Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: Director's Cut is now available on VOD, and will play select theaters. The following essay reveals the ending of the film, along with many other narrative aspects that may be considered spoilers.
Lars Von Trier has made a career out of stunts: explicit
material, crass juxtapositions between the high and low, casting of unexpected
actors, and outlandish statements. This makes Von Trier at once a nuisance in
contemporary cinema—someone who thinks he is telling the Real Truth when it’s
just a satirized form of regular ideology—and perhaps a necessity. It'd be
great if the American vision of contemporary Euro-Art cinema was, say, more
Alain Guiaurdie or Thomas Arslan, but instead we have Von Trier and Herr
Haneke, mostly because the way they directly invoke and challenge the expectations
of Hollywood cinema. In a way, they urge us to balance our diet of Hollywood
cinema with their “cultural vegetables.” Von Trier’s cinema wouldn’t exist
without someone to gasp at it.
This is all to say, the easy reading of Nymphomaniac, his five and a half hour opus, would be as a
self-critical examination of the director’s own career. One could even place
each of the chapter's into the various sections of his filmography: plot points
from Breaking The Waves, a direct
quotation of a scene and the music from Antichrist;
is the scene of Joe and the African men is a play on Manderlay? Even Joe's discussion of Hitler and the way Seligman
misinterprets her point of evokes Von Tirer’s indiscretion at the 2011 Cannes Film
I have an upcoming piece on Steven Soderbergh's The Knick, his fantastic medical drama now showing on Cinemax. While writing it, I revisited a piece I began over a year ago on what I called the "Late Soderbergh" period (a poor name in hindsight), covering an era beginning with The Girlfriend Experience and assumably ending with Behind The Candelabra. It was a wild and ridiculous essay, trying to cover way too much ground with flimsy cohesion. I eventually abandoned it. Revisiting the 10,000 word document, however, I found some insights that helped me contextualize The Knick as well as my own thoughts on how Soderbergh evolved in this era. What follows are some excerpts from that, which I found still managed to make sense, and hopefully have some use.
Young and naive Adam (Alex Pettyfer) sits on a couch, pumped
up from adrenaline from the experience he just had. On a complete whim, he has
does stripped down to almost his bare ass for a loud of screaming young women.
He was awkward and a bit silly, unsure of what to do, which made his so-called
“performance” all the more exciting for the crowd. He sits on a couch while the
rest of his now-colleagues celebrate and joke around for another successful
night. Still dressed in only underwear, dollars are flowing out of his pants,
as if his cock was spewing it. His body has a value, and we can see it right
In many ways, the Transformers movies have always been somewhat plagued by a weird quasi-meshing of Spileberg's penchant boy-growing-up-among-the-awe narratives with Michael Bay's own crass maximalism (a meaningless word, but how else to describe what's on screen). Age of Extinction eliminates the main component of the former director's hand - Shia Labeouf's alienating and always too smug every-boy - in favor of Marky Mark Wahlberg, who mutates into whatever he needs to be from scene to scene (techie, overly concerned parent, football star, machine gun expert). It's a good metaphor for the film itself, which struck me as a work completely outside of its own interest as a film made by a studio for entertainment. Instead, it morphs into a parade of advertisement for each of its backers — Hasboro, Victoria's Secret, Chevrolet, and Budweiser (not to mention numerous Chinese sponsors I didn't recognize). The last of those companies comes up in a scene so crassly made that you could snip that 30 seconds from the film and it could have easily been a spot during the Super Bowl. A colleague of mine once posited that movie theaters are slowly morphing into the mall—a space for people to hang out more than experience film, and this film certainly made that experience seem like less a warning of doom than a proposition of truth. Goodbye Cinema, Hello Capitalism 2.0.
If you look to the left, you can see the cover of my book. And soon enough, you can buy it! Neato! My friend Kevin B. Lee, who came on the podcast in January of last year, has released his most ambitious video essay yet, entitled Transformers: The Premake. I discussed this work at The Film Stage. I also reviewed two more Blu-Rays for The Film Stage and tried to put them in conversation with each other: Antonioni's L'Eclisse and Kiarostami's Like Someone In Love. Both are wonderful and the transfers look fantastic. A surprisingly decent transfer would also be the new DCP of Eric Rohmer's A Summer's Tale, which is finally receiving a theatrical release in the United States. It's my favorite movie of the year, and I explain why over here. I also review a so-called "new release" movie, Clint Eastwood's beguiling and somewhat wondrous Jersey Boys. On The Cinephiliacs, Adam Nayman joins the show to talk about his book about Showgirls entitled It Doesn't Suck, and we also discuss Mia Hansen-Love's debut feature, All Is Forgiven. He also tears Jason Reitman to shreds. Over on Letterboxd... New films! Nadiv Lapid's Policeman and Lord and Miller's 22 Jump Street War documentaries! William Wyler's Memphis Belle and John Huston's San Pietro From Asia! King Hu's A Touch of Zen and Kenji Mizoguchi's Women of the Night Big Auteurs! Alain Resnais's Melo and James Cameron's The Abyss