Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween...

... all you Satan's little helpers.

With the wind blowing crispy leaves over cracked cement, moaning on the limbs of long dead trees, slithering under the pale gaze of the lifeless autumnal moon, open up your heart and let out the devil you have inside.

Have fun...

...grab life with both hands...

...make her hesitate...

...then love it...

...and overflow with joy.

And for one night in the year, play at being evil without being stupid. That's Halloween.

Have fun kids!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Opening the Gates of Hell: Blouse Ripping

Women's breasts have always been the symbol of female pride, of female power, of female dominance. Forever at the center of male fantasies and forever fantasied about as long as there have been men on the face of the Earth, the female breast has been concealed from the western eye by dictates of moral, law and honour or shame. Cuvier, the French naturalist, used the female breast to ascertain the unimpeachable superiority of the white race over the black one. Helen of Troy bared her breast in front of Menelaus to gain his pardon. Medieval prieste referred to the lacing on the front of female bodices as the Gates of Hell.

One has just to read Shakespeare's THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1594), a text frequently considered to depart from the ancient tradition of the rape and revenge story, born from the myth of Philomel and Procne from Book VI of the METAMORPHOSES by the roman poet Ovid, to grasp the importance of the female breast as the center of women's symbolics of power. Consider for instance the following passage, where Lucrece's breasts are described as the "heart of all her land":

His drumming heart cheers up his burning eye,
His eye commends the leading to his hand;
His hand, as proud of such a dignity,
Smoking with pride, march'd on to make his stand
On her bare breast, the heart of all her land;
Whose ranks of blue veins, as his hand did scale,
Left their round turrets destitute and pale.

In fact, Shakespeare lets us know early on that it was Lucrece's ample physical charms, allied to her husband's praise of her as being chaste (and once again we have "Her breasts, like ivory globes circled with blue/A pair of maiden worlds unconquered/Save of their lord no bearing yoke they knew/And him by oath they truly honoured") that inflame Tarquin into taking her by force.

So, is it any surprising that the simple act of ripping open a woman's blouse, shirt or bra has such an universal appeal? Such a titillating potential? Such a symbolic charge? The baring of the female breast is at the same time a manifestation of love (the mother's for the child, the lover's for the lover), a battering down of barriers between spaces that should be separate, or a manifestation of power. I don't very much care for the equation of rape to power, instead of sex, so dear to the extremist feminists like Dworkin or McKinnon. Rape is a much more complex issue, one that can range from a desperate act, to a violent act, through being an erotic game, an erotic fantasy or an evolutionary strategy. But that not withstanding, in fiction - in the realm of the fantasy - there is something to be said for it. And usually, its first step, is the ritualistic ripping open of the victim's blouse.

The baring of the breast.

Opening the Gates of Hell.

Unleashing the demon inside...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Legs can speak for themselves

Until Martin Scorsese made Cybill Shepherd slow-walk through a crowded room in TAXI DRIVER (1976), moving like a black hole of appeal that drew in everybody's attention, if you wanted press on the viewer the allure of a female character you panned your camera from her feet, up her legs until finally you revealed her face. Yeap, that's how it was. And I can already hear the feminists screaming their flat chests out about objectification of the Woman's body, male gaze rape and misogyny.

Well, I beg to disagree... In fact, women's faces are just like men's faces - only prettier. I mean, they convey emotion and sometimes, they convey personality. But legs... man, that's another game altogether. You can look at any man's legs and you only see a man's legs. But look at a woman's legs, starting from bottom up, and they speak volumes about what you'll get when you reach their eyes.

Yes, they can elegantly convey...

... relaxed waiting...

...lusty anticipation...

...job hunting savvy...

...job hunting anxiety...

...lustful invitation...

...conscious naivete...

...and even hauteur and brains.

