A man named Seligman finds a fainted wounded woman in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe tells her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.
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★★★★½ review by Keith Uhlich on Letterboxd
4-hour cut, hacked (not inelegantly) in two
Want to get some thoughts down while my mind is still buzzing.
A distended joke told masterfully—like Lars is doing his own version of "The Aristocrats" with the dirty stuff (instinctual, impulsive) filtered through a sincerely cerebral (intellectual) framework. The punchline explodes it all, of course, in ways that feel to me like Philip Roth's exit from Portnoy's Complaint. (The real work—if indeed there is real work to do—hasn't even begun.) That doesn't negate the four hours of throat-clearing (and deep throating) that precedes it. It does align Lars with the prankster qualities I find so endearing in Carlos Reygadas.
I'd avoided LvT after Dogville (2003) drove me up the wall. (Though I did give a try to The Element of Crime (1984) and Epidemic (1987), neither of which convinced me he was worth a further delve at that particular moment.) This one renews my interest, in large part because it's such a bewitching polyglot. It ostensibly takes place in the U.K. (Joe mentions "pounds" at one point), but was shot primarily in Germany (echoes of Fassbinder mélo throughout as well as a sublime Rammstein needle drop) and features a Euro-U.S. fusion of across-the-board excellent performers (with well-hung special "Negro" guest stars—provoke, Lars, provoke!).
Somehow everybody fits in: I initially found the much-lauded "Mrs. H" sequence to be the weakest "chapter" since Uma Thurman seemed to be self-consciously stretching. (Few things worse than a performer pushing to the point that you can see the seams.) But that changed once Gainsbourg's Joe name-dropped James Bond and became what I think is Lars' dowdy version of the Amazonian ass-kicker Thurman plays in the similarly cleaved Kill Bill (2003/2004). (Mrs. H's polite-as-can-be upset over being kicked to the curb suddenly resonated. This was her movie once.)
One of the film's many strains is certainly an interrogation of the über-feminized icon that a good number of (typically male) artists create in lip service to empowerment. There's a degree to which LvT is putting himself on trial, as well as having one of his persona non grata-required tantrums. What I appreciate here is the sense of an artist grappling his way through: The surface is so controlled, often didactic and on-the-nose, yet always alluring. (It can't be overstated how perfectly paired Gainsbourg and Skarsgård are in the framing story, a crucial piece of which is all the editorial mismatching that, Fibonacci-like, realigns and re-filters the duo's dueling perspectives as they spiral into infinite depths.) Meanwhile, the subtexts churn and roil—magma perpetually on the verge of an eruption that came for me when Gainsbourg channeled free spirit mother Jane Birkin in her Vol. 2 end credits cover of "Hey Joe." This might be the finest feature-length argument for "edging" ever made.
I was most moved by the Bach "polyphony" discussion, and fascinated at the way the film weaved mathematical exegesis, literary allusion, blasphemous spirituality and the changing tides of musical history into its tale of a hot mess in temporary repose. Really, I think that's what the ending is supposed to signify: Being alive means grabbing all the moments of reflection that you can because soon enough it's back to the fucking.
All this and Udo Kier as a flummoxed waiter, too? Lars found a way to my heart and my heads (upstairs and down).
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
69/100 [for Vol. I only]
Splitting this film in two was moronic, and the rating above reflects the fact that a set of end credits have simply been spliced into its midpoint, leaving what is unmistakably just half a movie. Half of what seems like a pretty fucking great movie, mind you. But I'm gonna reserve most of my thoughts for the eventual full-length cut, which may not prove to be eligible for year-end polls and surveys but will almost certainly wind up high on my top ten list, unless the second half takes a pretty steep nosedive.
[LATER: Unfortunately, the second half does in fact take a pretty steep nosedive.]
Just two remarks for now:
• Holy shit, Uma Thurman
• If possible, avoid seeing this with a Film Forum-style crowd of people who are primed to laugh at anything remotely unorthodox. That's not to say that Nymph()maniac isn't often intentionally funny—it definitely is. But the audience at the Sundance secret screening found absolutely everything a laff riot, including moments that I feel confident Von Trier means sincerely. Kinda ruined the mood for me at times.
★★★★ review by Ole Holgersen on Letterboxd
Like your own pubertal cock, it will grow on you with time.
But like most fully grown cocks, it still feels too short...
And just like every other cock out there, it needs to be examined.
This could have been a mouthful of Lars von Trier's juicy stuff, but in the end the 4 hour short version (it's originally 5 hours and 30 minutes) never fully reaches it's climax.
To me, Nymphomaniac resembles that of a circumcised cock. It works perfectly fine, but it's not as sensitive as it could have been had it not been tampered with.
Other than that it was a hoopla, and I can't wait for the entire full length version.
