Thursday, April 29, 2010

Each to His Own Appetites

In Salon, critic Andrew O’Hehir addresses the psychology behind the not-yet-released film, The Killer Inside Me--based on Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel of the same name--which some detractors have condemned for its “pornographic glorification of violence against women”:
On some level, complaining that “The Killer Inside Me” is full of misogynistic violence is akin to reading “Moby-Dick” and objecting to all the stuff about whaling. Lou Ford (played brilliantly by [Ben] Affleck) presents at first as a baby-faced, all-American small-town cop, who doesn’t even carry a gun because crime in Central City, Texas, is nearly nonexistent. But beneath his ultra-normal veneer Lou has the tastes and background of a depraved European aristocrat (indeed, I suspect Lou inspired Thomas Harris’ creation of Hannibal Lecter). He’s probably the only person in Central City who reads Freud and listens to Schubert--or whose sexual appetite goes quite so far into sadomasochism, and beyond.

Within the first few minutes of the film, Lou responds to being slapped and slugged by Joyce Lakeland ([Jessica] Alba), a hooker he’s running out of town, by pulling down her panties and whipping her bare ass with his belt. Is this safe and sane, consensual S/M play? Absolutely not. Is it what they both want? Absolutely yes. The sequence is both erotic and violent, profoundly troubling and potentially arousing, designed to provoke a whiplash of emotional, psychological and libidinal responses. It sets the table for what follows: an exploration of the boundary between Eros and Thanatos, love and annihilation, that’s at least as dark as anything found in the collected works of the Marquis de Sade and Georges Bataille.
You can read O’Hehir’s full piece here.

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