I guess it’s been fifteen years since I watched Gaspar Noé’s I Stand Alone on videotape and didn’t enjoy it, and his name keeps coming up, so as part of my Festifest Quest to become more familiar with the film-festival auteurs of these days, I thought it best to watch a 2d blu-ray of Noé’s 3d porno. And I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe he’s a big screen filmmaker and you need to experience the glory in a proper theater – not that his films ever show where I live – but more likely he is making uninteresting movies that I should avoid in the future.

Salo, hardcore The Defiance of Good, Flesh for Frankenstein:

Okay, I liked the editing a lot. I’m a sucker for good editing, and this thing’s got it. Well-composed shots (though most are horribly lit) and lots of sex, two more things I like. The list ends there. Murphy is a sadsack who hates his blonde wife Omi and his family and his stupid life, so he dreams in flashback of his ex-girlfriend Electra and his stupid life with her. He comes across as a total dick, but once you get to better understand his situation… he’s still a dick, which deflates the sex scenes and the drama.

M, Birth of a Nation:

So Murphy and Electra were together, did drugs and had sex and initiated a threesome with a cute neighbor in their building. Murph fights Electra’s ex-boyfriend art-dealer Noé, played by our director Noé, then the cop arresting Murph tells him about a sex club, where he goes with Electra. He wears one of those Fassbinder shirts in the style of the Metallica logo and tells everyone he’s a filmmaker, though we never see him work. First time his girlfriend’s out of town he cheats with the cute neighbor, condom breaks, bam, two years later he’s stuck with the cute neighbor and their kid (named Gaspar, of course) and Electra’s mom is calling saying she hasn’t heard from her daughter in months, and has anyone seen her, but no they haven’t.

Murphy keeps stereoscopic photos in his I Stand Alone VHS box – self-reference much?

Taxi Driver?

Freaks, Taxi Driver:

Katy saw a single frame of this movie, on pause, and said it “doesn’t look very nice.” Not as stylized as I expected, really an actor’s showcase (and they’re fine, but the English dialogue needs work), though there’s some cool fake-sounding mixing in a couple of club scenes. I dig the music choices – “Maggot Brain” over the threesome.

B. Williams in Cinema Scope:

For a myriad of technological and social reasons, this current 3D wave is the first that’s been sustained long enough for us to get a stereoscopic porno that we have the opportunity to take somewhat seriously. If last year, with Adieu au langage, we were finally able to see 3D’s voice crack, Love might best be taken as its first date: a dumb, awkward, unseasoned, and horny experience that is best forgotten in the long term but serves as a logical and necessary step for now.

Fully bizarre and exceptional movie, which I think I need to watch again before attempting to say anything about it. Immortal couple with their undead “maid” hosts orgy which never quite gets off the ground, as participants exchange (hi)stories, then one host sneaks off and kills himself. Great lighting and imagery, action taking place in a stylish, dream-logic void.

Kate Moran (Goltzius and the Pelican Company) and Neils Schneider (Heartbeats, I Killed My Mother) are the hosts, Nicolas Maury (Regular Lovers) the “maid”. Guests include The Stallion (former soccer star Eric Cantona), The Star (Fabienne Babe of Rivette’s Hurlevent), The Teenager (Alain-Fabein Delon) and The Bitch (Julie Bremond).

Special appearance by whip enthusiast Beatrice Dalle (The Intruder, Inside):

Surprising restraint on use of music considering the director is a member of M83.

That’s not all it does – it kills your ass if it catches you, sometimes in weird sexual ways while appearing to be one of your parents. Also, it creeps you the hell out, though the huge, in-your-face dread organ music adds immeasurably to that creepy atmosphere. It lingers in your imagination so clearly afterwards that it seems destined to be remembered forever. First horror movie I’ve seen in theaters since Lords of Salem (unless The World’s End or Under The Skin count), and it’s a great one.

