Tag Archives: Pornography

219. THE PORNOGRAPHERS (1966)

“Erogotoshitachi” yori Jinruigaku nyūmon

“What kind of fish is that? What is it doing there?

“Very strange…”–dialogue spoken over the opening credits of The Pornographers

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Shôhei Imamura

FEATURING: Shôichi Ozawa, Sumiko Sakamoto, Keiko Sagawa, Masaomi Kondô

PLOT: Ogata makes illicit pornographic films to support his widowed landlady, who is also his lover, and her two teenage children. The widow believes her ex-husband was reincarnated as a carp she keeps in a fishbowl next to the bed and that he disapproves of the arrangement, but she cannot control herself. When she dies, she insists Ogata marry her daughter, but the pornographer has become impotent and obsessed with building a mechanical woman to be the perfect mate.

Still from The Pornographers (1966)

BACKGROUND:

  • Shôhei Imamura apprenticed as an assistant director under Yasujirô Ozu, and although he was considered a major figure in the Japanese New Wave, his movies are little known outside his native land. In the West, The Pornographers is his best-known work.
  • The scenario was based on a 1963 novel by Akiyuki Nosaka (who also wrote the story on which Grave of the Fireflies was based).
  • The Pornographers was made by Nikkatsu studios, who ironically turned from producing art films to making pornography (“pink films”) soon after the scandal over ‘s “incomprehensible” Branded to Kill in 1967.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Shôhei Imamura frames many of the shots in The Pornographers oddly, including a couple of bedroom scenes viewed through a fish tank; the idea is that we are watching the jealous carp as he spies on his human wife making love to Ogata. The weirdest of these shots, however, has to be a Haru’s deathbed scene, also shot through the carp cam—improbably, this time, from above, as if the fish is looking down from heaven on the spouse who is soon to join him.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Carp ex-hubby; slow schoolgirl porn star; Ogata floats away

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A cavalcade of perversions flecked with short dream sequences and unannounced flashbacks, almost every scene in The Pornographers is eccentric, if not flatly surreal. The main character delivers a philosophical monologue as he walks though an orgy, the matron freaks out to the surf-rock soundtrack in her head, and a new wife strips to garter and stockings as she walks down the corridor to meet her mother-in-law for the first time. Although the story is based in realism, the film’s tone is melodramatic and dreamily erotic—but, ironically, hardly pornographic at all.


Original trailer for The Pornographers

COMMENTS: The key to understanding The Pornographers may be Continue reading 219. THE PORNOGRAPHERS (1966)

LIST CANDIDATE: OF FREAKS AND MEN (1998)

Pro urodov i lyudey

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Aleksey Balabanov

FEATURING: Sergey Makovetskiy, Dinar Drukarova, Viktor Sukhorukov

PLOT: The lives of two bourgeois families and a crew of pornographers cross paths in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Stil from Of Freaks and Men (1998)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: With its sepia-tinted, silent movie feel and its clutch of strange denizens—conspiring maids, conjoined twins, and eerie criminals—Of Freaks and Men straddles the line between black comedy and social commentary with a combination of non sequiturs and S&M photography.

COMMENTS: The tone is set early and thoroughly as a series of sepia bondage photos are projected beneath the opening credits. The story begins in a style that would not be unfamiliar to the first movie-goers, as a brief montage displaying the primary characters plays through in black and white (accompanied by the background crackle of a scratchy film projector on the soundtrack). The film switches to sepia, and the theme of connivance is introduced when we see a young woman, obviously a maid, furtively whispering in Johann’s ear. What follows is an unlikely but believable tale of plots, peril, and pornography (known, of course, as “the 3 P’s of cinema”). Through underhanded means Johann, a purveyor of obscene photographs, manages to infiltrate the household of a bourgeois engineer and his daughter. Meanwhile his assistant and hatchet-man, Victor, comes across a surgeon who is the adoptive father of conjoined twins.

