Monday, June 9, 2014

What you can fellate and what you can't fellate

I watched Spring Breakers for the third time last night.

Informally, I believe this is the soonest after its release date I've seen a movie three times since I saw Pulp Fiction four times in the theater. That would be -- gasp -- 20 years ago now.

It's not the soonest I've seen a movie for the third time after the first time I saw it -- that would be Ruby Sparks, which I saw for the third time in just under 14 months back in February. My Spring Breakers viewing last night would make the third time in just over 14 months, dating back to its theatrical run. However, Ruby Sparks actually came out about five months before I saw it, so there's a slight (through probably meaningless) distinction there.

Either way, it confirms something I already knew -- I really like this movie.

And whenever you rewatch movies you really like, you are bound to come at them from slightly new angles, and to think about slightly new things.

There will be some spoilers from here on out -- not only about Spring Breakers, but also about Killer Joe -- so beware.

If you understood the previous spoiler alert -- and the title of this post -- you know where I'm going with this. Yes, I focused on the scene where Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson force-feed James Franco the barrels of two guns.

At first it seems as though Franco is an unwitting victim to this incident of sexualized humiliation, and I feel pretty sure that Vanessa and Ashley were kind of playing it by ear on their actual intentions with him -- after all, there's a room full of money and guns at their finger tips, and we've already seen what they're willing to do for money. But then Franco kind of empowers himself in the scenario by actively beginning to fellate one of the barrels -- wrapping his lips around it and sucking it dry, as it were. Then the girls crack a smile and the tension is defused. Moments later, Alien tells the girls (I had to look up their actual character names, which are Candy and Brit) that they are his soul mates.

The movie got an R rating, despite this rather graphic scene.

Not all movies that feature a scene of enforced simulated fellatio are quite so lucky. Take William Friedkin's Killer Joe. Another scuzzy modern classic featuring white trash "gangster life," so to speak, Killer Joe has a lot to recommend it -- a captivating lead performance by Matthew McConaughey, terrific supporting performances and a hilarious sense of black humor. It also has a gonzo final scene, which includes -- famously -- a scene where McConaughey forces Gina Gershon to give a blow job to a chicken drumstick.

NC-17 on that one. The appeal of the rating was rejected, so instead of getting rid of the scene that everyone would be talking about, they just released it that way.

The initial instinct would be to make some comment about how the MPAA always cares more about sex than violence when issuing ratings, which was a main contention of Kirby Dick's film This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It's no surprise, this perspective would argue, that the scene with the gun caused them less objection. Then you might surmise that the chicken leg is somehow more off-putting, as it is made of organic material while the gun is just metal.

Of course, these surface-level readings would both be quite incorrect. Both are violent scenes, actually, but only Killer Joe features the scene where a) it is quite clearly not consensual, and b) it's a man committing an act of violence against a woman. That's the trump card ... as well it should be.

In doing a little research for this post I discovered that Samantha (Kim Cattrall) fellates a hookah pipe in Sex and the City 2, but that obviously makes it in as an R because a) it's fully voluntary, and b) Samantha is about the most ribald character ever committed to the big or small screen.

The one certified, definite no-no among fellatible objects: the penis. You can't have a discussion like this without referencing The Brown Bunny, Vincent Gallo's scandalous film in which Chloe Sevigny actually sucks his penis on camera. No fakery, no implied mouth-to-penis action -- an actual blow job. That one never had a chance at an R.

There must be some prominent examples I'm missing ... let me know about them in the comments.

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