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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Xperimental Eros
Xperimental Eros
Other Cinema // Unrated // August 28, 2007
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted August 8, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Product:
Because of the Puritanical nature of our society, sex never gets a real 'serious' discussion. We're not talking about science facts and figures here. No, carnality frequently finds itself the butt of jokes, the source of scare tactics, and the questionable means to some patently political ends. But where's the artistic approach, the aesthetic appreciation of smut as a legitimate and thoughtful subject to contemplate and consider. Until now, there has really been very few examples of filth as fodder for incisive deliberation. Thanks to Other Cinema, and their latest DVD release, Xperimental Eros, we finally get a chance to see the titillating and the tantric discussed in a visually vibrant and mentally fascinating manner. The results may seem risqué, but they end up being more enlightening than exciting.

The DVD:
As a collection of short films and avant-garde animation, Xperimental Eros takes its title very seriously. The 11 mini-movies offered run the gamut from personal insight to universal understanding, each using the theme of human sexuality as its cornerstone. Discussed individually, we get a clearer picture of the ideas and elements that obsess and confuse the average instinctual being. We also see how pornography has placated, and in most cases, perverted, our sense of sex. Let's begin with:

Title: King of Porn (1996)
Director: Jeff Krullik
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot: A Washington DC civil servant shows off his extensive collection of erotica
Review: As with any look at an outsider explaining his obsession, the fascinating figure at the center of Jeff Krullik's far too short film (former Library of Congress curator - !?! - Ralph Whittington) makes us hungry to know more. His matter of fact approach to his vast collection of carnality - which, in today's expansive digital marketplace, seems rather minor - and the way it has subsumed his life makes for some rich moments of audience bemusement. Highlights include a pantry loaded with diet soda, and several hundred porn tapes, and the crowning glory of his collection - an original Beta version of Deep Throat. A clear case of more almost being mandatory.

Title: Blue Movie (1994)
Director: Mark Street
Score: **1/2 (out of *****)
Plot: Sections of an old stag reel are chemically treated, altering their appearance. They are then edited together and looped.
Review: There is nothing holding these varying images together narratively. Street has removed any semblance of story to focus instead on visuals. Therefore, one must judge this piece on its power as moving art, or a living canvas. In that case, the director delivers the goods. As we will learn throughout most of Xperimental Eros, the objectification of women - especially during the '30s - '70s - bordered on the abusive. By removing certain moments of smut from an X-rated title, we see the connection between arousal and aggression.

Title: Sneakin' and Peakin' (1976)
Director: Tom Palazzolo and Mark Rance
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot: Two documentarians crash the annual Naked Truckers convention outside Chicago.
Review: It's clear that when they snuck onto a nudist camp in rural Indiana, filmmakers Tom Palazzolo and Mark Rance never intended to shed light on the harsh realities of chauvinism inherent in the mid-Me Decades paternalistic society. Yet after we've giggled at the naked truckers, our eyes and ears are drawn to the female contestants , and the massive, marauding army of so-called "professional" photographers trying to guilt them into provocative positions. It's painful how these men tease, torment, and almost torture these gals to get the image they want. Even better is the reaction when one smart honey gets out her business card, demanding a few of these expertly created 'prints' for her very own.

Title: Removed (1999)
Director: Naomi Uman
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot: Using vintage adult material, the director matts out the female form, focusing instead on everything else but the naked figures.
Review: Like Blue Movie before, Ms. Uman does something very intriguing with her manipulated footage. By taking the female figure completely out of the equation - using a spellbinding technique that renders the women into bright white ghosts - we can concentrate on all the supplemental actions and conversations. As a result, we see how horribly manipulative and artistically lax many of these productions really are/were. Without the so-called 'eye candy', the lack of meaning becomes merciless.

Title: The Influence of Ocular Light Perception on Metabolism in Man and Animal (2005)
Director: Thomas Draschan and Stella Friedrichs
Score: ***1/2 (out of *****)
Plot: Mock medical documentary mixing authentic footage with made up science to speculate on the age old connection between sex and violence.
Review: As stated before, discussions of sex seem to always be left to ivory tower scholars, semi-regressive researchers, and non-threatening old ladies. Here, our directors divine a way to make the scientific seem as seedy as the grindhouse. Through the juxtaposition of ideas and images, we walk away with a feeling of unease, and a new perspective on pornography and its participants.

Title: Downs are Feminine (1993)
Director: Lewis Klahr
Score: ***1/2 (out of *****)
Plot: Cut out images from gay stag films are stop motion animated into a bizarre ballet of copulation and...candy?
Review: Alternative lifestyles, in this case, gay sex, are often left out of any discussion of personal proclivity due to their relatively taboo nature. Here, Klahr decides to use obvious images from meatrack productions to argue homosexuality's humdrum happenstance. Sure, it's semi-shocking to see stop motion clipart copulating in guy/guy glory, but after a while, when the novelty has worn off, we recognize the same stale situations, a clever combination of the routine and the randy.

