Tag Archives: Fetish

CAPSULE: IN THE BASEMENT (2014)

Im Keller

DIRECTED BY: Ulrich Seidl

FEATURING: A cast of “ordinary” Austrians

PLOT: A documentary about secret hobbies in which Austrians indulge their basements, including a man with a shrine to the Nazis, a woman who cradles creepy lifelike newborn dolls, and multiple S&M devotees.

Still from In the Basement (2014)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As we have often pointed out, due to their very nature—which requires them to be rooted in reality—documentaries have a much harder row to hoe if they aspire to weirdness. In the Basement tries to strangen things up, formally speaking, with cut-and-paste editing and awkward minimalist tableaux; it still doesn’t make it all the way to “weird,” though.

COMMENTS: In one of the opening scenes of In the Basement, a man (whom we never see again) silently watches as his pet python stalks a helpless bunny rabbit crowded into the corner of a plexiglass cage. My immediate thought was, there’s no healthy reason for him to be watching this. In the Basement is built around the idea of watching what you shouldn’t. It takes us into the private demesnes of a tuba-playing Nazi sympathizer, a woman obsessed with creepily realistic baby dolls, and a hairy man who cleans his mistress’ toilet with his tongue, among others. To add to the alienating feel, the editing seems purposeless, bouncing back and forth between the film’s subjects at random. To generate further discomfort, establishing shots are held for much longer than is necessary. The director scatters snapshot moments where the subjects stand posed stock-still and stare at the camera without expression at several points throughout the film. Sometimes these are the main characters, and other times they are people who did not make it into the film proper, like the middle aged women who stand arranged around a washing machine as it runs through a noisy rinse cycle. The carefully posed amateurs staring affectlessly at the camera from gray rooms invoke the absurdist spirit of Roy Andersson.

Rarely are the subjects asked to speak about themselves or their hobbies, with the noteworthy exception of a masochistic woman who, standing nude except for the thick ropes ritually wrapped around her, confesses the personal history that brought her into the subculture. It’s In the Basement‘s lone moment of obvious insight and humanity.

While it engenders a morbid fascination, there are some serious downsides to Basement. For a while, the documentary earns extra thrills just from the fact that you don’t know what new kink is going to be introduced next. But eventually it runs out of surprises. There aren’t enough weirdos willing to go onscreen, so director Seidl ends up filling up space with redundant S&M devotees (who probably get an extra kick of humiliation from being exposed to the public). The amount of time devoted to these six, plus the wince-inducing detail involved in their explicitly detailed torture sessions, makes you wonder if maybe Seidl should have abandoned Basement‘s ostensible thesis and just made a movie about the S&M lifestyle instead. More upsetting, however, is the revelation that some of the scenes were, basically, faked. Although Seidl’s M.O. lately has been blurring the line between fact and fiction, narrative and documentary, that technique doesn’t seem fruitful in this context. Does Basement say something about the contemporary Austrian soul, or is it just a carefully curated compendium of grotesques? Although I believe Seidl intended to make an artistic statement about social and psychological repression, in practice the movie plays more to the latter interpretation. When did this kind of thing, they did not drape it in obscuring Art.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s in more conventional observation and confessions to camera that the film really delivers its strange, melancholic universe.”–Lee Marshall, Screen International (contemporaneous)

226. CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE (1996)

Spiklenci Slasti

Conspirators is actually a film about liberation, and about gaining a freedom.”–Jan Svankmajer explaining why he considered Conspirators his most Surrealistic film up to that point

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Jan Svankmajer

FEATURING: Petr Meissel, Gabriela Wilhelmová, Barbora Hrzánová, Anna Wetlinská, Jirí Lábus, Pavel Nový

PLOT: A man enters a newsstand and furtively buys a pornographic magazine as the owner nods conspiratorially at him. At home, he leafs through the pages but is interrupted by the postwoman, who has him sign for a letter that simply reads “on Sunday.” Over the next several days the man constructs an elaborate chicken costume; meanwhile, the postwoman, his next door neighbor, the newsstand owner, and another couple are all involved in their own strange, surreptitious projects.

