Wednesday, February 02, 2011


UPDATED 2/4/11 4:15 p.m.

Just over a month into 2011 and there’s finally news of two movies that actually look like they might be fun, and all without the added extra bonus of 3D! First up, Gregg Araki’s wild and woolly Kaboom starts a limited run at the Nuart Theater this Friday. Araki will be there on both Friday and Saturday nights, along with members of the cast, no doubt to delight in the audience’s response to his latest, which has been getting lots of positive advance notice. David Edelstein in New York magazine writes:

Kaboom might be borderline camp, but there’s no spillover. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps Araki’s vision of human sexuality is so fluid that the borders are always expanding. How can there be camp when there are no hetero, mainstream norms to travesty—when the whole world is unashamedly omnisexual? How can there be camp without irony? The characters’ emotions are pure, the actors straight—at least in the absence of nudge-nudge-wink-wink.”

Araki’s early movies, like The Doom Generation and Totally F****d Up were a bit too self-consciously button-pushing for my taste. But Mysterious Skin was a brilliant character study that seemed electrified by Araki’s introspective fearlessness and his blunt refusal to sentimentalize the circumstances which threaten to suffocate his protagonist. His follow-up, Smiley Face, wasn’t much of a movie, but it did introduce us to full-blown comic genius of Anna Faris. And now Kaboom looks like a looser, randier, more candy-colored take on the fantastical apocalyptic fetishism of Donnie Darko, which come to think of it was always Araki's primary turf anyway.

And then there’s the upcoming comedy from Sebastian Guittierez, Elektra Luxx, a sequel of sorts to his 2009 indie hit Women in Trouble which stars Carla Gugino, made up to look like a sleek, recharged Shannon Tweed, as a porn star who quits the business when she gets pregnant (“Is it yours?!” squeals a none-too-bright colleague upon hearing the news) and decides to embark on a career teaching sex classes at a community center. All manner of horny-making situations ensue.

The nice thing about the trailer for Elektra Luxx, and the one for Kaboom too, is that their comic blades seem sharpened and ready to go, but they both look as though they won’t be averse to indulging in a little erotic foreplay as well as laughing about it, a sensibility that has become a bit of a rarity in films of late 20th century and early 21st. Nice that they both feature casts of both sexes that look more than up to the mutual challenges of cinematic comedy and coitus.

And for some reason, this all made me think about the sexy movies of my childhood, the ones that I was far too young to see when they were I first release, but whose advertising images followed me throughout my teenage years until I finally got a chance to see what all the hoohah was about for myself. Usually the movies didn’t hold a candle to my most fervent hopes, but occasionally one would come through with a good joke or a bit of outrageous behavior, or in the case of Candy, a vision of loveliness like Ewa Aulin who seemed fresh and spontaneous. Her career didn’t really add up to much—she had a bit part in the wonderful Bud Yorkin comedy Start the Revolution Without Me starring Donald Sutherland and Gene Wilder—but for young boys of a certain age in 1971 her appearance as Candy would more than suffice. And Araki’s re-emergence with Kaboom got me thinking what his version of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge might be like. The elements of transgressive sexuality, gender politics and camp absurdism are all there, but one would have to believe Araki’s version would be a lighter affair, bereft of the stodgy sketch comedy, precocious voyeurism and leering, lip-smacking attitude that mark Michael Sarne’s notorious 1970 adaptation. He’d probably still want to cast Rex Reed, though, which could be meta-fascinating all over again.

Now in a trailer frame of mind, here are the original promo clips for Candy, Myra Breckenridge and also two other influential sex comedies of my day, Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens (directed by “the rural Fellini,” Russ Meyer) which, for better or worse, were part of my introduction to the big, busty, biologically correct world of erotic movies, and all of which I found sexier in their way than most of the hardcore porn that was yet to come in my movie experience. Clips from a couple of titles I thought of, like Pretty Maids All in a Row, were difficult to find so they have been excluded here, even though they remain potent there. But for those interested in a more exhaustive look at notable movies featuring Beast With Two Backs, a good starting point might be Tim Dirks’ “History of Sex in Cinema: The Greatest and Most Influential Sexual Films and Scenes”. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of worthy and delicious titles, so feel free to remind me. And let’s hope that the kaleidoscopic libidinal treats promised by Kaboom and Electra Luxx both end up as promises fulfilled and as harbingers of a hornier 2011 at the movies.

UPDATED! 2/4/11 4:15.: Pretty Maids All In A Row (1971) John Landis gives the trailer for the lusty Roger Vadim-does-Roger Corman T&A epic full justice at Trailers from Hell.

Candy (1968)

Myra Breckenridge (1970)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens (1979)



wwolfe said...

I just saw "Women in Trouble" a week or two ago on cable, and thought it was a fun, surprisingly generous, and un-smarmy movie. If Leo McCarey had grown up in the 1990s listening to Sleater-Kinney while reading his dad's old compilation of Penthouse letters, this might have been the result. (That's a big "if," granted.) Anyway, I'm glad to see there's a sequel, and that it gives Carla Gugino the lead role. I've long thought she was a major American actress who hadn't gotten the movie role she needed to prove it. "Electra Luxx" may not be that role, but I bet it'll be a lot more fun than about half the roles that win Best Actress awards. (Should I be embarrassed that I've seen all those movie shown at the bottom of your post?)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Not if I'm not, wwolfe! Actually, the only one to have escaped my purview is Candy, but I'm hoping that some benign corporate entity like Netflix Instant will help me over that hurdle soon.

And thanks for the words on Women in Trouble. You're the second person today to recommend it to me, so I think I'm gonna have to bite. And yes, Gugino is usually loads of fun, so good vibes all around!