Dirs: Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Marco Brambilla,Larry Clark, Gaspar Noe,Richard Prince, Sam Taylor-Wood. US/UK. 2006. 116mins.
A series of short adult films by someof the most outre artists and film-makers on theworld stage today, Destrictedis an unusual project which brings pornographic imagery somewhere into the veryouter margins of the mainstream.
Continuingthe trend of barrier-breaking achieved by Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs and John Cameron Mitchell'supcoming Shortbus,Destricted isan alternately bold and affected study of sexual expression which at its bestasks thoughtful questions about exploitation, arousal and gender roles, and atits worst veers into tedious artistic masturbation.
Madeprincipally for DVD consumption, but with potential as a hardcore curio item inthe theatrical arthouse (think In The Realm Of The Senses orHustler White), Destrictedis intended as the first of a series of collections in the same vein which willunite the worlds of film, fashion, art and pornography.
It'san intriguing notion and one to be applauded for breaking taboos. Revolver hasalready bought UK rights, and numerous territories should follow, including theUS. Obviously, the explicit nature of the project will limit its exposure - butthen it is not intended as the next MyBig Fat Greek Wedding.
Thereare seven shorts here all differing in length, style and tone. Played inalphabetical order by film-maker, the collection begins with performance artistMarina Abramovic's Balkan Erotic Epic (six minutes), in which the artist herselfexplores the role of erotic practices in Balkan folklore; to prevent sterilitybefore his marriage, for example, a man would drill a hole in a wooden bridgeand penetrate it; to ensure her husband's fidelity, a woman would spend thenight with a fish in her vagina, then grind it up the following morning andfeed it to her husband in his coffee.
Abramoviccombines real footage with animation and folk songs to illustrate her themeswhich are purely aesthetic and untitillating.
Secondup is Matthew Barney's Hoist (14minutes), a typically Barney-esque piece in which a50-tonne deforestation truck is lowered onto a naked man (akathe "Green Man") with a turnip inserted in his anus whoproceeds to rub his erect penis against a revolving shaft in the truck. Abizarre juxtaposition of flesh and metal, it'sa-love-it-or-hate-it conceit.
Filmthree is video and photography artist Marco Brambilla'sthree-minute Sync in which samples ofvarious couples having sex is strung together into one fast and furioussequence.
Bestof the films is Larry Clark's 38-minute contribution Impaled, in which Clarkinterviews a series of young men between the ages of 19 and 23 about theirexperience with porn and how they think about sex. He then selects the winnerwho is free to interview a series of female porn stars to have sex with. Theresulting union, in which the 21 year-old man finally gets to live out hisfantasy of anal sex, is a fascinating exercise which probes the working worldof pornography and reduces the man's fantasy to mere mechanics.
Gaspar Noe's ten-minute WeFuck Alone (evoking the title of his first feature I Stand Alone) sees Noe again experimentwith the strobe lighting effects of Irreversible. The film looks at a young manand young woman both masturbating in separate bedrooms, both watching the sameporn video to the discomfiting sounds of heavy breathing and a crying baby.Slowly Noe starts to focus on the man as he playswith a blow-up sex doll and how his solitary masturbation turns to disturbingabuse of the doll (he sticks a gun in its wide-open, plastic mouth, forexample) echoing the oral sex he is witnessing on screen.
PhotographerRichard Prince's House Call (12minutes) recalls 1970s porn with a visually grainy re-recording of a videoporno in which a doctor arrives to examine a patient at her house.
Thecollection closes with artist Sam Taylor-Wood's eight-minute Death Valley in which a muscular pornstar walks out into Death Valley, derobes and masturbates until ejaculation. The film, shotby Seamus McGarvey, challenges the viewer to bearoused by the tedium of the act which plays more as physical necessity than anact of erotica.
Manyof the sexual acts on show are intentionally boring and disturbing, and it is notdisingenuous for the producers to claim that the Destricted project is a validopportunity for artists to ask questions of today's sexual impulses. Kidswalking into a video store expecting a wild ride will be disappointed.
Mel Agace & Andrew Hale
The Film Sales Company (1) 646 274 0945
Katapult Film Sales (1) 310 399 2080
Aleksander Ilic (Balkan Erotic Epic)
Peter Strietmann (Hoist)
Seamus McGarvey (DeathValley)
Jonathan Bepler (Hoist)
Matmos & Andrew Hale (Death Valley)