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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film contains some shorts about sexuality and pornography. At first
we are presented with what looks like a gigantic brownish slug. It was
not with shock & horror that the giant darkened slug was viewed by the
audience. Rather, the giant slug was greeted with amazement and
laughter. The giant slug turns out to be the thankfully in-tact penis
of a man who is suspended within a gigantic machine he was making love
to. Thankfully the man's penis and testicles aren't torn off by the
shaft of the machine, as some lubricant and plastic are present.
In another short we get to see a young man play doctor with a nice regular looking female. The innocence and humor are poignant.
In another we get to see several young and old Balkan women. They either stand and sing with their breasts showing, or they ran around in traditional frocks briefly flashing their vulvas. We also learned about Balkan sexual folklore, such as how their men used to put their penises in holes drilled in wooden bridges so as to prevent impotence. Several other fascinating and funny tales are told.
Another great short starts with several young men being interviewed to be in an adult film. Each talks about their experiences with exposure to porn, and each ends up showing their shaven packages. The showing reveals a certain vulnerability and common humanity between them. Eventually the short producers choose one from the group, and he then gets to interview prospective women who're going to be in the supposed adult film within the short. He ends up selecting the forty year old woman - a lady who is outrageously overt toward him, and who most strongly fits the stereotype of an impish porn star.
The key things revealed in the short are: the vulnerability and tender commonness of human sexuality; the silliness which comes from all the fakery present in regular porn; what it's like for a young male who's been exposed to porn to finally get to have sex with a porn actress; and the strange mix of beauty and silliness that is present in commercial porn. The short wasn't really "porn" itself, it was an effigy of it, a clearly focused full color shadow or impression or view, a clear caricature illustrating what commercialized porn is: some beauty; some realism; some fakery; some pandering; some silliness; some crassness, although there was no crassness in the short itself.
In another short we see several less-than-a-second shots from various porn films.
In another we see a panning shot of the breathtakingly beautiful Death Valley and a man masturbating on the ground there. His struggle for release and his subsequent exhaustion is shown.
In another we see a man and a woman separately watching adult films and masturbating in their own separate bedrooms. Our view of the movie flashes at about seven times per second, and there's repetitive music and faint baby cries heard. We see the young man screwing a plastic doll. We see the woman with her fingers up her vulva. Each are alone. This short illustrated several things including that even when we are having sex the experiences we're having are our own.
In a final shot for the film a line of men in presumably Balkan costumes are all standing with their erect members, which slowly deflate as we all watch. One audience member comments "concentrate" in an attempt to help the men maintain their stature.
Here's the impressions I was left with after the entire film concluded: 1. That porn and open expressions of human sexuality in film should not be feared. Those who fear it simply haven't seen enough of it. Seeing enough helps one realize what porn is. It's not a substitute for real in person interaction. Some couples in western countries use it to help enhance their real in person interactions. Some individuals use it to either help educate themselves about the functionality of human sexuality, or to "get by" during times when they're alone. What is revealed through extensive viewing of humans having sex, in whatever context, is that there is beauty and strangeness and silliness. Everyone has their own tastes. Some more educated more sensitive types probably prefer material which is less crass and more authentic. More real, and less directed and less micro-managed. More true to life.
Also, a lot of exposure to such material does not result in moral degradation. Rather, it results in several things. In part we come to see human sexuality as something akin to the work in a sausage factory. To a birth. To a biological process we get to observe & participate in. To joy, pain, strangeness, a recognition of our connection with all organic life. It's all skin on skin. Flesh on flesh. It's living. Get used to it.
2. That authentic expressions of human sexuality in movies should be celebrated. I'd personally rather see independent films focus on such things, because most anything Hollywood touches turns to crass commercialized crap. So, films like Caligula, Intimacy, 9 Songs, the works of Tinto Brass, and the Pier Paolo Pasolini films such as The Decameron, and The Canterbury Tales - all these films, and this most recent film Destricted, are revolutionary in that they show: That what some of us fear and loath need not be feared, when stared in the face.
