinky?

Though the NRE (new relationship energy) is strong for both of them from day one, he is jealous of her clients and doesn’t understand what she gets out of what she does or what her clients want if it isn’t sex.

Then there is the mysterious Monsieur Gautier who may or may not be a danger to one or both of them. Ariana won’t give Olivier a straight answer about who he is—she finds personal questions very boring. Her oh-so-French reply at one point is:

I either lie or I don’t reply.

Meanwhile, Americans would punch you or tell you to mind your own damn business and the English laugh uncomfortably and run away.

There’s an implied rape-about-to-happen at one point, so that was charming. Then everything carried on as it had been. I suppose that’s realistic. Certain people think it’s their right to behave a certain way and because—to their minds—they’ve done nothing wrong—they go on as though nothing has happened.

The ending was typically European in that it just…ended, though in this case there was some form of closure so it won’t tick off American audiences as much as many films from Europe that often seem to end because they ran out of funding to film the end.

We do find out who Monsieur Gautier is, thanks to Olivier’s massive man-ego. So that was useful for the plot. Cheers, you idiot.

You know when you go on a second date & she says, I have to drop in at work and you say, 'Maaan.' And she says, 'Help me out?' And you say, 'Weeell...' (source)

You know when you go on a second date & she says, ‘I have to drop in at work’ and you say, ‘Maaan.’ And she says, ‘Help me out?’ And you say, ‘Weeell…’ (source)

The costumes were by Karl Lagerfeld, so that was interesting for a start.

For a film that has the plot of a bad porn, it was written, directed and acted extremely well. Even the dog is an excellent actor. Comedy, drama. He had a range. I’m not kidding.

Speaking of animals, though, there is a for-real horse slaughter near the end. It has nothing to do with any kink scene—Olivier seeks it out to watch after a night of heavy drinking. What the fuck, Europe. That’s not okay. If you want to avoid that bit—when they walk the horse in (it’ll be obvious what’s about to happen), close your eyes until you hear people talking in normal voices about steak. It’s over pretty quickly, but it’s fairly gruesome and I’m not sure what the point was, exactly.

Much of the kink on display was authentic—one particular man appeared in several scenes in a gimp mask and gleefully suffered a variety of torments. These were dealt out to him by our ‘Mistress’ filmed from the back, but I’m guessing it was a professional, as I somehow doubt they allowed an amateur to nail a man’s penis to a board. Among other things.

There was also a pretty great (for a mainstream film) spanking scene that involved a young woman tied on all fours over a chair. All of her charms, as the Victorians would say, were on display. Olivier spanked her with a belt and teased her labia with the end of the belt. It got a little porny sometimes.

Speaking of, there was a decent number and array of kink scenes and the story surrounding them was engaging enough so even if you’re watching it for the BDSM alone it’s worth watching the entire thing.

4/5 for the horse-thing and the rape, which didn’t need to happen.

The Night Porter (1974)

There are films that exist outside of themselves—by that I mean—it’s impossible for the viewer to completely suspend disbelief, as they are regularly brought to the present by the question, ‘How did this get made? What were the circumstances that allowed this to happen?’

Caligula falls into this category. The Night Porter isn’t nearly as overblown and utterly baffling as that and I would argue this had more going for it—it certainly had more artistic merit, if less Helen Mirren being done doggy-style.

But there comes a moment when a viewer wonders, ‘How on God’s green Earth did Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte-Fucking-Rampling wind up in an Italian-made Nazisploitation film with sadomasochistic themes?’

I mean… How?

At first I thought it must have been based on a novel—there must have been some literary foundation that had gone sideways in the interpretation, but nope.

So…money? Boredom? Blackmail? I don’t know. I have no answers.

Mystification aside… I quite enjoyed it. You couldn’t pay me to watch Caligula again (I’ve seen the uncut version twice and I’m set for life, cheers) but I’d watch this one again easily.

This happens, for one. (source)

This happens, for one. (source)

In the opening Max (Dirk Bogarde), a porter in an upscale hotel in 1957 Vienna sees to the Countess, who says she’s cold and requires assistance. Max fetches a young man and we’re treated to a casual shot of uncircumcised penis. Well, hello, European film-makers.

That same evening several fancy people come in, dressed in finery—one of whom is the young and lovely Lucia (Rampling). Both are startled by the other’s presence. Before either can speak, however, she is swept along with her well-dressed friends and upstairs to their rooms.

Max thinks back to how he knew her—they had been on opposite sides of the War. He had been a low-level Nazi officer when she was brought in to be processed. He had filmed her and found her particularly captivating. His interest in her is what saved her life, as they had a…unique relationship that involved sadomasochism, Daddy/girl undertones and a Marlene Dietrich song.

A man with the most magnificent monocle you could ever hope to see comes in—Max addresses him as Herr Professor—and it becomes clear they’re preparing for a trial. There’s discussion of what evidence of Max’s involvement in the War exists and who has it. He had posed as a doctor but none of his ‘patients’ had survived. Except one. A young woman.

Efforts are undertaken to find her. Max says he has no idea who or where she is. Though he eventually confronts her to find out if she’s returned to turn him into the police and their relationship picks up where it left off and continues to grow weirder. Because now several former Nazis want her dead. But Papa Bear Daddy Nazi isn’t having his ‘little girl’ taken away.

