Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meryl Saves the Day

Meryl alleviated my writer's block by sending me a link to this Slate piece. It's a survey of various famous and not-so-famous people, asking them which movies they've seen the most number of times.

I'm gonna fast-forward through most of the article (though, someone explain to me sometime why I should care which movie is a Farrelly brother's favorite; dude, you're a Farrelly brother! I could just ask my dad which Pauly Shore movie is his favorite* and be every bit as impressed with the answer) and get to the part Meryl mentioned, the part in which Slate's own movie critic, Dana Stevens, raves about the movie she's seen the most. Sit down and have an air sickness bag handy. Do not, I repeat, do NOT be eating lunch:

Leaving out the movies everyone's seen countless times (The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life), my candidate would have to be Nagisa Oshima's erotic drama In the Realm of the Senses, which I've watched, in theaters and on home video, probably 10 times over a period of 15 years. In my early 20s I had an unfortunate habit of dragging prospective suitors to this movie, as some kind of litmus test of their cinematic stamina. Given that the film culminates (SPOILER ALERT) in a famously graphic scene of castration, it's no wonder so few of those guys called me back.

Don't you love people who put the [SPOILER ALERT] tag directly before the actual spoiler? I don't know about you, but I read pretty fast, and by the time I get to that tag I'm already previewing what follows it. I'd rather people put the spoiler alert a couple lines above the paragraph in which they divulge the spoiler.

I'd be more upset about this abuse of the spoiler tag, except--WOW. WHAT A SPOILER. Actually, come to think of it, Dana, you could have left that tag out entirely. I believe you had a civic duty to let us all know about that spoiler. And now that you have, I can safely assert that I will not be adding In the Realm of the Senses to the Netflix queue anytime soon.

Me: Oh, I meant to tell you, I've reordered the queue. Next up is In the Realm of the Senses.

Boyfriend: Which one's that?

Me: It's that Japanese film that culminates in a famously graphic scene of castration.

Boyfriend: That what?

Me: Seriously. It's art!

Boyfriend: Okay, FINE, you can put Fried Green Tomatoes back in the queue.

Me: What?

Boyfriend: That's what this is about, isn't it? You're still pissed at me for taking that out. So now you're making me choose between Fried Green Tomatoes and something much, much worse than Fried Green Tomatoes. I get it. You win. We'll watch Fried Green Tomatoes.

Me: No, no, to hell with Fried Green Tomatoes. In fact I'd forgot all about that. I just think we need--I mean we as a couple--for the good of the relationship, I think what we need is to watch an erotic Japanese film that culminates in a famously graphic scene of castration.

Boyfriend: I disagree. I think what we need as a couple is to break up.

File under "Purely Imaginary Conversations My Boyfriend and I Will Never Actually Have."

Anyway, this Slate piece is great. I couldn't be more pleased to have found it. Because now, the next time some antifeminist gets on me about my hateful man-hatred, and how my all-consuming hatred of masculinity obviously makes me want to do hateful things to men's horrible hateable man parts, I can politely remind my critic that, no, he or she wants Dana Stevens. "You know, Dana Stevens?" I'll ask. "Writes movie reviews for Slate, can use 'erotic' and 'castration' in the same paragraph, yet remains free to roam the aisles of Williams-Sonoma stores unsupervised? Yeah, her. Listen, go shopping for cutlery with Dana and then come back and tell me how much I hate men, pal."

Good grief.

The best part of Stevens' endorsement (and here I'm stealing from Meryl's email to me, because she was absolutely right about this) is that it only gets creepier the more you read of it:

I was not only floored by the film's formal perfection and beauty, but fascinated (and, let's face it, turned on) by the way it captures the centripetal logic of obsession, spiraling toward an ending that's both squalid and deeply romantic. My apologies to all the guys I freaked out (I can think of at least one who's probably still cowering in the men's room of a movie theater in Paris), but I don't think I could love anyone who didn't love this movie.



I just--

I mean, hell, what do you add to this, really? I don't get this. I mean, not even a little bit. See, because I would be extremely apprehensive about dating a guy who did love this movie. I would suspect he had a little unresolved self-loathing to work through, and I would recall that people who are that down on themselves are seldom able to be "up" for anyone else, including me, and, okay, he really loves this movie that pairs sharp objects with genitalia and HOW IS THAT A GOOD THING? How? "Deeply romantic?" What? Huh?

