Sodomising, pissing, eating shit and other political activities on films.
Given Malaysia’s obsession with the sex life of politicians, I propose a film festival on the politics of sex.
I selected these films for their political content. But mainly for very full-on sex. These are films which have been accused of being pornographic or worse. But they are not porn. Unless you like your porn to also make you cry, make you feel disturbed and make you ask philosophical questions.
Porn is nice to watch alone or during an orgy when everyone is naked and trying to get it on. But with non-porn films that feature hardcore sex, the pleasure is also in watching others as they watch the films — that may explain why the rest feel uncomfortable. Watching sex makes one feel quite naked.
These films had shocked audiences past and present who found the sex too real for films, just as some people complain that the sex is too fake in porn (you can’t win!). Hello, it is all acting. So please don’t make the mistake of describing sex in films as being “realistic” simply because it involves actual onscreen penetration. Actors put things of varying edibility into their mouths and we don’t claim they are eating more realistically. So why can’t they put things in their vaginas or anus and be regarded as actors depicting any one of these human bodily functions we do daily (if we are lucky)?
If a director can make your tearducts flow, pump your blood, touch your heart, churn your stomach, why can’t he or she throb your cocks and cunts? Why is it the moment we feel sexually aroused, a film becomes less than film? Why do we deny that wonderful part of our anatomy from being touched by art? I have learned a great deal about myself when I listened to what great artists are saying about parts of me I didn’t dare to think about (even if I thought about it all the time!).
Film is art, politics is theatre, and sex is all that too and then some. Real or not, they bear truths if you know how to look.
There are of course many more films I haven’t seen, or I have seen but have seen but weren’t aroused, I mean, impressed by them. So feel free to add on to the list and tell us why it should be included here.
In chronological order:
1973 | Mexico | Alejandro Jodorowsky
Not really about sex, but the graphic and bodily nature of this film, combined with the fact that it was produced by The Beatles (John and Yoko funded, George Harrison agreed to star but later withdrew due to having to show too much anatomy), gave it a cult following. A bunch of hippies, disenchanted with modern life, capitalism and fascist politics, try to find the holy mountain while partaking in excessively psychedelic purity rituals to achieve… purity from excess?
1974 | Yugoslavia | Dušan Makavejev
Mixing communist ideologies and sexuality by juxtaposing extreme sexual practices of both capitalist-fundamentalists (golden shower from a golden penis, anyone?) and a liberal commune (golden shower on food, anyone?), this movie/mockumentary is still banned in many countries. The stunning scene of the communal puking, peeing and shitting, finally graduating to ritual infantilism, predates Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots by more than a decade. Makavejev made another film on the relationship between communist politics and sexuality: “W.R: Mysteries of the Organism” that opened at Cannes.
1975 | Italy | Pier Paolo Pasolini
A critique on fascism using the allegory of sado-masochism based on a short story by Marquis de Sade. A bunch of adults keep a bunch of youths hostage in an abandoned bungalow and teach them in the ways of the Marquis. Wasting no time in getting down to rimming, scatting and serious mutilating, this film is poet-filmmaker Pasolini’s boldest darkest film (also check out the surreal “Arabian Nights” and magic realist “Teorema”). Even in progressive UK, a heavily censored version was shown until 2000, when it was finally acknowledged the film is a depiction how “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. I saw this at the Singapore International Film Fest, where 40 percent of the audience walked out or went to the toilet. Too close to home, I guess.
1976 | Japan | dir: Nagisa Oshima
Based on a true story about a relationship between a Japanese master and his maid, sorry, domestic worker, who develops an obssessive-compulsive desire to polish his unsheathed throbbing katana that results in a very bad end for one of them. Narratively boring except for the variety of sex, it is the one film often accused of being pornographic — I worry for those who are actually aroused by the disturbing scenes. While an interesting study of a man who surrenders his body and will to his lover — he even obeys her instruction to have sex with an aging woman — this film shocked audiences as one of the first Asian films to show onscreen penetration, not to mention an ending that could put you off oral sex. But the real reason I include it is because if you click here, you will find yourself a great discussion on “Is it porn or is it art?”
