Thursday, March 20, 2014

I can't feel anything. I can't feel anything!

When my lesson would end early, there would be instances where the only thing I could do was allow the dreaded free time. One afternoon, minutes before the end of the day, a half dozen students were gathered around a laptop, laughing hysterically. Usually, I handled this ominous sign with a simple close it gesture and moved on to something else. But the kids insisted it was okay and that I should take a look. Against my better judgement, I walked toward them, quietly wincing as the laughing only got louder. I parted two of the bigger kids and there, on the screen, were the images and sounds that were making them laugh so much.
They were watching an execution.

When it comes to seeing something truly shocking and disturbing, I'm not sure there's anything left. As my students showed me, the bar has been raised so high, Hell, it might not even exist. Sure the o-face posters might have raised an eyebrow or two, but by the time I finished Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac Vol. I the only thing shocking was how tame it was. Now, let's not Redbox this one with the in-laws just yet, but after suffering through von Trier's own Antichirst [review], I truly feel I have seen it all. And if something worse (er, more surprising) exists, I think I'll pass, honestly. I mean, there's only so much a guy can handle. If only the same could be said for the ladies...

Nymphomaniac (to this point) tells the story of a young woman named Joe. Joe has been taken in one night after being found basically left for dead in the middle of an alley. She's clearly been through some shit (her face is bloodied and bruised), and her savior, seemingly nice-guy Seligman, is there to help. More than providing a warm bed and some hot tea, this curious gentleman also lends her an eager ear to simply listen to her story. And Joe, it turns out, has got quite a story.

Broken into separately-named chapters (a hallmark of the few von Trier films I've seen), the story to this point, unravels chronologically. Joe details her life blow by blow (in some cases, literally), flashing back to a lifetime void of love but full of sex. And more often than not, dirty sex. Early on we watch young girls sliding around on a wet bathroom floor (playing 'frogs' or something...), but eventually things degrade into f--king numerous strangers on a train. For chocolate. Shia LeBeouf even shows up a couple of times, and we watch him transform his pecker (sadly minus that rad sound effect) moments before jamming it in Joe's AllSpark. Five times.

Perhaps Nymphomaniac is going to go reverse Kill Bill style, as Volume I seems to be a bit on the dull side. That probably has more to do with the sterile nature of von Trier's visual style, rather than the salacious content of the story. While some of the chapters are stronger than others (Mrs. H is a particular standout), the story, at least on paper, is moderately compelling. I was surprised that under all the weird and off-putting nonsense, I still remained interested in Joe's f--ked up life. I'm certainly not recommending it, but it really isn't the shitshow I was expecting. Hell, I might even actually finish the whole thing and see Vol. II (though I said that once before with another epic loaded with dicks, Breaking Dawn [review], and never followed through). von Trier's incessant determination to shock undermines the story he's trying to tell. Much of the graphic sex could be implied thereby allowing the story to stand on its own. The nasty bits seem like a gimmick.

That said, it's really sad that some of these creative types will limit themselves with familiar antics simply because they feel it's who they are. Shameful, really. Here are the Yays and Boos. And the Riiiiights.