Screencrush calls it “a sexually-transmitted ghost.” S. Tobias in Dissolve mentions “a visual strategy that combines distance with surveillance, a sense of something ominous happening elsewhere, independent of the action.” This applies to main characters and plot elements too – we’re not sure who’s having sex with whom off-camera, between the edits, in order to forestall the creature, maybe send it on a promiscuous path forever.

Stars Maika Monroe of The Guest. Her platonic friend Paul is Keir Gilchrist, star of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Toni Collette’s son in United States of Tara. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis shot John Dies at the End, and editor Julio Perez worked on Mitchell’s debut The Myth of the American Sleepover.

The director, on how his movie-teens don’t exactly look/talk like the youth of today:
“The ground rules of the film world don’t have to be how we understand the world. And something doesn’t have to be fantasy to take some elements from fantasy. Movies are very much dreams, in a way, and you can use that to your advantage.” He also says he was thinking about Cat People during the pool scene.

Not really a horror movie, more of a John Dies at the End supernatural comedy with a ton more sex and even less of a point. Nympho Jennifer has a surplus of clits, reclusive dude Batz has “a drug-addicted dick with a mind of its own.” Will these two meet and find true love? Yes… well, not really, since nobody survives the ending.

More shocktastic details: she tends to have babies a few hours after sex, and leaves them everywhere. She also tends to kill her partners, and is a pro photographer celebrated for double-exposed photos of her victims. His penis finally wanders off without him via stop-motion, its perspective shot as a purple-tinted fish-eye as it tears through a condo building filled with hot naked women.

Co-written/produced/featuring rapper R.A. The Rugged Man. Nice to see an aging white filmmaker connecting with youth culture of today, even if the results are so mixed. I’ve seen Frank’s Basket Case and Brain Damage, but not Frankenhooker, which is probably the key reference point.

Divided into two parts with multiple sections each. Rough-looking nymphomaniac Charlotte Gainsbourg is picked up by virgin shut-in Stellan Skarsgard. She tells her story, divided into two long parts with multiple sections, each section metaphorically tied to a different token from Stellan’s bedroom. He is presented as the most patiently nonjudgemental man in the world, then finally tries to rape her in her sleep, because after all, she’s had sex with basically everyone but him. It’s temping to call this a betrayal of his character, but really it seems too tragically real. With all the sexual escapades in the four-hour movie, this final minute is the part I keep thinking about.

Part one is a romp, then part two does away with the fun and games and much of the humor, as “Joe” goes too far and injures herself then can’t have proper sex for a while and has to visit a masochist (haven’t seen Jamie Bell since 2006, forgot what he looked like – he’s got a Ryan Gosling dreamy intensity here) and she becomes obsessed with her first/true love Jerome (Shia LaBeouf, then distractingly a different actor in the last few scenes) and tries to murder him when he takes up with Joe’s girlfriend Mia Goth.

For the most part, except when part two gets too heavy in the middle, the movie mixes things up admirably. It uses cutaway footage with different resolutions and aspect ratios, graphics and captions in part 1, and is overall full of intensely good dialogue. Fun meta-moment when Jerome returns to the story, Stellan tells her the coincidence is too strong and Joe replies you’ll get more out of the story if you just roll with it and believe me.

Christian Slater is Joe’s father, mainly seen during the “Delirium” episode when he’s dying in hospital, and Connie Nielsen (Demonlover) is her severe mother (does she even have lines?). Sophie Clark is Joe’s best friend in part 1, and Uma Thurman gets a huge breakdown scene as the wife of a man who has left her to live with Joe. But, as usual, too small a role for Udo Kier.

M. Sicinski:

… it functions a bit like a notepad, moving through different styles and tones without ever lapsing into stuntsmanship. This is a promiscuous film, one that intends to strip that descriptor of any pejorative scent. Like Joe, Nymphomaniac is exploratory and remains radically open, while retaining a core existential self. It can attach its diegesis to a character who may well weave in and out of objective truth; it may tip its hand into reflexivity, only to pull back and attempt to compel belief, both on the level of story and that of formal organization.