The story is told in flashbacks from both Max and Lucia’s points of view during the War interspersed with present-day Vienna where Max’s cohorts are looking for the woman they believe can destroy them.

It was fitting that I watched this after reading about Playing with Taboo. I went into this film with no idea what I was in for, but there was a scene with a dozen or more Nazis in their impeccable uniforms and jackboots, sitting casually around inside an empty swimming pool, watching a male ballet dancer (Amedeo Amodio). Suddenly the idea of a scene of someone having to dance for Nazis or pay the price came to me.

You can watch the ballet scene here--it's also the source for the image.

You can watch the ballet scene here–it’s also the source for the image.

The film is surprising (to an American viewer) in its casual attitude towards… well, many things—including male rape. Which at one point is happening off to the side as a way to set atmosphere for something else that is going to happen. Europe!

The dubbing is slightly off around half the time, as though the actors had to re-dub their lines. Otherwise, aesthetically, it was beautifully shot and acted. Amodio looked rather remarkably like Tom Hiddleston.

I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen…ever. And I cared about the happiness of a Nazi, so that was a first. It was perhaps the most twisted love story I’ve seen on film or even read.

There’s also a scene of Charlotte Rampling singing a Dietrich song for a bunch of Nazis whilst wearing over-the-elbow leather gloves, a Nazi peaked hat and pin-striped trousers held up by suspenders. And that’s it.

This one has sadomasochism, Daddy/girl themes, a little sploshing, and light bondage involving chains. For a film with Nazis in it there’s no violence (outside of the male rape, which the victim participated in to save his life.)

If you’re into those things it’s a must-see. 4/5

Of Freaks and Men

None of the posters for this film do it justice. (source)

None of the posters for this film do it justice. (source)

Prologue

In a segment that is silent and black and white, we are shown three different, brief scenes, with titles between them explaining what’s happening a la the early days of cinema.

First is Johann who enters a Russian town through immigration control.

Then Dr Stasov, who adopts Siamese infants. Two boys of Asian extraction attached by what appears to be a thick web of skin at the hip—and perhaps the bone but no organs.

And finally, Engineer Radlov and his wife have their five year old daughter, Leeza, photographed, using a head stabilizer to hold her in place for the length of time it takes to expose the film.

Present

Time has moved forward by many years and now everything is sepia toned. Engineer Radlov’s wife has died and Leeza is now a young woman. Johann comes by the house—he owns the studio that took the photo of Leeza. He has stopped by to see Grunya—the Radlov’s maid.

She has not told the family they are related, though.

Johann has a studio where they take photos of an adult nature. Bare bottoms and birching and whatnot. The costumes and settings are perfect if you’ve seen photos of that type from that period.

Johann has a henchman/assistant named Viktor Ivanovich. He is bald and wears a derby and has the perfect teeth for a henchman.

Viktor Ivanovich comes by the doctor’s house (the one who adopted the twins) to deliver some of the scandalous photos to the maid. So all of the three stories from the Prologue are connected.

We learn Yekaterina, the doctor’s wife, is blind, as we see her playing the piano and teaching the twins to sing.

Later Viktor Ivanovich is in the street—he calls to Leeza—and sells some of the photographs to her, as well. It’s obvious this has been pre-arranged. That it’s women buying photos of other women being birched is an interesting departure from what is usually portrayed in the media.

We follow the various characters on their journeys as they intertwine.

Viktor sees the twins one day and becomes fascinated by them. He goes to the doctor’s house to see them again and has an… interesting encounter with the doctor’s wife. Accidentally introducing her to her masochistic side, which is explored in greater depth later.

This relationship gives him access to the twins, which is it’s own bizarre situation.

When the film begins, photography is somewhat common. During the course of events, moving pictures come into vogue and Johann invests in a camera for his photographer, Putilov.

Because as soon as cinema is invented, porn was sure to follow. BDSM porn, no less.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

Just kidding. This is a Russian film, after all.

I love this boat. The guy steering in back gets a face full of smoke regularly, though. (source)

I love this boat. The guy steering in back gets a face full of smoke regularly, though. (source)

Overall Thoughts

It was very Russian in atmosphere—just the quirkiness of it. And not in a ‘look at us, being so whimsical!’ sort of way, either. It reminded me of A Young Doctor’s Notebook in terms of the ability to capture the Russian weirdness on film. (That one isn’t kinky, but I highly recommend it. It’s based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s writings.)

I found myself hoping to find trivia about the film online. It was such a wonderfully odd little piece I wanted to know more about it. Alas, bupkis.

There was much more going on than I lay out in the plot description—the movie is also reminiscent of early films in that the scenes are quite short so a lot happens quickly. But I didn’t want to give away everything. Like Russian literature, there is a healthy number of characters and everyone has their own story.

I really enjoyed Of Freaks and Men, but I can see how a person could get to the end and not appreciate it. It is it’s own little bit of strangeness populated with special people.

The only criticism I have is that the ‘twins’ (played by two not-twins) seemed rather young for one of the scenes. I couldn’t find their ages and I’m sure they were legal, but there was one bit that made me a little uncomfortable.