3. The human sexuality is pedestrian and beautiful at the same time. Common. Tender. Personal, but public as well. Experientially individual and shared simultaneously. Sometimes intimate and sometimes detached. Overly hyped by some. But not valued enough by others.
At Sundance '06 some of us got to stare a huge slug in the face. The slug moved. The slug grew. But in the end, we found it was just a part of being human and being alive.
(Due to the 1000 word limit I've trimmed this review by over a third:
apologies if some of the notes on films in this seven-film collection
are therefore rather brief.)
Andy Warhol once said, "An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them." Destricted doesn't fit into convenient mainstream or even art-house niches, but is more like a Tate Modern exhibit. It would be hard to identify a 'market' for the film, yet it is undoubtedly of some merit.
Destricted is a collection of shorts linked by a common theme. Two of them are directed by acclaimed film directors and the other five are made by heavyweights (two of them women) from the world of contemporary art. All were invited to make films on their views of sex and pornography.
The films in Destricted are mostly iconographic or impersonal fabrications. They distil essential elements into images that remain long after they are viewed. Each uses different artistic techniques, and each is worthy of serious study - although cinema audiences' reactions may also include boredom and amusement.
The most accessible section of the film (and the most linear in format) is Impaled by Larry Clark. Clark examines the effect pornography has on youngsters, but his film goes further, looking at the human dynamics and insecurities of the porn industry and making a porn film. He interviews young male pornstar wannabees, in discussions that are almost like a shrink session, asking them about their sexual experience, preferences and use of pornography. One of them is a virgin. Many have quite understandable hang-ups about their bodies. Asked what sort of things they would like to do, they all express an interest in anal sex. When they undress, nearly all of them are shaved. These last two characteristics, although only evinced by a minority of the general population, are frequently the norm in pornographic films. The female porn actors interviewed are shown as human and genuinely sensual (unlike the way they are portrayed in porn films), although their comfortable attitude to sexuality threatens to bring out more of the guys' insecurities (a theme that was also explored well in Breillat's Sex is Comedy). The girls prove mostly adept at putting the young man at ease however and he selects the oldest of them (40yrs) to be his 'co-star'. Clark avoids the pitfall of making the film funny or sterile or missing the eventual sex scene. The result is a documentary about porn that is also seamlessly pornographic.
The sense of dislocation is felt even more strongly in House Call by Richard Prince (a twelve minute section). Almost an homage to a golden age of porn, Prince takes the naughty doctor-patient fantasy stereotype but reprocesses his film until the image quality is overrun with graininess and bad lighting. To this, he adds jangling, futuristic music so that, even though the images are very explicit, we are reduced to observing them in a distant, dispassionate way.
Hoist, the fifteen minute contribution by artist Matthew Barney, will be no surprise to fans of his acclaimed Cremaster Cycle. Barney develops cryptic, intricate symbols that draw you in to their artistry long before you decipher them, whether in Freudian or any other terms. He is a very visual artist and can be extremely unsettling, perhaps in the way Dali is. At the start of Hoist, we are not sure what we are looking at. It could be a slug. Very slowly it grows, like a painting that slowly changes. Gradually we become aware that it is in reality something very different to what we had expected. It is a human penis. The ultimate, dystopian contrast occurs in an onanistic union with a deforestation machine.
Balkan Erotic Epic by Marina Abramov is thirteen minutes of amusing but quite instructional scenes re-enacting ancient sexual rites for fertility, warding off evil and the like. It also provides some of the most memorable images, such as the bare-breasted woman repeatedly clutching a skull to her chest in the closing credits. One of the scenes - where men are seen from above, lying face down and copulating with the earth itself, is reminiscent of the work of the photographer Spencer Tunick who stages vast public gatherings of naked people around the world.