Goofball Juzo bets his penis that he can sleep with high-class courtesan Komurasaki. There is no way this will happen, but fortunately Yonosuke, the most sexually experienced man alive, overhears his troubles and helps him out.

The same 17th century novel was adapted by Yasuzo Masumura as A Lustful Man.

Thinking about this movie again thanks to Room 237. It’s nice to sit down with a “proper film” like Wolf of Wall Street, an austere classic like Winter Light, an idiosyncratic puzzle like Upstream Color, but in some ways, Kubrick knocks them all on their asses. From the start it has a commanding power and grace that seems unreal. It’s a motherfucker of a movie.

At a party, Dr. Bill meets his med school friend (Pianist Nick) and two hot babes, but he escapes upstairs to help save host Sydney Pollack’s prostitute from an overdose, while Bill’s wife Alice (for once, seemingly not a Lewis Carroll reference) dances drunkenly all night with a suave Hungarian.

That night, Alice accuses Bill of infidelity, mocks his total confidence in her by confessing an infatuation with a naval officer last year.

Called away because friend Marion’s father has just died, she confesses her love for Dr. Bill just before her boyfriend arrives.

After being pushed aside by rowdy homophobes, Bill allows himself to be taken inside with prostitute Domino (Vinessa Shaw of The Hill Have Eyes Remake), who has masks on her walls, foreshadowing many masks to come, but after a call from his wife he leaves.

Bill comes across the bar where his pianist friend (Todd Field of The Haunting Remake) plays, and wrestles the details of Nick’s next engagement out of him.

Fully flowing wherever this weird evening will take him, Bill goes to a costume shop to get a mask and cloak, awakens the proprietor (Rade Serbedzija, Boris the Blade in Snatch) who discovers his young daughter fooling around with a pair of Japanese men in wigs.

To the masked ball, where it turns out Bill is immediately suspected for having arrived via taxi. Much nudity, an actually-pretty-tame orgy, and taunting masks everywhere as Bill gets caught and kicked out.

The next morning things aren’t going too well for people Bill met last night. Nick has disappeared (according to hotel clerk Alan Cumming), the costume shop man has reached an “arrangement” with the wig men and offers to rent out his daughter to Bill, Domino got news that she’s HIV positive, and Pollack’s prostitute (who Bill suspects was his rescuer at the masked ball) has turned up dead.

Pollack has Bill over to talk him down, and Bill arrives home to see his wife has found the mask, so he tells Alice everything.

The next day they go toy shopping with their daughter. Alice: “Maybe I think we should be grateful – grateful that we’ve managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream.”

Cruise plays so overconfident that his character seems on the verge of being a huge asshole, flashing his doctor’s license all over town like a cop, but he also plays unhappiness and remorse so well that it’s hard to judge. Kidman spends too much of her screen time drunk or stoned, moving and speaking very slowly, but nails the last few scenes.

I enjoyed Rosenbaum’s article, and a detailed analysis of symbols on Vigilant Citizen. I knew I’d easily find such a thing, based on the level of Kubrick analysis/lunacy displayed in Room 237.

From an amazing article by Tim Kreider in Film Comment (although note that he buys into the Room 237 theory of The Shining being about the massacre of the Native Americans):

The real pornography in this film is in its lingering, overlit depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of end-of-the-millennium Manhattan, and of the obscene effect of that wealth on the human soul, and on society. National reviewers’ myopic focus on sex and the shallow psychologies of the film’s central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element in the film – the trappings of stupendous wealth, the references to fin-de-siecle Europe and other imperial periods, the Christmastime setting, or even the sum spent by Dr. Harford on a single illicit night out – suggests more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Stanley Kubrick’s inadequacies as a pornographer. … Kubrick’s films are never only about individuals. (Sometimes, as in the case of 2001, they hardly even contain any.) They are always about civilization, about human history.

