NYMPOMANIAC PART 1 (Denmark/Germany/France/Belgium/UK/18/118mins)
Directed by Lars von Trier. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Connie Nelson.
THE PLOT: Found beaten and abandoned in an alley, Joe (Gainsbourg) is taken home by middle-aged, seemingly asexual saviour Seligman (Skarsgard), the latter being rewarded for his good deed by a chapter-by-chapter account of his patient's sexual adventures. "I'm just a bad human being," warns Joe at the outset. In the first chapter, we see the young Joe (Martin) and her friend (Sophie Kennedy Clark) competing for a bag of chocolate sweets as they seduced men on a train. In the second, Joe falls in love with her office boss (LaBeouf), her first real lover, and first real heartbreak, but their rekindled affair ends when he leaves to marry another woman. In the third chapter, Joe and her married lover (Hugo Speer) are confronted by the latter's wife (Thurman) - who wants to her kids to see "the whoring bed" - whilst the closing two chapters deal first with the painful death of Joe's father (Slater) in hospital, and a doomed reteaming with her the man who took her virginity. All the while, Seligman delivers some analogies and homilies (all thanks to what the director is calling Digressionism)...
THE VERDICT: So, as the mainstream embraces - or, at the very least, accepts - porn as part of most people's lives, it's interesting to watch the lines being blurred ever further. The line between arthouse and porn has long been a hard one to find, of course, no matter how much time we claim to have spent looking for it. And when it comes to generating moolah, there are no prizes for guessing which one comes first.
Do the censors really have any control anymore about what people watch? The internet has taken porn away from the ravers and the rainmac brigade and brought it into the home. And into every room in that home. And for many fame-hungry young bucks today, shooting a porn is akin to getting a tattoo.
How could Lars von Trier not be attracted to such a rich subject, especially given that porn, for all its mainstream acceptance, still has the potential to shock and upset. And cause controversy. Two young girls playing at being frogs by grinding a wet bathroom floor, or enjoying the ‘sensation' of wrapping their legs around a gym hanging rope; a girl at her volcano has always struck a very different chord to a young boy discovering his sexuality.
Released not only in the cinemas this weekend but also on-demand (through Volta in this country), Nymphomaniac is, as you would suspect, a tease. We're constantly bracing ourselves for the nudity, the rush, the sadness,the brutality. Which means that, when it doesn't happen, we're left disorientated, disappointed, disjointed, unsure of what it is we really want from this film. Less yakking and more yowsa, I reckon, might have helped this highly charged but slyly de-eroticised Emmanuelle for nerds. Or Black Snake Moan with a PhD.
Review by Paul Byrne
NYMPOMANIAC PART II (Denmark/Germany/France/Belgium/UK/18/123mins)
Directed by Lars von Trier. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Connie Nelson, Mia Goth, Kookie Ryan, Papou.
THE PLOT: The further erotic adventures of the beaten and abandoned Joe (Gainsbourg) as she recovers in the home of middle-aged, seemingly asexual good Samaritan Seligman (Skarsgard) - including Joe falling pregnant by Jerome (LaBeouf), finding escape with two African men (Ryan, Papou), and dominator K (Dafoe). Which may explain why Jermoe takes their child away, leading Joe to sex addiction therapy. When she later gets a job as a debt collector, training in a new teenage girl, P (Goth), to catch a paedophile leads to an affair, and a journey back to Jerome...
THE VERDICT: More of the same. Only less so. Despite the longer running time.
Review by Paul Byrne