Then again, they could also be the sort of people who look very young but are actually twenty. It’s only one moment so if you watch it and get to that part don’t worry, it’s not going to progress to something more adult later.

Overall, I’d give this 4/5.

Justine or Deadly Sanctuary

I’ve been avoiding writing this review for weeks. So I’m just going to do it. I have vertigo right now so feel a little drunk and that’s perfect for reasons that will become apparent in a little bit.

This probably won’t be my best review ever, but this… thing… wasn’t the best viewing experience ever, either.

And if you’re wondering how I can possibly write a review about something I saw weeks ago–some things never leave you.

I have no words. (source)

I have no words. (source)

This is a review of the moving picture Deadly Sanctuary or sometimes called Marquis de Sade: Justine. It was made in 1969.

I have yet to read Justine, but they changed the story somewhat to suit the lead actress so if you’re a fan of the novel it’s … all to the good, actually. They won’t have completely ruined something you cared about.

The film starts with someone (Klaus Kinski)–wasn’t he, like, a big deal actor, why is he in this? Being thrown into a prison cell

He’s having some kind of whacked out LSD trip or something about violence and sex–artists, ya know? So he starts writing (gee, I wonder if he’s supposed to be a stand in for the Marquis).

So he starts writing this story of Justine and her sister, whatever her name is–I’m to lazy and vertigodrunk to look it up.

Justine and her sister… um… Bustine, are told that they’re parentless and penniless. (It was weeks ago–I just remember that suddenly they can no longer afford their schmancy convent education and are turfed out and have no parents, either.)

Of course they immediately wind up in a brothel, because that’s what happens to every female in these stories.

Bustine takes to being a prostitute (and lesbian) instantly. But this was made in the late 60s so we don’t get to see any lesbionic good times because everything sucked and people dressed weird.

Justine, though, well, she’s still pure and true and virtuous and, you know. She runs off and a series of things happens to her, each progressively worse but she continues to trust people because she’s an idiot. One of those things is falling in with the most hapless, bumbling crew of criminals this side of a Benny Hill sketch.

These happenings are interspersed with Bustine’s experiences, which are far more lucrative and interesting, though inhabiting more morally grey areas like murder and robbery.

Bustine is just adapting to the hard scrabble life she’s been dealt in the 1780s while maintaining her 1969 hairstyle.

Meanwhile Justine keeps trying to maintain her virginity while also walking directly into people keen to remove that from her.

This girl is DUMB.

Out of sheer stupid luck, she rolls up to a monastery that’s headed by Jack Palance, because fine, whatever. And takes shelter there.

Palance starts giving a speech… wait.. Starts emoting a paragraph… Starts spitting words through wine…

Whatever was happening, my husband said, ‘Is he pissed?’ (Meaning drunk–and I think he meant genuinely drunk.)

Then a thought occurred to him and he asked, ‘Is everyone pissed?’

Which would have explained a lot.

It seemed like things were winding down because the thing had been going on for most of our lives at that point. But I checked how much time was left and the three of us (Bean, Walter and myself) all groaned and deflated.

Bean said something to the effect of, ‘It’s been on for two and a half days!’

I called it at that point. We’d given it an hour and a half. If I’m not interested in your characters or film in the time of a typical film I’m salvaging the rest of the time. (There are several cuts of the movie and I happened to have acquired the longest version. Lucky me.)

I don’t know how the film ended, neither do I care. The priests probably made Justine eat her own feet or something.

Would you know these were the same film if I didn't tell you? (source)

Would you know these were the same film if I didn’t tell you? (source)

I have watched the uncut version of Caligula twice–I used to own it. So this isn’t about an intolerance for whatever the fuckery was happening.

Speaking of whatever-the-fuckery… The film was dubbed into English. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was also shot in English. And the looping was all just sliiiiightly off.

That was fine, though, because no one was from the same country even though they were all supposed to be from pre-French Revolution France. (They filmed in Spain or somewhere mostly definitely not-French.)

My absolutely favorite moment of the entire thing, though, was the Cockney vegetable seller by a fountain at one point. Were they supposed to have imported those from London to Paris? Walter said he sounded like an extra from Eastenders. ‘Oi! Looka’ these veggies, they are lovely, they are!’

This review probably makes it sound funny, but that’s because I’m funny (and modest). In actuality it wasn’t one of those so-bad-it’s-good films. It was just terrible.

I can’t recall the last time I turned off a movie–usually I have to know what happens. But nope. Not this time.

0/5

 

Blue Velvet

(Google gave me this image but wouldn't tell me where it came from. WTF Google)

(Google gave me this image but wouldn’t tell me where it came from. WTF Google)

After his father has a stroke, Jeffery Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns to his small town in North Carolina to help with the family hardware store.

He’s standing in a field after visiting his father one day and comes across a severed human ear, which he puts in a small paper bag and takes to the police station. As you do with evidence of a crime.

[As Bean said: It was the 80s, they didn’t know.]

Being a small town, Jeffery already knows the detective’s daughter from before he moved away, Sandy (Laura Dern), and they become reacquainted. Sandy thinks a woman named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) may know something about the ear and tells him why she thinks so. Sandy explains the woman is a singer at a local club.