Title: The Color of Love (1994)
Director: Peggy Ahwesh
Score: **1/2 (out of *****)
Plot: Found porn footage is purposefully degraded and colored to reflect the connection between arousal and anger.
Review: Taking a page out of the Blue Movie and Removed aesthetic, Peggy Ahwesh uses the subliminal and the imaginary to make her point. By taking hardcore material (there is some minor penetration here) and degrading it to an almost unwatchable state, she places the viewer in the unusual position of using their mind to fill in the blanks. It works, up to a point. Soon, fantasy turns to frustration - which may be the purpose behind this engaging enterprise, after all. Title: Sexjunkie (2003)
Director: Julia Ostertag
Score: **** (out of *****)
Plot: A young women ruminates on her addiction to personal pleasure and how it had changed her as a person.
Review: Like any addict's call for help, Ms. Ostertag's seemingly autobiographical take on her obsession with physical love is harrowing, heartbreaking, and just slightly overheated. In some cases, we sense this filmmaker wanting to make actual pornography (she is shown in several XXX-like sequences, complete with penetration). In other instances, the baring of her soiled soul is more than noticeable. Together, the combination gels into a sort of sloppy self portrait. We feel pity and empowered by the frank and up front focus.

Title: Pacifier (1999)
Director: Oscar Perez
Score: *** (out of *****)
Plot: Digging out an old Penthouse Forum letter he composed at 13, a director illustrates his awkward adolescent fantasy fodder.
Review: There is an inherent novelty here that is hard to avoid. When someone who composed a completely juvenile sex scenario in his youth decides to go back and revisit his retarded ribaldry - and visualize it UNEDITED - there's a clever level of chutzpah there that has us rooting for the result. Unfortunately, Perez's presentation is too camp kitsch clever to sell the adolescent idiocy. Instead, the whole enterprise comes across like a failed John Waters tribute. The cast is amazing - the overall effect is only semi-successful.

Title: Ecstasy in Platinum featuring Margie Crews (1957)
Director: Unknown
Score: **1/2 (out of *****)
Plot: Old school bump and grind burlesque reel with a new underscoring by radical soundtrack reinterpreters PornOrchestra
Review: See Burly-Q babe prance and preen. See ersatz erotic honey drop her top. See the pasties and gauze covering the goodies. See why stripping in the '30s - '50s was considered an artform.

Title: A Workout on the Love Muscles (193?)
Director: Unknown
Score: ** (out of *****)
Plot: Ancient hardcore smoker reel with a new underscoring by radical soundtrack reinterpreters PornOrchestra
Review: Lovers of modern porn may mumble over the plastic fantastic fakeness of the new breed of XXX guys and gals, but after seeing this early 20th century sleaze, this critic will take the tweezed and siliconed stars any day. This is some nauseating stuff, a look at lewdness before ethics and empowerment kept women (mostly) from being used. Aside from the obvious military tattoos on the men, the whole effort feels seedy and illegal. Unless you get off on that sort of smut, you may want to avoid this last act wantonness.

The Video:
Offered by outsider distributor Other Cinema in a wonderfully evocative presentation, Xperimental Eros has a very good 1.33:1 full screen transfer. The images - which do frequently change from black and white to color (and back) - are clear and crisp, with lots of controlled contrasts and definable details. Age does play a minor part here, as Sneakin' and Peakin' and anything prior to 1970 looks old and washed out. In some ways, that's part of the production's charm. You frequently feel like you just unearthed some kind of tawdry time capsule.

The Audio:
Since each film is featured as part of an overall dynamic, there are no differing sound designs here. In essence, the aural aspects of this release fluctuate between Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 and Mono processed through both channels. That's it. When needed, the dialogue is easily understandable. The music, when important, is delivered in acceptable ambience.

The Extras:
Aside from a booklet outlining the individual films and offering some critical perspective (by UC Berkley PhD Linda Williams), there technically aren't any bonus features here. The DVD packaging touts the final two films in the collection as being part of the added content, but they are only accessible through the main menu, and are never delineated on the disc as such. Similarly, there are a few trailers here, but they are part of the overall Other Cinema strategy. So while it looks like there's some assorted extras here, it's all really part of the overall Xperimental Eros experience.

Final Thoughts:
Since it does a brilliant job of arousing your intellectual interests while only slightly satisfying the more salacious human fascinations, Xperimental Eros becomes a wonderful prurient primer. It invokes a myriad of feelings and reactions - and only rarely are they linked to your genitalia. Because it wants to expand the discussion of pornography and expose what really drives individual desire, this excellent Other Cinema compendium earns an easy Highly Recommended rating. If you're looking for a less scandalous, easily disguised XXX substitute, this is not the title for you. Head on over to some of those 42nd Street homage trailer collections and get you ya-ya's out. But if you want a chance to focus on the more ethereal elements of the erotic, if you want to know what makes your tick tock and you brain bubble, sit back and enjoy this 90 minute mental workout. After all, they say the mind is the largest and most underserved erogenous zone. This DVD may just be the first intelligent stimulant for the cerebellum.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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