Tag Archives: sex

Inherent Vice

9 Jan

There’s drugs and free love a’plenty in Inherent Vice, but the characters steal the show 

Doc’s Orders

Joaquin Phoenix takes the audience on a trip in  'Inherent Vice'

Warner Brothers Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix takes the audience on a trip in ‘Inherent Vice’

Clearly Paul Thomas Anderson has a thing for the storied eras of America’s past. Boogie Nights welcomed in the rise of the porn industry during the flared-pant, disco-fueled 70s; the more nuanced The Master took up the arc of an L. Ron Hubbard-like charlatan in the wake WWII; while There Will be Bloodnegotiated the nasty, avaricious early roots of the American oil grab. Anderson’s latest, Inherent Vice, is no exception. In texture it’s an ode to the psychedelic 70s of free love and rampant recreational drug use.

Anderson’s always been a contemplative filmmaker with a keen sense of perverse quirk, and those qualities really come to the fore in Inherent Vice, a gumshoe noir on LSD if ever there was one. The stalwart indie director —who proved his ability to handle the opus works of literary lions by spinning Upton Sinclair’s Oil! into There Will be Blood — delves deep into Thomas Pychon’s far-roaming 2009 novel with baroque gusto. Continue reading

Child of God

4 Aug

<i>Child of God</i>

James Franco’s infatuation with the literati and his desire to be among the ranks continues with this adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy’s 1973 novel (his third) about a mentally handicapped malcontent who loses the family farm and evolves into something more feral and arguably evil. Best known for his Spiderman roles and Oscar-nominated turn in 127 Hours, Franco has just a small part in the film and steps behind the lens to helm the effort. It’s not the actor’s first time in the director’s chair; last year he tackled William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and he’s working on a biopic of Charles Bukowski. (Purportedly, Franco wants to attempt an adaptation of Faulkner’s seemingly unadaptable The Sound and the Fury.)

Franco himself got the literary-to-screen treatment earlier this year when a collection of his short stories about growing up in the California ’burbs was crafted into the movie Palo Alto by Gia Coppola. Franco also had a role in that film, directed and starred in The Broken Tower, a biopic about the poet Harry Crane, and also played the renowned beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Jeffery Friedman and Rob Epstein’s tepid docudrama, Howl.   Continue reading

Women Who Prey

18 Apr

Film Review Under the Skin

Much will be said about the women and their use of sex as a means to an end in Lars von Trier’s two part Nymphomaniac and Jonathan Glazer’s alluring new film,Under the Skin. Sex in both endeavors is a must; an addiction in the former and a tool for sustenance in the latter. But in both cases the women are driven by something beyond their control and as a result, they prey.

Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, with Stacy Martin as the young incarnation), the insatiable protagonist in von Trier’s pandering provocation, embarks on her first hunt aboard a train wearing gleefully self-described “fuck me” garb. She’s looking to achieve a series of bathroom conquests and baits the men, packed like sardines into cramped traveling compartments, with fluttering doe-like eyes as she requests help in finding the washroom, and later, for her crowing achievement, settles on a more stately married man in first class. He is so morally affixed and committed that to break that bond will yield the greatest conquest and the most points in an ongoing game of sexual one-upmanship with a fellow train cruiser. After swaying the reluctant mark,  he passively empties himself into her mouth. The man is changed, drained, and emotionally shaken from the transgression he consciously wished no part of until mid-ejaculation. For Joe the act is simply a tally notch, a big bull buffalo on the savanna that her sleek apex feline sussed out, isolated, and brought down. How the man returns to his wife, or if his life is disrupted from the interlude, is of no concern.

In the wild, the act of predation is cold, calculating and necessary. There is nothing civil or remorseful about it. While Joe does it to feed her id or inner dysfunction, Scarlett Johansson’s intoxicating incarnation in Under the Skin, largely nameless but identified as Laura in the credits, does it out of rote need. She’s not of our world but something supernatural, a celestial traveler who has been transfigured to look like us, and on something of a farming mission to harvest human flesh for her ilk. The urgency of her assignment renders palpable and strong as she patrols the streets of Glasgow in an austere white van asking for directions (uncannily similar to Joe’s locomotive panderings).  Continue reading

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II

5 Apr

‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. II’: Sad, porny saga by von Trier wraps up better than it began

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The good news is that Danish director Lars von Trier saves his best for last, at least in his two-part “Nymphomaniac” about a woman with an insatiable sexual appetite and repugnant personal conduct. If you missed Volume I, you need to go back before going forward. To dive in without would be pointless. The rest of you tormented souls all know that Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sits in the apartment of Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) after he has found her beaten and lying in the streets and she is in the midst of recounting her story of being “a terrible human being” from her childhood.

