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Polish Erotica, Incest & the Anti-Boyhood: The Year In Sleaze 2014
Last year was sufficiently sleazy, and we've got you covered across all media formats.
Published on January 13, 2015 | Filed under editorial

Last year, I wrote up a piece about my favorite, sleaziest moments/products/people of 2013 and this year I’m doing the same. 2014 had some unexpected treats, especially in the form of theatrical screenings, home video releases, and a whole lot of other fun stuff in the mix as well. As with last year, any of the cultural events are relegated to the NYC area as that’s where I’m located, so while I’ll happily acknowledge that other cities had equally awesome (or better) events, I’m “stuck” over here in the North East where it’s really cold right now.

So, here we go. These are really in no order, except for this first one.

John Waters

John Waters Career Retrospective at Lincoln Center

This isn’t only my favorite thing on this list, it’s probably my favorite event of any kind that happened in 2014. It couldn’t have happened to a better, more deserving person and Waters seemed truly humble and appreciative of everything that the Film Society did for the event. It covered his entire career as a filmmaker (his personal 16mm prints of his early works were played… barely!) and he was present for a good amount of screening introductions and lengthy, wonderful Q&A sessions. In print and on stage, he would often snidely remark that this series meant he had finally “made it,” but you could tell that it meant a lot to him. And it meant a lot to his fans, who came out in droves and sold out pretty much everything.

Radley Metzger's Carmen, Baby

Radley Metzger Series at Lincoln Center

John Waters wasn’t the only sub-cultural luminary to get his due at NYC’s esteemed venue in 2014. Softcore (and moonlighting hardcore) mainstay Metzger got his own series aptly titled This Is Softcore this past summer as well. Like Waters, Metzger came out to introduce films and be a part of Q&As and attendance was high. It wasn’t as encompassing a series as the Waters one was, but seeing these on film and with an audience was special, especially in a venue that’s typically synonymous with the type of content you don’t associate with The Image.

VS's Pretty Peaches

Vinegar Syndrome

What a fucking year for these guys. 2013 was already awesome but 2014 only improved upon that. Their release of Pretty Peaches may be my favorite disc of the year and looks better than any other vintage adult film that I’ve seen in HD thus far. And their home video offerings are only a part of it, they partnered with Alamo Drafthouse to screen restorations of films like Raw Force and Christmas Evil and then there’s VS Direct which offers store customers high quality streams of titles either unavailable on disc or only available in standard definition. Add to all of this the work that VS are doing to flat out preserve the titles that they’re releasing and they’re untouchable. That anyone is putting this stuff out is a cause for celebration, but that there’s a group of people who are taking the time and care that they are to present them as well (if not better) than companies like Criterion or Kino are usually commended for, well that’s just crazy. Can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Arrow's Walerian Borowczyk Collection

Walerian Borowczyk Restorations

In the same year that saw Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema series roll out, a Polish-born filmmaker by the hard to pronounce name above finally received the credit he was due. Though he primarily worked in France, his films have far more in common with those from his native homeland than what was coming out of other parts of Europe at the time. Both The Beast and Immoral Tales (which have now been released in the US by IFC) have attained a small cult status over the years but his other films have seemed to fall by the wayside, titles like Goto, Island of Love and Blanche are now easily accessible uncut for the first time in a long while and they look better than ever. His work is highly erotic (though never pornographic), politically charged and really fucking bizarre. It deserves this type of attention, especially in the form of the beautiful box set that Arrow put out in the UK which is now unfortunately out of print. But just look at the photos of it and try not to drool.

Successive Slidings of Pleasure

Alain Robbe-Grillet Restorations

Another formerly unheralded erotic filmmaker is Robbe-Grillet, he’s most well known for writing Last Year At Marienbad (which is not sleazy in the least), but upon directing his own work it was clear that he had a vision that was decidedly more… aggressive. His sex tends to involve shackles and blindfolds and his narratives tend to not make the most sense, but that’s alright. They’re visually stunning and the recent discs from Kino in the US and bfi in the UK are exemplary. If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d suggest getting to the meat of it and going with Successive Slidings of Pleasure which is a feast for all senses.

Wetlands

Wetlands

If you like your coming-of-age stories to include more spilled bodily fluids than soda pop, than here you go. This is basically the anti-Boyhood of the year, centering on German teenager Helen who has hemorrhoids, likes to let jizz dry on her hand is a little too comfortable with blood. Remember that gross toilet scene from Trainspotting? This is like a feature length version of that. But it’s also a lot of fun and sort of heartwarming too. If you can get over all of the liquids.

Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars

Maps to the Stars

Cronenberg used to be sleazy. And then Crash happened. He’s been seemingly settled and tamed since then – sure, A History of Violence had its moments – but not anymore. I don’t think that I saw any more divisive a film at this year’s New York Film Festival than this one, and it’s easy to see why. A Hollywood black-black-black-satire that prominently features ghosts and incest isn’t really for anyone, but it’s 100% Cronenberg. And you’re going to be hard pressed to find any well respected actors doing or saying half of the shit that Julianne Moore does on screen here. She poops, gets in threesomes and asks Robert Pattinson to “fuck my holes.” Pure sleaze.

Tampa

Tampa: A Novel by Allison Nutting

Some of us like to read our sleaze too. And, thanks to Allison Nutting, we got a healthy dose of that this year. This is what people should be reading instead of Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s well written, taboo ridden, domesticity-trash that has all the trappings of a Lifetime movie yet carries not a shred of the guilt. The paperback cover is inspiredly distasteful and the whole thing plays out like a contemporary, reverse gendered Lolita. Which is every bit refreshing as it is entertaining. Go get a library card.

Consumed

Consumed by David Cronenberg 

And Cronenberg is back. Didn’t see that coming. In addition to his most aggressive film work in over a decade, he also gave us his first novel. And it’s all sorts of fucked up. It may not be as sleazy as it is flat out gross, but it made me not want to even think about sex for a while which is a pretty difficult thing to do. Personally, I’d love to see him adapt this as a feature but I don’t think that anyone would ever greenlight it. It’s just too gross and weird. Maybe that’s why it’s a book. Regardless, you should read it. Just don’t expect happy thoughts while doing so.

Ultraviolence

Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey

Soundtrack to sleaze 2014. Seriously. This is like some Nancy Sinatra meets Lil Kim shit. It has the allure of Hollywood and then just sucker punches you into Backroom Facials. I don’t know how she does it, but I’m hooked. Bring on the next album.

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in film preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and film studies from Keene State College. He is the Creative Manager at Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you’ve got ’em.

Justin LaLiberty

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