Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 (2014)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on March 29, 2014 @ tonymacklin.net.

Early in Nymphomaniac: Volume 1, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) talks about fly fishing. Except this fly has a zipper. And another one. And another one.

Seligman discovers Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) one night, bloody and beaten, lying in a wet alley. He takes her to his home to care for her.

She recalls her life as a nymphomaniac, from early childhood. At one point Seligman says, it's "a very pleasurable and humorous story." I guess you had to be there.

Joe is a downer. Seligman says, "I know you like to present yourself in a negative way."

And later the bottom line - "You were with all these men, and you still felt alone." Now that's some revelation.

Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 wanders in search of provocativeness. But basically Joe is a dull character in a drab film.

Director/writer Lars von Trier, who made such a remarkable film with Melancholia (2011), falls for contrivance in Nymphomaniac: Volume 1. He's made a ponderous and clumsy film.

He tricks things up with numbers, letters, diagrams, and puzzle pieces on screen. He even erects a montage of flaccid penises - which kind of misses the point.

The dialogue - which smacks of improvisation - falters throughout. The allusions are strained.

Stellan Skarsgard is the actor who best survives the shaky dialogue. At least he has a rueful stare.

Charlotte Gainsborough is less fortunate as she prattles on about sex, love, lust, and tree leaves. The younger Joe (Stacy Martin) likes leaves, reads about them, and take leaves to her dying father.

Christian Slater has a thankless role as the father. Even less formidable is Shia LaBeouf in a few appearances. When his vapid character returns to the story, Seligman emits the cry, "No, no." He isn't the only one.

Uma Thurman careens through an absurd scene as the wife of a husband who has left his family for the insipid Joe. She drags her three children to an apartment where she accosts her husband and the young woman. It's "drama" at its silliest and least convincing.

Actor LaBeouf's putting a bag over his head in public still doesn't make his character any more than a stick figure. I never thought LaBeouf should leave the acting profession, but now I have second thoughts since he has bagged his talent with the help of bagman von Trier.

Stacy Martin, as younger Joe, is thin in body and lean in talent. Joe psyches out the various squadrons of men pursuing her by playing hard to get. She's a nonentity, and they're a bunch of nonentities. I guess the point is that even nonentities have sex.

Banal pretension wrapped in synthetic orgasms and genitalia is still banal pretension.

Lars von Trier is too old to be a tease.

In Nymphomaniac: Volume 1, banality overwhelms sexuality.

It almost made me yearn for Samantha in Her. Though not quite.

Nymphomania is not all it's cracked up to be.

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