Sync by Marco Brambilla is the shortest contribution at less than 2 minutes. Brambilla uses sensory overload in the form of clips, each no more than a few frames in length, from typical hard core features. The resulting choreographed collage (set to loud drum music) is like being hit over the head with Dante-esquire force by images that once would have appeared sexual or arousing.
Death Valley by Sam Taylor-Wood is eight minutes long and puts a Marlboro man type character in one of the hottest infertile places in the world where he 'spills his seed'. Taylor-Wood's work often has the human figure isolated on film, as if she views the body in its most revealing moments as a work of art in itself. Death Valley conveys the loneliness and stigma attached to self-stimulation and is uncomfortable, almost homo-erotic viewing.
Gaspar Noé provides one of the longer segments with We F*ck Alone at 23 minutes. As with his earlier Irreversible, he uses strobes and a heartbeat-like thumping background score to create sensory disorientation. At one point a man puts a gun in sex-toy doll's mouth as he copulates with it. The scene maybe suggests the danger of sexual repression symbolised by solitary pleasure - if the psyche is unable to negotiate normal sexual relations with another person it tends towards force and a desire for dominance. The title is a play on the title of the director's first feature film, I Stand Alone (Seul Contre Tous), a controversial story about despair and loneliness and the resulting sexual pathology.
I just watched this film at Sundance. Clearly the most challenging
portion of this film for the audience was Gasper Noe's use of strobe
for his part of the film titled We F--- Alone. A good fifth of the
audience cleared out during We F--- because they were bothered by the
strobing. During the Q&A following the film when asked why he used the
effect Noe replied, "Because it looks better." The style used in We
F--- Alone may not appeal to most audiences, but the premise of the
film promised shorts by director's giving their impression of the world
of porn and We F--- Alone was obviously Gasper Noe's take on the world
Other engaging portions of the film included Matthew Barney's Hoist, which involved a man having sex with a industrial machine lifted a dozen feet off the ground; Larry Clarks Doc/ Porn, hosting try outs for young men willing to satisfy their dreams of being a porn star; Marco Brambilla's amazing short splicing together frames from his own porn collection. The rest of the other shorts mixed in seemed to lack depth and were rather bland with the exception of Marina Abramovic's vignettes on superstitious Balkan sexual behavior which was very funny.
The movie is all that is promised and is an absorbing take on porn from these artistic talents. This isn't something to watch on a television and should be experienced in the theater environment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you don't already know, Destricted is basically a collection of
shorts about pornography by famous directors from around the world. At
points it could be a little overwhelming but as a whole left me feeling
pretty gratified. Here is a quick rundown of the shorts:
While these are just descriptions, they may contain spoilers so be warned.
Hoist directed by Matthew Barney.
Hoist is about a man who has sex with a 50 ton bulldozer that is suspended above the ground from a crane. It shows him being intimate with the machine and for Barney (Cremaster Cycle) fans it will not disappoint. It maintains the ominous tones of his other films and succeeds in being beautiful and downright scary at the same time.
House Call directed by Richard Prince.
House call is basically a flat-out 70's style porn shot off of a television. It shows a woman oiling herself up then making a phone call. Then a guy comes over and they have sex. It's primarily in slow motion and is accompanied by a soundtrack played off of what sounds like a tape recorder. The music I found to be the most enjoyable about the film, especially the part where the tape is rewound then plays again.
Impaled directed by Larry Clark.
Larry Clark's documentary about porn is by far the best film is the collected works of Destricted. It shows the casting session for a porn where Clark himself interviews the males for the part. After selecting one of the men to be in the film he lets them interview which woman he wants to have sex with. Then in the end they have sex. It is pretty nonchalant and matter of fact as it plays out, talking about and showing anal sex and blow-jobs and breasts and balls and everything else that comes with porn. It does however introduce a human element into the mix so it doesn't come across as just straight porn. Oddly enough you actually feel connections with the cast which makes it a great film and not just straight forward sleaze. It is also hilarious, be it intentional or unintentional, specifically the scene where the star pulls out of his mate's ass and gets poop on him, then explains how he thought that was gross and how he didn't think ahead too much.