Still from Conspirators of Pleasure (1996)

BACKGROUND:

  • Conspirators of Pleasure began life as a screenplay for a short written in 1970 but never filmed. That short would have told the parallel stories of the “chicken man” and his neighbor across the hall. Svankmajer resumed work on the project in 1996, thought of four more characters to include, and expanded the film to feature length.
  • In 1975 Svankmajer wrote a (satirical?) essay entitled “The Future Belongs to Masturbation Machines.”
  • Originally known for his stop-motion animated shorts, Conspirators was Svankmajer’s third feature film, and it continued a trend of having less and less animation in each successive film (there are only a few accent scenes here, which amount to about one minute of animation).
  • The end credits list Sacher-Masoch, the , Freud, , and Bohuslav Brouk (a Czech psychoanalyst who wrote up a series of case studies about masturbatory practices) as having provided “professional expertise.”
  • The , animators who paid tribute to the Czech director with the 1984 film “The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer,” are listed in the credits as “musical collaborators” (although the soundtrack is prerecorded classical music).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The man in a chicken suit doing a ritualistic (and sometimes literally animated) dance in front of a doll-like effigy tied to a chair.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Stop-motion submissive; dough-snorting; carp shrimping

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: We follow six people engaged in complicated, intensely personal fetishistic rituals; adding to the odd, voyeuristic atmosphere, there is no dialogue, other than what’s overheard in the background on television. Each of the conspirators crosses the others’ paths, but continue to work on their own private obsessions, until all of them appear to receive their ultimate gratification. Then, Jan Svankmajer launches us into a new stratosphere of strangeness at the finale, when the chickens come home to roost (so to speak).


Short clip from Conspirators of Pleasure

COMMENTS: Case study: a man, Eastern European, balding but fit Continue reading 226. CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE (1996)

170. GLEN OR GLENDA (1953)

“Some argue that this kind of thing puts Ed Wood into the company of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.

Should we buy this argument? Pull the string!”–IMDB Glen or Glenda FAQ

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Ed Wood, Jr. (as Daniel Davis), Dolores Fuller, Timothy Farrell,

PLOT: A transvestite is found dead, a suicide. Seeking to understand more about this phenomenon, a police inspector visits a psychiatrist who explains transvestism to him using the example of Glen, a heterosexual man who is tormented by the question of whether he should reveal his passion for cross-dressing to his fiancée. Meanwhile, a sinister, omniscient “scientist” (played by Bela Lugosi) occasionally appears to cryptically comment on the action (“pull the string!”)

Still from Glen or Glenda? (1953)
BACKGROUND:

  • Producer George Weiss wanted to make a film to exploit the then-current case of Christine Jorgensen (born George William Jorgensen), one of the first men to have successful sex-reassignment surgery. According to legend, Ed Wood convinced Weiss that he was the right man to direct the picture because he was a transvestite in his private life and understood gender confusion. The resulting film, shot in just four days, ended up being more about transvestism than sex-change surgery.
  • Against Wood’s wishes, Weiss inserted bondage-themed imagery into the dream sequence to give the film a dash more sex.
  • Wood himself plays the transvestite Glen (and Glenda) under the pseudonym Daniel Davis.
  • In his own life, Wood did not take the advice he gave his character in Glen or Glenda to honestly discuss his desire to wear women’s clothes with his betrothed. Wood’s first wife had their marriage annulled in 1955, after Ed surprised her by wearing ladies’ undergarments to their honeymoon.
  • This is the first of three collaborations between Wood and then down-on-his-luck and opiate-addicted Bela Lugosi. Three of Lugosi’s final four credits were Wood films.
  • Some reviews of Glen or Glenda refer to Lugosi’s character as “the Spirit” rather than “the Scientist”; were there two separate sets of credits, each with a different name for the character?
  • Wood’s 1963 novel “Killer in Drag” features a transvestite character named Glen whose alter-ego is named Glenda.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Such a wealth of possibilities! What about the hairy Satan who inexplicably shows up at Glen and Barbara’s dream wedding? And who can forget Bela Lugosi, yelling nonsense at the viewer while his angry face is superimposed over a herd of stampeding buffalo? The iconic image, however, is Wood’s intended emotional climax: in a ridiculously touching gesture of unconditional acceptance, Glen’s girlfriend Barbara strips off her angora sweater and hands it to the wide-eyed transvestite.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A narratively-knotted 1950s pro-transvestite pseudo-documentary, told in naively earnest rhetoric via a wandering structure that includes flashbacks inside of flashbacks, would have made for a worthwhile oddity in itself. But throw in Bela Lugosi as a one-man Greek chorus reciting fractured fairy tales, and include a fourteen-minute dream sequence mixing Freudian symbolism, bargain-basement Expressionism, bondage, and a guest appearance by the Devil and you achieve incomparable weirdness, the way only Ed Wood could serve it up—on a bed of angora.