  • Welp, I can't say I didn't learn anything. In addition to what girls will do when you buy them a train ticket, I also feel rather knowledgeable concerning the lost art of fly-fishing. Off to the library to check out The Complete Angler.
  • Christian Slater, everyone. Yay!
  • The natural world always plays a part in von Trier flicks, and here, at least in my opinion, it's less ominous, more beautiful. Listening to the trees with dad is way more enjoyable than say, a deer with a dead fawn hanging out of it. But I'm goofy that way.
  • 'F--k Me Now' clothes? They still sell those?
  • The look on Joe's face during sex pretty much mirrored my own expression watching most of this movie.
  • Her friend, B, was pretty hardcore. I loved her scene on the train when she ripped up the tickets. You's a real bitch, B. I also dug how that guy rebuffed their gratitude. Well...for a minute anyway.
  • Apparently you can divide all of humanity into two groups. No, not people who really hate von Trier and those who just kinda hate him, silly. I'm talking about those who cut their nails on the left-hand first, versus those who start with the right. The explanation made sense. Sort of.
  • I've heard of magical vaginas, but apparently Joe's is like some kind of vacuum cleaner or something. If that's truly the case, I imagine her floors look amazing.
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg is a fearless woman. I respect that. In this flick, despite delivering most of her dialogue like that guy from Wayne's World 2 (I had to beat them to death with their own shoes), she is tolerable and maybe even sympathetic. This almost erases what she did in Antichrist. Almost.
  • Hey. The first rule of F--k Club, you do not talk about F--k Club. The second rule? You only f--k a dude ONE TIME. Without rules, there is chaos.
  • Best job interview question ever? Can you open an envelope?
  • Haha Jerome. Denied in the elevator, when you thought it was a sure thing. Apparently, she was interested in a different shaft, you prick.
  • Interrupting a flashback. I've always liked this device, but Seligman finally doesn't believe his ears and actually stops Joe mid story. 
  • Speaking of Seligman, let me put my hands together for Stellan Skarsgard. Though his poster made me extra afraid of him, in Vol. I, he's so goofy and sweet I actually found myself enjoying his performance. And for a von Trier film, I've never said that.
  • I wonder if girls I knew in high school responded to me by rolling the dice? Damn, that's cold.
  • Finally, my favorite segment of the film, Mrs. H. Played by Uma Thurman, Mrs. H is probably the most hardcore thing in this film. Seriously. This young bitch thinks she is going to take her husband away from her? Okay, fine. But she's not going down without a fight. A long, grueling, impossibly tense battle that Just. Keeps. Getting. Worse. Would it be alright if I showed the children the whoring bed? This is the equally the best and worst thing I saw in this film.
  • Um, last time, I didn't even realize my TV was actually broken. This time, with what felt like like 100 minutes of black (to start the movie), I thought it was. C'mon, Lars. What the f--k?
  • Speaking of bad calls, what the Hell is with the generic rock riffs? Du Hast, this ain't. Or is it?
  • Now, let's just get this out of the way, but pretty much all the sex is horrific. Yes, I know, it's supposed to be, a-hole. Fine. But can we build up to it somehow? I mean that first scene with Moped Guy um, rubbed me the wrong way. Did we need giant numbers on screen? I'm pretty sure I could do that math in my head. 
  • Man, there are some pretty bad lines made even worse by Gainsbourg's stilted delivery. I suppose she's what you call a cold bitch being a particularly silly standout.
  • In an oddly fitting metaphor, this movie is kind of about fishing. Really. No, not with lures and poles and such. Well, okay, not with actual lures and poles and such. They tend to use vaginas instead.
  • Oh, and the big fish? Train Guy. This dude is on the way home to an ovulating wife and Joe basically forces herself on him, you've got something on your chin. But this is a good thing, actually. I mean, who would want to make a baby with stale sperm. 
  • Beyond the entire f--king movie, there are even some really weird scenes, thrown in for an effect that I can't place. Dwarf Hamster flashback, Seventies Glider footage, and Parallel parking diagram were the standouts, but I'm sure, sadly, there are many, many more.
  • Dropping out of med school is bad enough. But dropping out because there are too many distracting vaginas? Deplorable.
  • While were discussing genitals, I'm pretty sure I didn't need a minute-long montage of dick-shots. Awful dick-shots, at that. A minute of well-groomed, slightly cheerful dicks? Okay, fine. But these dicks were some sad sacks, making it the longest minute of my life.
  • Let's talk about cake. That sounds fun. Oh, wait. We need to flashback to a shot of cake? F--k that, then.
  • Ch. 4 Delirium. Seeing her (ageless) Dad dying is terrible enough. Does he have to shit himself on his deathbed? And do we have to watch them wipe his ass? What the f--k, Lars? Do they have imaginations in Denmark?
  • Which leads to, in my opinion, the worst shot in the movie. Looking through her legs from behind, we see lube (or worse) stream down her leg, moments before the focus shifts, revealing her Dad's contorted face in the hospital bed. Fine, it's smart and says a lot in ten seconds, but still. That doesn't make it any less unsettling.
  • F and his magical tongue. Really wish they told us he liked going down on her. Showing us was rather um, unfortunate.
  • And finally, in a story about rebelling against love, would it be possible to show some actual love? Something happy, something pure, perhaps? You know, just Is that allowed?
(things that [somehow] we're supposed to accept as really happening)
  • Slater's accent. 
  • She insists she's a terrible person. Seligman counters that she's just a kid having fun!
  • The vulva chant.
  • The cakefork conversation.
  • Joe can parallel park like a champ. She can't do pretty much anything else, but this she's a master at.
  • You can vigorously masturbate on a crowded train and no one notices. I mean a real train, not the Hogwart's Express. You could totally pull it off there.
  • The numerical value of Bach's name. And the polyphony explanation. They totally belong here. 
  • And finally, I spent $10 to see this. Ten. Actual. Dollars.

