Destricted is as hit-and-miss as you’d expect of a collection of art-porn shorts directed by visual artists ranging from Gaspar Noé (Irreversible) and Larry Clark (Kids) to Richard Prince and Matthew Barney. The stand-outs for me were Marco Brambilla’s “Sync” and Clark’s “Impaled.”
“Sync” edits together tiny snippets of sex scenes from what I presume must be dozens of different movies in an almost unrecognizable machine-gun style assault on the eyes. (I’ve got fast eyes and still couldn’t identify a single one of the films that were used as source material.) The concept is audacious, but what’s really funny about the piece is how it demonstrates the genericism of sex in the movies — the clips are edited together in clusters that show couples in the same position, shot from the same camera angles, feigning exactly the same kind of middlebrow sexual ecstasy. The montage almost achieves a hilarous sexual energy of its own.
Meanwhile, “Impaled” is one of the best hardcore-porn flicks ever made, even before the fucking starts. Clark invites a bunch of young men to come audition in front of his cameras for the chance to perform in a short sex film. His interviews with them are undeniably salacious, with Clark forcing the audience to join him as voyeur as each up-and-comer is asked to remove his clothes as he speaks. But Clark’s also interested in how their perception of the sex act, or at least the terms these guys use to describe it, have been shaped by lives led with easy access to pornography. Their hapless remarks about shaved pubes or the value of busting a nut all over some chick’s face smack of received machismo and got big laughs at the midnight screening, but the film isn’t completely crass or condescending (although it is both of those things to some extent), and there’s something oddly affecting about all these lost boys. What does it suggest that the kid Clark finally selects as his porn star picks a sex partner who’s old enough to be his mother?
I also liked Barney’s contribution, a Cremaster-esque extravaganza that starts the show with a big black dick growing turgid, very slowly, in close-up, before seguing into a wild encounter between man and heavy machinery, with lots of natural lube involved.
Maybe it’s the post-midnight time frame, but my interest flagged during the rest of the segments — and I certainly didn’t catch myself getting aroused. The most dominant recurring motif is guys jacking off, and it got to the point where, whenever some dude started stroking himself, I sighed to myself and sank deeper into my chair, wondering, “OK, how long are we going to have to watch before this guy manages to yank one out?” There’s one about a guy jerking off in Death Valley, and one about Balkan folklore, and a couple of different ones about watching porn on TV — including the capper, Gaspar Noé’s “We Fuck Alone,” which blends his trademark vertiginous camera work, simulated strobe lighting, and undulating low-frequency sound track (this time with the addition of screaming-baby noises) to no real effect. He admitted before the screening that it was shot a couple weeks ago and completed just a couple of days before the premiere, so I wasn’t surprised by the slapdash nature of the finished picture. A cute girl made up to look young gets head from some stuffed animals, a guy with a Peter Murphy haircut jacks off as he pulls a gun on his blow-up doll, cue title card, ho-hum.
At the Q&A, someone asked why the film featured so much footage of the guy as compared to the girl, and Noé responded that he had better footage of the guy and, besides, he identified with the dude, not the lady. Bummer of a way to head out into the cold Sundance night.