Jeffery is one of the those nosey types so he just has to find out more. He concocts a scheme to get into the woman’s apartment when she’s there by posing as an exterminator and he will then leave a window open so he can come back when she’s on stage.

Things don’t go exactly to plan.

Oh, he gets in and back out again fine. He and Sandy go to see her sing at the Slow Club then leave early so he can sneak back into her apartment.

He’s in her apartment when she comes back, though, and winds up hiding in the closet. While in there he overhears a conversation and learns someone has kidnapped Dorothy’s son and husband. Then a scene plays out that I’m pretty sure people reenact in its entirety. There’s voyeurism and forced stripping at knife point and the beginning of something sexual and then someone shows up and it’s back into the closet with Jeremy, but now he’s naked as the day he was born.

Probably with an erection.

The person who comes in is Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Frank has a few kinks. He takes several huffs from a mask—I’d guess some loopy juice that makes you horny like amyl nitrite—then we get into the good stuff. Sadomasochism, verbally controlling her—including saying things she’d said to Jeremy—calling her Mommy then later referring to himself as Daddy and the baby. There was a rattle (he just shook it in her face—considering what he could have done with it, that was rather gentle of him.) Of course he hit her, because this is the kind of guy who probably wants to hit everyone including himself.

Frank’s a real pistol.

Eventually he leaves and Dorothy tries to get Jeremy to resume their amorous interlude from earlier, except she wants him to hit her. Jeremy’s boring and isn’t into that.

I just know there are people who reenact the entire scene with all three characters and probably have all sorts of slash fiction versions of the way the scene ends. There is far too much to work with.

For some reason, even after seeing what sort of element he’s dealing with, Jeremy is still intrigued by the case and continues his own investigation, including surreptitiously taking photographs with a homemade camera in a box. (Again, it was the 80s.)

It’s always a good idea to do things that will tick off on an insane character played by Dennis Hopper. Particularly one with sadomasochistic urges and a raging drug habit, so things get worse (and a little trippy) before they get better.

It is not a dull film.

I mean, it has a rather dodgy looking lobotomy in it. How frequently do you see those in classic cinema?

While trying to solve the case, Jeremy is torn between the mysterious, masochistic Dorothy and the sunny, simple Sandy. They are each alluring in their own way, and even Sandy has her own complications in the form of her boyfriend, Mike, who plays on the high school football team. Because of course he does.

Personally, I thought Jeremy should get the hell out of dodge ASAP. Small Southern towns are Bad News. Particularly in film. Run, Kyle, run!

Blue Velvet is a cult classic. And a regular classic, really. Several lines (Hopper’s usually) were familiar to me and I had those, ‘So that’s where that comes from!’ moments.

Kyle MacLachlan probably still has nightmares about this scene. (source)

Kyle MacLachlan probably still has nightmares about this scene. (source)

I don’t mind ambiguity in film, but surrealism isn’t my thing, so I’m not the biggest Lynch fan. However, Blue Velvet happens before Lynch embraces his full Lynchianness of later films—there are just some dream sequences that made me think, ‘Oh right. There’s our guy.’ So if you’ve been avoiding this one out of fear your brain was going to explode and leak out of your ears, fear not. This one is coherent to those of us without a degree in cinema.

Fun fact: I live in the city where they filmed this and worked for the answering service for the apartment building Dorothy Vallens lived in. They shot the interiors and exteriors at the same building. The elevators of that building were always out. We’d get called about it all the time. The old guy who owned the building never fixed anything. People wanted to live there because the building looked really cool, though.

Anyway, when Kyle MacLachlan gets inside the place he sees a sign that says the elevator’s out. Her apartment is on the seventh floor. It’s a useful plot device, for what it supposed to happen so I don’t know if it was written that way or if the elevator was actually out since it nearly always was. Also, Jeffery’s house is currently for rent. It’s 5 bedrooms and in a very decent area of town. It’s on the same street as a couple of good friends of mine, so there’s that, too.

The cast is top-rate, it’s Lynch so the directing is excellent and the script is outstanding. It’s a sort of a noir mystery type thing. There are laugh out loud moments as well as, ‘Well, what the hell is going to happen now,’ moments. And a soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti that perfectly suits the film.

5/5

The Chambermaid

Spanish version of film poster (source)

Spanish version of film poster [source link dead]

Lynn (Vicky Krieps) is the housekeeper every person who has ever stayed at a hotel wants—she is meticulous. She even cleans rooms no one has stayed in.

Prior to the action of the film, Lynn voluntarily spent some time in a mental hospital, though we don’t find out why.

(This film leaves many questions unanswered. If you’re uncomfortable with uncertainty… you probably want to avoid most European cinema, but you definitely want to steer clear of this one.

I don’t mind uncertainty. Life is uncertain and there are loose ends just all over the place.)

So Lynn the chambermaid cleans rooms and we get to watch her. I enjoy cleaning porn—watching women properly clean things—Sister, My Sister has lots of this, as well—so that was great.

But our painfully shy Lynn doesn’t know how to interact with other people, so she spies on their lives by looking at the things in their rooms. She reads a bit of the books they’re reading, smells the various things they use on their bodies, tries on their clothing, etc.