040414i Nymphomaniac- Vol. IIThe plus is that Joe’s flashbacks are closer in time to the now and Gainsbourg, an immensely talented and game actress, is able to play her younger self instead of relying on Stacy Martin, a ravishing but largely wooden prop who only seems to have a flicker in her eye when sucking cock. Gainsbourg too gets a workout – double penetration with two Africans who can’t speak English (she needs a translator to set up the sexcapade) – and goes into the loan-collecting business (for Willem Dafoe, almost as sinister as he was in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), in which her newly learned talents in B&D extract funds quicker than a brutal bruising.

But Joe does not emerge as any more sympathetic in this expanded chapter. She’s married Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), the young man she targeted to take her virginity, and they have a young child, yet every night she leaves her child alone to sit in the waiting room hoping to catch the eye of an S&M master (Jamie Bell, aka “Billy Elliot”). The negligence is paramount, and the addiction ephemeral at best. Truly, she may just be the “terrible human” she professes she is; and yet with such condemnation onscreen there is no discernible greater contemplation. If there was, I missed it between the beatings and front and back entries.  Continue reading

Nymphomaniac

22 Mar

‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1′: Graphic but not groundbreaking, and so far little meaning

By Tom Meek
March 20, 2014

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Danish director Lars von Trier has always been a puckish provocateur and enfant terrible – and to some, worse, considering his Nazi-sympathizer comments at Cannes 2011 (for which he later offered apologies before defiantly taking it back). As a filmmaker, however, his genius has always been right up on the screen in the minimalistic, stagelike lo-fi style he encapsulated with the Dogme 95 manifesto. It’s not for everybody, and it can be trying, but for those willing, a von Trier film is an experience that boils down the human condition into provocative and uncomfortable pokes in the eye while forcing you to confront yourself.

032014i Nymphomaniac- Vol. 1The most emblematic of von Trier’s vast filmography might be one of his lesser-known works: the 2003 curio “The Five Obstructions,” in which von Trier challenges mentor Jørgen Leth to remake his 1967 short film “The Perfect Human” five times, each with a new restricting specification. One obstruction has Leth make the film in the worst place on earth (the slums of Mumbai) and another has him do it as animation (a form both directors detest); and with each new needling hurdle he lays down, von Trier grins with impish glee while shoveling mounds of caviar into his face.  Continue reading

Thanks for Sharing

21 Sep

‘Thanks for Sharing’: On the couch with three sex addicts, where we hear it all

By Tom Meek
September 20, 2013

Sex addiction is a strange and fascinating matter, but it’s also something that’s hard to comprehend and even harder to have sympathy for – because, after all, what are we talking about, someone who’s compulsively after the fruit of life? That’s like trying to feel bad for someone who eats too much sushi or chocolate mousse. No matter, the line between indulgence and addiction is a fine one, and while Stuart Blumberg’s “Thanks for Sharing” doesn’t quite get fully between the sheets of the matter, it does get us on the couch with three recovering addicts.

092013 Thanks for SharingThe tall and rangy Mike (Tim Robbins) runs a New York-based support group like a big papa bear, stern, avuncular and always quick with an answer. He may be the warmest practitioner of tough love. Mike’s addiction, while a bit vague, is more substance based than sexual in nature, but he’s been clean for some time and seems to have a solid home life with his dutiful wife (a radiant Joely Richardson) who’s obviously been through the wars (probably not to the same degree as Anthony Weiner’s spouse, Huma Abedin, but still) and opted to stand by her man. Then there’s his trusted lieutenant, Adam (Mark Ruffalo), an international financier with a primo high-rise condo in Manhattan. He’s five years sober and, because sex is so easy to come by, goes to painful extremes to truncate alone time with the TV and Internet. The good news is that Adam has met the perfect woman in Phoebe (a very toned Gwyneth Paltrow), though he’s reticent to tell her about his bug (sex is permissible; just not compulsive sex). Adam’s also taken on a new charge who’s a discombobulated mess: Recently terminated from his post in a hospital for sexually harassing a co-worker, Neil (Josh Gad) rubs up against a woman in the subway and gets court mandated to the group.  Continue reading