A History of Nymphomania on the Big Screen

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A HISTORY OF NYMPHOMANIA ON THE BIG SCREEN

It is important to emphasize that the term nymphomania is applied only to women, while satyriasis is used to describe men with the same uncontrollable sexual desire. Nowadays, such words have been replaced by the more modern term “sex addict.” In most cases, society doesn’t forgive women for suffering from nymphomania. Vulgarly, “sluts” is the more common name that comes to mind, at least when the less sympathetic describe them. Meanwhile, males with the same condition can be overlooked and actually be considered normal. The truth is that hypersexuality exits and it can be a problem, although it is yet to be listed as a psychiatric disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

The first nymphomaniac movie character who made a huge impression on me came from the 1977 film adaptation of the novel “Looking For Mr.Goodbar” by Judith Rossner. The character Theresa was inspired by Roseann Quinn, a 28-year-old single woman living in Manhattan who was brutally murdered by a one-night stand in 1973. Theresa’s role in the movie was played by Diane Keaton. In another interesting example, Christina Ricci plays young nymphomaniac Rae in the film “Black Snake Moan” (2006). Rae is violently beaten by a “friend” of her boyfriend and found by Lazarus Redd (Samuel L. Jackson), who decides to take on the mission of freeing her from her demons. It’s interesting that in most of the movies that deal with this topic, there is a sense of violence attached to the fate of these female sex addicts, as if they deserve to be punished for their condition.

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It has been a very long journey on the big screen from Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960), in which jaded nymphomaniac Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) is seen relaxed on a prostitute’s bed after a three-way orgy with journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) to the upcoming film adaptation of the erotic romance book “Fifty Shades of Grey” by English author E L James. Before I read it, I wondered what the excitement was for millions of women readers all over the globe. To my disappointment, and speaking from the point of view of someone who is very familiar with the subject of sex, the book was a bore. I had mentally prepared myself for at least learning something new, like for example things that got “The Howard Stern Show” fined back in 2001, like scatological references — not that I would put that to practice, but the accumulation of any kind of knowledge is always powerful. The relationship between Ana Steele and Christian Grey seemed so dull; I kept thinking that something must be wrong with me. The book is nothing more than curious mommy porn at its best with a dangerous message to women who are always willing to forgive their aggressor. Ana is not a nymphomaniac; she develops a high sex drive after losing her virginity to sadistic Christian, the one who is really good in bed, as if she had no comparison before. A lot of holy crap indeed! Call me nostalgic, but I would still prefer Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) in “Belle Du Jour” (1967) over Ana Steele, anytime of the day or night!

Today, we are less than a month away from the Christmas release of “Nymphomaniac” in Denmark, the most recent work of Danish director Lars von Trier. My first impressions of the official trailer for the two-part movie divided into eight chapters is that it’s attempting to shock, and it succeeded. Some scenes even made me feel like I was watching the trailer for “Caligula” (1979) back when it came out. What else is left to be done, not only in movies, but also on TV, I wonder. When did porn become art and art become porn?

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The plot seems rather simple, but violence is again present. Joe, the protagonist (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is left in an alley after a beating, and she is found by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), who takes her to his home where Joe recounts her life from birth to 50. Stacy Martin plays the young version of Joe. Even if the film proves not to be good, at least the hype anticipating it is rather entertaining. Lars has warned viewers that his new movie will be “extremely long, extremely boring and extremely philosophical,” and if by now you are not familiar with his work, try watching “The Idiots,” “Dogville,” “Antichrist” and “Melancholia,” so that you can have a taste of his vision before “Nymphomaniac.”

“There will be sex in the film. As a cultural radical, I can’t make a film without penetration. It would be ridiculous,” added the director in a recent interview. Forget about love, my darlings, but if you can’t stand Trier’s work, at least accept the idea that we as humans, for the most part of our lives, think about sex daily, and some more than others. At least one can enjoy the interesting cast of high-profile actors supporting his vision, and if you really think it will be nasty, then you just concentrate on the bag of chocolate sweeties or on the “spectacular colors when the sun hits the horizon.” Move over, Fifty Shades of Pale!

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Watch the trailer for “Nymphomaniac” here (NSFW):

Gazelle Paulo is a contributing writer for TheBlot. He also writes a column for NewYorkSPY.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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