DIRECTED BY: R. Kahl
FEATURING: Miriam Mayet, Matthias Faust, Lana Cooper
PLOT: A female director wants to make an experimental erotic film, but never actually gets
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The only list Bedways will ever make it on is a list of the most sleep-inducing films about sex.
COMMENTS: In movie within the Bedways movie, director Nina has started to make an erotic film with two actors, no script, and no idea what she might want to say. That’s less a plot hook and more autobiographical confession for this confusing, meandering movie with dull dialogue that frequently seems improvised. As far as weirdness goes, well, the characters actions are sometimes inexplicable and unmotivated—out of nowhere director Nina slaps actor Hans in the face, which leads to not to angry recriminations and saucy drama, but to a bout of friendly play-wrestling. The film also tries to be really meta and confuse us about whether we’re just watching actors playing actors, or actors playing actors playing roles (as the promo material puts it, “the boundaries between acting and reality begin to disappear”). Often, it’s unclear whether the actors are discussing real life events, or rehearsing scenes for the film—but that effect is mainly achieved by filming generic, banal conversations (“are you going on the ski trip this weekend?”) All this disconnectedness led to a strange effect: I had no feelings whatsoever for these characters. It’s not that I disliked them; disliking them would have been a pleasant diversion. I felt about them the same way I do about my neighbor three doors down whose name I don’t know and whose face I can’t place. Other than the fact that they have normal, healthy sex drives, and that pensive Nina doesn’t know what to make of that fact, I had no idea who any of these three people were or what they want from life. I suppose, perhaps, that inspiring complete neutrality towards your characters is an interesting trick: not even the best, and not even the worst, directors can pull it off this consistently. Bedways also demonstrates the old saw that it’s easy to take the fun out of sex when you over-think it. Sure, there’s plenty of rutting in dingy Berlin locations—one brief bout of penetration and a much longer explicit female masturbation scene amidst tons of softcore posturing—but, this being an art film that feels the need to justify its prurient interests, the hot action is frequently interrupted by characters wondering about God’s existence, quoting Foucalt, or watching an industrial dance band with a lead singer who strikes bizarre poses that may make you spontaneously cry out, “Now is the time on ‘Sprockets’ when we dance!” Any fires of passion that the movie might stir within you are quickly doused by a cold shower of pretension. The movie wants to ask serious questions about the nature of film, such as “must movies always be about something?” and “is it possible that cinema is just a masturbatory medium for the director?” Unfortunately, Bedways answers both these questions in the affirmative. The unfinished, untitled movie-within-the-movie has one big advantage over Bedways: it never got made.
Bedways was barely released as it is, and I feel safe in saying that if there were no explicit sex in this movie, it would never have seen the light of day. In a bit of ironic foreshadowing, actress Marie complains that if she actually masturbates while Nina films her, then it won’t be acting. Actors who are willing to go this far and expose themselves this intimately deserve to appear in projects that will actually help their careers.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“A worthy attempt to merge the worlds of art house and erotic cinema … blurs the definition of erotic cinema by giving us a well-crafted and incredibly dramatic film with some penetrating sex thrown in.”–Don Simpson, Jesther Entertainment (DVD)