1979 | Italy/USA | Tinto Brass (with Giancarlo Lucci & Penthouse founder Bob Guccione)
This cinematic view to the life of the infamous Roman emperor, his cruelty and his debauchery is unintentionally hilarious knowing how it exploited the unwitting famous actors, animals, fruits and a dwarf — in fact everybody was exploited except the porn stars, of whom it could be said were wittingly exploited. Peter O Toole, Roddy McDowell and Helen Mirren (who smears cum over her face in one scene — to preserve her youth) slowly distanced themselves from the film subsequently. Sometimes found on “the worst films of all time” lists, it says little about the characters, the times or the artists, except that perhaps everybody wishes he is a tyrant in bed. Now bend over and stay there!
1980 | Italy | Rugero Deodato
This snuff film was so realistic that the director was arrested because the public thought he actually killed the actors (he didn’t, but the same couldn’t be said for some of the animals). The story of a camera crew filming a primitive South American tribe, then losing their inhibitions, and eventually becoming dinner is social commentary and post-colonialism at its most unpalatable. And snuff as a genre in itself will provide you endless possibilities to cultural studies dissertations and dinner conversations with increasingly smaller audience.
1991 | UK | Derek Jarman
Based on a play by Christopher Marlowe, the film is a fabulously postmodern take on the true story of the love affair between King Edward II (1284 – 1327, he who lost the war that freed Scotland from England) and the English nobleman Piers Gaveston. The king’s penchant for distractions and his excessive attentions on his favourites at the expense of his subjects, led to his eventual downfall, perhaps giving an excuse for his enemies to cite homosexuality as the reason for his incompetence. Contains lots of male nudity, with Edward’s army depicted as gay rights protestors, the film contains Derek Jarman’s trademark artiness, making all the royal fuckups a little more tender and forgivable.
1998 | Denmark | Lars Von Trier
A commune tries to free itself of the world of pretense by pretending to be “retarded”. One of the hallmark of the Dogma films — a manifesto in minimalist filmmaking — resulting a sometimes hard-to-watch film about the things we suppress. It is not so much the liberated nudity and sex during “spazzing” that is hard to watch, it is the confrontation between the idiots and “normal” society. I understand that the director’s 2009 film “Antichrist” is even more in your face, or should I say, in your orifices, but I haven’t seen it.
1998 | US | Trey Parker & Matt Stone
Directors of South Park bring us this hilarious movie about a good Mormon boy who ends up as a porn star. He becomes popular for playing superhero named Orgazmo (whose superpowers is firing orgasm rays at his enemies in order to rescue damsels in distress). He sacrificed himself this way — he believes it is a sign from God — in order to be able to make enough money to pay for his wedding to his Mormon sweetheart girlfriend. With assistance from some of famous porn actors, Trey and Matt fucks up American conservatism like few American liberals would have dared.
2004 | USA | Bruce La Bruce
Working with a gay porn studio (representing a more amiable collaboration than Caligula), Bruce la Bruce illustrates the politically subversive nature of homosexual sex with such famous lines as: “The revolution is your boyfriend!”, “Heterosexuality is the opiate of the masses”, “Join the homosexual intifada!” and “Out of the bedrooms into the streets!” Most of which are declared loudly in the middle of unsimulated (real) sex scenes. Of course homosexuality isn’t really a choice, but this film irreverently imagines the agency of such a choice, if one could indeed choose, as a political one. One of the truly humourous examination of the thin line between freedom fighting and terrorism, between body politics and social politics, between desires and ideologies.
2006 | USA | dir: James Cameron Mitchell
Based on an actual club that used to exist in New York where anything goes, this film uses sexual dysfunction/liberation as narrative device for self-discovery andcharacter development . Problems with sex, with being honest about sex, causes much existential angst, but understanding sex, self and others brings redemption and hope. The frankness insights with which sex is discussed in this film is truly liberating — not in the Raspberry Reich’s revolutionary way — but in the personally liberating way. It’s good enough for me. Beautiful performances by everyone, including Asian Canadian VJ who was fired for taking part in the film, until fans protested and the company reinstated her. Nice to see a film in which sexual promiscuity is not attributed as a negative character trait or some allegory to oppressive politics.
I leave you with a few lines from Shortbus:
Jesse: Can you describe your last orgasm?
Severin: It was great. It was like time had stopped and I was completely alone.
Jesse: Were you sad afterwards?
Severin: ‘Cause time hadn’t stopped and I wasn’t alone.
When Pang Khee Teik watches these films, sometimes he is aroused by them, sometimes he is horrified. Sometimes he is horrified that he is aroused and aroused that he is horrified. But most of all, he is aroused knowing he is not alone.