American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There have been indications for some months now that the skin flick market is exhausting itself. "Whirlpool" may be another piece of evidence. Even if it isn't, I'd rather discuss it in such terms than consider it as a movie. As a movie it's despicable. But as evidence, it's interesting.
There was a time, a year or two ago, when X-rated films looked like the salvation of the small marginal theater, or the first-run house temporarily starved for product. So we got "Fanny Hill" and "I, A Woman, Part Two" and "Female Animal," and all those other ding-a-lings. And the same dimwitted audience kept turning up and accepting these films that had no humor, no imagination, no wit, no sense of satire or even of perspective. All they had was sex.
But it has been a long year or two since that first wave of X ratings. And now there are maybe a couple dozen theaters in the Chicago area, all grinding out dreary double features designed to set you fast asleep. The audience for these films is shrinking. Even your card-carrying sex maniac, I guess, eventually gets his fill. And so something like "Whirlpool," which would have been big stuff a year or so ago, is greeted by indifference.
That's a heartening sign, because "Whirlpool" is a genuinely sickening film. It has to do with various varieties of sex, yes, but its main appeal seems to be its violence. The ads tell us "she died with her boots on -- and not much else," and that's a sign of the times. Two years ago, this film would have been promoted for its sex and nudity. Today, the distributor emphasizes the violence.
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