The reviews of the first version -- two parts, four hours, less explicit, to be followed by a longer, uncut version -- of Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" are rolling out this week. So far, the movie has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Still, if von Trier means to challenge the depiction of sex onscreen, the truth of the matter is that people can find far more explicit imagery with a simple Google search. And when it comes to the potency of ideas, his script doesn’t uncover anything that wasn’t previously addressed by Anais Nin, Henry Miller or the Marquis de Sade. In fact, given the film’s overall tendency to describe rather than depict specific memories — the exception being the 'Silent Duck' chapter, in which Jamie Bell disciplines and degrades Joe oncamera — 'Nymphomaniac' might actually have been more effective as a novel."
"There are flashes of hard-core action during the initial two hours -- the odd angle here and there, some insert shots -- but mostly the sex scenes look like pretty standard simulation. Volume two gets down in ways the first half doesn't, although anything resembling real sensuality remains MIA. Among the more vivid and/or extreme moments are Joe (now played by Gainsbourg) stuffing as many long spoons as she can up her vagina in a fancy restaurant, then letting them noisily drop to the floor as she walks out, to the astonishment of the waiter (Udo Kier, onscreen for less than a minute); a vividly shot three-way with two African men she's spied outside her apartment window; and in the film's most intense and protracted interlude, her venture into pain as pleasure at the hands of a professional S&M practitioner, played with withering coldness by Jamie Bell in scenes that are startlingly raw (as is, invariably, Joe's backside) and disturbingly transformative."
"How was it for you? How was it for me? Nymphomaniac doesn't care. It goes about things its own way, in the service of its own pleasure, manhandling the audience from one position to the next, occasionally snickering at its own private jokes and daring us to decipher them. Personally I found this a bruising, gruelling experience and yet the film has stayed with me. It is so laden with highly charged set pieces, so dappled with haunting ideas and bold flights of fancy that it finally achieves a kind of slow-burn transcendence. Nymphomaniac annoys me, repels me, and I think I might love it. It's an abusive relationship; I need to see it again."
"There’s plenty of flesh (much of it belonging to porn doubles), although the film is rarely, if ever, what most people would call erotic or pornographic. It’s neither deeply serious nor totally insincere; hovering somewhere between the two, it creates its own mesmerising power by floating above specifics of time and place, undercutting its main focus with bizarre digressions (fly-fishing, maths, religion), a ragbag of acting styles and archive footage. There’s humour too, not least when the wife (Uma Thurman) of one of Joe’s lovers turns up at Joe’s flat with her three young kids in tow. Enormous penises flash across the screen; tragedy sits next to comedy. It feels like an X-rated farce, a circus of genitalia."
"Because there is so much going on in these two films it is almost impossible to take a broad view of Nymphomaniac. Yes it is provocative, funny, smart, wry and challenging (though never sexy) but it is also a remarkable project brimming with bold and often thoughtful performances. It is Lars von Trier at his best and his most frustrating at the same time (he even pops in a rather self-reverential scene of a small child tottering on a snowy balcony that take audiences back to his Antichrist opening), but is always watchable and intriguing. Longer cuts of the films are due…which should be interesting to say the least."