Monday, September 7, 2009

Singular Pleasures

Spiklenci Slatsi(Conspirators Of Pleasure)(1996)
Directed By Jan Svankmajer
Jan Svankmajer (Czeck and cinema in general’s greatest puppeteer), uses the same stop motion and puppetry techniques he has become legend for in a movie about masturbation, that contains almost no explicit sexuality. Six strangers bump into each other, exchange glances, and end up becoming the objects of the others affections. Each person goes home and begins privately constructing (for most of the movie) elaborate Rube Goldbergian sexual apparatus's.How do you have sex with someone who's only an image on a TV screen?It's here, as well as a straw puppet S&M scene, snorting dough, and fish toe sucking.Imagine for a moment that for every person you might fantasize about after meeting on the street there are two others fantasizing about you. Though each character is tangenically linked through breif encounters, these form the basis of their fantasy lives; private devices and machines inexplicable to understand to the external viewer, and only desirable until they are completed.After each person builds their device, still completely unknown to each other, they switch around and trade off their fetishes; the man making a back massager of nails is now using dough, the woman who was using dough is now on to fish, etc. No film maker has ever devoted so much time to the sexual imagination (not the physical act itself), and how personally idiosyncratic and simultaneously publicly intertwined they are.Though few of the characters interact for more than a few moments they are all conspirators in the self love which dare not speak its name. The final “climax” of the movie ties all idiosyncratic strings together brilliantly merging politics, sexuality, psychology, and censorship.One of the conspirators has been indulging herself beneath her desk on TV, and what erupts in public is what has been simmering throughout the public unconcious of the entire film. I don’t think Svankmajer means to explore these characters as byproduct of a "dying" or "technological" culture that can’t connect and thus has to use objects as surrogates, but to show how certain connections as part of their basic psychological structures often depend on such surrogates. Have you ever gotten joy or pleasure out of a new movie, book, or piece of music?Like most Svankmajer stuff there's no dialog, and it's amazing the amount of ideas infused in the film only through actions, gestures, glances, and inventions. My one complaint would be the amount of repetitions necessary to get us toward the end.I know very well this would be very boring to the average and even some more adventurous viewers. On the flipside, this near silent fil, could be understood by virtually anyone, and given how personal and taboo its subject can be for some, it’s simplicity(and it's sense of humor) could also be viewed as it’s triumph. Obviously this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but to the brave go the spoils. Conspirators Of Pleasure is also Svanjmajer’s first film (after watching his entire filmography including his shorts) that is more about telling a unique story through his particular stylistic obsessions, than just a loose adaptation to show off his animation skills (which are good enough to coast by on their own merit). A minor masterpiece of sexual obsession, displacement, and inter-connection. I’ve never seen a film where a man goes back into a closet at the end but somehow it makes more sense than you would expect.Singular Pleasures:

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