Their combined efforts allow them to move their “studio” from the basement of a nearly derelict building (that seems to be more than half a dozen floors underground) to an upscale flat in the heart of the town. The engineer’s daughter Leeza is immediately coerced into posing for their wares, stripping on demand to be lightly whipped by Johann’s grandmother who is carted out of a nearby cupboard for the purpose. The criminal’s cameraman, Putilov, is hopelessly smitten by Leeza, as is one half of the set of conjoined twins.

Things go on this way for “months” (according to a title card), with repetitive photos thrown together, sometimes taken in front of a paying audience. Henchman Victor eploits the twins more benignly, as they both sing and play the piano (and, most amusingly, the accordion, each half held by one of them as they perform a song). All good things must come to an end, though. Nana passes away, prompting Johann to break down and experience a seizure. The captives take this chance to get outta there and try and make it on their own—with limited success.

One could well argue that storyline alone is enough to plant this film firmly on the “weird” side of things, and as you would hope for from a movie given space at this site, it cements its position—and then some. While certainly not the first modern movie to pose as a throwback to silent pictures and sepia tinting, Of Freaks and Men does so with off-key humor and an appreciable lack of pretension. An out-of-the-blue the title card appears reading “Johann readied himself to make a wedding proposal,” and we see the stone-faced criminal, dressed as best as he knows how, on the prow of a small steam boat. His expression then is of a in need of exorcism. When Leeza is first photographed in the nude and when she sleeps with one of the two conjoined twins, the title cards announce, “And so, Leeza became a woman for the first time”, and “And so, Leeza became a woman for the second time”, respectively.

Russians widely viewed the movie as allegorical. The conjoined twins, Kolya and Tolya, symbolize Russia. Kolya, on the right, is intelligent, talented, and spurns the offers of liquor from the various ill-intentioned adults. His twin Tolya, on the left, is buffoonish— talented, yes, but quick to fall under the spell of a licentious maid who shows him some of the Johann’s photos, and then happy to adopt the regimen of alcohol his overseers foist upon him. Kolya represents the Russia that could be; Tolya represents what Russia so often has been (and is likely to continue being). Not knowing their father has been murdered, in the end they head to his hometown, in the East. Pursuing this path, the twins rush toward tragedy.

There is sadness in Of Freaks and Men, but it is coupled with wonderfully black humor. Its weirdness is best seen in its self-assured tone. The world this movie creates is believable, while at the same time flying in the face of expectation. I haven’t even mentioned its other weird accessories: the blind wife of the doctor who “[falls] in love for the first time” with Victor when he forces her to expose herself to him, the recurring train yard scenes, the sinister quality of the two antagonists, and the nebulous ending with its beautiful ice flows. Now that I’ve mentioned them, I can promise the curious amongst you that there are plenty others to be found.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“When I first saw Alexei Balabanov’s Of Freaks and Men at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1998, I thought it was touch and go whether a film quite so original, provocative, perverse and calculatedly offensive – not to mention weird in the extreme – would get British distribution at all… fans of Borowczyk, Peter Greenaway, Guy Maddin, early David Lynch and Jan Svankmajer’s Conspirators of Pleasure will have a field day, as will broadminded devotees of the more fantastical Russian novelists…”–Michael Brooke, The Digital Fix (DVD)

CAPSULE: NIGHTDREAMS (1981)

DIRECTED BY: F.X. Pope

FEATURING: Dorothy LeMay, Jennifer West, Andy Nichols

PLOT: Two scientists observe a woman’s erotic dreams.

Still from Nightdreams (1981)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As the first, and very nearly the only, movie to mix hardcore XXX action with dream logic, Nightdreams is a unique beast. As a curiosity piece it’s something to add to your bucket list, but once the novelty of surrealist porn wears off, Nightdreams is not really a great movie—and it’s worse erotica.

