Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm shocked! Shocked! (Not really.)

Gaspar Noé’s new film, “Love,” has attached to it the phrase “taboo-busting” because, one can only presume, it has been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and it has scenes of hardcore, unsimulated sex. (The reviews have not been great.) It’s also shot in 3D.

Noé has supposedly pushed the envelope a little further with the poster art for the film, which is also pornographic, if that is even the appropriate word any more. The posters feature more acts of explicit sex, dripping tongues and another with a come-covered erect penis. The film’s title, “Love,” also drips white. The only slightly witty thing about the whole enterprise is the phrase, printed at the bottom of the poster, “Coming Soon.” 

And that title! Does Noé think so little of us that he actually believes that by calling a sexually explicit film "Love" that we're going to swoon over the irony? It's like a high school prank. It's a sex movie but he called it "Love" because when we say we're in love we're really talking about having sex!

All this pranksterism aside, one has to ask, in 2015, what taboos have been conquered by this movie that have not been conquered before? What freedoms expressed? What roads for other filmmakers are being opened? 

None, actually. Noé is nothing more then a guy trying to cash in on a trend. He's drafting off many filmmakers, most of whom have been far more adventurous (even when they failed).

Let’s, for the sake of argument, start with “Last Tango In Paris.” That was heady stuff in 1972, and it starred a major international movie star in Marlon Brando. I remember seeing a Playboy magazine back in the late 1980s that published a photo of the Dutch actress Maruschka Detmers, who was pretty well known at the time, giving a blowjob in a movie called “Devil In The Flesh.” It wasn’t all that scandalous in 1987. Since then we’ve had Chloe Sevigne doing the same thing in Vincent Gallo’s “Brown Bunny.” 

There was a Meg Ryan movie called “In the Cut” that had at least one brief scene of an explicit sex act. Then there was Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs,” John Cameron Mitchell’s “Shortbus,” Lars von Trier’s interminable two-part “Nymphomaniac,” Steve McQueen’s “Shame” and even Noé’s own “Irreversible.” All have scenes, many scenes, of explicit sexual acts.

Put on top of that the many, many “celebrities” that have had a sex tape “leaked.” Not only is there no embarrassment in this, it has paved the way (or jump-started) more than one career. In between all this, there have been countless scenes in countless movies of unembarrassed male and female frontal nudity.

As far as “taboo-busting” goes, Russ Meyer released his first dirty movie in 1959. “Deep Throat” went mainstream in 1972, which brings up the real taboo-breakers: the men and women making all those porn movies back in the day. They were the real outsiders. They were the ones breaking the rules (and the law). Noé and his compadres have nothing on those guys.

So where is the adventurism in “Love?” Where is the boldness in any of this? There’s this idea that they are really doing something that no one has ever done before. It all seems so juvenile and somewhat pathetic that this is now what passes for a new, revolutionary wave of filmmaking.

The fact is, it is not the filmmakers breaking the rules or paving the way. The audience got there long before any of these new auteurs. Normal, regular people have been watching enormous quantities of pornography  — whether it’s arthouse porn or amateur junk — for so many years now that it is they who have taken all the stigma out of it. It is the filmmakers who are following the audience, that's what's new about this. It's the audience members who set the trend here.

Here's the other thing: There is nothing really outré about a $3 million sex film, shot by a professional cinematographer and sold with an ambitious marketing campaign.

Most people will not be not impressed by such arthouse pretensions when it comes to porn.

In fact, the very people this film is trying to scandalize and tantalize, if they want to see porn, will just go home and make one of their own.