Then she takes to hiding under the bed and witnessing what humans are like when they think they are alone or only with one other person like a spouse.

Or a dominatrix.

For one evening she is under a bed during an encounter between a man and a dominatrix named Chiara (Lena Lauzemis). Lynn is fascinated by what she hears. The woman leaves her card on the bedside table and Lynn copies the number while the man is showering.

Lynn calls the number and makes and appointment and Chiara comes to Lynn’s very tidy flat. After a bit of talking there’s some rough play before sex. Quite realistic sex, as well.

(The more intimate scenes between the two women felt unscripted, which was nice. There was one later where Lynn was lying on her stomach and she asked Chiara to lie on her back. That felt true to me—like she wanted to be crushed a little. Perhaps I’m projecting.)

But of course the shy chambermaid can’t meet the dominatrix and live happily ever after. She has to get jealous of the dominatrix’s clients—or one specific one, at least. And she has to get clingy. Sigh. I never get anything I want.

Look at how pristine that bed is. LOOK AT IT. (source)

Look at how pristine that bed is. LOOK AT IT. (source)

Released in most non-English speaking countries as The Chambermaid Lynn (except in whatever language that country speaks), this film is based on a novel (Das Dimmermadchen by Markus Orths) and I want to read it with a mighty hunger. Alas, it has not been translated into English and I have no German.

Like The Piano Teacher it is a film of long silences. Director Ingo Haeb (who also wrote the screenplay) allows Krieps to go about her quiet life in no hurry and with no voice over to spell out her thoughts.

It’s beautifully shot—scenes were framed wonderfully. Cinematography was by Sophie Maintigneux and well done to her. It was just lovely to look at.

Though this film is about the relationship between a dominatrix and a pathologically shy voyeur of a chambermaid, there isn’t much kink or sex on screen. It was still an excellent character study. I had no idea where the plot was going.

I’ll probably end up buying it because it’s definitely something I’d watch again. The Chambermaid currently available on Netflix in the U.S.

4/5

Gaspar Noe’s Love

I didn't use any of the posters because they make me feel like this. You can see them here and here.

I didn’t use any of the posters because they make me feel like this. You can see them here and here.

I wasn’t looking at the screen when Gaspar Noe’s Love started—I was looking at my laptop—and the first thing I hear is Bean saying, ‘Well, dang.’ I look up and, on my Netflix-showing screen is a woman stroking a very erect dick with her face right next to it while a dude is enthusiastically fingering her. It wasn’t lit in a typical porny way—where you could do surgery—but, I mean. To quote Bean again, ‘No credits, no nothing.’

‘Well, dang.’ Indeed.

That went on for awhile.

I generally start my reviews with the plot, but this film did not start with plot. It started with a very erect dick and enthusiastic fingering first thing.

Then it got into the plot.

So here’s the plot.

American bro Murphy (Karl Glusman) is in Paris studying film. He starts off in a tumultuous relationship with Frenchwoman Electra (Ayomi Muyock). A sixteen year old, Omi (Klara Kristin), moves in next door to them and the three of them fall into bed. That scene was very hot. Kristin is rather limber. [The sex scenes were not choreographed. Props to the actors.]

The film jumps around in time and it’s not always easy to tell how much time has passed between events in their lives. But Murphy and Electra had experimented with group sex (sorta) at a club meant for that sort of thing, which had been recommended to them by a cop after Murphy tried to punch out a guy because he’s so American. It makes sense in the film, I promise.

So by the time Omi shows up (the actress was 22 when they shot the film for your peace of mine) the couple is already more open to the idea of being with others.

But then bad things happen because monogamy is best—Love is not really pro-open relationships. I’m not sure what this film is trying to say. On one hand, everyone is supposed to be open to doing everyone else and not jealous. On the other, when they do everyone else and get in touch with their sexuality, they end up screaming and fighting. It’s all high-drama and miserable.

Is it a French thing I don’t get? My sensibilities are very Anglo-American. Civil, quiet, let’s discuss this rationally if we have to discuss it. It’s a fundamentally different way of approaching … life. The universe. Everything.

Watching this film I was not seeing ‘love’. I saw ‘poor communication’ and ‘needless angst’. Both of which would make great punk band names.

The film tended to be either sex scenes or dramatic scenes of some general unhappiness or voice-overs of what was going through Murphy’s head (nothing good) as a result of his terrible life choices. And he made those choices because of love? Was that the message? Damn, that’s depressing. I would love to know what other people thought.

'Why didn't I stay in the States? French people are fucking crazy.' (source)

‘Why didn’t I stay in the States? French people are fucking crazy.’ (source)

Love is one of those long movies (2 hrs and 15 minutes) that feels long. The more of these I see the more I appreciate Lars von Triers’ ability to make a long film feel like a film of normal length.

Noe used different color filters to signify time, as the film jumps around between past and present, but it was still difficult to keep up with the timeline.

If you’ve ever tried to watch porn past the point of libidinous interest—that’s what the sex in this film is like. Bean summed it up nicely when she said, ‘They could have cut a third of the sex scenes.’ Maybe if the sex had been kinky or, I don’t know, just… something different it would have been less tedious.

