There’s a tension in Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure between the subject matter–the torture and humiliation of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad during the U.S. occupation of Iraq–and what Morris is really up to. Anyone who’s read his excellent “Zoom” blog for The New York Times, including his brilliant, three-part consideration of the pedigree of two different photographs taken by Roger Fenton during the Crimean War, knows that the director is concerned lately with the methodical, emotionless investigation of the circumstances surrounding a picture’s taking. He wants to know what a photo conceals in addition to what it reveals–what’s happening outside its spatial frame? Its temporal boundaries?
I wanted to look at the new Blu-ray Disc release of Story of O (out this week from the Canadian company Somerville House) for two reasons. First, I’m interested in what happens to obscure and cult films as they make their way to the new high-definition formats, and this French sexploitation drama from the mid-1970s certainly qualifies. Second, I know that while Story of O has some kind of literary pedigree (a sort of de Sade pastiche written under the pen name Pauline Réage, the novel broke significant ground for erotic fiction as well as bondage fetishists), the film version in particular has long been a pervy grail of softcore cinema — knowledgable viewers of a certain sexual inclination find this mix of epic skin flick, softcore potboiler, and S&M psychodrama to be in a class of its own.
It’s so dreadful, in fact, that I may be underrating it in at least one respect: Zombie Strippers! actually gives the early-1980s sci-fi porn flick Café Flesh a run for its money as the most joyless, nigh despairing movie about sexual arousal in film history.
My review of Can’t Hardly Wait on Blu-ray Disc is online at FilmFreakCentral.net:
prizes sincerity and explicitly privileges the notion of true love; the
spirit of Wim Wenders even touches the film as, in one spectacularly
sweet vignette, a bikini-clad angel (Jenna Elfman, in a terrific
uncredited cameo) touches down outside a neon-lit diner to dispense
some hard-won advice to the broken-hearted protagonist. In short, we’re
a long way yet from the crass, porn-inflected attitudes of Superbad
My review of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder on Blu-ray Disc is online at FilmFreakCentral.net
position on religion evolves from wary tolerance (because the more
pious citizens tend to oppose the war) to outright enthusiasm, once the
military manages to conflate aggression and holiness in the public
mind. “God’s back,” declares a government mouthpiece at film’s end,
“and He’s a citizen, too!”
First, the obvious. Made of Honor is what’s generally known as a “chick flick.” I’m not totally comfortable deploying that term,
especially in its usual derogatory, casually-sexist usage–but in a purely descriptive and possibly cynical sense, that’s what we have here. It’s a love story, featuring a conventionally handsome leading man (Patrick Dempsey) playing opposite a conventionally pretty woman (Michelle Monaghan) whose character is engaged to marry the conventionally wrong guy (blond Scot Kevin McKidd). It’s directed by a man (Paul Weiland), although to its credit there is a woman prominently involved (co-writer Deborah Kaplan), and it’s designed from the bottom up to appeal to undemanding female filmgoers.