Sync directed by Marco Brambilla.
Brambilla demonstrates his patients and editing skills in this rapid-fire short which is basically a fluid montage of porn sex scenes lasting only half a second or so in duration but flow to make a consistent image. It runs for about three minutes but is amazing and almost intoxicating as it unravels.
Death Valley directed by Sam Taylor-Wood.
A man walks through the desert and masturbates for about ten minutes. There it is...
Balkan Erotic Epic directed by Marina Abramovic
This short provided a lot of humor which was needed to break up the blatantly raw sexuality of this series (you can only watch people masturbating or swallowing cum for so long). The film plays out like an old-wives tale, detailing how men would have sex with the earth to ensure a good crop season or how women would insert fish into their nether region, then go to be and sleep then wake up in the morning, extract the fish, grind it up and put it into their husbands coffee granting them eternal love. It is actually pretty funny and provides some truly beautiful images, even if they appear a little bizarre.
We F-ck Alone directed by Gaspar Noé.
This was the reason I wanted to see Destricted. Being a huge fan of I Stand Alone and Irreversible I was adamant about seeing his new short. It begins with a porn on the screen then cuts to a young woman masturbating in a her bedroom and a young man masturbating in his. It had Gaspar's signature tones and didn't fail to empty the theater much like his other efforts. The reason for people leaving was more than likely because the entire short strobed. We were warned before entering the theater that if we were epileptic that there was a segment that could hurt us. AND HOW. It was almost unbearable but like always I succumbed and fell into a trance and enjoyed the film from start to finish, even if it wasn't as technically or aesthetically pleasing, it was an experience altogether and truly played upon the senses.
Certainly politically correct, that is a danger sign in any film. Politically correct by focusing mostly on men and porn. This film was almost just like any other porn film. The tiny difference being the "art". Strobe light was the "art" in We f...ck alone (it was way too long. I got the "message" after 5 minutes). The "art" in Death Valley was none what so ever. Just a guy masturbating outdoors. I read on IMDb that the "art" was the fact it was shot in that particular valley. If you use your imagination, you can see art in everything. That is wonderful. Hoist was least like a porn, but 15 minutes of a man rubbing his penis to a machine shaft was OK ("art" and everything) for 5 minutes. In the film Impaled we saw the audition room instead of the "bed". It was amusing to see the young guys expressing their sexual desires. The "art" in Impaled was the bad lighting. I would have chosen the virgin. I went to the film expecting nothing, and I got nothing. A man cannot ask for more on a night at the movies.
'Destricted' is best described as seven short art-house porn films.
None of them really succeeds as an interesting mix between art and
porn, although 'Impaled' by director Larry Clark and 'Balkan Erotic
Epic' by director Marina Abramovic have some interesting elements. The
first shows a casting for a porn film, but not with the insecure women
often displayed, but with insecure young men. The second shows myths
from the Balkan around the sexual organs which makes a rather funny
erotic little film.
'House Call' (from Richard Prince) is a vintage sex scene and comes, together with 'Impaled', closest to pornography. Maybe 'Sync' (Marco Brambilla) as well, but it only exists out of very, very fast cuts from different porn films and plays for about two minutes. 'Hoist' (Matthew Barney) is too much art, which becomes rather ridiculous with the sex, and 'Death Valley' opens with a beautiful shot only to continue with an 8-minute masturbation scene. I guess it does catch the essence of contemporary porn.
I have not mentioned Gaspar Noé's 'We F*ck Alone' where he seems to have made a stylistic sequel to his controversial 'Irréversible'. His use of the strobe makes this one quite hard to watch. The film itself, including a doll as a main character, becomes unintentionally funny. His film feels as a failed experiment, basically like 'Destricted' as a whole. The premise and some elements have their interesting things, but I can not think of a real audience for it.