Clip from Glen or Glenda

COMMENTS: Ed Wood had a secret, and it’s not just that he liked the feel of silk panties under his rough trousers. Transvestism, in a way, was the Continue reading 170. GLEN OR GLENDA (1953)

129. LOVE EXPOSURE (2008)

Ai no Mukidashi

“Nothing is more important than love.”–Shion Sono on the theme of Love Exposure

Must See

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Takahiro Nishijima, , Sakura Andô, Atsurô Watabe, Makiko Watanabe

PLOT: Yu Honda, the son of a Catholic priest, falls in with a gang of upskirt photographers in an attempt to generate sins he can confess to his father. One day, while dressed in drag after losing a bet, he falls in love with Yoko, a man-hating schoolgirl who believes him to be a woman. He strives to woo her despite the mistaken identity, but a mysterious girl named Koike and a brainwashing cult seem intent on preventing Yu from ever winning Yoko’s heart.

Still from Love Exposure (2008)

BACKGROUND:

  • Sono’s original cut of the film was six hours long. At the request of producers he cut it down to two hours but felt the result was incoherent; the current four-hour run time is a compromise.
  • Sono reportedly wrote the part of upskirt photography guru “Master Lloyd” with Lloyd Kaufman in mind.
  • “Miss Scorpion” was a recurring character from a 1970s Japanese women-in-prison film series.
  • Despite winning awards at multiple Asian film festivals as well as a FIRPESCI international film critics awards, Love Exposure‘s long running time made it anathema to theatrical distributors. The movie finally saw a very limited run in U.S. and Canadian theaters in 2011.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Some will doubtlessly be impressed by the bloody castration scene, but a less shocking image marks the centerpiece of Love Exposure: “the miracle,” the moment when the wind blows up Yoko’s skirt and reveals her alabaster underthings, giving Yu the first erection of his life. White panties—a symbol of sex masked in the color of purity—are the most important recurring image in Love Exposure, even more so than crosses and hard-ons. As Master Lloyd explains while pointing to a bronze relief image of a spreadeagled woman with a swatch of white silk covering her nether portions, “Anything you seek can be found here, in the groin.”

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Although there is some crazy stylization—slo-mo bullets following a schoolgirl through Tokyo and a dysfunctional family posing with a giant cross in the desert—what makes Love Exposure‘s mad heart tick is the plot that piles crazy on top of crazy. Any story that incorporates Catholic guilt, ninja panty-peeking photographers, kung fu and samurai sequences, mistaken identity subplots, and teenage cult kingpins, plays it all as a romantic comedy, and has to run for twice the length of an average movie just to fit in everything the director wants to say, is bound to be a little weird.


Trailer for Love Exposure

COMMENTS:  For four hours Love Exposure bounces back and forth between poles of purity and perversion, suggesting both the fetishistic Continue reading 129. LOVE EXPOSURE (2008)

LIST CANDIDATE: MAXIMUM SHAME (2010)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Marina Gatell, Ana Mayo, Paco Moreno, Ardiana Ferrer, Ignasi Vidal

PLOT: On the night before the world is to be swallowed up by a black hole, a man discovers a world underneath his bed ruled by a chess-obsessed dominatrix queen.

