Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye

In 1928, French philosopher Georges Bataille (under the pseudonym Lord Auch) shocked the world with The Story of the Eye, a sexually graphic and surreal novel. It still remains somewhat of a cult classic, and recently got some press when Bjork declared that she really enjoyed the novel, and incorporated some of its ideas into a video. Anything that Bjork likes has to be weird. Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye by underground filmmaker Andrew Repasky McElhinney (A Chronicle of Corpses, Magdalen) is not an adaptation, but more an exploration. It is McElhinney's own take on Bataille's ideas, and it is equally shocking. The film starts with old stock footage of a childbirth, and moves on to various setting where men and women have sex alone or in various combinations. If McElhinney wanted to shock people, he succeeded. Because of the explicit nature of Story of the Eye, it will be all but unwatchable for mainstream audiences.

For daring people willing to sit through hardcore gay, lesbian, and heterosexual sex, the experience is a bit different. There is no story in the film. McElhinney even puts up the quote "arranging narrative is a bourgeois mania" before ending the film with nearly twenty minutes of ominous music or feedback, something akin to what one would expect in a David Lynch film. And while the film is explicit, it is difficult to call it pornography. McElhinney's objective seems to be a desire to shock, not necessarily one to titillate. Because of the mechanical nature of some of the scenes, it is hardly arousing. Yet the film unfolds as a series of scenes, much like a porno would.

McElhinney surprised everybody with his last film, A Chronicle of Corpses, which garnered a surprising amount of attention from some mainstream critics. Story of the Eye, which is probably categorized better as art than a movie, feels a bit on the pretentious side. There is some blatantly obvious sexual imagery (a man controls dancing women first with a joystick in his lap, which soon changes to him masturbating), and other scenes where the same man is fed food while a topless woman plays a piano. Another scene has a woman going up the same set of stairs numerous times (or is it one continuous staircase) before stopping at a window, yelling "Jackie O!" before a shot of the Zapruder film, then urinating. Incidentally, this is the only dialogue in the film. He is clearly being subversive, but one often wonders what he is trying to convey.

Much of the imagery is bizarre and nightmarish. There is little eroticism, and many elements, including some of the music and lighting, contribute to a sinister mood. A woman wakes up finding her eyes bandaged, and the viewer can see what looks like blood spots where her eyes would be. Another woman has a large scar on her abdomen. But then, McElhinney will have an innocent looking blond sailor go at it with a muscular black man in chaps with a whip. While he is pushing boundaries in terms of what people are willing to watch, it feels a lot as if he is trying to shock people for the sake of shocking them. There is not enough context behind the sexual imagery to make them think about what they are seeing. The unfortunate side effect is that Story of the Eye, even with all the hardcore sex, feels boring at times.

Gerf Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 21 minutes, Not Rated but contains sexually explicit material, an easy NC-17.

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