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Nymphomaniac: Volume I and Volume II

by Louise Adams
Tuesday Jul 22, 2014
Nymphomaniac: Volume I and Volume II

Lars von Trier aims his shaky-cam at a man's version of a woman's sexuality in "Nymphomaniac." The two-volume treatise, which he also wrote, feels like his misogynist's wet dream, complete with a labial "()" where an O should be in the opening titles, the actors giving orgasm faces on the Blu-ray cover, and cunts galore.

Bachelor virgin Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds 50-year-old Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) beaten in an alley. He lets her recover in his creepy, stained guest bedroom, and prods her to tell what happened.

Instead of a simple answer, she wants to begin by explaining her youth. The pair slowly (slowly) whispers together: He relates her sexual exploits to fishing (the "nymph/young insect lure" -- get it?), music, and literature; she spins her stories inspired by the room's meager décor, explaining how she came to be a "self-diagnosed nymphomaniac" and assigning chapters to each emotionless, monotone tale.

Chapter 1, "The Complete Angler," shows Joe (young version played by Stacy Martin) loving her dad (Christian Slater), "always demanding more from the sunset," and using oral sex as "a finishing weapon." Chapter 2 introduces "Jerome" (Shia LaBoeuf), who takes her virginity (using Fibonacci numbers, Seligman randomly notes) and keeps showing up in her life. Joe helpfully summarizes that "the erotic is about saying 'yes' "and that "love is lust with jealousy added."

"Mrs. H" (Uma Thurman, who shows up to see Joe and her husband's "whoring bed") is the focus of Chapter 3 (most of the characters are referred to as initials), while Chapter 4, "Delirium," chronicles dad dying, the perfected harmony of polyphony, plus Pythagoras and the golden section thrown in for pretentious measure. Chapter 5 is "The Little Organ School" where Joe introduces three of her thousands of lovers: "F's" goal was her orgasm. He was the "bass in her music," ritualistic and predictable. "G" drove a Jaguar, "was in charge," and taught Joe that "the secret ingredient to sex is love."

"The secret ingredient to sex is love."

Volume II includes Chapter 6, "The Eastern and Western Church (The Silent Duck)," and shows Joe trolling for men dressed as piano teacher. The film skips forward a few years, and Gainsbourg is now playing Joe. She's married Jerome and has a son, Marcel. She abandons both to be with her BDSM master "K" (Jamie Bell). In Chapter 7, "The Mirror," Joe improbably becomes a "sexual mobster" working for "L" (Willem Dafoe), using her feminine wiles to extort money (?). "Your dick is a lie detector," Joe instructs her targets (??).

Chapter 8 is the welcome ending, called "The Gun" so the conclusion is also predictable. But viewers do learn that "jealousy is the fear of sharing or the fear of losing." Blu-ray features on Volume I include "The Characters" and "A Look At." Volume II offers "The Director" and "The Sex," which revealed that sex doubles were seamlessly used, as well as fake vaginas, sorry, cunts. Skarsgård confesses he "doesn't have the curse of religion" so doesn't think the movie is porn.

Amidst a sea of sexism, the strongest takeaway here is that "you're on your knees for both religion and sex."

"Nymphomaniac Volumes I and II"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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