F&F the webzine: vol. 1 FEB 2019
[…] I don’t remember the first time I noticed that Nikki Brand, the talk radio host in Videodrome, enacted her name on her body during the film’s sex scenes, but it’s what sent me down the rabbit hole of sex and identity in Cronenberg’s films. Names are sometimes important in Cronenberg, which is why they are sometimes odd enough to call attention to themselves. Sometimes they are games the director is playing to amuse himself: the owner of the art gallery in Scanners is “Arnold Crostic,” which suggests his function in the plot as something to be read or a puzzle to be deciphered (A. Crostic or acrostic). Videodrome’s Brian O’blivion should be recognizable as an anagram for the film’s ultimate view of the world as video hallucination. But Nikki Brand is different. Nikki’s penchant for cutting herself during sex (“nicking” herself) and burning herself with cigarettes (“branding” herself) is a clue that her body and her identity are one, and that her interest in masochistic sex is a key element in that identity. More, it’s a signpost for the director’s other films, suggesting that critical viewers should pay attention.
[…] At the same time, we’re shown Mr. Li snacking on balut, duck embryo eaten from the shell. This accepted delicacy is well-known for acting as an aphrodisiac and inspiring virility in men. It is also curiously harder to look at than Aunt Mei’s well-formed dumplings. This poses a conflicting question of personal limits and morality. On the surface it would seem more horrifying if Mrs. Li crudely popped human embryos into her mouth like a bag of Cheetos, licking her fingers after every gruesome serving. But preparation makes all the difference—not necessarily by removing the disgust from the equation altogether but by hiding it behind art. When something is easier to look at, does it make it easier for us to accept? Does an attempt at achieving peak sexuality by women need to be dressed up to make it easier to swallow?
by Annie Mok
Sis and Chance stand on the beach, soon to become a pair star-crossed lovers. Chance looks hungrily at Sis. Sis and Chance walk around with young Guy in tow, who pines for Wendy. “Guy, smitten again,” the narrator says, “this time Chance is the dazzling one.” The text “Boy crush!” appears. Chance dons a dapper Robin-like mask, a top hat, and a magician’s gloves because he “always goes formal” on intense missions. The near-constant smoke that engulfs many characters, especially Chance upon his arrival onto the island, reminds me of the “stage magic” that floods Maddin’s filmmaking. It’s all sleight of hand, tricks, the lies that tell the truth. [continue reading…]
[…] Well known for its controversial scene involving an amputee client, however transgressive LaBruce is inclined to be, there is, nonetheless, a striking understanding of the intimacy that is curated and fostered, if need be, between sex worker and client. Crucial to this, LaBruce’s filmography, and this essay series more broadly, is what role difference plays: so much of queer identity, or even casual flirtations with queerness (say, gay4pay), create an aspect of identity and experience that exists in opposition to normative narratives of sex, work, and, in the context of this series, even cinematic techniques. So, certainly, at first glance, the sex scene with the amputee is unusual, something rarely afforded screentime, and differently abled bodies are barely given agency, never mind sexuality, but the scene is surprisingly tender. Beneath lime green light, the amputee says, “I’ve been looking for someone like you.”
“At that point, the mere thought of writing a masturbation scene was unnaturally frightening. There I was, a laughable 25 year old woman, still unsure of how—or whether—to put sex into words. Let alone shoot it. And now I was getting ready to tell my brother how fast he should move his hand down and up to stardom. A sure winner for the most awkward experience of my career.”
“Dominance and submission, or D/s, as presented in Phantom Thread transcends the obvious stereotypes of how it's usually been portrayed on screen. There are no sex scenes […] There are no blindfolds or ball gags, no riding crops or spreader bars, and Alma never gets spanked for being a ‘bad girl.’ The film speaks a more subtle and elegant language of D/s that encompasses a broader definition of how the dynamic can exist.”
by J. Simpson
Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses received an even stronger critical response when it first screened at Cannes Film Festival in 1968. Speaking on the film’s hostile reaction, rivaling that of Stravinsky’s The Rites Of Spring, Schneemann told film critic Scott MacDonald, “One of the most extreme things happened when I was in the audience at Cannes. About forty men went berserk and tore up all the seats in the theater, slashed them with razors, shredded them, and threw all the padding around. It was terrifying, and peculiar.”
by Sara Marrone
“(Real) lesbians are nearly invisible in mainstream cinematic history, and when they reach some visibility, they share some recurring features. Almost every time they are evil, mad, negative-example characters (Rebecca, 1940; Vampyros lesbos, 1970; Mulholland Drive, 2001; Monster, 2003), who get involved in dangerous and forbidden lesbian relationships (Bound, 1996; Heavenly Creatures, 1994; Loving Annabelle, 2006; Disobedience, 2018); who “steal” a man's girlfriend (Elena Undone, 2010; Below Her Mouth, 2016; Gypsy, 2017), or cheat on each other with another man (The Kids Are All Right, 2010, Blue is the Warmest Colour, 2013).” [click to read more]