COMMENTS: There’s a reason plotted porn movies never took off. Narrative and intense titillation work against each other; each one is a distraction from the other. Even today, directors like who toy with adding explicit sex to their movies make sure that actual acts of penetration and gynecological detail last only for a few seconds, to keep their stories from drifting into a fap-fest. Surrealism and porn don’t really go well together, either; the weird feeling inspired when a cigarette-smoking fish head pops up in bed next to a lovely lady throws cold water on those sexytime cravings. Written by a young “Hustler” copy writer named Jerry Stahl and that magazine’s “Creative Director” (the two would continue their partnership on the XXX cult film Cafe Flesh and the softcore midnight movie Dr. Caligari), Nightdreams was made by smart people slumming in the gutter, anxious to do something erotically different a) to get themselves noticed and b) to keep from getting bored in the repetitive and formulaic world of porno. Of course, porn is repetitive and formulaic for a reason—its function is to expand viewers’ pants, not their intellectual horizons—so, while Nightdreams got some favorable notice in the scuzz press as some sort of prestige sleaze piece, it didn’t exactly found a subgenre of arthouse smut.

Nightdreams stars Dorothy LeMay as the woman whose sexual imagination is so outlandish it’s the subject of a research project by a pair of scientists in lab coats. Strawberry blond LeMay has a real-world, girl-next-door sexiness that’s refreshing compared to the plasticized glamor of today’s porn starlets, but, based on her line readings, an actress she is not. That’s okay, because she appears to enjoy the weird sex (so maybe she is a great actress, after all). Her fantasies involve sex with a Jack-in-the-box (accompanied by creepy anti-erotic laughter), a campfire threesome with two lithe cowgirls (while Wall of Voodoo sings a cool New Wave rendition of “Ring of Fire”), servicing a couple of hookah-smoking sheiks, meeting a man with a fetus in his pants, a pseudo-rape scene over a toilet, and rutting with the Devil in Hell, followed by a romantic coupling with an angelic stud in Paradise. The movie’s most memorable sequence, no doubt, is when Dorothy fellates a living rendition of a Cream of Wheat box while serenaded by a jazz version of “Old Man River.” Her head bobs back and forth to the music, and a piece of toast shows up to accompany the couple on sax. It’s an unusual sight, to say the least. Like most of Nightdreams‘ scenes, it’s too weird to be erotic, but too insistently porn-y to work as an art installation.

The Cream of Wheat scene is a trademark infringement that the Nabisco company would never condone, and I seriously doubt Johnny Cash would license the rights to “Ring of Fire” for a lesbian threesome scene, either. I suspect Nightdreams got away with these infringements because, in 1981, porn was still relatively taboo, and none of the copyright holders would admit to having seen the film.

The IMDB credits “F.X. Pope”  as Nightdreams‘ director, and lists this as an alias for TV and music video director Francis Delia (who has no other porn connections). However, IMDB also lists “F.X. Pope” as one of Sayadian’s pseudonyms—I had always assumed Sayadian was the director because of the style, and also because he indisputably directed the sequel Nightdreams 2.

Others who worked on Nightdreams include Fast Steppin’ Freddie, Zoot Suit and Pez D. Spencer.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…definitely the most unusual and unique porn flick I’ve ever seen… a series of weird, funny, sexy, surreal and twisted dreams.”–Goregirl, Goregirl’s Dungeon (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Andrew.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: GALLINO, THE CHICKEN SYSTEM (2012)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Octavi Pujades, , Sasha Slugina

PLOT: A man travels to Antarctica planning to rendezvous with a woman there later; he seeks refuge from the cold in a chicken shack, where he enters into philosophical discussions about pornography with the proprietor.

Still from Gallino, the Chicken System (2012)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Carlos Atanes slaves away in relative obscurity, continuing to make defiantly weird movies his way, despite a lack of funding and mainstream notice. His work as a whole arguably deserves representation on this List. While I wouldn’t say that we will automatically restrict “Atanic” entries to a single candidate, as of now, the apocalyptic fetish musical Maximum Shame is the Atanes film to beat. Poultry fetishists, however, may disagree.