★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
"edited" version of both parts. not sure how much i'm allowed to say about it yet? seeing "long" version of part 1 soon, upon which there will be no restrictions. sorry, this is super unhelpful, just trying to keep tabs.
★★★★★ review by Jens Aksel Takle on Letterboxd
Lars von Trier continues to surprise us with his extremely thought provoking experiments. His latest film Nymphomaniac, which after my opinion is the best von Trier film since Dancer in the Dark is a pure genius creation. It's not a straight narrative, it's more like a movie montage beautifully pasted just like the early Soviet montage films of the twenties, knowing where to hit the spot. I would have thought this would be a depressing grand epic, but it's the opposite, it's actually a dark comedy that jokes about human sexuality and all the taboos surrounding it. But there's also the presence of god that really makes this film a real treat and a film I can ramble about for hours. I try to keep it short in this review.
A man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying in the street and beaten up. He brings her home to his house because she don't want the police involved. With a bed to rest in, Seligman insists on her telling him what have happen to her. Well as they always says: "It's a long story". And so she starts to tell him absolutely everything. Her name is Joe and she's a nymphomaniac, and her story spans from her earliest sexual experiences as a kid to her dominatrix adulthood. A sexual epic.
This is indeed another of von Trier's misanthropic adventures that shows us that there's no hope for the human race. As Joe one times says "Everyone is a hypocrite", because everything in this movie is unpredictable, there's always a different side to each character, a good and a dark side. I also love that Joe's narration of her stories sometimes get interrupted and paused by Seligman who tells another short unrelated story that Joe are able to incorporate into her own story and therefor create a symbolic story.
Like when Seligman tells Joe about the west- and eastern-churches. That the eastern orthodox church paintings would focus on the tenderness and love of christianity, while the western roman catholic church would focus more on the passion and suffering of Christ. With this information Joe makes parallels to her own sexual experience, by referring to one happy period and to a suffering period, which represents the eastern and western church respectively.
As most of his other films, Nymphomaniac have an extreme religious overtone, and what I love about von Trier's films is that you can't deny the presence of an almighty power. At the same time he criticize the foundation of religion. He's movies are militant agnostic in that way that it can satisfy both sides. This movie even implies that you must compare religion with sex. Like religion, sex can be a good thing or it can be used for evil, and one can do the most horrific things in order to get satisfied. But not having sex at all is impossible for most people. Like the existence of god, different sexual desires are impossible to explain, but it exists.
I also love the montage style of the film. It features a lot of old footage to over-explain and joke about what's being told. But there's also a very beautiful split screen scene where Bach is being played in the background. In some scenes letters appear on the screen and counts all the humps during a sexual act. Joe does in fact have a categoric system of all the different sexual positions and different kinds of people and their sexuality. She knows everything. She's the master of sex and she's proud of it.
Even though Nymphomaniac has been categorized as a drama, I would rather call it a dark comedy. I would say I laugh during one third of the movie. Some of the scenes are even made for comic effects in the style of comedy. I guess it's because of the irony of human sexuality and all the taboos against it. But don't prepare yourself for a comedy, because the sex scenes in this film is indeed very graphic, and some are very disturbing, like the sadomasochist scenes in which Jamie Bell out of all people are in charge of the punishment. In other words, I totally understand if people feel uncomfortable with the whole film. For some it might be as inhumane as Pasolini's Saló.
In my defense, Nymphomaniac is structured like a comedy, unlike other films that have been labeled as "dark comedies" such as Happiness and Dogtooth where I didn't laugh at all, it was just disturbing and nothing more. But then again people are different. But the fact that this one made me laugh more than any other comedies last year did, makes it a comedy or am I just a bad person? And it's hard not to laugh when you already know all the porn references (I'm guilty in that charge) like when Joe is telling two men about her dead hamster. It's in other words repeated material that one already knows, and yes there's much horror in the world, but you gotta joke about it sometimes.
I loved the performances in this film. As always since the beginning of the century von Trier's film features an international cast. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgård does a marvelous job once again. But there's also beginners such as Stacy Martin playing the young version of Joe who's truly wonderful and with so much dedication in her work, and I hopes she have a good career later. Shia LaBeouf really surprises us in a great performance that's really a step up, with a british accent and everything. And it wouldn't be the same without Udo Kier in a cameo performance. He's the cherry on top of every von Trier film.
Let me summary Nymphomaniac this way: You can be disgusted by the whole thing, or you can just accept that humans are not perfect and look at it as a comedy about humans. The aliens would have laugh their asses off. It's indeed a thought provoking film, in which you can discuss everything from moral society to the existence of god and even compare religion to sex. It's also a very beautiful film with great use of montage editing and a great cast. Certainly my favorite Lars von Trier film right after Dancer in the Dark. Thumbs up.
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