Writer of “O”
directed by Pola Rapaport
starring Dominique Aury
Oh, sure, nowadays you kids can get all the porn you want, free, and in the privacy of your own iPod. But back when I was your age, not only was the snow up to here, but you had to walk five miles UP hill each way to get smut, and that was assuming Big Brother would even allow the book to be printed. That’s the subplot of this lovingly crafted documentary about Dominique Aury’s mysterious 1953 novel The Story of O. When published, it shocked the world with its explicit description of sadomasochism and love. In a matter-of-the-fact manner it describes how a woman willingly enters a world of pain and humiliation for her lover. She gladly accepts the rape and whips, all to prove her love and hold onto the man she fears will leave her. Many saw it as a tale of abuse, yet it might equally be viewed as tale of love and manipulation by the female. Whichever view you take, its understated form and style make it a significant work of literature, and it remained illegal in the United States and Britain until the ’70s.
The author was herself in love with a married man, and while they carried on a discrete affair for over a decade, he cheated on her as well as his wife. The book was written one chapter at a time, late at night and in longhand. No copies were kept, and each chapter was a love letter, a novella, and a risk to both parties. Writing for real, and not preserving your work is to me the greatest act of trust possible, but more significantly, it had the desired effect.
In the documentary, you meet the 90-year-old authoress, who announced her real name to the world in 1994. The documentary mixes regular interviews with her friends and cohorts, a re-enactment of the story, and replicated interviews with the authoress. The effect is stunning — you are pulled back into the post-war ethos and its cultural battles. On one hand, we see the prudish victors, and on the other, we find the Carpe Diem attitude toward sex promulgated by the existentialism that arose out of the horrors of the war. Is sex such a fundamental part of society that it must be regulated, or is it the personal business of any adult and a fundamental right? The debate carries on today, although your right to download B&D, S&M, and any other alphabet soup of perversion is pretty safe for the moment. We have no objections to our children watching hundreds die flaming death at the hands of B actors, yet four pixels of Janet Jackson’s fake boob is a national crisis. Clearly, SOMEONE around here needs to be spanked.
Zeitgeist Films: www.zeitgeistfilms.com