Friday, February 13, 2015
50 SHADES OF GREY: APOLOGIES TO BUNUEL
Thank heavens the great surrealist filmmaker, Luis Bunuel, is not around to see 50 SHADES OF GREY! Not because it outdoes him in erotic cinema (which it most definitely does not), but because it is a perversion of everything he had been doing in movies like EL, ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ, and BELLE DE JOUR. It twists honest S&M into just another Hollywood “feel good” love story. It’s “S&M Meets SNL.” Feel good? Not that anybody in 50 shades “feels good,” really; they’re just too bored to care.
There’s no whiff of danger, no frisson of erotic edge and painful ecstasy. And just for the record for those 30-something women who seem to be straining at the, er, leash to see 50 SHADES, there’s no frontal nudity, either. Is it prurient fascination to examine closely the shot compositions to see how raw frontality is cleverly teased, yet concealed? If there is anything erotic in this movie, there it is (or isn’t).
Meanwhile, guys, take note, Mr. Grey has his standard of seduction down pat: fly your girl over the city in a helicopter, soar over the desert in a glider, play some mournful Chopin, use your tie for bondage, and stroke the flesh with a peacock’s feather (no kidding). Then, having done all that, turn about and tell her she should avoid you at all costs! Not there’s a come-on sure to succeed!
By the way, we talk in my classes about “representative anecdotes”--a tiny detail or moment that encapsulates the entire film--and I have to admit there’s a nice one here: Let’s go back to that glider. Grey and Anastasia are flying at 30,000 feet, on one end of a towline. At the right height, the towline is released and the glider soars aloft, on its own. Maybe that’s supposed to represent Anastasia’s own flight to freedom, after graduating from the tutelage of Mr. Grey. Or, maybe it’s we viewers, carried to a certain pitch, then released by a sudden “The End” and sent out to the night, shaking our heads. . . .
Sorry, M. Bunuel. Your razor's edge of erotic artistry has been blunted. That saber is bent. On the other hand, we can rejoice that the secret of that nasty little buzzing box that so delights Catherine Deneuve in BELLE DE JOUR remains a mystery. Your secret is safe.