Still from Maximum Shame (2010)


WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Carlos Atanes is a defiantly, and proudly, surrealistic director, and his brief filmography (three features and dozens of bizarre shorts) already constitutes a body of weird work that could be worthy of recognition on this List.  With its wardrobe of black leather and chrome dental restraints along with a powerful musical score that ranges from 40s show tunes to 80s synth pop, Maximum Shame is perhaps Atanes’ most ambitious and polished—not to mention weirdest—feature work.

COMMENTS:  You have to love the tagline for Maximum Shame, which describes the movie as “an apocalyptic fetish horror musical chess sci-fi weird feature movie.”  The surprising thing is that the film, which plays like a combination of “Alice in Wonderland” and the Orpheus legend staged by refugees from a leather bar in a deserted warehouse, largely lives up to that description.  The words “apocalyptic,” fetish,” and “chess” define the three motifs that keep the film (somewhat) grounded.  The story, such as it is, takes place as a black hole is encroaching on earth (or so we are told), and characters mention the total destruction of the world sometimes as an imminent cataclysm, and sometimes as a disaster that’s already come to pass.  The film’s s&m/b&d fetishism is obvious from the costuming, most notably the deviant dental equipment used to keep slaves’ mouths perpetually splayed.  (Although the Queen plays games of dominance and submission, there is no overt sexuality in the film—which, together with its alienating weirdness, makes it of only marginal interest to the bondage crowd).  All of the characters have, or are given, the names of chess pieces, and talk of gambits and sacrificing rooks makes up a large part of the plot.  “Horror” and “sci-fi” turn out to be the least accurate of the descriptors.  The film does speak of black holes and invokes a theory of infinite parallel universes in a throwaway bid to explain the inexplicable Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: MAXIMUM SHAME (2010)

89. FINAL FLESH (2009)

“I don’t know if I really like this movie, it’s just kind of weird. It’s worth checking out; it’s weird. Something to talk about. So, if you like really, really weird stuff, check out Final Flesh, it’s really weird.”–YouTube reviewer

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Written by Vernon Chatman, directed by “Ike Sanders” and three other uncredited directors

FEATURING: Twelve amateur porn stars

PLOT: After a prologue explains that the atom bomb is about to drop, we’re shown a family of three (mother, father and adult daughter) sitting around a kitchen table, deciding that they will stay and “die with dignity.” The mother and daughter give birth to various food items and the father tires to climb back into the womb, and then daughter relates a dream. We see a mushroom cloud, then another trio of actors in a different apartment who believe they are in the afterlife: they recite more humorous nonsense about God, death and the apocalypse and enact more bizarre skits before the action shifts to another trio in a different room, then another…

Still from Final Flesh (2009)

BACKGROUND:

  • Vernon Chatman made Final Flesh by submitting scripts to four different amateur porn production companies that specialize in acting out their client’s fantasies. The scripts were submitted between 2002 and 2009, so the film was actually 7 years in the making.
  • Chatman is a stand-up comic and Emmy-winning television writer. He wrote for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and “The Chris Rock Show” before co-creating the short-lived, weird cult TV series “Wonder Showzen” and “Xavier: Renegade Angel.” He’s most famous for his work with “South Park,” where he provides the voice of “Towelie,” the pot-smoking towel.
  • Chatman is a member of the Brooklyn-based art collective PFFR, who produce music, art, and short films. The first segment of Final Flesh was made as a short film for a PFFR art show, and although the final project was Chatman’s work alone, it was still released under the PFFR umbrella.
  • Final Flesh is distributed by Drag City, an independent music label that has only recently branched out into underground film (and may have given up that side-business already). Drag City’s other 2009 movie release, Trash Humpers, hogged the company’s headlines when it became a minor cause célèbre after Netflix refused to stock it.  Final Flesh received relatively little promotion, despite the fact that Netflix declined to carry it, as well.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: For Final Flesh, we’re going to break with tradition and provide four different “indelible images,” one from each segment of the film. A girl breastfeeds a porterhouse steak; a woman in a jeans, a tank-top and a skull mask threatens a man on his deathbed; a couple make out by mashing the skulls drawn on their backs together; a young lady in black lingerie performs a wedding ceremony on two corpses lying side by side.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The conceptual art premise of sending a non-erotic script to be acted out by pornstars-for-hire might be weird enough, but when that apocalyptic screenplay requires the bemused amateur actors to bathe in the tears of neglected children and recite lines like “I just creamed my demon” after being slapped, we’ve traveled beyond the snarkily experimental into the realm of the existentially deranged. All the world’s a stage and these men and women play many parts; if some of those roles require them to pour ketchup in a conch shell and poke at it with a turkey baster while moaning orgasmically, then maybe that’s just how this universe rolls.


