Daily Archives: Saturday, June 28, 2008

  • Singapore Sling Nikos Nikolaides – 1990 – Gce/Fr – B&W Meredyth Herold; Panos Thanassoulis; Michele Valley

    adrin neatrour writes: He could not tie his shoe laces. I think this is an old story. A twisted post modern retelling of the return of Odysseus with Nietschean and Freudian shifts of consciousness. An eternal recurrence where the returning male is never able to get it together to tie his shoes; he is unable to enter the world of total self absorption demanded by shoelaces because he is sucked into the black hole created by the filmic projection of Nikolaides, a dark orifice comprising of two voracious all consuming women.
    Singapore Sling    Nikos Nikolaides – 1990 – Gce/Fr –  B&W  Meredyth Herold; Panos Thanassoulis; Michele Valley

    Original title: O anthropos pou agapise ena ptoma (The man who turned into a corpse)

    He could not tie his shoe laces

    When Odysseus returned from Troy he had no problem tying his boot straps, not so Singapore Sling the eponymous protagonist of the film.  And that’s a big difference.  Singapore Sling’s original Greek title. ‘the man who turned into a corpse’ points to a film of deeper resonance with key issues of Greek and Western culture than is commonly credited.  Normally Singapore Sling is dismissed as a sleazy exercise in bondage and SM.  However framed up as a pastiche of a Hollywood Film Noir (cf The Big Sleep) I think this is an old story, a twisted post modern retelling of the return of Odysseus with Nietschean and Freudian shifts of consciousness.   An eternal recurrence where the returning male is never able to get it together to tie his shoes; he is unable to enter the world of total self absorption demanded by shoelaces because he is sucked into the black hole created by the filmic projection of Nikolaides, a dark orifice comprising of  two voracious all consuming women.

    Singapore Sling (SS) is a complete world of sensory satiation.  Complete with cod voice over and moody groovy jazz from the record player, the film is styled as a pastiche of Black and White Hollywood ‘40’s film noir.  High key lighting silhouetted faces scarred by shadow and make-up; foregrounds of furling wrapping enveloping female costumes; backgrounds of textured material from lace to heavy brocades, shadows of swaying fronds and deep dark architectural recesses;  exteriors sodden with unending deluge of water and menacing vegetative matter; soundtrack dinning with wind torrential rain and thunder and music from another era.  This is a world.

    It is a world of singular density, of unrelenting fluidal compression. where the three characters play out rituals of bodily and carnal hyperstimulation.  In the which mouth and vulvavagina transform into mutant conduits of sensation, become  perversed body parts that wantonly engage in flux and reflux, reception and issuance.   The compressive quality of the mis-en-scene is a setting within which the mouth and the vulvavagina are explored and exposed as locations for a mutating female investment of sex and death.  An exploration that is perhaps all that is left after the failure of the male phallic imposition.  

    It is as if Odysseus comes back to Ithica and doesn’t find Penelope surrounded by suitors.  It’s just too late for that the world has become too twisted . Too late for the male prick.  The modern take is that Odysseus has no son;  he has a daughter and  Odysseus finds Penelope encoiled physically and mentally with her  young female progeny.  The bed Odysseus has built is a puzzle not because it is a bed of love but because it is now a bed of torture and death.  In strange but different ways the women have taken on hybrid and new relationships with their bodies in which the penis has only the most marginal psychic reality.   The changed relationship involves flux and reflux.  The penis can only discharge.  It has only a one way relationship with the world.  The mouth and vulvavagina can both gorge and disgorge thus establishing a symmetrical relationship with the world of matter, a taking and a giving back. 
    This reciprocating relationship to the the world appears to the male as a perversion: the vulvavagina should be the receptacle of semen; and the mouth the receptacle for the food prepared by the bigmother. 

    Nikolaides has two tableaux that are central to his design.  The bed and the table.    Both are established in closed dense oppressive locations in which space is squeezed out of existence by the dense texture of matter.  The table is an extraordinary setting, because filmed in black and white, the prepared mountainous piles of food have mass and tactility but no other defining signs of fitness to eat.  The result is the creation of a banquet of repulsion in which difficult to define matter is alternatively gorged into the mouth and promptly disgorged out of the mouth.  Ingestion and vomit.   The heightened makeup of the actresses and their extraordinary haute couture gowns offset the grossness of the visceral oral sequence, which however posits a recharged and renegotiated relationship to the food with which we feed ourselves.  In a culture of surplus a new relationship is developed on a giving back by the oriface.  

    The bed is the other location, the second main tableau on which Nikolaides designs are insinuated.  The bed cannot be looked at separately from the role of the male and female bodies in SS.  In SS the male penis is never seen.  The man, braces and all, keeps on his trousers. He is never undressed.  When the women rape him, to use his penis. kneeling on top of him, grinding towards their orgasm, it is as if they haven’t inserted his penis but rather the idea of his penis.  Their acts of  sex are self sufficient.  The vulvavagina sucks in and spits out; it is self sufficient.  The penis has become irrelevant.  Odysseus has nothing further to accomplish in the world than to self castrate.  The bed is no longer for fertility.  In the new world to which the recurrent Odysseus returns the bed is the locum for torture castration and masturbation.  The bed is a dense world of post phallic possibilities.   The vulvavagina draped in luxuriant garments and sheer fabrics set amidst deep linens, strapped up in a chastity belt, explores the intensities of a post penile world. 

    The acting style that defines the action in SS is highly physical at least from the two female leads.   The male lead, despite the denouement, is largely passive. The performances elicited from his players by Nikolaides’ works in terms of a demanding a sort of over investment in the role which allows the viewers to critically detach rather than invest in the action. This distance allows the film, at critical junctures, to take on a spoof element and to be occasionally very funny.  The underlying seriousness of the theme and the physical commitment of the film to the body, prevents SS from simple degeneration into parody or Woody Allan territory where everything is played for laughs.  In SS nothing is played simply for laughs.   

    Some people will find SS very disturbing without however quite being able to say why.   They will perhaps point to the bondage or sequences of torture (cod) or where the vulvavagina is explicitly used as a mouth and perhaps claim the film is simply cynically exploitative of its material.   However I think Nikolaides has made an extraordinary film, using film to do what film does: to create a world in which the meaning of the situations and events can be absorbed through the filmic elements.  SS is superbly shot composed in the main of though long unflinching takes, mostly medium and medium close shots, that impel us to look at what is happening and invite our collusion or opposition.   Nikolaides post Odyssean statement is a radical physical film about the terminal failure of the male based cultural forms that have dominated written history.  He knows that if Odysseus returns now he has no other choice than self castration and the slaughter of Penelope in order to prevent her spinning and twisting her own threaded path out of the nightmare.
    adrin neatrour