Here’s an email I wrote on the subject:

Blue is the Saddest Movie

Figured I’d see Blue one day last weekend and 12 Years a Slave the next day, as a sort of controversial critic-bait double-feature. Was very skeptical of Blue for the first hour because it’s a coming-of-age young-love story completely shot in handheld close-ups. Not my thing. Also the director comes off as quite pretentious in interviews, plus there are multiple controversies (extended sex scenes causing a NC-17 rating, the actresses turning on the filmmaker, the author of the source story hating the movie) so it seems like a hype movie that’ll be soon forgotten.

But – spoiler alert here – the movie is about this girl who falls for an older girl, they’re together for a long time, young girl isn’t getting enough attention after some years, cheats, is kicked out, they break up. It’s a three-hour movie, and the last hour or so is dealing with the aftermath of this break-up. It’s not the most emotionally complex three-hour movie about a teenage girl I’ve seen lately (that would be Margaret, my runner-up to Holy Motors as best movie of 2012) – it’s very straightforward. It’s a love-at-first-sight movie where the relationship doesn’t last but the love does, which might make it the most depressing movie of the year, at least. The handheld close-ups and controversies aside, it’s a movie that lingers in your mind for a long time – I’m getting choked up just thinking about it again. A massive accomplishment, no wonder it won best picture at Cannes.

Ah, the mid-to-late 1960’s, when sex was freer and racism was lessening and students protested things and art was weird and you could have nudity in movies. Sjoman made a long movie (broken up into yellow and blue halves) combining fiction and documentary elements (including much behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s own making) featuring sex and protest and weirdness and nudity, successfully challenging censorship laws.

Vilgot and Lena:

I think Yellow is considered the classic important film and Blue its less-important little sister, but I enjoyed Blue more, maybe because I was used to the movie’s tricks and could pay more attention to the content. In both movies, Lena Nyman roams Sweden, escaping a cheating boyfriend, visits different national institutions, interviews passers-by about current social issues, hangs with friends and worries about her family but never seems comfortable anywhere, finally returns home and tells her cheating boyfriend that she has scabies.

Yellow has more of Vilgot, who is sleeping with Actor Lena (not Character Lena – though presumably neither is the Real Lena). Actor Lena starts dating the actor playing her boyfriend, which pisses off Vilgot, who latches onto a different young female film student at the end. A highlight is Lena’s imaginary discussions with Martin Luther King Jr.

Vilgot:

I was trying to introduce a Utopian idea about nonviolence: Sweden changing its military defense into one of nonviolence… Then I started to embellish that theme, and suddenly discovered that the girl was surrounded with symbols of aggression. She had knives in her closet, and a rifle. This is really a strange adherent of nonviolence!

Vilgot predicts his own death, quite incorrectly:

Blue opens behind-the-scenes with some public reaction to Yellow in the form of hate-mail to the studio. Lena will escape into the fictional film then Vilgot will break in and discuss character motivation. She hitchhikes to a prison, then stays with (and spies on) lesbian friends Sonja and Elin, and hangs with violent Hans and his apologetic girl Bim.

The crew sings a song about prisons:

G. Giddins:

When the crowds actually saw the picture, however, they felt cheated; pubic hair was in short supply, the sex was unerotic, and the running time mostly given over to a droll, Brechtian-Pirandellian, mock-vérité exploration of the chasm between the political and the personal.

Within a year or two, suburban theaters routinely programmed nudity-filled potboilers about nurses and stewardesses, soon to be followed by Deep Throat. Never again would audiences have to put up with socially redeeming values in the pursuit of pornography. Yellow triggered the sea-change that resulted, ironically, in the subsequent indifference towards Blue. It altered the American moviegoing experience, pointing the way to a post-code cinema.

Lena, curious: