Saturday, May 10, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Nymphomaniac: Volume II

When we last left Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) she was entrenched in a philosophical debate with her rescuer of sorts, a Mr. Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) and unable to feel any erotic sensation.

In this second installment, she intently relates more of her story. She is stuck in neutral with her hubby (Shia LaBeouf) and at a loss. She becomes increasingly despondent. Gainsbourg's role echoes her previous outing in "Antichrist". Joe seeks out a sexual misadventure soliciting sexual company with two African men. Passive and silent, she observes a hostile argument and in barely a minutes time, she is sitting bemused between a pair of erect penises. The position of the bed and the erect members turns the screen into an x-rated Matisse tableau. Frustrated and bereft, Joe joins a twelve step program and strips her room of all color and charm.

This fails when she verbally eviscerates the group. What a woman.

Joe has a baby but just when any other mother might have a yen for flowers, an overhead reflection shows the baby smiling devilishly with animal eyes in a hint of Rosemary.

Needless to say, the mother bond is not established.

Joe falls in with a creepy laconic fish (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliott) who specializes in sadism. She is literally in knots as Bell's methadone monster only slightly licks his lips. While this is told, Seligman appears more and more excited, yet he tells an oddly mundane counter story about a doomed mountain climber with only shoelaces to save himself.

Suffice to say these two characters are left in their own solipsistic bubbles, within a room of brown flypaper, disinterested and never connecting with each other.

As usual there are some poetic passages. Seligman falls from an ocean of books, his body spinning ala Hitchcock. Joe was once a kind of sexual saint, her body levitating in the style of a Ken Russell music opera, but now she is cynical, bruised and battered, purple with piss.

The cyclic philosophic banter reaches an almost absurdist pitch as the two characters are each on their own trajectory: Joe driven to reach a nirvana of amorality and Seligman obsessed with theological history and numerology, using any obscure fact necessary to wake himself from his doughy torpidity.

At the end, director von Trier  appears to toy sadistically with his detractors by showing Jo's infant Marcel about to take the plunge below as in "Antichrist". Or perhaps it's a personal exorcism. Either way, von Trier does his best to push buttons.

We also have a snide Willem Dafoe as a loan shark, along with the eerie cult actor Udo Keir as a waiter who comically witnesses some scandalously falling spoons but hardly says a word.

With the last of "Nymphomaniac" we still don't know quite what drives these crepuscular characters and maybe we don't need to. As in the work of Michael Haneke, von Trier leaves the work to us and the questions left make the momentum, be it either Manichean or impartial in origin.

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