23 January 2010


Destricted is a collection of short films linked by a common theme of sex. Like Shortbus, Lie With Me and 9 Songs, the film has achieved notoriety for its inclusion of unsimulated, graphic sexual activity. Ostensibly investigating the realms of art and pornography, the film has been exhibited at the Tate Modern in London, followed by a number of other events, and is now on UK DVD release with an 18 certificate. The DVD was released in a limited edition silver vacuum-pack on September the 25th, 2006.

The classification of the film as an 18 in the UK is itself an indication of the content of the film, a reflection of its intent to present itself as art rather than pornography, for which a Restricted 18 classification would be more suitable. A US release is, of course, unlikely.

The films:

Balkan Erotic Epic / Marina Abramović

Almost educational, this film features old rituals from the Balkans. Each ritual is introduced and followed by a short film section or animation showing the mechanics of the ritual. We see a variety of women leaping about in the rain, trying to get the raindrops to fall on their labia. A field of men, viewed from above, fuck the ground to ensure its fertility for the coming year; a rather bizarre sight if truth be told. Three sets of men in traditional Balkan dress stand proudly before us as a Balkan folk song is played over the top, the subtitles looking strangely incongrous beneath their erect penises which protrude from their flies. The animation of a Balkan housewife removing a dead fish from her vagina is surreal, particularly when she grinds it up to brew a love-potion-esque mug of tea, but not as alarming as the one where she wipes her vaginal secretions on her son's face to bless him for a journey.

Hoist / Matthew Barney

Made up in greens and browns, with shredded leaves and moss surrounding it, a penis slowly becomes erect over a period of minutes. For the first few minutes it is unclear what is happening; it seems as though some strange, slug-like creature is writhing slowly over a forest floor. A large machine is then introduced to us, and workmen attach it to a crane so that its wheels might be hoisted from the ground. Rumbling into action, the camera slowly zooms beneath to the drive shaft of this massive vehicle. There, initially stroking it before raising himself to rub his erect penis against the wax-coated, spinning shaft, is a man. Presumably the owner of the penis at the beginning of the film, he is covered in leaves, dirt and other plant matter. A large gourd hangs from his anus and there is a similar protrusion from his mouth. He continues to rub his penis against the drive shaft as the camera zooms and pans, slowly, occasionally showing the edges of the massive, lazily spinning wheels of the machine. Eventually, after drawing back his foreskin, the man achieves orgasm and ejaculates. We zoom back out from the belly of the machine, past the spinning wheels, and the film ends.

Sync / Marco Brambila

Short, but clever. Taking hundreds of scenes from different pornographic films, the director cuts it all together with a frantic drum track to make a new film. The scenes are chosen and cut together so that it looks like one shot, but with the actors' faces, legs, buttocks and genitals changing in a constant blur. It produces a kind of generic porn film and serves to show that there truly is only so many ways you can fit people together.

Impaled / Larry Clark

One of the more intellectually fascinating pieces. A series of young men appear and are asked a variety of questions about their attitude to sex. It becomes apparent that they are auditioning to take part in a porn film, although the interview also reveals their own attitude to sex as a generation that has grown up with readily available porn. It's fascinating, for example, to find out that each of the men believes it is important to ejaculate outside the vagina, or to note the utterly naive expectations of various aspects of sex. One young man is chosen, and at this point he is asked to interview and choose from a range of female porn stars. He chooses an older woman who is willing to have anal sex with him. She performs fellatio on him, and they have vaginal and anal sex. He eventually ejaculates, following a slight accident during the anal portion of the activity. Most people realise that if you're going to try that you're inevitably going to notice something brown one day. Of course, in the glorious world of pornography such things never happen, and the revulsion on the young man's face is wickedly joyful to behold. A sad film, actually, and probably the best of the bunch.

We Fuck Alone / Gaspar Noé

Strobe lit for about twenty minutes, I'm afraid. Two people in separate rooms masturbate while watching the same piece of pornography. A young man with a bizarrely Hitler-esque haircut masturbates and fucks a sex doll before fucking its mouth with a handgun of some kind whilst ejaculating into its vagina. The woman uses soft toys to stimulate herself. Every now and then we zoom into the television, through the pornography which forms a reflection of the solo sex act, and back out into the other room. The message, one presumes, is that sex without love is merely masturbation using another human. Either that or Gaspar Noé is actually mad. (See Irreversible for further evidence of this, but take care to check for some further details before committing yourself; it's violent.)

House Call / Richard Prince

An old porn film with the soundtrack replaced with strange, industrial-tinged electronica. The film has been produced by recording a television showing the porn video. You can't see the edges of the screen, but the pattern of phosphor dots is clearly visible, making a grainy, washed-out image. It's strangely clinical to watch, and not even slightly erotic. Although, come to think of it, not one of the videos has been remotely erotic so far. Plenty of genitalia and nudity, but not a lot of eroticism. Perhaps that's the point.

Death Valley / Sam Taylor-Wood

We pan slowly across a desert scene. A man appears, walks nearer to the camera and removes his shirt. He opens his jeans, pulls them down to his thighs, kneels and masturbates. A few minutes later he uses his t-shirt to lean his elbow on and continues to masturbate, keeping his body off the ground by supporting it on his knees and elbow. He kneels up, wanks some more, props himself up again and eventually ejaculates onto the desert floor. And then it ends. If you like men then I suspect this is the nearest you'll get to erotic, and I'm not sure why this isn't just pornography - it's a man wanking in front of a camera. Still, there you go. Art needs no explanation...

Sources: Do visit the imdb for more information. Someone there has also gone through the films one by one for you. There's not a lot of information on Wikipedia, but you can always pop over to the Destricted website for more info.

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