My favorite part was during the threesome. Omi is between Murphy and Electra—she’s facing Electra and they’re having this sweet, intense connection and Murphy is behind her, humping away like a troll. It’s hilarious the difference in the expressions. Looking at the women it’s like he’s not even there and he’s all grrr hurf grrf ruuuff mrrrff.

Okay, he doesn’t make any sounds, but that’s probably what’s going through his mind.

Overall, I have to damn this one with faint phrase and say it was all right. It wasn’t the depressingness of it—I like a depressing film and I certainly don’t mind some American-bashing. I’m glad I didn’t see it in 3D, and it had a lot of same-y sex (which is different from same sex sex). And its depiction of non-monogamy left something to be desired. Meh. If you want to be able to see a lot of real (and very realistic) sex on Netflix wrapped up in a depressing story about people in messed up relationships —go for it.

Oh yes, there is an actual money shot. Right at the camera. Super up close. Guys, if you’ve ever wondered what a facial is like—this is going to be pretty close while still being hygienic.

3/5

Matinee 2009 (short film)

Two theatre actors have been struggling with a scene in the play they’re in. Before the matinee performance Daniel (Steven McAlistair—NOT Alan Cumming) goes to talk to his co-star Mariah (Alicia Whitsover) about ‘art’ and ‘truth’ or something.

He tries reblocking—changing the way they move during the scene—without the director’s approval or even anyone else present and she blanches. As well she should, he was getting a little handsy and pushy and coercive when she was clearly uncomfortable. RED, asshole.

It’s time to get ready for the show, though, and he goes away, leaving her to think about authenticity in art or some such nonsense you’d expect in a porn set up for sex.

While she’s backstage another co-star—female this time—comes over and talks about how he’s a big soap opera star and how when talent scouts watch him they’ve also noticed his co-stars, too. And there’s a talent scout there to watch him today. Practically screaming: Do something you’re uncomfortable with! Whore yourself for a possible job!

So it’s time for their scene, which is in a bedroom that consists entirely of a bed. They speak two lines then have actual sex in front of an audience. The theatre is small and the seats are right up to the performance area. You couldn’t forget several people were watching you being authentic in your art.

Sometimes when I watch a film from the Wikipedia list of films containing BDSM there’s only one, brief scene. This is the first time where nearly the entire thing (it’s only 34 minutes long) qualifies. In this particular film the fetishes on display are exhibitionism and voyeurism.

If you’re not into either of those things this is not the film for you.

It’s actual sex. Actual, real life, vanilla, hetero sex. But to keep it classy and not full-on porny, the oral sex parts are very brief and not brilliantly lit like an airport runway at night. Male-on-female oral is looking down her body (oh, he’s in there, though) and female-on-male is with a condom and over in a few seconds.

They then do some missionary, girl on top and more missionary. Also realistically lit and in a normal amount of time—it’s not marathon fucking.

I was watching this with Joan and she said some of the theatre-goers had to be thinking: This really isn’t what I thought I’d be seeing today.
My thought was: I really wish I hadn’t brought mom out to the theatre with me.

The point of the short film was that two actual actors were going to have actual sex in a non-pornographic film. It’s pretty clear from the flimsy set up and slightly better than porn dialogue and acting.

The lack of negotiation and pressure it seemed Mariah was under to do something that wasn’t fully her idea put me off.

I don’t think anyone is going to be watching this one for plot so the good news is, the talent scout that was there for Douchebag MacCloud wanted to meet with her, too! Yay! Someone thinks she’s willing to do full sex for ‘art’. That’s not going to make you feel like a piece of meat. What are we supposed to learn from that? Don’t be so reserved? Hey, girls, cross your boundaries? You could possibly, maybe become an actress?

It’s baffling to me that this was written and directed by a woman (Jennifer Lyon Bell). Some people may think of this sort of thing as ‘brave’ but I can’t say I do in this context. The guy comes across as smarmy and rapey and the woman, though she initiates the sexual encounter, is being pressured from more than one side. If you’re a naturally reserved person, that’s fine. Be you.

Normally I wouldn’t post something I thought so little of, but if you’re into exhibitionism or voyeurism you will probably want to check this out and I wanted to be sure that those folks were aware of this one, but this isn’t the sort of film that can be enjoyed on many levels by all sorts of people.

From a voyeuristic side I can certainly see how the idea of being forced to go to a boring as hell play became much more interesting when one couple very clearly had sex right in front of you. And to think, you’d complained because your mate got front row seats and you couldn’t sleep through it.

From the exhibitionist side, the entire concept of, ‘I’m just not feeling the truth of these characters,’ works if you’re both playing the sorts of actors who are always looking for authenticity. The seats in this performance area are right up so you’d be fully on display, though you’d probably want better lighting.

1/5

Breaking the Waves

Is it a King Cnut reference? (source)

Is it a King Cnut reference? (source)

It’s the 1970s and Bess McNeill (Emily Watson) is a devout young woman in a strict church in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. She has saved herself for her husband, for that is what good girls do and she so wants to be a good girl.

She marries an outsider–the not-Scottish, not-religious Jan (Stellan Skarsgard)–much to the disapproval of the elders in the church. Her sister-in-law Dodo (Katrin Cartlidge) supports her because she loves her, but is also wary of what she sees as a rash decision.