COMMENTS: The tagline proclaims this a “pornophilosophical film,” and so it is, although it’s probably heavier on the porno than the philosophy. Still, as far as academic name dropping goes, you’ll hear shout-outs to thinkers like Antonin Artaud, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean Baudrillard, along with discussions of Bertrand Russell’s “barber’s paradox.” There is also the debate, between the mournful lover and the Antarctic poulterer, about the philosophy of pornography: the latter considers obscenity to be a species of topography, and an illustration of Gallino‘s putative thesis that human beings are essentially “donuts.” But, this movie is not all abstract speculation. You can’t satirize pornography without making pornography, and there is plenty of filth here, although of an exceedingly strange sort: to wit, if you have a fetish for seeing women deep-throat chicken drumsticks, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for your whole life. “Fisting” is also a major subplot, and in another episode the planet of Jupiter gets violated in its red spot. The movie’s climax (forgive the wording) takes place in a sort of greasy trans-dimensional chicken-tube glory hole; the afterglow involves first contact with three “Sidereal pornstars.” There’s also some weird stuff in there, including a Spanish actor playing a Spanish fried chicken magnate pretending to be from Texas, speaking Spanish with a Spaniard’s idea of a Texas accent. Things get so strange that the two main characters in the Antarctic chicken shack debate whether they’re trapped in a dream; they conclude that they cannot be, because things seem incoherent to them, whereas in a dream impossible things seem natural. As for conventional carnality, the movie has only two short topless sequences. Most of the flesh on display is of the extra-crispy variety. The substitution of a poultry-based erotic system allows Gallino to get away with imagery that would otherwise make this a XXX feature, evoking the queasy arousing-yet-repellant feeling we experience when we see someone acting out a sexual fetish we don’t share. Today, we live in a world that’s awash in smut, but actual pornographic iconography rarely makes it into mainstream films. Even the explicit moments in arthouse films like Antichrist refer to real human sex acts rather than the fantasy rituals of porn. Gallino looks at pornography obliquely, the way an alien might view it; it appears both ridiculous and strangely poetic, a landscape full of symbols and secrets. Atanes is well aware of how the average person (or average critic) will view Gallino‘s assault on the viewer’s narrative and sexual sensibilities. He takes a shot at preempting criticism via an in-movie film critic who says, about the work of fictional art-porn director Gropius Cantor: “it’s a vulgar and disgusting concatenation of pseudo-pornographic shots lacking any appeal.” (While he says this, we watch an unrelated scene of a woman shoving her lubricated fist down another woman’s throat). Of Cantor’s legacy, the critic concludes, “his films became worse with time, more cryptic, more obtuse, more unappealing and utterly unwatchable.” Atanes’ films are becoming more cryptic and obtuse, but the more unappealing and unwatchable they become to “normal” people, the more fascinating they become to us.

Movies like Gallino, the Chicken System find themselves in an impossible marketing position. They really need rental outlets to allow people to take a low-cost chance on them, so the movie can eventually spread its reputation by word-of-mouth. Yet, they are too specialized and weird for outlets like Netflix to stock. Gallino is being sold in the U.S. in a DVD-R version. It includes numerous behind-the-scenes clips, all in Spanish.

DISCLAIMER: A copy of this movie was provided by the distributor for review.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EDWARD D. WOOD. JR: THE NEW TESTAMENT

This is the second half of a two-part overview of the career of Ed Wood, Jr. You can read the first part here.

Before the terms Art Brut, Outsider Art, and Naïve Art were bandied about freely, Ed Wood, Jr. personified those concepts. Of course, Wood himself had to die first before being canonized as one of outsider art’s patron saints. Predictably, with that canonization came an institutional sheen of sorts, and Wood became the proverbial yardstick of “so bad it’s good” filmmaking.

