Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Movies Which Incorporate BDSM...

I was sick yesterday, so got a chance to be passively entertained via the internet waaaay more than I intended (isn't that always the way?). As far as wasting time, I think that perhaps I didn't do too badly, as Hulu has (what I would think is only a piece of) The Criterion Collection, a company dedicated to republishing old masterpieces in a high quality format. As most well-known masterpieces have already been remastered, I think Criterion just focuses on small "art house" things... Which would normally make me want to puke blood out of my eyes, but there are a lot of films that are really excellent that have been forgotten about. So, I'm grateful Criterion is around.

To my delight, I managed to find "The Night Porter", starring Charlotte Rampling (meow) which is something people have been telling me for years to see. It's about a former Nazi who is now working as a night porter at a hotel, when one of his old "victims" comes in with her husband. He is part of a cabal of former Nazi's who have all been on trial for their crimes, but because all of the witnesses have "disappeared" (ahem, they killed them), none of the evidence against them has been able to convict. Hence, you can see the conflict of interest when a former prisoner (it is not clear whether she is a Jew, but only that her father was a Socialist) shows up unexpected, who is able to point a finger (although she knows nothing of the Nazi's trials or pending trials). Anyway, hijinks ensue, yadda yadda... Of course I'm not going to spoil it for those who haven't seen it.

Surprisingly, my issue with the movie was not the explosive taboo situation these characters find themselves in... but the complete ridiculousness of the plot. The stupidity. And the lack of BDSM scenes. Also, it was pretty melodramatic, but I am willing to put up with that if a movie is more than 20 years old. Without giving too much away, there is a severed head given as a gift. Wait, fuck it, in order to do this right I HAVE to spoil it... DON'T READ FURTHER IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THIS PIECE OF SHIT MOVIE:

They lock themselves in his apartment while his Nazi friends sit outside waiting for them to come out. He calls the grocer so they won't go hungry, but Oh No! guess what?? The Nazi guys threaten the grocer so they never get their groceries. So then what?? They starve to death. Sure, I see it's symbolic of what happened to people who were in internment camps or fleeing from them, I can see the significance even of making the former Nazi suffer in a similar way to his prisoners. But what a stupid fucking way of getting them into that situation! Really?? He didn't think the Nazi dudes would talk to the grocer?? REALLY, dumbass? And then they get dressed up and drive away until they run out of gas and the Nazis and shoot them? That is just vague and tragic for the sense of seeming vague and tragic. What is anyone supposed to get out of that? Then there's the scene with Charlotte Rampling singing some Dietrich song topless. Not that I'm complaining about that, but there is an ennui and malaise about the scene which just comes off as being lazy. She's topless and I'm waiting for it to end- that should not be happening. Of course, I could go on and on about the night porter character being a murderer, and the moral ambivalence of the movie, but I have read critical analysis which claims that is what makes the movie interesting. Actually, what makes a movie interesting is having a plot that doesn't make you want to slap your forehead-- the moral ambiguity can be injected later.

To stay on my soapbox a little bit longer (this is my blog, after all), in a lot of movies which deal with BDSM, there is a complete lack of understanding of the most basic elements. Meaning, most of the time, the dynamic between the dom and sub is seen as being inherently abusive. Things are too real, the fire is too hot, they are going to burn themselves- die, break-up, lock one another away, behead one another, etc etc. Why can't there be a movie where people beat each other up, get dressed, hug, and go out to dinner? Where's that movie? "Secretary" is somewhat an example, but I have issues with that one as well.

I guess directing my impatience at "The Night Porter" is pretty unfair, as it is from the 70's. Hardly an era that was as evolved as we claim to be in terms of understanding "aberrant" behaviors. It simply reminded me that there is a complete lack of media (at least, interesting, well-done media) which treats this dynamic as something that is not totally fucked up.

Ultimately, the movie is sensationalism for the sake of it. Without having to go too far into the psychology of the characters (could you figure out why they loved each other that much?), it is provocative (BDSM, Nazism, toplessness, homosexuality, even prostitution) for the sake of it. Without giving any texture or even any compelling reason for making her characters act the way they do. Not even having the characters themselves seem to know why or even question what they're doing.

I did think Charlotte Rampling conveyed her own moral confusion without having much to say... and the scene with the broken glass is pretty good, so here it is:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saw it in a packed NYC theater in 1975. Audience was mesmerized. Nazism was much more recent in people's memories then with many survivors of WWII alive then. Mixing BDSM with Nazism directly connected Nazi savagery and institutionalized sadism with BDSM practices and interests. You are correct this was one of the "better quality" movies to start making that connection with American audiences.