Film Review


  • print
  • email
Autoerotic

A scene from Joe Swanberg and Adam Wingard’s Autoerotic. [Photo: IFC Midnight]

Autoerotic 2 out of 4

star2-0

A guy spanks a woman for his iPhone to see; a woman chokes herself with a belt for no one to see; a man, without being seen, watches his pregnant girlfriend get the orgasm he could never give her, with the help of another woman; and another man tricks a former trick into using her vagina as source for his vagina-shaped sex-toy mold. Autoerotic suggests that this is what passes for "pushing the limits of sex" today. Weaving together fragments of the lives of a few different urbanite heterosexual white couples, the film paints the contemporary sexual zeitgeist as a vivid illustration of one of Lacan's most confusing dictums: There is no sexual relation.

The characters in Autoerotic are completely unable to derive pleasure or hope from actuality, from their own partners' touch. Having sex is like masturbating with someone, always a lonely and failed experience. In the first story, for instance, the man finds post-coital refuge in the bathroom, by himself, where he touches, and punishes, himself, complaining to the mirror that his dick is too small. When the woman walks in, he seems to get frustratingly jolted back onto a reality in which the only pleasure possible is the kind of theatrical performance of pleasure that one assumes the other wants to see. And yet the partners' assumptions never meet. The woman will soon tell the man that "it just doesn't make sense for me to pay rent for my place when I'm here every night," the man will understandably break up with her, and she will non-surprisingly expect him to un-break up with her because she's bawling.

While Autoerotic works around an interesting reading of the ways in which technology, libido, and the impossibility of contact underpin the way we live in "the digital age," it ultimately promises controversial content too literally, and through tediously normative form. A sequence following a couple's dysfunctional sex life is followed by a long-ish take of a cityscape, which is then followed by another tale of supposedly transgressive sex exploration—all with the obnoxiously sleek aesthetics we've come to associate with even the most well-meaning American film fare.

It recalls the pre-Internet Denise Calls Up, in which several characters arrange for a physical get-together over the phone for the entire film, and when it comes time to show up, no one really does. Autoerotic's take on the me-me-me generation's inability for actual contact seems appropriate, but it lacks the nuance that makes Denise Calls Up so delicious to watch. Its mumblecore-rish dialogue doesn't help. Mumblecore, which probably began as an attempt to flee cinematic artifice and feign some kind of realist authenticity has, it seems, become more ersatz than hyper-scripted speech.

Director(s): Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard Screenwriter(s): Simon Barrett, Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Amy Seimetz, Lane Hughes, Kris Swanberg, Frank V. Ross Distributor: IFC Midnight Runtime: 72 min Rating: NR Year: 2010

  • print
  • email



From our partners




FEATURES

Interview: Ben Whishaw
Interview: Ben Whishaw
Interview: Ned Benson
Interview: Ned Benson

Around the Web


Site by  Docent Solutions