Bess discovers her sexuality and, as time goes on, becomes increasingly obsessed with her husband. Eventually, he has to leave in order to return to the oil rig where he works–most of the men of the village work on the sea or on the rig–and she doesn’t respond well to their separation.

The church that rules her family’s life doesn’t allow for outbursts of emotion so she’s to keep her feelings to herself, which doesn’t help, as she isn’t the most stable human being to ever scream at the ocean during a gale.

Sweet Bess, though, she wants someone to love and she waited for someone and she finally had that someone and now he’s far away on the rig. She goes to the church regularly to pray and God talks to her and gives her advice.

She asks God to send Jan home to her, as she simply can’t take being along any longer. God asks if that’s really what she wants? And she says yes.

Jan is then injured quite severely and brought back to the mainland. Of course this is Bess’ fault, because the ideas in our heads affect events in the outside world. [This is not a spoiler, it’s in the trailers and on the DVD packaging.]

Unable to physically be with his wife, Jan tells Bess to go out and have sex with other men and return to tell him about it. It will be like they are being together, you see, and that will save him.

She wants to be good. Good girls do what their husbands ask even if they don’t want to. Even if they saved themselves and only wanted to be with one person their entire life.

But it would save his life… So she does as he asks and it seems to work. The more she sleeps with people she doesn’t want to the more his condition improves.

Of course, they live in a small community…and the Church that Progress Forgot isn’t going to overlook her actions.

Then his condition become quite desperate, which means she needs to do something equally desperate to counterbalance his situation.

I would like these as prints. They're by Per Kirkeby. All can be seen here.

I would like these as prints. They’re by Per Kirkeby. All can be seen here.

So, the film started and I saw it was by Lars von Trier and I immediately began talking to my own god. The god of ‘please don’t let there be up-close genital mutilation in this.’ (The first film of von Trier’s I saw was Antichrist and that is really not the one to start with, let me tell you.) No genital mutilation in this one, I’m happy to report.

It does have his typical outstanding musical choices and chapter headings. The chapters are accompanied by panoramic digital paintings by Per Kirkeby that I fell in love with.

Emily Watson’s performance was stellar. It was her first film performance and garnered several awards and nominations and rightly so. Everyone was well-cast, but Watson shone brighter than them all.

They never tell us how the characters met, though, which is a little annoying, but I’m trying to let that go.

Breaking the Waves was on the Wikipedia page for BDSM in films and I’m not sure why. There wasn’t really any kink in it–though I suppose, ‘Go do other dudes and come back and tell me about it,’ is kinky in its own way. If you’re telling someone to do it because you think it’s going to save your life it’s more a practical matter than a sexy one, I think.

Breaking the Waves is about belief and love and sex and intimacy. It was compelling. I recommend it highly.

5/5

Downloading Nancy

Nancy Stockwell (Maria Bello) is in a … ‘loveless’ is too nice of a word. There is a void where love should be. She spends her time self harming and talking to her therapist (Amy Brenneman) about her truly terrible childhood. Oh, and talking to strangers on the internet about her masochistic fantasies.

Her husband, Albert (Rufus Sewell), spends his time in the basement playing some sort of golf game that’s half real and half virtual.

Then one day he finds a note on the table—she’s gone to see friends in Baltimore.

He didn’t know she knew anyone in Baltimore. But then again, Albert doesn’t know much about his wife, as they don’t talk to one another or spend time together.

So Nancy has gone to visit a friend, Louis Farley (Jason Patric), who she met on the internet. And who is going to do all the things she wants. Due to her truly terrible childhood she wants some fairly horrific things and one very specific request.

Days go by and Nancy spends time with Louis and Albert has no idea where his wife is, but he doesn’t call the police (which is believable—people behave strangely in stressful situations). Nancy and Louis play little S/M games that aren’t particularly sexy but are realistic and get to know one another.

Eventually Louis goes to see Albert to see what he knows. Nothing has gone the way it was supposed to.

I feel pretty... I feel pretty and witty and gay... (source)

I feel pretty… I feel pretty and witty and gay… (source)

The reviews for Downloading Nancy are harsh. And I don’t understand why. It wasn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but I enjoyed it. I’d even watch it again. It was a character study about profoundly sad people. Apparently audience members walked out of it at Sundance. These people have not seen the same films I’ve seen.

Red letters on the promo poster warn: The most controversial film you’ll see this year.

These people have not seen the same films I’ve seen, either.

Seriously, though. I thought it was interesting enough. It’s not the sort of masochism that’s sexy to watch. It’s the sort of masochism that’s realistic. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to get a little something going on for date night. Maybe if you’re looking for ideas for a scene.

It’s one of those quiet sorts of films where no one communicates with the people they most need to communicate with. Like American Beauty. With genital mutilation (off-screen).

I wasn’t crazy about equating Nancy’s need for pain and hating herself and whatnot with her childhood, but here we are.

All of the performances were good—restrained when there could have been scenery chewing—but Maria Bello’s was off the charts. It’s not a happy film. It probably would have been better received in Europe. There was a truth to it.

