Imagine a city so bleak, so hopeless, so full of darkness, that only criminals and social rejects have a fighting chance to survive living there. Imagine villains so desperate, so foul, so vile, that the ugliest death for them still wouldn’t feel like justice. Now imagine heros who are so full of vice, rage, and demons that they are not much better than our villains. Picture a city that doesn’t have a violent underbelly, because its entirety is a violent underbelly. This is the setting Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have built for us with Sin City and its sequel, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Based on Miller’s comic book series of the same name, the two have constructed a nightmare town that is terrifically gory and hellbent on destroying every person who enters it.
The characters that seem most equipped to survive Sin City are its sex workers. (Spoilers ahead.) [READ MORE]
Ah, those dreams about crying tears of sperm—a sure sign of burnout (.gif made out of screenshot of House of Pleasures)
House of Pleasures (also called House of Toleration or L’Appolonide: Souvenirs de la Maison Close in its native France), directed by Bertrand Bonello, is a film depicting the last year of a legal French brothel, a maison close, at the turn of the 20th century. While the film does predictably illustrate the old prostitution-is-inherently-miserable motif, sex working viewers will find much to enjoy in the close examination of brothel history and the dynamics of women’s spaces that the movie offers. Then, of course, there are the costumes and the intense outfit envy they engender in any hooker with a pulse. The brothel workers wear diaphanous, clinging gowns that look like proper dresses in shadow but reveal their transparent naughtiness in candle light, and look even more temptingly gorgeous draped along with their wearers on the lush upholstered furniture of the maison. These elements, along with the sharp dialogue that director Bonello gives the workers, kept me watching, even when the crude, supposedly “feminist” analysis and the all-too-voyeuristic violence against sex workers he inserted into the movie made me want to hurl my remote control at the screen.
C’mon! Take this scene, for example:
Client: [After long, tedious description of the plot of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds—this guy is obviously the Victorian antecedent of people who blurt out spoilers] Have you read it?
Brothel Worker: No. My only two books are Sade’s diaries and the Bible, and I don’t read the Bible.
My kind of girl!
And at first I thought that House of Pleasures might provide the audience a nuanced economic analysis of its protagonists’ work: Early on in the movie, it’s made clear through a close up of the madam’s ledger book and the women’s anxious conversation among themselves that most of the workers are deeply in debt to the house. Throughout the narrative, the women and the brothel itself struggle to survive in the face of the crushing reality of a raised rent. There are even some interesting insights about the unpaid emotional labor involved in the work, as it’s implied that in this upscale environment, what’s being sold as much as the sexual services themselves is a cheerful, carefree attitude of refined femininity. While the women tally their success at the end of the night by the number of men who took them upstairs, they must linger for hours in calculated languidness downstairs, making conversation and cozying up with idle clients, playing board games with them and seeing how many party tricks can be performed with a champagne flute. “Try to be joyful,” the madam chides them at the beginning of the evening.
(poster via axxomovies.org)
There’s a scene in which under-the-weather-feeling, anti-heroine protagonist Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) describes the way she feels as “shit city.” Afternoon Delight, directed by Jill Soloway, is shit city. This film screamed “rescue project” from the very start. Rachel is a bored, restless, wealthy, vaguely hipster stay-at-home mom living with her husband and young son in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Her contemporaries are mostly other jobless, Jewish, “hip” housewives who spend their time doing volunteer work, if only to thoroughly document it on social media; organizing play dates amongst their elementary school-aged children, and running something called “Craftacular.” Thing is, Rachel doesn’t like this life and she doesn’t like these women. She wanted to be a war journalist. In a scene near the end she wails, “I was so bored I could have died!!!!” One of this film’s only saving graces is the fact that her therapist is Jane Lynch, whose character is truly the only “delight” Afternoon Delight has to offer.
(image via imbd.com)
I love Lindsay Lohan. When her issue of Playboy dropped I raced to the corner store to buy it. Who doesn’t love a Disney princess gone porno? In I Know Who Killed Me, released in 2007, Lohan plays a stripper who, through a twist of events, winds up an amputee. When LiLo accepted the role everyone was scandalized, but when she scored her first D.U.I. a few months before the film’s release, it seemed that everyone’s shock about the movie was overshadowed by her lezzie-make-out-drunk-driving-panty-flashing-coke-snorting antics that summer. The film also has quite possibly the worst script ever written. But, I can’t mention this enough, Lindsay Lohan plays an disabled stripper. I don’t know how I waited this long to watch this movie. [READ MORE]
Most readers will not have heard of the low-budget Canadian movie My Awkward Sexual Adventure. I had to review it because a) it was filmed in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba b) one of the protagonists is a stripper (in fact, the club she works at in the movie is one that I work at regularly) and c) I found it infuriatingly filled with utter nonsense.
The film begins with pale, skinny, boring accountant Jordan (played by fellow Winnipeger Jonas Chernick, who is also the writer and producer) being so boring that his girlfriend, Rachel (Sarah Manninen), falls asleep during sex due to his being a completely dull lover. Just to be clear: accountants are very, VERY boring. Chernick clearly wanted to get this point across so that when we meet Julia-the-naturally-sexually-adventurous-stripper (Emily Hampshire) later, her life comes across as even more wild and disorganized in contrast to Jordan’s tedious and meticulous existence.
After Jordan’s girlfriend breaks up with him, he travels to Toronto (clearly Winnipeg’s Exchange District, but sure, I’ll pretend it’s Toronto) to visit his friend Dandak (Vik Sahay). Soon enough, Jordan moves on to the next stage in the heterosexual man’s break-up mourning cycle: get drunk as fuck at a strip club and get tossed out into the back lane by a bouncer. Enter Julia, who, after finishing her shift, finds Jordan passed out in a pile of garbage bags behind the club. She feels compelled to help him due to the fact that he lent her some spare change so she could purchase a bag of chips from the vending machine in the club. In real life, there’s no vending machine inside this club, and I’ll admit, I was extremely distracted by the little inaccuracies of the strip club setting used in the movie (hey, that’s not where the dressing room is! The private dance areas aren’t over there! That’s not what this club is called!). I was wondering the whole time why they bothered to alter it. I mean, it’s a real strip club, why not just let it be? [READ MORE]