Orgy Of The Dead (1965) was written by Wood and directed by Stephen C. Apostolof (AKA A.C. Stevens). This was Wood’s first of many collaborations with the soft-core porn director. Orgy stars TV-psychic Criswell in what has to be his biggest role. Our lounge lizard clairvoyant serves as a bloated and clearly inebriated host called “the Emperor.” He eccentrically delivers dialogue recycled from Night of the Ghouls (1959) straight off of cue cards: “Once human, now monsters! Monsters to be pitied! Monsters to be despised!” William Bates is horror writer Bob. Bob’s girlfriend, Shirley (Pat Barrington) just has to ask “Why Bob? Why those horror stories?” We’ll never forgive her for asking that after being made to suffer through Bob’s response: “My monsters have done well for me. You think I’d give that up so I could write about trees or dogs or daisies? That’s it! I will write about my creatures pushing up the daises!” Shirley plants a kiss on him. “Your puritan upbringing sure doesn’t hurt your art of kissing.” “My kisses are alive!” (she sure told him!) “Who’s to say my monsters aren’t alive?” Bob and Shirley are looking for an old cemetery so Bob can get inspired when, lo and behold… a car crash! “Aah!”

Still from Orgy of the Dead (1965)As our victims lie unconscious, in the very cemetery they were looking for, Criswell intones: “Time seems to stand still. Not so the ghouls!” Bob and Shirley wake up to the sound of music. But, no, Julie Andrews is not on hand and as Shirley perceptively says, “I can’t believe anything dead is playing that music.” On their way to find the source of the music, they spy a nubile lass doing a lethargic striptease. Bob can’t Continue reading THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO EDWARD D. WOOD. JR: THE NEW TESTAMENT

CAPSULE: A SERBIAN FILM (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Srdjan Spasojevic

FEATURING: Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Katarina Zutic, Slobodan Bestic

PLOT: An ethical and well-intentioned ex porn star collaborates with an Eastern syndicate to Still from A Serbian Film (2010)
produce a series of art-house pornographic films. In the process he is unwittingly ensnared in the dark, serpentine morass of his film executives’ depraved madness.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Despite the colorful controversy surrounding A Serbian Film, including claims that it is torture porn and even child porn, the movie is a straightforward—if transgressive—cross-genre thriller, a skillfully blended mix of mystery, horror and suspense elements.  Adventurous viewers who choose to watch A Serbian Film should seek the uncut version.  The controversial scenes are a crucial part of the plot.

NOTE: Director Srdjan Spasojevic was confronted by the international press and informed that his movie A Serbian Film is nothing more than thinly veiled torture porn, perhaps even child pornography.  He responded by asserting that the movie is in fact “a political allegory,” intentionally resplendent with metaphors for the historical, systematic repression of the Serbian people. For example, Spasojevic tells explains that the shocking baby scene “represents us and everyone else whose innocence and youth have been stolen by those governing our lives for purposes unknown.”

Is he being serious?  Or does he believe the most effective way to point out the absurdity of detractors’ allegations and deliberate misinterpretations is to posit an equally absurd response?  A thorough consideration of this controversy is beyond the scope of this review.  The viewer should watch the movie and judge for himself.  I present my own ideas regarding what I think the film discursively accomplishes in the addendum which follows the review.  Whether Spasojevic intends the film to deliver any of these meanings is a matter of speculation.  Despite what I think are some very good points made in the film, it’s my personal belief that he primarily set out to make an offbeat, tense thriller that was shocking enough to be sure to attract attention.  He succeeded.

COMMENTS: Lurid and grim, suspenseful and exciting, A Serbian Film is a well crafted, taut thriller that doesn’t insult one’s intelligence.  Sporting a chic visual signature and structured with a non-linear, temporally shifting plot, this sensational shocker fires off images that range from Continue reading CAPSULE: A SERBIAN FILM (2010)

CAPSULE: APHRODISIAC! THE SEXUAL SECRET OF MARIJUANA (1971)

DIRECTED BY: Dennis Van Zak

FEATURING: John Holmes, Billy Curtis, and anonymous hippies

PLOT: A pro-pot documentary touting the aphrodisiacal properties of the titular herb, with brief

Still from Aphrodisiac!: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana (1971)

hardcore sex scenes to illustrate its key thesis.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s an absurd, exploitative historical oddity that’s worth noting, but it’s not nearly odd/hilarious enough to crack the List of the Best Weird Movies ever made.

