The Bold, Bizarre and Disturbing: in Film

Since as far back as I can remember, I found controversial films could pique my interest. Actually, it all started with Qube TV in Columbus, Ohio and a girlfriends sleepover. I was at the height of puberty, we were all in Gloria’s basement, and she mentioned that her family had cable. I had no idea what that was, nor did anyone at that time; unless you had it. She also mentioned that there were porn films on the channel, but you had to use a special key, which she had. That was the end of this conversation, until they went to sleep. My curiosity got the best of me and I quickly put the key in and began to watch some really great films; with the sound way, way down. These were not your blue eye shadow, nose dripping, scarf around the neck type porns. Instead, they were art films and the people happened to have sex or be naked for various scenes.

I recall a boat scene which looked very romantic to me. A man and woman making love; while out at sea. There was a woman dancing with a bear – most likely a bear costume. Both films seemed very grown-up and different than the Kubla, Fran and Ollie. I bring this up because there was a show about bears who got loose from the zoo and went to a children’s school to play. As a young girl, I fell in love with art, nudity, foreign films, and creative expression thanks to Qube TV. I knew it was naughty; to be watching these films. I can’t recall whether I told the girls or not. I think I did. I just know that I was hooked on controversy and when I became an adult; began to explore this world much easier. What a delight that for several years, I managed a video store (Wherehouse Entertainment) in Los Angeles. My staff and I made a habit of educating ourselves on the various genres in film, that we would share with our customers. Customer service, by having a knowledgeable data base, in our heads, prior to the Internet.

Starting today, on World Cinema and TV, I will be featuring a week of controversial film. You might hear me using the words bold, bizarre, or disturbing in some form or fashion. A few months ago, I put this group together, on Facebook, for film aficionados like myself. We haven’t built up a huge group thus far, but we are rambling along. Still need to find all of us; from around the world.

I started with Deliverance, a film from America and go into sexual erotica controversy such as Nymphomaniac (France/Denmark), Tokyo Deliverance (Japan) and Paradise: Love, one of Ulrich Seidl’s in his Trilogy (Austria). Deliverance was a film that I saw on TV; in the early 80’s. At this time, I had no idea that I had PTSD and I didn’t understand being an Empath or a Highly Sensitive Person. Needless to say, I was shaking and fearful by the end of the film and definitely wanted to stay as far away from Louisiana as I possibly could. I would end up there; while crossing the country in the early 90’s. Deliverance, by then, was far from my mind. Deliverance touches on stereotypes, not minding your own business, small intimate societies down in the bayou. These four hunters, (I believe there were) got stranded and were quickly usurped by a group of ne’er-do-wells; who had a penchant for torture. Not a proper film for TV, though, now-a-days people watch anything.

Nymphomaniac, is a film I wanted to watch as soon as I heard about it. Charlotte Gainsbourg is one of my favorite actresses. She is quite versatile and, in this film, quite literally. There are two parts to the film. In the first part, she tells Stellan Skarsgård how she became a nymph. This continues into Part II which I declined to watch. Part l is really not that bad, nor is it quite as over the top as Part II. However, I knew this would be the case, so I opted to read about Part Il and then chose to pass. Some things, I am just not in the mood for visually.

Nymphomaniac, is the French/Danish version of erotica. Tokyo Deliverance, a Japanese interpretation. TD is about a young girl who is paying her way through college by becoming a submissive; for high paying Japanese men. Let’s just say, the urine scene went a little to “ich” for me and this is when I turned it off. Not much different than a French film I watched once, that very graphically showed sex with a girl on her period. Some things, we don’t need to see on film. Though, some people like it and that is fine for them. We all have that place that we don’t want to go to. Some can go further than I can. TD went quite far prior to this scene, so I assure you, it tops the cake. The film begins with the girl on a doctor’s table, with some type of S&M contraption attached to her face and I believe she was strapped to the table, (it was back in the 80’s that I saw this). Nymph and TD go to a place that Last Tango in Paris began. By now, we have progressed from unique ways to use oleo. The French have always interested me with their versions of erotica, more than any other country. I think because I am a Francophile but at the same time, they have a way of using humor in dark places. For example (can’t recall the film) a man going “Greek” with a girl and telling her if she makes a sound, he will be more forceful; shall we say.

