For myself and all other nerdy cinephiles; obsessed with The New Wave, Art House cinema, Midnight Movies, and “The New Extremism”; the year’s biggest excitement in film… or just in general, has been generated by Lars von Trier’s Nymph()maniac. The two-volume, more-than-four-hour film, tells the life story of Joe, a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac who, in her own admittedly-astute observation, considers a key to understanding the human experience to be found in the plethora of those disparate individuals who can come to fill her keyhole.
While being a celibacy-inclined student of the Mozzer, I don’t necessarily agree with Joe — portrayed brilliantly by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who has been the perfect subject of Lars von Trier’s latter work, exemplifying with beautiful and horrific detail just the eroticism our culture finds in both the objectification of females — but I certainly agree that there is something to the idea that in order to understand “people” as a species, you might first consider “experiencing” people at their least inhibited. However, unlike the uptight and incomprehensibly unintelligent, who find the film to be controversial due to its hardcore/non-mainstream portrayals of sexuality, I have found the film to be controversial because… Well, while the first volume of Nymph()maniac sees arguably-the-filmmaker-at-his-best, the second volume sees him at close to his worst…
I emerged from the city’s premiere screening of Nymph()maniac Volume 1 needing to collect myself, in-tears, in the bathroom of the Ritz East (Yes, despite the digital takeover, I still avoid iTunes, OnDemand, and anything I can watch on my telephone, for the chance to see a potentially great work of cinema on a big screen.) It was a five-star affair, easily as good as Dancer in the Dark or Dogville’s take on the oppressiveness of capitalism or The Element of Crime or Europa’s depiction of a true dystopia. The film utilized a “slut” to question the history of the relations of humanity in the course of two hours… However, Volume 2 took an equal amount of time to clumsily attempt provide answers to those several thousand years of questions… in a neat, “twist”-filled, shock-friendly exercise in faux-“progressive” tastes.
This Tuesday, July 8th, sees the release of Nymph()maniac Vol 1 and Vol 2 on DVD and Blu-ray and that evening The Trocadero will be screening the two-part film in its entirety. If you’re yet to see Lars von Trier’s most ambitious effort yet, I would highly recommend attending and forming your own fightin’ words. To celebrate the release and the local screening, I have comprised a list of individuals who are akin to von Trier’s Joe, individuals who I would like to complimentarily call “The Most Poignantly Profound Cinematic Sluts.” The following list is of characters who, like Joe, earnestly believed that the quantity of people they’ve bedded reflects their understandings of what it is to live life on Earth… And this academic prude isn’t necessarily disagreeing with them…
Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks, by David Lynch (1990-1992)
So Ms. Palmer might technically be most famous for her time on the TV screen, but the most brilliant television show of all-time was bookended with feature films. Palmer, the protagonist, who washes up dead and wrapped in plastic in the series starter, is the Homecoming queen who had “experienced” the captain of the football team, her psychologist, Twin Peaks’ chief venture capitalist, and an abundance of other bored men in this Northwestern town… She was also briefly a hooker and had a blow problem… She’s essentially the kink in the “nuclear family” and the best Rolling Stones song that never happened.
Nikki Brand of Videodrome, by David Cronenberg (1983)
Much like Nymph()maniac’s Joe, after several dozen lifetimes of “traditional” sexual experiences, this “sophisticated” and hyper-“liberated” female decides that pain is the new pleasure. The blonde bombshell trades her passion for intimate affection for a passion for BDSM abuse in Cronenberg’s body horror masterpiece about contemporary culture’s desire to trade the human experience for the opportunity to partake in a multimedia experience, which I have often characterized as “The Best Film Ever Made About Facebook.”
Dirk Diggler of Boogie Nights, by Paul Thomas Anderson (1997)
Dirk Diggler is the American Dream. He has no academic – or even “professional” — training… but he has more than a handful of something that’s always in demand: a foot-long dong. As a teen, he has no trouble attracting bedmates to keep him warm and, as an adult, he parlays that into a top grosser in films for… well, adults. Dirk’s not the traditional “slut.” This isn’t necessarily what he sought… but it is something that earns him a living, both socially and financially… and, for that reason, he seems more than happy to embrace the title.
Charlotte of Tiny Furniture, by Lena Dunham (2010)
Before she became the token quirky, chubby, tattooed girl embraced by mainstream media (given that she allows herself to be handled by the likes of Judd Apatow and Vogue Magazine), Lena Dunham made the quintessential deconstruction of a contemporary liberal arts student’s post-liberal arts school life (and the best American film of the past decade), in which we are forced to realize that while being overly educated in the arts and humanities might make us seem “cool” at a cocktail party, we’re about as qualified for practical survival as a frat bro at a Death Grips show (R.I.P.) And as nice as it is to be “existentially-minded,” when it comes to dating and mating , it often takes a delightfully English “cock-grabber” like Charlotte to remind us of how it really is.
Amy Blue of The Doom Generation, by Gregg Araki (1995)
While Beavis and Butt-Head may be the epitome of Generation X’s male anti-intellectualism, Amy Blue appropriates Godard’s Karina to comment upon the silliness of goth-inclined girls of the mid-‘90s. While she looks like Venus of subversion, her intellect mirrors those girls of 90210 she loathes so much. She has as much passion and guts as any heroine to hit the silver screen, but without the mental capacity to actually have a motive. Ms. Blue displays what it is to be a beautifully empowered female one moment, and what it is to be the disease-ridden, pom-pom-wielding hussy, costumed in fetish garb, the next. Amy Blue is quite the character but, amidst Araki’s modern telling of the Apocalypse, she poses the question “Can we be saved?” and never quite answers it…