Short clip from Final Flesh

COMMENTS: In porn, when a woman wiggles and says “oh my God, there’s something going Continue reading 89. FINAL FLESH (2009)

74. VISITOR Q [Bijitâ Q] (2001)

“Some things are truly strange.”–Father from Visitor Q, preparing to commit an unnatural act

DIRECTED BY: Takashi Miike

FEATURING: Shungiku Uchida, Ken’ichi Endô, Kazushi Watanabe, Jun Mutô, Fujiko

PLOT: Father is a television reporter who was publicly humiliated when he was sodomized on camera by a gang of punks, Mother turns tricks to pay for her heroin habit, teenage Daughter is a runaway prostitute, and Son beats his mom with a riding crop when he’s not being bullied by his schoolmates.  One day, a strange man conks Father on the head with a rock and moves in to stay with the family.  Thanks to his influence Mother and Father gain confidence in themselves, and the family is drawn together, as corpses pile up in their home.

Still from Visitor Q (2001)
BACKGROUND:

  • Visitor Q was made as part of the “Love Cinema” project, where six independent Japanese filmmakers made direct-to-video movies to explore the possibilities of the ne digital video format.
  • According to Miike the film was shot for a mere seven million yen (about $70,000) and completed in one week.
  • There are several times in the film where boom mics are visible.
  • Miike’s  plot owes much to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema (1968), in which a mysterious, nameless visitor serially seduces members of a wealthy Italian family.
  • Besides acting, the multi-talented Shungicu Uchida (“Mother”) is also a manga artist, singer, and writer.
  • Visitor Q was one of two winners of the 2010 “reader’s choice” poll asking 366 Weird Movies’ readership to select one film that had been reviewed but passed over for inclusion on the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies ever made.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: In a movie full of shock after shock, it’s the very last image, a scene of perverse family unity, that turns out to be the most affecting and haunting.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Visitor Q is a baffling parable of perversity.  What starts out as a depraved but unhappy family ends up as a homicidal and unified clan, thanks to the intervention of a mysterious, omnipotent stranger who cracks the father on the skull with a rock and teaches the mother to lactate. Along the way, Miike films the family graphically indulging in every act of sexual deviance he can think of, and even makes up some new ones.

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Short clip from Visitor Q

COMMENTSVisitor Q is a confounding, bewildering movie, and not just because of the Continue reading 74. VISITOR Q [Bijitâ Q] (2001)

BORDERLINE WEIRD: VISITOR Q [Bijitâ Q] (2001)

Due to popular demand, Visitor Q has been re-evaluated and certified weird, and the review has been updated to a full entry. This initial review is left here for archival purposes.

DIRECTED BY: Takashi Miike

FEATURING: Ken’ichi Endô, Shungiku Uchida, Kazushi Watanabe, Jun Mutô, Fujiko

PLOT: A bizarrely dysfunctional Japanese family—dad is a TV reporter on haitus after

Still from Visitor Q (2001)

being sodomized by interviewees on camera, mom is a heroin addict and part-time hooker, son is bullied at school and beats his mother at home—becomes even stranger and more antisocial after a mysterious stranger shows up in their home.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: It’s bizarre indeed, but Visitor Q is more interested in grossing out its viewers than it is in weirding them out.  It’s more a shock movie that’s incidentally weird than a weird movie that happens to be shocking.  The film doesn’t lack for surreality, or its own peculiar kind of quality within its type, but it seems to fit more comfortably into the shock genre than the weird genre.

