Nymph()maniac: Volume I
Director: Lars von Trier (2013)
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf
Find it: IMDB
You don't get much more pretentious than a four hour sex movie directed by a man with the affectation 'von' in his name. Split into two volumes, Nymp()maniac is Lars von Trier's Kill Bill. It is also precisely as pretentious as you would expect it to be. Employing such typical Trier techniques as splitting the film into chapters, portraying scenes of semi-hardcore sex and getting Charlotte Gainsbourg to take her clothes off a lot, this isn't a film for casual cinema-goers. Tune in expecting Transformers level Shia LaBeouf and you will be sorely fucking disappointed. Or thoroughly relieved, depending upon your perspective.
That said, it's a shame LaBeouf - or LaBuff, in this case - isn't famous anymore, since this is the best I have ever seen him. Not even the "eh, he wasn't too bad" of Lawless compares - Shit The Beef (or LaBeefcake) is genuinely, legitimately excellent in Nymph()maniac. The same goes for Christian Slater, who is good in theory, but has actually been in very few decent films over the course of his disappointing career. Here, he portrays the film's most sympathetic character and gives the story its tenderest moments. If the cast's two worst actors are excellent in this film, then it speaks volumes as to how good everyone else is in it.
When lonely scholar Seligman (Skarsgard) finds a woman savagely beaten in the alleyway by his home, he picks the poor dear up and shepherds her indoors to recover. Tucked up in bed, Joe (Gainsbourg) recounts her story, giving patient listener Seligman her account of a humble nymphomaniac and how she came to be beaten up and left, battered and bruise, in an alleyway. The story she tells will put hair on your chest. It's little wonder Skarsgard took all of his clothes off and went mad for Thor 2, listening to this bizarre, explicit tale.
Telling the story of Joe's life, from childhood to her marriage, Volume I covers a lot of ground - most of it disturbing and slightly unsavoury, but staged well enough that you'll experience the requisite downstairs stirrings if you're of an open enough mind. Volume I's highlights include oral sex on a train, a hysterical Uma Thurman and Seligman talking about fishing all the time (metaphors, see). The most powerful moments, surprisingly, come from Christian Slater while, well, there's a lot of shagging elsewhere. It's bizarre, disturbing and sexy in a way that only a Lars von Trier film can be. All that, and a Rammstein soundtrack too.