Doubt you were expecting me to review: NYMPHOMANIAC Vol I & II

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


There are many Indie films I miss because I'm not yet on the press list for some of these types of films. Or I am offered them, but need to be available for 10am screenings.

Every Thursday, I read Landmark Theater's Weekly Film Club Update and think I'm going to go see this one or that one, on a Wednesday night when the Ritz Movie theaters discount the ticket price; but somehow I don't make it - conflict, lazy, cheap or I need to be home to write.  Strange how none of those things got in the way of seeing Lars von Trier's provocative study of a sexually obsessed female - Nymphomaniac both Volumes 1 & 2.

It was rather fun, like a naughty indulgence.  My friend Diane and I decided we'd go to the later showings two nights in a row to see both parts.  The audience was sparse and I'm almost certain we were the only women in the theater both nights. We deliberately sat away from the few guys in attendance, after all, you don't want to witness a Pee Wee Herman (Paul Rubens) moment.


The film starts out with a dark screen for way too long a time.  I know it's suppose to be a heightened effect, but really it just gives you time to think about your day and how late it's going to be when this movie is over and because of that you'll probably be late for work the next day etc...   When the screen finally fills with images, we eventually see a bloody woman lying prone on a nasty alley floor. A man soon stands over her and offers to call an ambulance, she refuses the ambulance but asks for a cup of tea.  So the man takes this stranger into his home. Next you see her cozy in PJ's, sitting up in a single bed, cradling a cup of tea, face still bruised and battered, but looking right at home in this stranger's modest accomodations.

The woman is Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) the man is Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård). Seligman of course wants to know why she was lying bloody and battered in an alley. Joe doesn't know where to begin to tell her story until she lights upon a fishing fly tact to the wall; this reminds her of a childhood game she and her friend used to play, pretending to be tadpoles, a harmless enough game on the surface, but also her first taste of erotic sensation.  I do wonder with fear what von Trier said to the young 10 year-old actress (Ananya Berg) to get her to have that look of sensual pleasure on her face.


And thus is how the movie goes - something in the room triggers another chapter of Joe's life, a life filled with the overpowering need and constant hunger for sex. Seligman's response to each tale is one of intellectual comparison - from the Fibonacci sequence to Eastern and Western religion, to mountain climbing knots, Bach, deities, art... varied and sundry topics that would seemingly have nothing at all to do with sex and nymphomania and yet somehow tie into Joe's torrid past.


There's 8 chapters in all, 3 told in the first film and 5 in the second. This is significant because it represents Joe's first sexual experience, an experience she demanded at the age of 15 from a boy named Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf) who she choose because he rode a moped and had strong hands.  During this extremely unromantic encounter, shedding no more than the underpants of her school girl outfit -  Jerôme enters her 3x missionary and 5x anally, which represents the tone of the two films - the first 3 chapters are interesting, poignant, funny and bold.  The last 5 chapters are dark, forbidden and lost.


It would seem the movie gives no psychological reason behind Joe's insatiable lust.  It can't be blamed on lack of attention or unwanted attention from her father, as the film depicts Joe's father (Christian Slater) as a man who appreciates his daughter and shares with her his love of trees. Unless I'm missing something, cause I'm not quite certain what all the tree soul symbolism was about.

Joe's flashbacks in Vol 1 are played superbly by Stacy Martin, not only is she a very believable younger version of Charlotte Gainsbourg, but her lack of traditional sexiness, boyish figure and dowdy clothes, makes her sexual acts less salacious and tawdry and more matter of fact.


There are times when the film(s) are cleverly contrived. Her significant meetings with Jerôme off an on throughout her life. Many of the tangent topic sequences are perfectly odd; not unlike the animated cartoon Family Guy when Peter will have a moment of musing that has nothing to do with the plot, but you go with it.  There are times when although you may be appalled by Joe's lack of discrimination and discretion, you feel she's in charge and not afraid to live out this life of hedonism.


But then, and particularly in Vol II, #Nymphomaniac goes off the rails, especially with regard to dialog, making it obvious Lars von Trier made the movie to indulge his own fantasies, to preach his own agenda that sexuality rules people's lives, even if you're not a nympho, to film pornographic scenes without being labeled a porn director, and to get across his superior intellect.


Here's 8 random Nymphomanic musings about the movie of my own:
1. There are quite a number of penises shown and I only saw 2 that were nice looking.

2. For much of Joe's life we don't know how she supports herself, it doesn't appear she's with any of the men for monetary gain, so it's jarring when suddenly she's being reprimanded by a supervisor, when it never appeared she had a job.

3. When we go from the younger version of Joe (Martin) to the older version of Joe (Gainsbourg) they should also have switched Jerôme's too cause LaBeouf looked more like Joe's son at that point.

4. If you really want to see a more touching movie about sex addiction, I recommend seeing Steve McQueen's Shame (click for T&T post).

5. Charlotte Gainsbourg has crazy, big fat nipples when she's aroused, they look like deformed Hershey Kisses.

6. Uma Thurman is fantastic as the mother of 3 whose husband leaves her for Joe. She's a riot! She's got like a 10 page rant where no one else has more than a line. Exposing her 3 young sons to the "whoring bed" and basically scarring them far more with her tantrum, than the father's leaving.

7. I'm told the uncut version which is 90 min longer involves an abortion, however, at no point does the consequence of venereal diseases or HIV AIDS ever come up.

8. Spoiler Alert! The ending is horrific, out of character and unnecessarily disillusioning.

While You're Here Check Out Our Melancolia Post


20th Philadelphia Film Festival - Melancholia (Lars von Trier)


T &T's LAMB Score:Vol I 3.5 outta 5  Vol II 2.5 outta 5

Comments are now being directed to Tinsel & Tine's facebook post on the movie!

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

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Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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