Monday, June 1, 2009

Downloading Nancy

I haven't seen Downloading Nancy (Strand Releasing), but I'm not surprised by the snarky comments some people are making about it right now. It's a film about s.e.x. It's a film about a woman with flaws. It's a film about things most people would like to ignore because it clashes with their deluded view of life.

The film, starring Maria Bello, opens in selected theaters this Friday the 5th of June.

It is about a married woman who enters into a sadomasochistic relationship with someone she meets on-line.

As already stated, I haven't seen it, but I definitely intend to. I hope to drum up some interest in it because it sounds like my kind of flick (and yours, too, if you're a regular reader).

Coincidentally, it shares themes (but not a plot) with a film I am about to re-start shooting.

Maria Bello is an actress I admire greatly. Reviews of her performance in this film have been glowing. Some have wrong-headedly attacked her motivation.

A writer over at JoBlo said this: "Couple this film (Downloading Nancy) with A History of Violence and what conclusions can we draw about Maria Bello?"

See what I mean by snarky?

But I'll answer the question: The conclusion I draw (not We) is Maria Bello's not content to let her talent decay on the vine of mainstream media. She likes to take risks. She clearly has a lot going on up top (and maybe down there, too, which is ultimately the same thing). She's interesting. She's fascinating. She's unique.

This questioning of Bello's choices is typical of a certain percentage of the population and their reaction to films with incendiary sexual subject matter... especially subject matter like this that involves women in lead roles.

Following the film's Sundance screening, Variety opined that Downloading Nancy is "a forbidding and morbid piece of psycho-sadomasochism". The Hollywood Reporter called it "pointless self indulgence."

In an LA Times interview, director/writer Johan Renck summed the film up as "several love stories...good ones and bad ones." He explained: "I wanted to be totally ruthless. You can argue that as right or wrong and now I can see the wrongness of that somehow."

Renck found himself hooked by the abstract idea of just how far someone would go for someone else."

This theme of going all the way for your lover (or lovers) has been recently explored in the two German films about the individual who went on-line to find a lover who would kill and eat him, Cannibal and Rohtenburg.

A lot of very hard European pornography such as the Violence and Pain series, Portrait Extrem, 3 Bengel Fur Charly and HeARTcore (from Simon Thaur's Subway Innovative ProdActions) cover this edgy territory; so does Takeshi Ishii's Flower and Snake revisions and Japanese fetish porn involving reptiles, insects, and marginal "living things"

It's nothing new, but it's not common, either.

I can't say I like the poster art at all. It's utterly bland, and will not grab anybody's attention. It's as if the distributor is afraid to embrace the darkness. Then again, to be fair, if they go too dark on the art, newspapers will nix it. This is the free world we in.

Why soft pedal something that sounds so inflammatory? It's not that hard to come up with striking, provocative imagery. Something that portends liberation? Is the film not about the woman's desire to liberate herself from pain with death?

Maybe not.

I hope the TV movie poster doesn't put adventurous filmgoers off. It may attract the chick flick crowd.

For me, it sounds like it would make a great double bill with the wonderful French In My Skin (Dans ma peau, 2002).


  1. Phantom, I have to agree with you here.

    Maria Bello, in one of my favourite US flicks of recent times- namely "The Cooler"- shone out like a beacon in terms not only of her sexuality/sensuality, but her compassion, and her sheer unadulterated humanity.

    In my humble opinion, she ran rings around William H in every scene they shared, and that my friend would be no mean chiken shit feat!

    However, speaking of my humble opinion, I must disagree with you about the poster...

    Cancel that; on reflection, I see you are talking about the poster from a marketing, rather than artistic, POV. In which case, it is indeed a little bland, and might do the film no great favours re publicity.

    In terms of art, however, I love it; to my minds eye, it is evocative of the simplicity of the "Hoosiers" reprint US one sheet with the basketball shoes and the township in the background. This striking image- one of my favourites- said very little about some of the darkness lurking in the hearts of the townfolk in that picturesque midwest town, and yet it was undeniably there...

    Just as the 'Downloading Nancy' poster rather evocatively says little about the darkness of interpersonal relationships than does say, the poster for 'Away From Her'.

    However, it is all there...

    I think in the end we are on the same page, Phantom; if, between us, we can deflect the slings and arrows of unfair criticism, and in some measure shield this film from the unwarranted, unreasonable, uninfomed or even- dare I say it, bigoted- criticism of inferior men; if we can champion the work, and shepherd it safely to some broader more intelligent, adventurous and com/passionate audience, then we will have fought well and bravely another day against the armies of darkness, hypocrisy, and condescension.

    I most definitely look forward to another challenging Maria Bello performance, and thank you for bringing it to our attention...

  2. mandingo -- Maria Bello is just a great actress. There's no bullshit about her.

    I love that Hoosiers poster you're referring to, just as I love Hoosiers. To me, the blue Downloading Nancy poster (their official poster) is just bland.

    I hope the film is given a chance.

    My second hope is that it's good.

  3. as my post on it will attest, in my skin is a damn fine film. hopefully DN will make for a complimentary double bill.