I was enjoying “sex, lies, and videotape” (especially its proper use of the comma). Then my interest dipped when it revealed itself to be a “Sensitive Man Shows The Way” kind of story. In it, the Sensitive Man teaches the Women to orgasm, masturbate, get jobs, stand up to Boorish Husband, open 401(k)s, etc. Did I mention that the Sensitive Man is impotent, effeminate, and talks about his feelings? And long-haired (I dare you to stop looking at James Spader’s man-mullet)? He makes video interviews of women but pointedly says he isn’t interested in interviewing men. In short, he is a man desperate to apologize for being a man. You could almost imagine him as a man begging for sex by apologizing, but that might be too much.
So my issue with “sex, lies, and videotape” is the same reason I think “Star Wars” is better than “Lord of the Rings.” Both “LOTR” and “SL&V” promote the yin’s utter destruction of the yang. But remember, Luke Skywalker never set out to destroy the Dark Side of the Force, the way the Hobbits and the uptight prequel Jedi Council did. He sought to BALANCE the Force.
Or, to paraphrase “The Thin Red Line,” there are two forces in nature, the creative and the destructive (or in Malick’s more eloquent tongue, “avenging”). This hearkens back to an early Christian belief that God rules the universe with Jesus as his right hand and Satan as his left. The negation of the masculine is just another form of sexual / emotional repression. Still, it’s nice to see the tables turned on the boys every-now-and-then. Although the leadership of the womanly-man could make “SL&V” the equivalent of a well-meaning race drama about white heroes who help out black characters standing in the background.
“SL&V” is well-made and extremely well-acted, especially by Spader as the sensitive drifter. Andie MacDowell, who is usually just adequate, is here very good. Debut writer-director Stephen Soderbergh (“Traffic,” “Ocean’s Eleven”) gives the dialogue a flaked-out, meandering quality that I like. The central conceit of how the impotent man uses video to have sex is intriguing. He tapes his interviewed women as they talk about sex, often getting them to reach orgasm on their own. Because he is only impotent around others, he uses the tapes later to, ahem, get his groove on. He has to get to know the women—they MUST talk—before he can get it up. It’s the difference between romantic sex and pornographic sex. Food for thought.
Score by Cliff Martinez, who joined Soderbergh later for his remake of “Solaris.”
Finished Thursday, November 23rd, 2006
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