6.12.2007

My weekend of penis mutilation

Matt and I watched Sick this weekend. Sick is a documentary about performance artist Bob Flanagan. His art centers on his infatuation with pain and masochism. A large majority of his pieces are video installations in which he mutilates his genitals.
I'm glad I was playing Warcraft and only occasionally looking at the screen. Even when I was looking, my eyes were generally shielded by my hands. I watched him hammer a nail through the head of his penis into a block of wood. Then he removed the nail with the claw of the hammer and blood spewed onto the camera lens.
My stomach was a knot of tension and nerves while I watched him perform. Shock value is definitely one aspect of his work, but more than that, as he explains, is a need to control pain. Bob suffers from cystic fibrosis (CF) and has felt varying degrees of pain his entire life. When viewed through this filter, his art becomes much more meaningful. He has learned to love pain, and through his control of it, he became the oldest living person with CF.
The film ends more horrifying than it begins, however. No matter how many pictures of his burnt, sewn, whipped, chained, weighted cock have been shown, the images of him dying in a hospital bed resonate more deeply. The documentarians do not turn the camera away from his last hours. They show him gasping like a fish out of water, eyes bulging. A nurse rubs his arm and tells him that its ok to let go. His wife and torturer beg him to hang on. In the end, he lets go.
If you can stomach it, Sick will do what all great documentaries do--it will provoke thought. I watched it two days ago and I'm still rolling it around my mind.

Saturday night, Phil and I watched Keep the River on the Right. It tells the story of Tobias Schneebaum, an artist and anthropologist who lived with a tribe of cannibals in Peru for a year. In many ways, Schneebaum is Flanagan's foil. Where Flanagan was trapped by disease and forced to be introspective, Schneebaum is unencumbered and is often just an observer. When the movie begins, Schneebaum is working on a cruise ship. Its how he makes his living, and even though his politics don't really jibe with those of a cruise, it is the only way in which he can visit New Guinea--another locale in which he spent much time in his youth.
It is during one of the excursions in New Guinea that I witnessed another mutilation of the penis. This time, it was young boys getting circumcised. I winced again, but had already become somewhat desensitized after viewing Sick.
What I found fascinating about Schneebaum's story was the matter-of-fact-ness of it. He never explains why he hitch hiked from New York City to Peru, but explains it instead as something he had to do. He never explains why he ate human flesh, but instead insists on his duty as an anthropologist. The film contains some great archival footage including a guest spot he had on the Mike Douglas show. While the Keep the River on the Right doesn't contain as many arresting images or a sense of urgency like Sick, it is still highly recommended.

This weekend I also caught Broken English at SIFF with Risa, Keith, Phil, and a couple of Keith's friends. Truthfully, my expectations weren't very high. I am a Parker Posey completist, though, so I was happy to attend.
Broken English is Zoe Cassavetes directorial debut, and what a disappointing debut it is. Like her brother Nick, she lives in her father's long, important shadow. They will never escape the fact that their father, almost single-handedly defined American independent cinema. (And, for my money some of the best films of all time including Faces, Shadows, A Woman Under the Influence, Opening Night, and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.) So what kind of film did she make? One that should have been lighter than air, but that suffers from a trite screenplay and poor direction.
Parker Posey plays Nora, a 30-something hotel employee who feels the need to be coupled. Justin Theroux and Josh Hamilton play failed prospects, but Melvil Poupaud (Le Divorce) is the paramour in whose arms she falls. Drea de Mateo plays her best friend and Gena Rowlands plays her mother. The story has been told a hundred times--and told better, I might add. Glimpses of fun dialogue give way to longer shots of the couple walking around New York and Paris. So, unless you're a Parker Posey freak like me, you can skip this movie.

And, real quick, here's the leaked poster design for I'm Not There, the new film by fave director Todd Haynes. (I think its one of the best poster designs I've seen in a while.)


9 comments:

Philthy said...

You were Warcrafting during most of "River", too, but I'm so glad you were sitting next to me during the circumcision part so when you freaked, you burried your face in my chest like a little girl.
And, knowing what "I'm not there" is about, i have to agree that it is a pretty sweet poster design.

GayProf said...

I think that I am much too squeamish to see penis torture. Attending a Bris makes me faint. Even stories from hetero guys about having a vasectomy make my stomach unsettled. Nope -- I don't think I could watch the nail through the head trick.

Earl Cootie said...

I miss SIFF. I miss watching movies. I never want to see a penis mutilation scene.

Anonymous said...

I was a friend of Bob. SICK was his life. He was the kindest most gentle human being I have ever met. His legacy will live forever.

Reverend Dick said...

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Viagra Online said...

This is the program I must watching because I like so much the pain and the masochism, I like my boyfriend kick me and beating my buttocks because I get an incredible sensation.

xlpharmacy said...

It was good at all the only bad thing that i could see int the film was that it happen to fast, like my typewriting competition, anyway i wonder what would happen if the guy didn't get the document on the desk.

DONALD said...

A flap of flesh, that’s what my dick has become, a useless flap of flesh. It has a long foreskin with a piercing for hanging a weighted lock so that the foreskin can stretch longer. Oh yeah, and the flesh flap has a tattoo of a large spider at the base in front. My pisshole is at the other end of my dick between my balls (known as penoscrotal hypospadias). That’s right, I have my pisshole is at the bottom of what used to be my dick, I can’t piss or cum from my flesh flap (former cock) -- I piss sitting down or else I have to hold up my flesh flap with nothing coming out of the what used to be a dick -- it all squirts out from between my nuts. I didn’t want to cut off my dick (penectomy), so I rendered it useless instead. It was the next best thing to cutting off my dick (or balls). I just disconnected the two. The flesh flap (former cock) is just a very oversize clit hanging in front of my pissing balls! The balls are just the place I piss out of. Oh, and it’s been almost a year since I pulled back my nasty foreskin and cleaned out the smegma. I know it smells, but the foreskin is screwed down so tight with the rings and lock that it takes an effort to undo and clean, so I just let the smegma build up and then clean it (if I do) at least once or twice a year. Like I said, I piss from between my balls so the flesh flap is just a nuisance because there is no way that any piss or cum can come out of it. It all dribbles out from between my nuts. There is no way I can piss or cum from my prick, it’s just a useless flap of flesh!!!

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