Body Party. Jan 24, 2014

by Neil Ferron

Recently, I watched the 1992 classic Far and Away, and I was shocked to discover that after 2.5 hours of observing a romance unfold between the young, shiny-toothed Tom Cruise and an immaculate Nicole Kidman, they never actually get naked or engage in any kind of sex.  The end result is a kind of frustration (resolved by Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut) that leaves the viewer feeling very lost and de-centered as a person.

Frédérick Gravel, fortunately, dives directly into the territory that Ron Howard so carefully avoided: namely, that moment when your lover first reveals their genitals to you.  (And all the pleasure, doubt, and frustration that follows.)  

And Gravel attacks it from all angles.  Big loud sequences--thumping bass, arrousing hip movements.  Soft moments in which a chubby French-Canadian guy with a bad haircut sings beautiful songs.

The whole piece is marked by this amazing, almost impressionistic approach to narrative.  Gravel has choreographed these duets--.  Over the span of 6 minutes, I watched a pair of dancers move through emotional and sexual landscapes that would have taken me 6-12 months to achieve in real life--that giddy terror of unsheathed nipples and dick, that first time you and your partner have terrible sex, that first time she sticks her finger in your ass (or your finger in your ass, or her finger in her ass).  

I don’t know.  I went to Catholic grade school.  I was a fat child.  The body--especially female, but also male, and even my own--is a strange thing.  Just terror and pleasure.  I walked away from Usually Beauty Fails feeling like I’d been told a secret--about love and desire and how the human body is a simultaneously transcendent and malfunctioning vehicle.  Far and Away might be, in actuality, an instructive prelude to Kubrick's dream story.  Howard's reminder, like Gravel's piece, that words are nothing more than a prologue to touching.