COMMENTS: Aphrodisiac! The Sexual Secret of Marijuana is an example of a type of film of enormous importance in the history of film censorship.  (Yeah, that’s why we wanted to check it out…)  In the years before Deep Throat (1972) beat the censors in court, would-be pornographers were trying to stay on the good side of the Roth obscenity test, which concluded that a work could discuss and arguably depict sex if it was not “utterly without socially redeeming importance” and so long as “the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole” did not “appeal to the prurient interest.”  A few sleaze sellers pounced on the documentary format as a promising way to provide “socially redeeming importance” while avoiding appealing “to the prurient interest” (at least, “as a whole”).  They released daring films with titles like Man & Wife: An Educational Film for Married Adults (1969), Pornography in Denmark (1970), and Sexual Liberty Now (1971) that included some hardcore sex scenes amidst the “serious” (i.e., seriously boring) discussion of social issues.  Aphrodisiac! falls into this brief tradition, but it’s extra-shameless in its willingness to meld sexploitation with drugsploitation while wrapping the whole thing in a semi-sincere wrapper of social relevance.  Aphrodisiac! bounces back and forth between documentary nuggets, obviously fake “man in the street” interviews, and graphic illustrations of cannabis’ connubial powers.  As a documentary the film is far from incisive, but really not as shoddy and misleading as you might have expected: prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger’s central role in influencing public opinion against the “killer drug” is highlighted, as is New York City mayor Fiorella La Guardia’s much-ignored 1939 study concluding that marijuana posed little threat to public health.  We also learn (correctly) that George Washington grew Continue reading CAPSULE: APHRODISIAC! THE SEXUAL SECRET OF MARIJUANA (1971)

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)

LIST CANDIDATE: THE WAYWARD CLOUD [TIAN BIAN YI DUO YUN] (2005)

DIRECTED BY: Ming-liang Tsai

FEATURING: Kang-sheng Lee, Shiang-chyi Chen, Sumomo Yozakura, Kuei-Mei Yang

PLOT: During a nationwide drought, a Taiwanese porn star courts a shy and lonely

Still from The Wayward Cloud (2005)

apartment dweller obsessed with watermelons; characters occasionally burst into fantasy song-and-dance numbers.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: As a romantic, pornographic, hallucinatory musical that makes sure you will never see watermelons or Taiwanese sex movies quite the same way ever again, The Wayward Cloud is audacious and, yes, weird.  The powerful downside is the fact that, outside of the musical sequences, Tsai’s minimalism—long takes, a motionless camera, and the absolute minimum amount plot and dialogue he can possibly get away with—is the most acquired of acquired tastes.

COMMENTS: There are seven memorable scenes in The Wayward Cloud—three bizarre sexual encounters (and a couple of ordinary ones) and four outlandish musical numbers.  Given all that’s going on, it’s amazing that writer/director Ming-liang Tsai still managed to keep the script so arid, and to convey an overall feeling of malaise rather than excitement.  Without these seven scenes, the movie would hardly exist; the wisp of a plot involves a boy-meets-girl-and-never-quite-loses-her story that’s told in nearly dialogue free episodes of long takes of actors reacting to nothing.  The meet-cute (or in this case, meet-mute) involves Shiang-chyi coming upon Hsiao-Kang while he’s napping, then sitting down across from him and taking a nap herself.  It’s five minutes of hot napping action before they exchange their first words.  (It’s helpful to know that these characters have met before, in Tsai’s What Time Is It There? [2001], and in a subsequent short film.)  Hsiao-Kang doesn’t divulge his job as a professional video gigolo to his new girlfriend, but there’s no cover story, no sense of urgency that she might discover his vocation, and there’s nothing divulged about her to suggest she would care either way.  There is a quiet, believable sort of intimacy in scenes where Hsiao-Kang smokes a cigarette held between Shiang-chyi’s toes; the lovers are so comfortable together they don’t have to say anything to each other.  But we, the viewers, still wish they would say something for our benefit.

Fortunately, there is the sex.  It’s graphic, but not explicit: there’s no visible genital- Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: THE WAYWARD CLOUD [TIAN BIAN YI DUO YUN] (2005)