Park chan-wook is no stranger to delivering some of the best character studies that also pack a sense of sexual perversity, and pain within its seams. “The Handmaiden” is one of his most epic in scope dramas that also manages to be one of the most erotic romances I’ve seen in a while. “The Handmaiden” is pure ambition that succeeds in delivering something of a labyrinthian narrative of crime, salvation, and romance that begins as a simplistic drama. It takes a brilliant artist like chan-wook to handle a film that morphs in to various themes and experience various tonal changes without it completely falling apart, but Park chan-wook handles it by making each new turn around the corner absolutely suspenseful.
Jorge kidnaps Isabel and keeps her in his basement hoping that some conditioning and Stendhal Syndrome will make her his. Through torture and punishment, he tries to break her. The brutal story brought to the screen here is written by Marco Tarditi Ortega and directed by Diego Cohen. Together they create a kidnapping story where the victim is brutalized, violated, and tortured in many varied ways. The film brings an imaginative array of ways to make someone suffer and bleed. The way it is shot is relentless, keeping the camera directly on what is happening to victim Isabel at the hands of her captor Jorge who is a medical doctor, giving him better knowledge on how to make her suffer without killing her.
Pascal Laugier’s 2008 “Martyrs” was a grueling experience that masked blatant misogyny and torture as a pseudo-intellectual transcendental tale about the afterlife and the pressing question about where we go when we die. Kevin and Michael Goetz’s remake of “Martyrs” is not only a pointless exercise in futility, but it dodges any and all attempts to improve on the goofy ideas about spirituality by mostly dodging them. By dodging the torture and pegging this as cheap exploitation, and alternately dismissing the ideas about the afterlife and transforming this in to a spiritual horror film, it effectively renders itself pretty damn pointless and dull.
Justine joins Alejandro’s social activists group after seeing that they had real results at her university getting janitors health coverage. Soon she finds herself going to the Amazon forest in Peru to save a small village from being destroyed by a company wanting the natural gas found under the area they occupy. The group goes to Peru, does their thing, and then heads back home. However, they do not make it home as their plane crashes in the Amazon. A part of the group dies in the crash in various horrible ways. As the survivors escape the wreckage, the villagers they came to save attack them killing a few more and taking the six last survivors with them. It quickly becomes clear that the captives are meant to be breakfast, lunch, and dinner as the first member is dispatched gruesomely and cooked.
I think if it weren’t so obsessed with its own self-indulgent pseudo-spiritualism and didn’t stop to tell four different stories simultaneously, “Martyrs” may have been a decent film. It begins as a solid revenge picture, but then devolves in to an absurd campaign in torture and pain. It’s a grueling sadistically boring horror drama with a narrative so convoluted I stopped caring about what was unfolding after the first half hour. “Martyrs” loves to pretend it’s this transcendent statement about our questioning of the afterlife, but in reality it’s just misogynist torture porn painted as art house dribble that will make you feel dirty.
The crux of “American Mary” depends on the performance by Katharine Isabelle. While the film itself is a unique and very entertaining tale about revenge, madness, and masochism, the lead performance of Mary is most important. Almost any other actor probably would have played the character of Mary Mason completely over the top, but Katharine Isabelle’s turn as a slowly unraveling sadist with revenge on her mind is incredible. Even brilliant.
It’s not uncommon for artists of any kind to go off the rails or be driven mad by critics. Vincent Gallo is famous for lashing out at Roger Ebert for his bashing of “Brown Bunny,” producers like Avi Arad and studios are known for bashing critics that bash their work, and in 2010, Kevin Smith just sank in to the deep end after the critical destruction of “Cop Out.” But while “Bitter Feast” is a commentary on pushing people too far, it’s also a look at what happens when two bitter absolutely pretentious men meet and decide they’re going to make each other suffer for their lives’ miseries. While many will be quick to deem this as a satire of the critical world, director Joe Maggio actually spoofs both sides of the field, the artist and the critic. Or in this film, the pompous pretentious artist who takes his work much too seriously, and the critic who refuses to be honest and or kind and just wants to purposely play a heel for the sake of publicity and readership.
In spite of what you may think of Brent, the founder of insex.com, the infamous bondage and torture website featuring gorgeous models being bound gagged and drowned, the man was prophetic in his use as the internet to engage users in anonymous guiltless sexual interaction that paved the way for reality shows, thousands of voyeur and fetish websites, and also helped streamline the concept of live feeds as we know it. “Graphic Sexual Horror” is a documentary that’s almost impossible to sit through. While I am someone who is fascinated with the darkest of sexual taboos, founder of insex.com, Brent, is an unabashed lover of S&M, Torture, and bondage, and takes great pride in depicting small filmed sequences involving women being tortured in some of the most horrific ways possible.