A low-budget psychological thriller, Unsane is a less involving film than its subject matter and star deserve. Claire Foy is extraordinarily powerful as a paranoid prisoner of mental trauma inflicted on her by a stalker and bureaucratic malfeasance, distressed, knowing, sarcastic, resistant. The film fails her in other areas but is an intriguing experiment nonetheless. We find much to discuss, including its cinematography, relationship to termite art, Soderbergh’s recent efforts, potential audiences and whether the lighting of black characters in this film is inherently racist.
Recorded on 1st April 2018.
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Two friends from college, Ben (Mark Duplassis) and Andrew (Joshua Leonard), meet up after several years, get stoned at a party and, as a result of a dare, decide that they are going to make a gay porn film starring themselves engaging in anal sex as an ‘art’ project. The whole film revolves around this question: ‘what would it be like for two men who are really straight to fuck?’ But it doesn’t fully engage with it because its answer is ‘if they’re really straight, why would they want to?’, which is how the film ends i.e. them not ‘doing’ it is just as much proof that they’re unpressured, unbiased, etc. as if they had; after all, they did consider it.
Much of the film’s humour comes from exploring questions such as: Who’s going to fuck whom? Will they be able to get an erection? What does it say about them if they do? etc. Thus the dynamic of desire and power relations, psychic and social, private and public, spontaneous or commodified, in relation to performing, feeling and/or watching, are humorously explored. But of course it is not so unusual for straight people, even of the same sex, to engage in sexual relations of great inequality, sometimes with a will to dominate, and for money. In fact, it’s a whole sub-genre of gay porn.
But if Humpday feels a bit of a cop-out at the end, I in no way found it offensive, which had been my great fear at the beginning. It’s an interesting, amiable, shaggy film and in its own way a great example of mumblecore cinema. It gives viewers a good idea of what ordinary people in an artistic community, at least insofar as any artistic community might be considered ordinary, around Seattle might be like (they don’t have the perfect teeth you see in American TV and movies, for example), how they talk (intelligently, sensitively, gently and with humour) and what they talk about (love, politics, sex, gender and homophobia) but one that promises depth it doesn’t quite deliver on. Visually, Hump Day is unremarkable but it’s an engaging dramatization of an idea that is greatly helped by the wit, affability and charm of its director and its performers.