I came across Destricted via an interest in the films of Matthew
Barney, most of which I have seen and enjoyed. What I discovered was an
extremely mixed bag of films. Through from the ersatz-revelatory
documentary of Larry Clark to Richard Prince's House Call, which is
quite literally in my opinion, the porn equivalent of Meshes of the
Afternoon (whether or not that's a good idea or not is another matter).
I've rated the whole movie 6/10 but we're really moving from 1/10 to
10/10 during different segments.
I felt Marina Abramovic's segment "Balkan Erotic Epic" contained some sort of interest, but it felt more like an alternative school history lesson, and lacked any sort of cinematic virtuosity. Simply put the film is about Balkan sex superstitions of the past.
Sam Taylor-Wood's segment is quite simply a man masturbating in Death Valley, what is up with that? I'm sure something was going on for Sam but she quite simply left me almost devoid of context.
Matthew Barney film about a man (The Greenman) 'using' (I am not allowed to write the appropriate word due to the comment guidelines) the drive-shaft of a massive suspended truck is interesting more in concept than in adaptation for the screen where it becomes merely pornographic rather than a thesis on sexual energy. To be fair it's also ripped from the womb of Barney's film De Lama Lamina and is so out of context here that it makes little sense. The driveshaft was lubricated with the faeces of a golden lion tamarin. Those of a nervous disposition stay away!
Marco Brambilla's very short piece was entirely devoid of interest to me, a flutter-by of pastel-coloured porno shots. Perhaps he achieved entirely what he aimed for. It was not exactly engaging. Quite astonishingly this is the guy who directed Demolition Man.
Gaspar Noe's section 'We **** Alone' was perhaps the most interesting of all the films, sex in this piece seem like an adjunct of solipsism (if you want to take each of the individuals involved as masturbators then you can, but for me they are having sex, it's just that we are being shown a visual metaphor of that process, which Noe sees as narcissistic; indeed if you accept the duality then the film is quite potent). He makes the film both numbing and alluring through his use of strobe effects and his soundtrack of heartbeats, breathing, and a baby eerily crying. It's clear that he is also passing a judgement, artistically and politically, which I don't think any of the others achieved (although they may have attempted), specifically with his use of match-cutting with TV porn when he's showing the man.
With Richard Prince's 'House Call' we have another film that is sonically intriguing. The material is almost certainly found footage. But his added value is the way he manipulates it with sounds, in an astounding manner. The story of a woman having sex with a house-visiting doctor becomes psychosexual rather than merely pornographic.
I wouldn't recommend Destricted to anyone I know, because it is extremely sexually graphic and people I know would think I was a weirdo if I started talking to them about it. But if what I've said has piqued your interest, see it by all means.
Most of the films in this collection are simply silly. One is at least
artistic in the old, wan sense of visual oddity.
There is one interesting one, though. Larry Clark's "Impaled." Its rather clever: young men seeking to get into the "business" are interviewed. All of them are sad losers and that saddest sack of the bunch is selected. He then interviews several women to select the one he wants to screw. They are all pros, and their stories and manner are every bit as sad, but posthope instead.
He selects the oldest; she obviously tries the hardest to entice him. She's 40 and desperate to appear alluring. If we had nothing but her manner, we'd have enough to damn.
He's most excited about anal sex. He ends up getting defecated on, but they soldier on until the end.
Its a great take on the ugly behind of the industry.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Destricted is a reflection on sex, sexuality and x-rated movies trough
seven director's approaches and stories - Marina Abramović (Balkan
Erotic Epic), Matthew Barney Hoist), Marco Brambilla (Sync), Larry
Clark (Impaled), Gaspar Noé (We Fck Alone), Richard Prince (House
Call), Sam Taylor-Wood (Death Valley).
The only film that really stood out was "Hoist", which is a very innovative idea, and very well filmed; however, the images of the crane/perforating machine and their real drivers with their faces pixeled rested credibility to the piece. I mean, those people don't add anything to the "story" and, therefore, their presence was unnecessary. If the director really wanted them, why not using actors with unpixeled faces?