So don't talk to me about women's exploitation. When you see a man peeking at your legs, know that he is paying homage to the female body's total expressiveness. And probably, enjoying it too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The crux of it all

Trawling the net, one can't help but be mystified by the apparent allure of the "amateur" sex divas that sprang in pop-ups all over the screen. Most of them are clearly pros, with the wear and tear clearly visible in pose, set and taste (or lack thereof). Others, however, are cleverer... They promise innocence. They advertise candid moments caught unaware. They speak of posing only for their boyfriends/husbands. Those are the better ones. The ones with red-eye naturalness, as deers caught in the middle of the road. The ones that appear in photos with natural illumination (the flash seems to be the only extraneous source of luminosity), with simple and everyday clothing... The ones who seem naive... The ones who leave us thinking: can it be?

But why such an allure? Why such a bait?

I believe it must be the old neo-platonic convention rearing up its head, whispering to our inner selves that the woman must be at the same time sultry and innocent, sexy and inexperienced, irresistible and unattainable.

Because we burn with the desire to see that restraint crumble. There are few things more exciting than the transformation of repressed sexuality into wanton lust. The image above is a clear sample of it; all about the girl speaks of boundaries being crossed. She is young, clearly on a night out with friends. I can easily see her having a few drinks, flirting with a boy friend, trying to play sultry... trying to act adult. At the same time, she has the body of a temptress, of a pagan force of nature. Her eyes are daring us to try to get her... pushed by her hands, her breasts seem so big that we can't believe they could ever be sustained by the flimsy straps of the bra. It is the expression on her friend's face that tells us that this photo is the result of a sudden determination. She is clearly pretending for the camera of a friend. She's a child playing the whore. And the crucifix dangling in her wonderful cleavage makes it all seem more risky and more subversive...

Without knowing it, she is transversing the ages, leaping centuries into the role of a Venetian courtesan of the Sixteenth Century immortalised in a painting of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library of Yale. Tolerated by the civil and religious authorities of the city-state for the income they represented, the courtesans gathered at the Ponte delle Tetelli (Bridge of Breasts) in the Castelleto - so called because prostitutes were ordered to uncover their breasts because some of them were known to dress like men in order to attract gay clientele. Commenting the above image, Marilyn Yalom writes in her A History of the Breast (1997): "Uncovered breasts were generally associated with prostitutes, as were the yellow veils they were required to wear in public and the absence of pearls, forbidden to them by law. Yet, despite attempts to control their dress and jewelry, well-paid courtesans continued to flaunt their lavish attire and the crosses that dangled provocatively on golden chains in their cleavage".

Four centuries separate both pictures but the game is always the same: and the crux of it all still remains, dangling between the breasts.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An image can lie...

I find the film poster to 1985's MISCHIEF one of the most erotic images ever. There is something in the composition of the tableaux that speaks of innocence and joy and hints at dirty secrets. First of all, Kelly Preston was at her youthful prime (she was just 22 in that picture), and the expression on her beautiful face - surprised doe eyes, parted lips that betray the need for justification, small chin drawing our attention to the full young breasts that threaten to spill out of her blouse - is a tribute to youth, to discovery, to long summer days under clear blue skies.

The context of the scene is not clear: both boy (Doug McKeon) and girl look caught in the act; but what act is that? Were they positioning themselves for sex? Is that why she has her back turned to him? Or was she trying to escape his unwanted advances?

What does the image tell us? She is barefoot, but we don't see her shoes anywhere. Were they carefully placed on the backseat? Were they lost in the struggle? Doug McKeon's left hand is resting on the front seat, supporting the weight of both their bodies: but could that same hand been caressing her dangling breasts just a moment before? A moment before something happened: before someone opened the front door, before she pushed the door open trying to escape?

Escape what? She is kneeling inside the car: she could be fending off his hands, she could have been caught fellating him. We cannot see his lap, we don't know where her other leg is resting. But our gaze is drawn to her shapely calf, to her delicate bare foot, to the swell of her firm dangling breasts.

