Nicholas Ray: Portrait of the artist as a dirty old man?
I had been wanting to see Wet Dreams for many years because of the infamous episode featuring the great director Nicholas Ray toward the end of his life and career. I finally found a copy courtesy of Video Screams that was in French without subtitles. Although I did not understand French, most of the episodes, the "Dreams," in Wet Dreams had minimal or no dialog.
Unfortunately, "The Janitor" did have quite a bit of narration. I caught the main idea of the episode but undoubtedly missed much of it. Some critics were harsh on Ray for making this short, but I was intrigued. Nicholas Ray played a broken down janitor cleaning up a studio where once he had held court, a guru to horny, young hippies (seen in flashback). The nudity in this short was minimal. True, the images of the young females taking communion from Ray by performing oral sex on him (only simulated) could be argued to show the auteur as nothing but a dirty old man. Nonetheless, I found "The Janitor" to be a moving look at a once great director (the flashbacks) now old and alone (the janitor). I just wish I could have understood the narration and dialog.
If "The Janitor" was the most fascinating episode in Wet Dreams, it was not the only one of interest. As "Falcon Stewart," hardcore pornographer Lasse Braun provided the film's funniest episode, "The Happy Necrophilliacs." Lee Kraft paid a dirty homage to Chaplin's Tramp character in the fun silent "The Plumber." Kraft also made "The Banner," in which nude body painting was taken to an art form. Surrealist painter Hans Kanters took the viewer on a tour of his penis landscape paintings, like a wedding between Hieronymus Bosch and Bob Guccione, in "The Private World of Hans Kanters." Finally, I was not sure what to make of Dusan Makavejev's "Politifuck," which featured a catchy song about Chairman Mao and revolutionary would-be lovers growling at each other.
There were some duds of course, but all of the episodes were short. This was an easy film to watch. Wet Dreams was made back in the days when sexually explicit material (here *mostly* softcore in nature) was viewed as a breakthrough in free expression and maybe even art. Pretentious? Sure, but no more so than Showgirls, The Dreamers, or Romance - and a hell of a lot more fun than any of them.
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