Friday, April 18, 2014

Reverend’s Reviews: Privates on Parade

Easter weekend is a time to celebrate new life and the fecundity of spring, and what better way to do that than with penises (other than going to church, of course). The Final Member, an odd but interesting documentary opening today in New York and other cities and next Friday in New York, provides a perfectly-timed opportunity.

Its subject is the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Opened in 1999, it currently serves as the world’s only collection of actual penises collected from throughout the animal kingdom and phallus-inspired art. My personal favorite among the art works is a hand-carved wooden, travel-size mini bar shaped like a penis! The museum’s founder and curator is Sigurdur “Siggi” Hjartarson, who discovered his first animal penis 40 years ago when he was 17. “My dad has been collecting penises for as long as I can remember,” notes Siggi’s daughter in the film. Today, his largest specimen is a 3-foot long portion of a sperm whale’s genitalia, while the smallest is from a hamster.

The main focus of The Final Member, and rationale for its title, is Siggi’s effort to secure one last, elusive piece: a human penis. He finds two potential donors. One is a 93-year old local man nearing the end of his life, Pall Arason, whose member meets the 5” minimal “legal length.” The other is a 60-year old American named Tom Mitchell. Mitchell is so eager to see his 7” penis (nicknamed “Elmo” and the subject of a comic book) on display that he is willing to have it surgically removed prior to his death. However, finding a doctor who is willing to do such a procedure for non-medically necessary purposes proves difficult. Even renowned gender-reassignment surgeon Marci Bowers, who is trans herself, is reluctant to remove Mitchell’s genitalia.

Producer-directors Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math take a somewhat tongue-in-cheek yet objective and sensitive approach to their film’s unusual subject matter. More than anything to do with biology or sexuality, The Final Member is most revealing of our human desire for immortality. For some men, it is apparently deeply satisfying to know that at least one small (or, in some cases, large) part of them will be preserved for posterity.

While we’re on the topic of male sexual organs, I couldn’t help but notice actor Pierre Perrier’s while recently watching the creepy-cool French miniseries The Returned (Les Revenants). The beautifully brooding, 30-year old Perrier plays one of several deceased townspeople who have been inexplicably resurrected and end up wreaking existential havoc for their still-breathing neighbors. It is much more complex and interesting (not to mention sexier) than ABC’s current, virtually identical Resurrection.

I remembered I had seen Perrier’s face (at least) somewhere before and ended up digging 2011’s American Translation out from my DVD pile. Available for a year or so now from TLA Releasing, Perrier stars in it as a homicidal, bisexual man who enlists his new American girlfriend (the similarly pretty Lizzie Brochere) as an accomplice. Like a more sexually-twisted Bonnie and Clyde, they roam the French countryside looking for male hustlers to serve as fresh victims.

Perrier is on full-frontal display at several points and engages in vigorous sex scenes with both Brochere and some of the men they meet. Written by Pascal Arnold (One to Another) and directed by Arnold with Jean-Marc Barr (perhaps best remembered as the star of Luc Besson’s 1988 underwater drama The Big Blue), the movie doesn’t really offer anything new or original in terms of plot. Watching Perrier, though, is well worth the price of a rental or purchase.

Reverend’s Ratings:
The Final Member: B
The Returned (Les Revenants): A-
American Translation: C+

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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