Controversial films aren’t just about torture and erotica though. Martin Scorsese (Last Temptation of Christ) and Jean-Luc Godard (Hail Mary); really pushed the buttons on this topic. I haven’t seen either of these yet but I included them in the group, simply because it will remind me to check them out. When you can piss the pope off, you know you have made a good film. Not trying to disrespect the pope, it is his job to represent the Catholic people and make decisions of which films to censor. However, this only builds on the public’s interest and makes people want to see “Why,” he might have banned it. For me, it is important that people have an interpretation of religion. It opens doors and sheds light on how one might explore their racing thoughts when they are alone at night. Paradise: Faith is another in the trilogy by Ulrich Seidl. He goes to an extreme place for the pious at heart, albeit an extremist version.

Another type of genre that is controversial, politically speaking, to many people these days; are the silent films. Having been an ardent admirer of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, when I used to live in Fremont, CA, I would go every Saturday to watch a non-talkie film. There is quite a fan club that exists in that lovely small town, and one would be remiss to not check it out, while visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. I couldn’t tell you how many of those films I had the pleasure of viewing, but quite a number of them would be labeled racist, misogynist, or stereotypes in the least. This naturally, did not bother me because I am also a history aficionado (mostly women’s history). If it weren’t for these magnificent films, we would not be able to view history, “live” on the big screen. The clothing, the streets, the transportation, the furniture, the people and they way they spoke (shown through subtitles). I was practically salivating with delight upon watching each scene.

Naturally, The Birth of the Nation, by D.W. Griffith, gets all the publicity, but that’s just one. I still haven’t had the pleasure of viewing this controversial hit, though I have seen some scenes in the film. It did not strike me as any different than any other silent, nor was I disturbed or concerned with the topics that he approached. I refuse to waste my energy getting all bent out of shape over history. Yes, it truly did happen. Freaking out about Birth, is like pretending that slavery and the end of this, which gave birth to the KKK, never happened. Um, it still does folks. This is what we now call Human Trafficking. Actually, slavery dates back to pre-Bible times. We have all been slaves at one time here on Earth.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, is a title you just had to watch, no different than Sex, Lies and Video-tape, that we all flocked to see way back when. An entirely different genre of movie, with the latter, so don’t go running to get this film if you are expecting the same. It’s not. The Cook… reminded me of a film Vincent Price starred in entitled, The House on Haunted Hill. I watched this film, on TV, at a Halloween Party my mom had put together for a bunch of us kids. I am not sure she had any idea what was about to take place – with a dog. Unfortunately, all her gastronomic delights went to waste on me after that disturbing scene. In The Cook… we revisit this scene and that is about where I had to walk away from the film. Yes, you do hear this a lot. Let me remind you that I am an Empath and a Highly Sensitive Person. I love the controversy, but I have my limits. We all do and should!

As we say in the psychology world, it is one thing to think something and another to do it. This is why I love the controversial film world too. It is art, it is allowing people to express their thoughts, it is releasing a lot of stress in their minds and bodies, or interpreting their spiritual imaginations. It turns us into voyeurs. It gives us ideas that we can be titillated by, as adults, in our own interesting ways. Or, it gives way to releasing our own tension about thoughts we have had, but would never do. Seeing it up on screen is a healthy outlet. Unfortunately, there are those people who can’t just write a book or make a movie – or be a voyeur. Instead, they have to act out their fantasies, to the detriment of little children, unsuspecting women and men, and not all of them end up behind bars.

If you get a chance, join our Facebook group, World Cinema and TV, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, on there, going forward.

4 thoughts on “The Bold, Bizarre and Disturbing: in Film

  1. I have Birth of a Nation, but haven’t seen it through yet. Have you seen Triumph of the Will? That’s controversial. Say what you will, the cinematography is gorgeous and the scenes depicting village life are I think inspirational.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I am wondering if I saw parts of this on the History channel years ago. It sounds like it won lots of awards for documentary. Roger Ebert had a lot of good things to say about it in this regard but later changed his mind. I am sure it is hard to watch but relevant to history. I am a strong proponent for not erasing historical artifacts. It happened and we need to learn from it.

        Liked by 2 people

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