Even though I didn't like the movie, I realize that there is an audience for this film, and von Trier's work as a whole. There are probably scores of adults who gather together and enjoy every shocking jolt of something like Nymphomaniac Vol. I. But like those middle schoolers watching someone die in the electric chair, just because something grotesquely alluring is out there, doesn't mean we should watch it.

Sometimes, it appears, we shouldn't take the bait.
It might be a trap. 


  1. Oh no! I really want to see this one, like yesterday.

    How did you see this?

  2. Well, I'm pretty f--king cool, so that helps.

    But seriously, I bought it on VOD for $10. It was the first time I ever bought something through my cable box. Maybe my last...

  3. I'm actually seeing both parts in the row this month. There was a bet I lost and now I must suffer.

    Good to know Stellan is nice in this. He seems like a nice dude but whenever I have to see his dick in Von Trier's movies I'm traumatized

    1. Man, I can't imagine watching ALL of this in one sitting. That might be traumatic.

      Stellan is, so far, almost goofy in how 'aw, shucks' he is listening to her sordid tale. I actually like his character a lot (and his performance is fine as well). Usually he turns out to be a fingers crossed he remains....normal.

      I don't think I've seen his johnson in any von Trier movies...but maybe I'm not watching the right ones. You know...if I was into that sort of thing.

  4. A liked the flick a bit more than you, but this is still a fabulous review. It's nice to hear that you did appreciate a few things about it (Skarsgård was on point, wasn't he?), but man, you're Riiiiiiiight... section had me rolling. You could just TELL Slater was trying to give it all with that accent. I don't really harp on bad accents anymore (because so many of them have at least moments of weakness), but that one was a straight up mystery to me. Why not just make the character American? But aside from his voice, I thought his acting was pretty solid. So... dare you watch Vol. II?

    1. I'm completely with you on accents, while I appreciate the effort, it still amuses me to make fun of it when they end up all over the place. Slater seemed like he was only British when he was calm or something. Piss off ol' Dad and all of a sudden he's from Manhattan.

      I did like his performance, though. He seemed to exist in a reality I could relate, too. be honest, I still have a hard time with him playing anything outside of 'weird loner' guy. I think it's because he doesn't seem to age. At all.

      As for Vol. II...shit, I don't know. Probably. You? (of course you will...right?)

  5. I knew TDC was expanding..... you've got a Riiiight.... section now?

    This apparently will not be screening in my country. Still not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.... I mean there are other ways to see it... but right now, I'm not even sure I want to!

    But watch this before I watch Breaking Dawn any day of the week...

    1. I was inspired by Dr. Evil, definitely. It might be a one time thing. Unless I've already done it before...

      Whoa. Not available in the country? Crazy! I wouldn't go too far out of my way to see it, but I won't judge you if your curiosity gets the best of you. It happens to all of us apparently.

      Breaking Dawn. I still can't believe I saw that. Theatrically.

  6. I literally had to stop reading at AllSpark to laugh hysterically for a few minutes. Outstanding. Now I'm more curious about it than I was before.

    And please don't lose any sleep over not following up on the last entry in the Twicrap saga.

    1. Yes! I almost took that line out due to sheer ridiculous, but then I read every other line of this blog and thought, f--k it.

      Good luck if you ever do check it out. It's um...exists. And such.

      Nah. I watched the Breaking Dawn purely out of morbid curiosity (like poking a dead cat with a stick). I don't really need to know how it ends (also like the cat and the stick).

  7. I love the "riiiiiight" section. Great review, I hate Von Trier so there is no way in hell I am seeing this, but I like reading what other people think of it.

    1. I don't know what to say anymore. The guy is clearly an a-hole, but in this film, he's got a very talented cast. It's probably not worth the time investment...but f--k me if I'm not curious as to how this shit wraps up. Hmmm...maybe you could watch vol. II for me?


  8. Why did she say "i cant feel anything" at the end? I didnt understand it.

    1. Was it that she's basically numb to her whole sex-addict lifestyle? She's coming to the realization that her life is TOTALLY empty?

      I don't really remember the scene specifically, but I recall she was all kinds of freaked out when she said it/screamed it!