I just don't get it.

Anyway, thanks, Meryl! I suddenly feel a lot less stupid for loving Urban Cowboy. The castration count in that one, at least, is a healthy, respectable zero.

UPDATE: I propose a carrot-based rating system:

*I'm kidding. I already know it's Son-in-Law.


Meryl Yourish said...

Okay, now I'm even more creeped out, because I clicked on the IMDB link you supplied, and it says it's BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Oh. My. God.

Must remember: If I ever meet Dana Stevens, keep an eye on all sharp objects.

ilyka said...

"Borrow my what? My razor? Oh, hey, listen: Don't you think shaving is really oppressive and patriarchal, Dana? Because I do. Starting, uh, right now. Subvert the dominant paradigm, Dana!"

Craig R. said...

I haven't seen "In the Realm of the Senses," and I don't know if I would want to, except in a watching-the-train-wreck kind of obsession some night when I *really* need my meds adjusted.

I will admit, though, that I have a weakness for horror movies, many of which I view with an eye to derision.

On the other hand, if you have a strong stomach, and want to see some really compelling acting coupled with truly gruesome effects (both shown and implied), I would recommend another Japanese film: "Odishon" ("Audition")

Meryl Yourish said...

Craig, you have totally missed the point of this post.

I'm just sayin'.

Ephraim said...

I lived in Japan for more than 10 years, my wife is Japanese, I speak, read and write the langauge fluently, and I've been practicing Japanese martial arts for almost 40 years. I think I can say that I like Japan. A lot.

But there is a very strong current of very weird sexual perversion tinged with violence in the culture. It is no surprise to me that "Realm of the Senses" (called, in Japanese "Ai no Corrida", or the "Bullfight of Love", IIRC) was made in Japan. Nobody does obsession better than the Japanese. And Oshima was always an outsider.

But that Dana Stevens woman needs to see a shrink, and fast.

margi said...



Who knew.

ilyka said...

You may know her better as "Dr. Helen." Has a crummy little Blogspot blog that's allllll-most as bad as this one.

But not quite.

Spc. Freeman said...

It'd be like asking your hetero male buddies to watch "Deliverance" with you over and over. Or asking your girlfriend to watch "Sex is Comedy," which ends in a famously graphic rape scene. Still, funny article.

Helen said...

it captures the centripetal logic of obsession, spiraling toward an ending that's both squalid and deeply romantic.

Whew! And HOW MANY Friday nights end like that, huh? Huh? Isn't that a sentence that one just thinks AND enacts every weekend? Man.

Who talks like that?

misterniceguy1960 said...

Well, it's "romantic" because they've both been fantasizing about it together (yes, the guy, too), and actually acting out the scene was the peak moment of their relationship.

Sort of like the way having a baby is the peak moment of other relationships, and almost as painful and bloody.

I do think it's an odd choice for a movie to show to a newly-minted boyfriend.

ms_xeno said...

If you put Realm realm in the player along with Breaking The Waves, does the universe explode ?

Just wondering...

Craig R. said...

No, Meryl, I have seen the point of the post.

Anonymous said...

Goodness. You seem amazingly hung up on that one scene.

I mean, I'd expect anybody I would have a future with to enjoy _A Clockwork Orange_, even though one of the more memorable scenes involves a bunch of men conking a woman over the head with a large sculpted phallus.

belledame222 said...

*blinks at it* 'k, dude or dudette. droog. whatev'. (backs away slowly)

I just don't get J-pop (J-high art in this case I guess) in general, I have to say.

although Fetish Diva Midori manages to make the obsesion with tentacle sex sound rather fun, at least.

and i could totally get into her kimono fetish, as well as the adoration of tough little old Japanese grannies as wicked tops.

but yeah, I don't know. also see: peoples ranting and swooning about "Crash" (not the more recent one, the Cronenberg thing about autoeroticism in the real sense).

or that movie "Kissed" that came out a few years back. Necrophilia? A lot of people I know really liked it. was the first time, I think, that I could honestly say that I felt genuinely, physically squicked by visual representations of a "perversity" in a movie--one that i just really hadn't given much thought and probably wouldn't have given much more than a "why on earth?, well, whatever, okay, moving right along" if it had only been covered in a more abstract, theoretical sense.