Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Torgny Wickman

Now that I've endured both volumes of Von Trier's Nymphomaniac, I don't feel it's rude of me to ask: "Was it all a lark?" Nothing more than an unofficial, epic-sized remake of the above-pictured and long-forgotten '70s softcore cheapie? The parallels are difficult to ignore.

A self-proclaimed nymphomaniac plays out her feelings of worthlessness through a series of random, sometimes violent sexual encounters with men. Stellan Skarsgard (very young here) plays her de facto psychologist (and eventual fondler). Much psychobabble ensues, as do some dabblings in lesbianism and religious iconography. The all-elusive clitoral orgasm is deemed "the cure." Buzz goes the vibrator or thwack! goes the riding crop upon the bare buttocks. All that's really missing with Anita is the fly fishing and a Willem Dafoe cameo.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying. Nymphomaniac does have that great Uma Thurman "whoring bed" scene, a couple of quality sight gags involving humorously framed erections. The scenes with Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) flogging and disciplining Gainsbourg do have a certain warped romanticism to them. But, mostly, it's Von Trier up to his old tricks, with his head far up his own buttocks in terms of self-reflexivity (Gainsbourg naming her own "chapters" and commenting on the entertainment value of her story as she tells it). Is it top-shelf Von Trier? Absolutely not. Is it better than Anita: Swedish Nymphet? Of course. But there's something to be said for seeing Seligman in his younger days and for seeing Christina Lindberg in various states of undress. Pair the two films accordingly. Then leave out all the Shia LaBeouf parts.

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