Okay, where do we start with this one. Destricted is a tough film to categorize. It's absolutely an arthouse picture, presumably made with the intention of letting some of today's more interesting avant garde filmmakers poke at our collective id. And yet, it's more than that - it's also basically a collection of short hardcore porno movies. This is a mix that has been done before, but rarely on such a socially mainstream level. There are plenty of filmmakers toiling away in the confines of the adult film industry who mix art with smut quite effectively, but unlike the six directors collected here, their intent is to excite and to titillate. Destricted doesn't do that. It's certainly as explicit as you'd care for it to be, possibly more so, but despite this it isn't particularly arousing - it's just weird, and seemingly only for the sake of being weird. And explicit.
American filmmaker Matthew Barney, the man who made the Cremaster series, starts the disc out with Hoisted, shows us what happens when a man covered in dirt literally makes love to a machine. You can think Cronenberg all you want, and you might be right, but this is stranger than that. For reasons left to our own imagination, the man has a turnip up his ass as he goes at it with his large mechanical mate. Some sort of plant life appears to be growing on the man as he does his business. Take from that what you will.
House Call was directed by Richard Prince, better known for his work as a painter and still photographer, basically points his camera towards a TV in a room where a hardcore loop starring a couple credited as John Saint John (instantly identifiable to those with an affinity for adult films as Mike Ranger) and Kora Reed are seen in the act. This is likely meant as a statement on masturbation and its relation to pornography and to the sex act as one which is a solitary exercise and not necessarily requiring of a partner. Fake debris and print damage has been added to the picture to give it an underground feel and to add to the seediness of it all. Ms. Reed's breasts, which are in the frame a lot, look about as real as Santa Claus and her tan appears to be of the spray on variety. This artificiality was likely intentional, but without much of a context or an explanation, it all just adds up to a rather monotonous experience.
Cooking, from director Tunga, is a cold, sterile film that takes us on a tour of an artist's work space where we see many phallus inspired works of sculpture hanging from the ceiling as he walks into a bedroom where an attractive woman in a yellow dress is waiting for him. They make out, and then start having sex, and he winds up unleashing the crystal that lies between his legs. Not before she fellates it, however. As she goes down on his crystal wang, it sort of melts and turns into goop. Then we see the woman peeing into a glass. He drinks it, eats some crystals, and then poops onto a silver platter. She eats it and then we get a close up shot of her gaping sphincter as she gets ready to do the same. What? I have no idea what happened here, really. I guess it's nicely shot.
Marilyn Minter's Green Caviar is next, and at just eight minutes long it doesn't overstay it's welcome - which is good, because not much really happens. The shot is shot looking up where a plate of glass is covered in some green slime. A pair of red lips smush up against the glass, kiss it, lick it, and then a few other substances replace the green slime - some gold beads, some purple slime, some hair, some silver ooze. That's about all there is to it - no story, just some neat visuals.
Sante D´Orazio's short is shot to look like a relic from the late sixties or early seventies with its faded colors and print damage. It features three curvy women undressing and making out in a living room. Black lines cover their eyes and faces and hide a bit of the more explicit content, so penetration is covered up in this one, but it's still more than obvious what's going on here. It's all set to a period soundtrack, mostly instrumental, taken from Vampiros Lesbos. There's not much to this one but it's amusing enough and surprisingly playful compared to some of the darker content on the disc.
Larry Clark, generally a lightning rod for controversy, directs Impaled which starts off fairly plainly as the camera interviews a few alternating men, each sitting on a couch. They talk about their sexual experiences, what they like and don't like and what gets them going, and then they disrobe and show off their figures for the camera. From there the short settles on one man, a hipster-ish looking guy, and different female 'co-stars' come out and sit on the couch near him, generally naked. The short settles on one girl, they make out, she goes down on him, and then they screw. He's interviewed at the end about what just happened. This one was interesting in how clinical it seemed, it's all very cold and obviously looked at more as a transaction than any sort of statement of piece of art.
Cecily Brown directed Four Letter Heaven which is an animated bit that runs just under three minutes and features hardcore penetration and just portrays some different sex acts as a jazz score plays out over top. This one is over before it really begins but it's quirky and amusing and also a fair bit playful. It's hard to say that you'd want to watch it more than once but it's worth checking out for kicks, there's definitely a novelty factor working in its favor.
Last but not least, there's the entry from Gasper Noe, director of Irreversible and I Stand Alone and a bit of an arthouse darling, though one never afraid to push boundaries or take chances with his work. In this twenty four minute film, which is set to a pulsing strobe that ties into the ambient soundtrack, a man has sex with an inflatable doll while watching a pornographic movie starring real world adult film stars Katsumi and Manuel Ferrara. This one is interesting in what it's saying - again, that sex doesn't necessarily require the interaction of a live partner to be effective as a form of physical release - but it goes on a bit too long. That's probably the point, as we're beaten down by the music and the continual strobe effect which combine to produce an almost trance like effect on the viewer, but there's not that much substance behind the shock value of it all. It's interesting, it's creepy, and it has a pervasive sense of loneliness to it, but We Fuck Alone isn't on par with his best work.
Destricted arrives on DVD in a progressive scan 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks as good as the source material allows for. Some of the shorts have been intentionally made to look degraded and beaten up so expect to see some 'print damage' applied here and there as well as some fairly obvious color manipulation throughout. Black levels are generally okay and there aren't any problems with compression artifacts of note. Skin tones, of which there are many on display, sometimes look nice and natural and sometimes do not - it depends on the short. All in all, the movie as a whole looks fairly erratic, but this has everything to do with the way that the different shorts were put together and not with the authoring or encoding. Generally things look pretty good here though.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track included on this DVD does the trick. The levels are well balanced and what little dialogue there is throughout the movie is easy enough to understand without any problems. There aren't any issues with hiss or distortion worth complaining about and the various musical bits used throughout the feature all sound fine. It's a fairly simple track, but it gets the job done well enough. Hoisted and We Fuck Alone have optional 5.1 tracks on them that add a bit of depth to the shorts that the others lack.
Aside from a pretty simple menu screen, this disc is barebones and contains no extra features at all - which is a shame, as a commentary track for each of the shorts would have been quite welcome and potentially somewhat illuminating.
Destricted straddles that fine line between art and pornography very tenuously, periodically feeling like the first but more often falling in with the later. While there are some very interesting ideas here but they don't always amount to much, and what was probably meant to be poignant instead feels pretentious and unnecessarily explicit simply because it can be. That said, the interesting moments will make it worth a look for the curious viewer. If it's not something you'll likely watch over and over again, if you have an interest in sex film this does at least offer something different with periodic flashes of interest. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.