And there’s something that you learn at the very end that’s sort of spoilery. Some people may find it to be a spoiler and some may not. It’s based on a true story. That of Sharon Lopatka, who advertised online for someone to kill her during/after sex. This was in 1996, several years before the Armin Meiwes case. It’s called consensual homicide, apparently.

I’d give it 3/5. Maybe 4/5 depending on how much a person enjoys depressing films, which I do.

Dogtooth

A modern Greek family consisting of heterosexual parents, two daughters and a son (no names are ever given) live in a large house with expansive gardens and a pool. And a high fence that keeps the mother and children locked in snuggly while the father goes to work.

The children are grown—the eldest girl and boy are certainly old enough to be through university. The other girl is in her late teens at the youngest. But their parents have explained that they’ll only be ready to leave home when their dogtooth falls out (their canine teeth).

The father (Christos Stergioglou) brings in someone for the ‘task’ of relieving his son (Christos Passalis) of his manly urges, an act that is performed with as much passion as someone being paid to handle a task.

No one must know where he lives with his odd little family, though, so the woman is blindfolded on the drive to and from the house. She’s paid quite well and doesn’t seem to mind. No harm, no foul.

The children are also fine with their reality—they invent masochistic little games to amuse themselves. Like seeing who can hold their finger under hot water the longest.

The children must behave, for when they do, they are rewarded with stickers. When they misbehave they are punished by being made to hold alcohol-based mouthwash in their mouths for extended periods.

When you control someone’s reality from birth you can tell them anything at all and they’ll believe it. The parents have told the children that planes in the sky are toys—they’re so tiny they look like toys, don’t they? And sometimes the planes fall to the ground and whichever child finds it gets to keep it. And woe betide anyone who takes a plane that belongs to another.

Out of fear of losing their children, the parents have kept any knowledge of the outside world from them. If one of them asks about a word that pertains to something outside of their realm, their parents make up a definition. When asked what a ‘pussy’ is, the elder daughter is informed it’s a keyboard.

The one character who has a name is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou). She is the person who comes to the house to help the son with his urges. She asks him for cunnilingus and he doesn’t want to. No matter, she trades being licked for a headband the elder daughter (Angeliki Papoulia) likes. The family doesn’t talk about sex so she has no idea this may be odd and goes about getting the headband.

‘Licking’ parts of a person then becomes a valid form of payment. She has her younger sister (Mary Tsoni) lick her shoulder in order to gain possession of the headband. I found this strangely hot. ‘Lick my elbow and I’ll make you a sandwich.’

Christina tries to trade a second round of oral favours for hair gel on a later visit and it doesn’t go as well as the first time. The elder daughter wants something better—VHS tapes. She gets them, but they lead to the devolution of the entire structure of the household.

Dogtooth is wonderfully bizarre and at times hilarious. If Wes Anderson were Greek and had a much smaller budget this is what you’d get.

Joan watched it with me at the end of a long day and after some time she said: I’m waiting for this to start to make sense.
Me: I think it’s one of those films where this is it—this is just how this family is.
Joan: Maybe I’m too tired to brain this film right now.

After she’d got some rest she liked it, but it’s definitely not a straight-out-of-the-box, straight-forward film.

There is some shocking violence. Some of it you see coming, some you don’t—it’s shocking because it’s immediate and sort of out of nowhere. But it’s always brief. Just a making-a-point sort of punishment violence.

There is some very real erect penis being massaged happening at one point. As well as some incest, but it wasn’t really surprising with this family, I have to say. If that’s going to put you off then here’s your warning.

I really liked it. It was just weird. Just a little off-kilter. But it wasn’t strange just to be strange. It made sense within its oddness.

Walter said it was like the kids had been raised on language tapes where thirty percent of the words were wrong, which is accurate in that the parents were intentionally telling the kids inaccurate words, but the entire way they approached life was off.

The directing was great, the acting was top-notch. I highly recommend this one and would re-watch it. It’s not overtly kinky per se, but there’s masochism and incest? I’m not sure why it made it onto the Wikipedia page of BDSM on film, but that’s where I found it and I’m glad I did.

5/5

Nymphomaniac Extended Director’s Cut

There are certain films on the Wikipedia page of ‘BDSM in Film‘ that I have no interest in seeing. Until last week Lars von Trier’s epic Nymphomaniac was on that list—it was too long and the trailer didn’t make it look like anything I would enjoy. (And though I’d liked Melancholia, Antichrist made me want to die.)

Then my friend Joan asked me if I’d seen it.

‘No, it’s not really on my list of Things to Subject Myself to.’
‘I really enjoyed it,’ she said. ‘I’d watch it again.’

It couldn’t have been too hellish, I figured. Netflix had the extended director’s cut, which was 5 ½ hours long. And if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it, dammit.

Joan said, ‘I’ll watch it with you. It’ll be interesting to see what they cut.’

That, ladies and gentlemen, is friendship. Not helping move house. Not helping move a body. Watching a Lars von Trier film you’ve already seen for 5 ½ hours in one go.

So I got up early (for me), as she was in a different time zone and also participated in day-walker hours. And we watched it together.

I dedicate this post to friendship and the amazing people you meet online. This is a longer post so I’m going to put the rest behind a break. I keep my reviews free of spoilers usually—there are a few in this one, but they’re behind spoiler tags.

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