I found very interesting "Balkan Erotic Epic", a mostly ethnographic piece, which tells the viewer about how sex is embedded in traditional oral culture in the Balkans. The film mixes surreal beautiful images with schematic animation and the director addressing the viewer with pieces of information. It felt like a pastiche, some of the art in there wasted.
"Impaled" departs from a good idea and exploration of the adult industry. The director put an add on a newspaper searching for candidates for an amateur sex movie. The guys are interviewed on camera and talk about sexuality and adult movies, and show their bodies and genitals to the camera. The director chooses a winner, who then has to interview different adult actresses, see their naked bodies, and choose his favourite for fulfilling his sexual fantasy, in this case having anal sex. The interviews were very interesting, and also listening to the actresses talking about what they do. The problem with the doc is that ends being gross and vulgar, filmed as cheaply as an amateur cheap adult film would be, but without the naturalism and feeling of real amateurs having sex in front of a camera.
Noe's "We fcuk alone" is a big disappointment. His overuse of strobist images is completely unnecessary, and ends being the whole point of the "story" not what happens in it. Without the strobist approach, the film might have been more confronting and interesting, especially if you have something to say about sex. The strobist images in a continuous way, during the whole piece, made me feel sick and, therefore, nothing of what was happening in the story was interesting. Fcking alone and hallucinogen unsettling images are put at the same level.
"House Call" is an adult sex movie, old style, but straight forward nevertheless. No artistry there, either.
"Death Valley" is just a dreadful piece with a guy massaging his willy in the great outdoors... Where is the artistry?
Finally, "Sync: is a very short pastiche of sex images, taken from x-rated films mixed with powerful music.
The movie, overall, has two main problems. The first, and the most important one, is the lack of artistry, despite what the authors and producers intended to. Secondly, the film mixes apples with bananas, so to speak, documentaries, with pieces of fiction, with straight x-movies. In other words, sex is the only common thing. But sex is a too-wide subject to make a movie about unless you set boundaries and decide which aspects or themes you want to explore. As a result, there is not harmony in the movie, as the different pieces are patch-worked and not jigsawed into something bigger. This would have not mattered had the pieces been filmed with artistry and talent, which is rarely seen. Perhaps, a series of short documentaries/films on specific concrete sexual themes would have been more effective.
The movie ends being a gross pastiche of vulgar images, with hardly artistic value and creative talent, which supposed to be the point of the same.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I feel that I somewhat gave this DVD some disservice by fast-forwarding
through most of it. I'm rather tired of people over-analyzing sex on
film as potential for art. I think it would be more original to produce
a series of paintings made by couples covered in paint, screwing on top
a canvas. What we get with this collection is an offbeat tale of a
village and their exposition of breasts and bums, a guy and his fetish
for rubbing himself against moving machinery, a rather well-done
collection of spliced sex scenes one-after-another, an interview of
several individuals for a trial-screw for a porn actor's first
experience on camera, a jarring, strobe-lit piece on a guy defiling a
doll and a girl getting it on with a stuffed doll, a scene from a
porno, and a guy beating off in the desert. That's it, no more, no
less. This is the UK version I watched, so the scenes do change with
the US version, but the idea is the same.
I don't know if the idea was to shock the audience into understanding that sex can be artistic, but it didn't work on me. I've seen far sicker things multiple times, so the shock factor definitely isn't there. As for the art of it all, the only piece that I would expect to see in a museum of any sort would be Marco Brambilla's "Sync," the spliced-sex scenes. The rest of this really loses me, and it's a shame more women directors were not on-board for this project because, although the results were laughable, Marina Abramovic's "Balkan Erotic Epic" was, at least, different from the others. For the work put into each one, I gave that an extra star than I would have if this was some college hack work, but they spent some time with this, even if the results were confusing and boring.
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