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July 21, 2006

DVD Journal: "8 MM 2"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

There's little I enjoy more than scavenging through the bargain and used bins at DVD stores. Any disc that costs less than $10 is something I consider fair game. My reasoning goes this way: If I watch a ten dollar DVD with The Wife, that's a movie we've been able to see for only $5 per person. Even if I watch my $10 disc alone, the experience has cost me no more than a NYC movie-theater ticket. Plus I then get to give the disc away to a friend or relative. Greedy, cheap, and generous -- hard to resist a chance to embody that combo of virtues.

The other night, The Wife and I watched one of my bargain-bin finds: "8 MM 2: Unrated and Exposed." We put it in the player anticipating something cheesy, tacky, raunchy, and -- with luck -- hot. In other words, something to pick apart and to be catty about. In fact, the film turned out to be not only not-bad but pretty good. Despite what struck us as some goofs -- the main one being the unrelievedness of its somber tone -- we both watched the film alertly and with interest. We liked what the filmmakers were doing, and we liked that they were doing it with conviction. And, yes, it had a decent number of hot moments -- an achievement I have the highest respect for.

Although a sex thriller, and despite its cheeseball title, the film (which stars Jonathan Schaech and Lori Heuring, and which was directed by J.S. Cardone) isn't what you'd expect: a zero-budget, talentless "Basic Instinct" ripoff. Amusingly, it turns out that the film wasn't even made as a sequel to the original "8 MM." Its working title was "The Velvet Side of Hell." It seems that someone behind the film decided at the last minute to market it as a sequel. Some of the angry reviews at Amazon indicate that this was in fact a dumb idea. Many of the reviewers pan the film simply because they were angered to discover that it isn't a genuine sequel. Fair enough. But, hey, the people who actually made the film (director, actors, etc), didn't know it was going to be marketed as a sequel either.

The Italians do movie posters soooo much better than we do ...

Despite some flubs and weaknesses, "8 MM 2" has a lot going for it: tension 'n' atmosphere, opulent Euro-cinematography, classy/sinister Eastern European locales (you can apparently get a lot for your production dollar in Budapest), daring performances and -- what's rare these days -- some commitment to the project on the part of the whole team, who cook up a handful of tangy and provocative situations and then present them with real heat. (If the plot sags ... Well, I cut any film that isn't afraid of quiet, anticipation, desperation, mood, and fear a lot of slack.) It didn't come entirely as a surprise to hear -- on the disc's extras -- the film's director saying that he made "8 MM 2" with such erotic classics as "Last Tango in Paris" and "Don't Look Now" in mind. Check out the prices on those two discs, by the way. They almost slip under my $10 limit.

Art and exploitation ... sex/money/power/love ... Whatever became of a movie culture where these concerns were foreground matters -- the actual subject matter of films -- instead of grist for press coverage of them? Sigh: In any case, it's the movie recipe that got me interested in movies in the first place. It sustains me still, come to think of it; if there were more of this kind of thing to be found at theaters, I'd be a regular moviegoer still. Instead, where current movies go, I find myself sluggish and reluctant. Occasionally I try to rouse some interest in what Hollywood has gotten up to with its computers -- and then decide that I have far better things to do with my life. For instance, taking a nap.

In addition to being a nifty little movie in its own right, "8 MM 2" was also a reminder of how happy the sexual-suspense genre often makes me. Although I was never able to face many of the churned-out "erotic thrillers" that swamped the market in the wake of "Basic Instinct," adult thrillers with imaginative helpings of adult eroticism are something I can never get enough of. I think what I most love about the genre is the interplay between the subtleties of character and the mechanics of suspense. How will the filmmakers use one to enhance the other? Oh, and the way that eroticism kicks the emotional stakes up a few notches is nothing if not fascinating.

I've written about some other genres that make me happy too: Westerns, film noir, and psychological suspense. God knows that not that every single Western, film noir, or erotic thriller pleases me. But I return to each genre with eagerness and hope. I never seem to tire of checking these works out. And when an even halfway-good example comes along, I find myself a movie-buff again. And, y'know, it's not such a bad thing to be.

Are there genres that, simply by virtue of being what they are, nearly always make you happy? Can you figure out why?



posted by Michael at July 21, 2006


This is a great post. I was at Wal-Mart Saturday morning, and saw a big new big of bargain videos. Your ruminations on the pleasures of off-the-beaten-path bargain videos got me rummaging through it myself.

Posted by: James on July 24, 2006 5:52 PM

" I think what I most love about the genre is the interplay between the subtleties of character and the mechanics of suspense."

Uh huh. Sure.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 25, 2006 9:32 AM

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