Cinema of the Flesh

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on the blog, so I decided to talk about a subject that often pops up on Papiro & Mint, which are films about sex, transgression, eroticism, and sexuality. After watching an incredible film by Catherine Breillat and reflecting how the feature talked about extremely important subjects when it comes to transgressiveness and extremism on cinema, I thought about some movies which main subjects are the body, the flesh and the carnage of its characters and how directors use them to transmit desire, tension, eroticism and talk about gender and identify. According to “The Secret Language of Cinema” by Jean-Claude Carriére and “The Big Screen” by David Thompson, cinema is a place where we see our desires taking shapes. Here are some movies these desires are personified in human bodies:


Phantom (2000) by João Pedro Rodrigues

After watching the incredible The Ornithologist, I decided to check out a movie that has been on my watch-list for years – Phantom or O Fantasma. I probably already said some movies I can only find on XVideos, and this is one of them. Considered by many as porn, or simply a horrible movie, Phantom is an erotic mystery film not made for everyone. Reality and fantasy are mixed in this tale of desires where a young man lives his life having sexual encounters in different situations. The dream-like diegesis is extremely raw and João Pedro Rodrigues is not interested in providing any explanations to the spectator. The film transcends the narrative when the personification of our characters’ desires becomes something ugly, filthy and unexplainable, resulting in an incredible and disturbing finale that makes people hate it so much. In my opinion, it’s simply fascinating.


Anatomy of Hell (2004) by Catherine Breilatt

Being the Catherine Breillat movie that inspired me to write this post, Anatomy of Hell is another hated movie by most people because of the format the feature was made. People tend to ridicule everything that reminds them of obscenity or pornography, so of course, the major response to Anatomy of Hell was of hatred. But it’s also important to remember that hatred also comes from not understanding what is being watched and Breillat for sure it’s making it difficult for the audience as this is almost a slap in the face of the spectator, resulting in the most powerful feminist movie I’ve ever watched. Anatomy of Hell is practically an anti-movie, made to disgust, make fun of the audience and patronize the patriarchy by inviting a gay man to watch a naked girl while she talks about the woman’s body, mind, and sexuality. The activities that will happen in that room will not always be very clear, but will definitely take society’s standards to extremes, creating one of the most important movies about sex, transgression, and feminism.


Trouble Everyday (2001) by Claire Denis

Considered one of the movies of the New French Extremity, Trouble Everyday is a disturbing tale that will take you to places you wouldn’t imagine a movie could take you – which is exactly what it makes such an incredible film! The movie follows two storylines, being one of a man who travels to Paris to find a certain doctor and a woman who is locked inside of the house. The path of both characters comes together when we discover they are connected with the same personal agenda, that comes from a disease that makes humans to have sex and perform cannibalism with each other. Despite being a horror movie, Claire Denis transform this bizarre tale into something extremely unique and beautiful, pushing cinema’s boundaries by showing the absurd, the extreme and the horror of our most personal desires.


Flesh (1968) by Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol

If cinema is the place where we see our desires taking shapes, Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol knew exactly what to do once they met Joe Dallesandro: a whole movie about the handsome actor being naked in front of the camera. Being one of the few underground actors who became famous for his naked body without being on the porn industry, Joe Dallessandro became a cult following with Flesh, a movie about a straight guy who works a hustler in the streets of New York. Being without his clothes for about 90% of the movie – including full frontal nudity – Morrissey and Warhol show Dallesandro’s body as a work of Michelangelo in a New York underground scenario of prostitutes, drag queens, drug addicts, and prostitutes. The film had not only two sequences, but Dallesandro ended up making movies with Louis Malle, Francis Ford Coppola and features his bulge on The Rolling Stones cover of Sticky Fingers’ album. The reputation of Flesh is not only important, but is also an amazing study of the human body and the homoerotic gaze.


No Skin Off My Ass (1991) by Bruce LaBruce

Another film that you can find on XVideos, No Skin Off My Ass is not only Kurt Kobain’s favorite film, but also Bruce LaBruce debut as a movie director. Clearly inspired by Flesh, No Skin Off My Ass talks about a hairdresser who falls in love with a skinhead that he meets at a park and invites him to take a shower at his place. In the meanwhile, the skinhead’s sister is looking for him so he can start in a movie that she is directing. The movie is part of the Canadian underground scene, and LaBruce became famous for his political homosexual underground movies, challenging the boundaries of the concept of art and porn. In his debut, the director appears as one of the characters and mainly talks about his obsessions with skinheads. The result is an incredible experimental queer tale featuring a lot of full frontal nudity that clearly shows Bruce LaBruce’s fetish, a theme where he would build his career upon.


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