And, whatever is going on, who wouldn't love to be Doug McKeon and hold all the answers in an eternal moment of bliss?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fetishized Past

The sense of space... of location... is paramount in any storytelling endeavour. In fact, in some instances it is an harbinger of story: it carries meaning, it brings a load of expectation, it defines what to expect. And never so much as in pulp fiction, where the setting is half the story. The spaceship and the alien planet in science fiction, the haunted house or the decrepit castle in horror, the shanty one-street town in the western, the luscious jungle in adventure stories, and so on and on, gives the reader/viewer a promise of what to expect.

In the particular case of modern pulp fiction we can observe a particular phenomenon: that of the fetishization of the past; the great Zeppelins that soar the skies above futuristic cityscapes, the potent motor-cars of the twenties and thirties, the electric apparatuses from the beginning of the twentieth century... they all gain a veneer of once future promises. The past - the safe past - acquires an aura of perfection as a background set for our mind's fantasies. Movies like QUICK SHOW (1994) or L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) thrive on the creation of a livable fifties and forties space. A sense of immersion in history, in the past, that makes it feel as true as our own very imperfect present.

And thus, when we face something from the past, we imbue it with that perfection that only dead things can get. The past is golden... polished by yearning it gleams like hell. Case in point: the flight from New York to San Francisco aboard a DC-3 Sky Greyhound in THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1938). Now that was class. I presume to the thirties viewer this scene was something of a product placement stunt: fly confy, fly expensive, fly the same airline The Saint flies. To the modern viewer encountering it now, it is another lie about an imagined past where an angel of an hostess walked down the aisles like a wet dream...

... smiling like the sun dissolving the clouds... down the important messages from the elegant dressers flying first class...

... and depart with a promise of heaven in the curve of her bosom...

... and the sensual sway of her round buttocks.

The big metal bird that would play such an important role in the upcoming war is now a fetishistic item from a past of luxury and adventure. A item of our wonderful and fetishized past.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The luckiest guy on Earth

Or, at least, on the Buffyverse.

Charisma Carpenter became a worldwide wet dream girl when playing Cordelia Chase, first on Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (1997-1999) and then on Angel (1999-2004). Despite starting out as the vacuous "bimbo" in the first season of Buffy, she quickly won the love of viewers everywhere, smitten by her charisma (pun, obviously intended) and her ample charms... some of which became very prominent whenever she donned a tight shirt. Indeed, as the Playboy photo shoot she did for the June 2004 issue well attested, those wonderfuly round breasts are natural fuel for male fantasies everywhere.

Well, it was on Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Angel's son Connor, that fell the burden of groping Ms. Carpenter's right breast in the episode Slouching Toward Bethlehem (episode 4 of season 4, 2002). The episode marks the return of Cordelia from the "higher plane" where she has been herself slouching for the previous three episodes of the season. Returning with a bout of amnesia, Cordelia takes refuge with Connor, who doesn't waste any time replaying the most complex Oedipus on modern TV. Sensing the presence of intruders from the evil law firm of Wolfram & Heart, and pretending to be warning her not to scream, he takes the chance of palming Cordelia's breast, in a what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking heart-stopping moment.

Lucky bastard...

Can this be the craziest dream sequence...

... ever to grace the screen of an adult film?

Crazy, eh?

I feel particularly dumbfounded by the milk squirting from Cinderella's breasts. Can it be a statement on mortality and the fleetingness of youth? A manifestation of fertility? Probably the yearning for the fulfilment of carnal needs that would surely tempt a young recluse on the brink of missing the hotter event of her sheltered life: the Prince's Ball.

In this light, we could read this scene as the fear - the surrounding forest that spits out this aging satyr, as well as her cruel stepsisters - of being forever under the boot of her elders, subject to every form of humiliation and degradation, never being able to enjoy life and youth. The milk spurting from her tender younger breasts would signify both her obvious sexual fertility and the fear of ending as an old matron, milked by all those around her.

Be as it may, it is a scene fit to rival with the famous pastoral romp on Borowczyk's LA BÊTE (1975), another dream sequence filled to the brim with squirting fluids. And, surely, it is the craziest dream sequence ever.

Or is it?