NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. 1
(director/writer: Lars von Trier; cinematographer: Manuel Alberto Claro; editor: Molly Malene Stensgaard; cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg (Joe), Stellan Skarsgard (Seligman), Stacy Martin (Young Joe), Shia LaBeouf (Jerôme), Christian Slater (Joe’s Father), Uma Thurman (Mrs. H), Sophie Kennedy Clark (B), Connie Nielsen (Joe’s Mother), Udo Kier (Waiter) ; Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louise Vesth; Magnolia Pictures; 2013)
“Overall, the sexually graphic pic is more boring than not.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Volume One of the two volume Nymphomaniac, the serious art-house smut film by Danish provocateur Lars von Trier(“Antichrist”/”Melancholia“/”Dogville”), is a challenging film. It’s another one of von Trier’s mind game films, that you either hate or love. It surprises with its humor and tenderness, though its insights into the behavior of women are not very profound. It features our aimless heroine saying such pithy anti-love statements like “Love is just lust with jealousy added.”
Our resident nymph is the brutalized Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). She’s a middle-aged woman beaten in a British alley. The kindly old German Jewish man Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) takes her in to his modest nearby apartment and nurses her back to health. She thereby relates her life story, as she tries to explain herself to her sympathetic caretaker. He listens to her stories and offers pedestrian psychological responses.
There are flashbacks. It opens with Joe saying “I discovered my cunt at two years old.”
Stacy Martin plays Joe as a teen. We observe Joe as she goes through various stages of her life. She tells us she liked her gentle doctor dad (Christian Slater) and later would miss her cold mother (Connie Nielsen); the boy Jerome ((Shia LaBeouf)) who took the fifteen-year-old’s virginity with eight thrusts is acted out; the wild commuter train ride the teenager took with her best friend (Sophie Kennedy Clark), where they tried to outdo each other in how many passengers they could seduce; and, the funniest sequence, the wife (Uma Thurman) of one of Joe’s many lovers (she had as many as ten a day) brings her three kids to see the whore Joe’s bed and tells them this is where daddy spends so much time when not home.
Porn stars act as doubles.
Though gimmicky and meant to shock, its better moments are all the times when the asexual Seligman comforts Joe after she lets loose one of her sexual adventures and he dismissively tells her she’s not a bad person just because she’s a slut. Overall, the sexually graphic pic is more boring than not.
REVIEWED ON 12/10/2014 GRADE: C+