Linda Williams at NYU Tuesday Feb. 19, '08

Williams's talk (HARDCORE ART FILM: THE CONTEMPORARY REALM OF THE SENSES) made me remember something I wrote in my dissertation:

"I must stress that [Kathy] Acker approaches what is deemed porn not because she wants to see more than she gets normally to see—in fact, she expresses her misgiving with the usual limits of its specular imagination in her writing on and in praise of the vision of David Cronenberg’s motion picture of J.G. Ballard’s Crash: “What interested me most was that, contrary and probably antagonistic to all porn conventions, the cock is not hard. Through sexual desire, both his own and that of his characters, Cronenberg has reenvisioned the dominant and always rigid phallus of the old king-must-not-die world as other, soft, another body part....”566

note 566: See “The Future,” in Bodies of Work, esp. 175. Also of importance in Crash is a (male) desire for a more porous and penetrable body. Interestingly, given Acker’s early focus on madness, John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus (2006) equates sanity with (sexual) penetrability.

I asked about Vincent Gallo's THE BROWN BUNNY--which Williams seems to accept the critical reaction of, the film as a failure--as it, interestingly, in terms of failure, in its crux scene will not slot discretely--or discreetly?--into any of Williams' proposed four categories of the hardcore: lyrical sex, or urgent sex, or humiliated sex, or that of the orgasmic imperative (Shorbus would illustrate that last).

I wanted to add to the discussion (FAT GIRL and SEX IS COMEDY were cited) Breillat's ANATOMY OF HELL also--a film I often fight with my boyfriend, or fought, when friends, about--as many of the examples, as one audience member pointed out, moved around the phallus still; and its indexicality, as "real" or not, was, umm, raised. Breillat's HELL is apropos here in at least two ways: 1. philosophically, for its stand-in (the "prosthesis" here a body double for the actress for genital close-ups) and 2. how the film ultimately centers itself.