LOS ANGELES — The first volume of Lars Von Trier’s two-part sexual meditation “Nymphomaniac” is out and playing in exactly one theatre in Los Angeles — the trusty guardian of offbeat cinema, the Landmark Nuart Cinema on Santa Monica Blvd.
While its curtailed release is most likely a result of its NC-17 rating (but hey, they’re mostly flaccid!), Von Trier’s liberal use of nudity — frontal, penetrative and implied — seems to have been hyped and “oh my”-ed over to the detriment of the rest of the film, which is kind of like a quaint, dusty old book you might pick up at a chic store that was previously rescued from a flea market.
The film opens to snow drifts and a badly beaten Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying in a cobblestone alley. In spite of her wounds, Joe musters a certain spryness when approached by the elderly bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), refusing an ambulance but welcoming a cup of tea.
It is in Seligman’s lodgings, inspired by a hand-made lure (for fly fishing), that Joe begins to recount her hypererotic life’s history, beginning with discovery of her “cunt” at age two.
And while the story quickly progresses from auto-stimulation to relatively innocent exploration with friends to full on nymphomania (Joe says at one point she habitually scheduled 10 sexual encounters with 10 different men each day), it is always paralleled with something beyond sex — fishing, Bach, Edgar Allen Poe, the Fibonacci sequence — and other elevating items of erudition.
That doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of hot sex. There is, and it will get you typing double negatives. Slim, pale and angular Stacy Martin (who plays young Joe) bares all in her first major role. As a young school girl seducing Jerome (Shia LeBeouf) to endless, seemingly emotionless romps, flesh fills the screen to the brim.
There is even a shot of young Joe riding a visibly erect Jerome. But the credits assure us: none of the lead actors performed penetrative sex in the film. The “dirty” work was taken care of by eight credited sex doubles, all obscure, listed at the tail end of the credits. Their bodies were then reportedly digitally stitched into the film, a process “Nymphomaniac’s” producer Louise Vesth said was so laborious it significantly delayed the film’s release.
"Nymphomaniac: Volume I," while a bit meandering, carries significant clout as a visual spectacle and mental and literal masturbation, and, at the very least, is bookended with some epic Rammstein jams.
The film will be playing at the Nuart Theatre for one more week. For showtimes and tickets, click here.
“Nymphomaniac: Volume II” will open in theaters on April 18 and will be available on-demand April 3.