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It’s funny — and quite telling — that now that von Trier has made an unmistakably Sadean film, the majority of critical attention is focused not on the sadistic but on the allegedly pornographic aspects of the film. Though there is plenty of sex in Nymphomaniac — just not as much in the pared down version distributed here in the US as many expected or hoped for — as in the more transgressive works of Sade, the site of the film’s eroticism is in its discourse, in the telling of the story and not intermittent montages of T&A. Thus, from Juliette: “You have killed me with voluptuousness. Let’s sit down and discuss.” If he could hear the film press titter, surely the Marquis would be rolling (with mordant laughter) in his grave. And given that he was given a full Christian burial against his express wishes, that’s probably not all he’d be doing.

Lowry Pressly on the influence of the Marquis de Sade’s oeuvre on Lars von Trier’s latest, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1.

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