COMMENTS:  Watching Visitor Q, I found myself wishing Miike had the courage to make the hardcore porn fetish movie that he really wanted to make, instead of pulling his punches by wrapping the psychological nudity in gauzily transparent strips of art and satire.  After all, the movie’s prime showpieces are father-daughter for-pay incest, sodomy by microphone, insanely copious lactation, rape, and necrophilia, all shown with as pornographic a level of explicitness as Miike could get away with (there is genital fogging, though unfortunately in a key scene there is no anal fogging).  In a virtually unshockable age, it would have been truly audacious for the bad-boy director to make an out-and-out porn film without artistic pretensions; as it is, by sprinkling his fetish video with a little redeeming surrealism, all Miike risked with the project was being hailed as the Japanese Passolini.

Visitor Q doesn’t lack either for weirdness or technical quality.  Starting with the latter, Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: VISITOR Q [Bijitâ Q] (2001)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: FEED (2005)

DIRECTED BY: Brett Leonard

FEATURING: Alex O’Loughlin, Patrick Thompson, Gabby Millgate, Jack Thompson

PLOT: A psychopathic opportunist known as a “Feeder” enables bedridden, morbidly obese women to grow even more grossly overweight, to the point of immobility. As their caretaker, he keeps them alive, but gradually feeds them to death. All the while, he films them for a pornographic website and runs a deadpool based on their life expectancy. An Australian detective hacks the website and tracks the webhost to Ohio.

FEED

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: I found Feed to be one of the most interesting  horror movies that I have seen in awhile. It is not great art, but it is entertaining if one is not offended by the grotesque. Many find it too disturbing and repulsive to watch, and it is delightfully weird. Of course, I am a very sick girl in need of psychiatric help. (That’s OK—I have plenty of medicine).

COMMENTSFeed mixes mystery and suspense with a horrifying topic. It is  about a detective trying to unravel the enigma of a disturbingly perverse Internet fetish network. An Australian police investigator named Patrick Thompson (Jackson) travels to Ohio to find the source of what appears to be a clandestine Internet site for enthusiasts with a fetish for morbidly obese women, referred to as “gainers.” They are steadily fed a high calorie diet by the site administrator, Michael Carter (O’Loughlin) known in the industry as a “feeder.” The cop suspects that the bedridden women, some weighing over 500 pounds, are being held captive.

The investigator tracks down and confronts the feeder at his residence, but cannot find the clandestine set where the victims are confined. He does discover in the course of his investigation that women featured on the site end up as missing persons. He eventually discerns that Carter is literally feeding the women to death and feels compelled to locate the transmission site at any cost, regardless of U.S. law. The grotesque nature of the case, which leads the cop to analyze his own psycho-sexual dysfunctions, causes him to begin losing his sanity. In pursuing the feeder, he begins breaking the law himself with no regard for the consequences.

The feeder is a sexually tormented psychopath who is always a step ahead of his nemesis. He taunts the investigator while carrying out a far more devious and twisted scheme than the Aussie cop could ever suspect, including fattening up his own sister for the site. As the cop becomes entangled in this world of perversion, both he and the feeder start displaying inconsistent character traits. Their personalities disintegrate as they clash violently and a no-holds barred, high stakes cat and mouse pursuit ensues.

Feed is a graphic, fictitious film inspired by actual contemporary fetishes, and it ends as perversely as it does unpredictably. It delves into such dark unpleasantries as homosexuality, cannibalism, and incest, with graphic depictions of sex and extremely morbid nudity.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…genuinely perverse throughout, packed with nudity and deviant sex . . . the whole affair has the queasy air of a freak show, though to be fair, Leonard clearly employs the material as a direct challenge to the viewer’s own prejudices and as a tool for exploring notions of societal acceptance and hypocrisy, and of the fine line between abuse and consent.” -James Mudge, Beyond Hollywood