Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Vol II

Front Row at the Movies

“Nymphomaniac 2” Offers
A Sexual Companion Piece

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I suppose this can be considered a twofer review, one that covers both “Nymphomaniac: Vol. I” (which recently played at the Tropic Cinema) and “Nymphomaniac: Vol. II” (which is playing there now).

Danish director Lars von Trier (“Melancholia,” “Antichrist”) continues his quest to be the bad boy of international cinema by giving us a porn film masquerading as serious drama. We know it’s supposed to be serious because he has recruited such legitimate stars as Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, and Willem Dafoe. But the storytelling rests on the shoulders of two of his regular players, Stellan Skarsgård and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

A serious actor associated with The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, Stellan Skarsgård is also the father of Alexander Skarsgård (TV’s “True Blood”). And winner of a César Award as “Most Promising Actress,” Charlotte Gainsbourg is the daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and French singer Serge Gainsbourg.

“Nymphomaniac” is the two-part story of (as the title titillatingly promises) a sexually obsessed woman named Joe. To make the point, von Trier shows Joe (from child to adulthood) having sex. Graphically, so this is not a movie for prudish viewers. Stacy Martin is cast as the younger Joe; Charlotte Gainsbourg is the older version.

In Volume I, we learn how a daddy’s girl (Christian Slater plays the father) progresses from masturbation to unpleasant first-time sex (with a scruffy Shia LaBeouf) to ten guys a night. In Volume II, we learn how Joe came to be in the care of Seligman (kind and patient Stellan Skarsgård), a somewhat mysterious figure in Volume I.

This account is being told to Seligman by the battered older Joe. Think: “One Thousand and One Nights,” a latter-day Scheherazade spinning her stories.

Given the explicitness of her roles in Lars von Trier’s films, Gainsbourg is quick to say, “I like to play roles different from myself so I can hide behind them.”

And Skarsgård adds, “The main pleasure of working with Lars is that you feel absolutely free and safe, and you can’t fail because if you (mess) up it’s considered good...”

Well, up to a point.

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