As far back as the eye-slit that opened Salvador Dalì and Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou , cinema has used shocks to upset bourgeois standards—or at least get asses in the seats.
The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971): As far back as the eye-slit that opened Salvador Dalì and Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou , cinema has used shocks to upset bourgeois standards—or at least get asses in the seats. But even the hardest gorefest has little on Stan Brakhage’s stomach churner. For over a half hour, the avant-gardist’s camera descends into and prowls over a hallowed-out corpse mid-autopsy, dehumanizing the body and making it look like under-explored terrain.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1976): The last film from Pier Paolo Pasolini presents two hours of smiling artistocrats forcing youth into sexual submission. Transplanting the Marquis de Sade to the last days of Mussolini’s Italy for added misery, it’s the kind of masterpiece even fans watch only once. Following the section entitled “The Circle of Shit,” there’s still worse.
Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997): Plagued with cystic fibrosis, whose victims usually die before 20, Flanagan made it to a good-humored 43, spending his last years using his body for S&M-related performance art. Hammer and nail, meet penis.
Trouble Every Day (2001): A beautiful, sensual film from Claire Denis, except one thing: The film concerns vampire-cannibals (Béatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo), and each gets a gory munch-down on their sexual partner.
In My Skin (2002): After suffering a bloody accident, a woman (writer- director Marina de Van) withdraws from life to do little but suck on her flesh wounds and start new ones. Gross—except that de Van portrays her sessions with sensitivity.
Antichrist (2009): The extreme close-up of genital mutilation is only the Grand Guignol capper. Chaos reigns, indeed. ■
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