This week Will Leschber takes a look into Venus in Fur and a look back at the film Kinsey.
Look at the poster. Look at the Tag line. Look on the surface and what do you see? Sex! Sex? Sex. “Wanna talk about sex?” Should I take my clothes off now? Where do you fall on the scale? When was the first time you…you get the idea. As the say, sex sells. And for A.C.T.’s Venus in Fur and Bill Condon’s 2004 film Kinsey, sex is a key component of what gets you in the door.
In brief, Venus in Fur gives us an hour and a half glimpse into the window of an audition. A frustrated writer/director is looking for his perfect leading lady to place in his adaptation of the sexually controversial classic novel of the play’s title. The play seductively spirals on from there. Kinsey, a bio-pic of none other than Alfred Kinsey, stars Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. The film chronicles the life of this pioneer of sexology from childhood to declining age. The crux of the film, and Alfred Kinsey’s legacy, rests on his academic exploration of the range of human sexuality.
Fortunately, what keeps you in your seat past the reveal of leather lingerie or the disclosure of sexual history details is a layered creation that is interested in much more than simply sex appeal. It seems to me a cake. Initially what is seen is a surface coat of frosting. The Venus advertising is splashed in red moisture and the promise of skin. Kinsey’s poster has less flair but enlarges keywords: pleasure, sexuality and size. Sounds delicious. Ok, I’m interested. What else you got?
The layers of cake taste something like this:
Venus in Fur:
male/female gender roles,
theatre archetypes and personality types,
the sources of inspiration,
the amount created work reflects and defines it’s creator
…plus an eclectic and forceful performance by Brenda Meaney.
Father son dynamics,
male/female gender roles and their implications on social acceptance,
actual sexual practice versus perceived socially acceptable sexuality,
Kinsey Scale/scale of sexuality,
intricacies of long term relationships,
academic reputation escalation and disintegration,
…plus two excellent lead performances. Laura Linney was Oscar nominated for her role and Liam Neeson was nominated for a Golden Globe.
This may read more like a thematic ingredient list than distinct cake layers but the point is, all of these call out for discussion when viewing Venus and watching Kinsey. For me that makes an artistic creation worth watching.
And on a side note, this is first non-touring production at A.C.T. that I really enjoyed in a long while. I’d love to get into more conversations about what Venus ultimately added up to. Did it say something instead of just present discussion points?
As for Kinsey, it’s worth a look for its curious location in Liam Neeson’s filmography. Post-Schindler’s List / pre-Taken, his performance reminds us of the caliber of Neeson’s ability before becoming the leading geri-action hero of today. Grantland.com recently named Liam Neeson as the current holder of the action hero championship belt (http://grantland.com/features/the-action-hero-championship-belt/#fn-13) and after Taken and The Grey, I agree. Yet looking back to another era of his career is refreshing. Take a look.
Venus in Fur runs until April 13th.
Kinsey is available for rent on Google play, You Tube and iTunes.
Condon, Bill, dir. Kinsey. Perf. Neeson Liam. Fox Searchlight, 2004. Film.
Kinsey Theatrical Poster. 2004. Photograph. IMDB.comWeb. 1 Apr 2014.
Simmons, Bill. “The Action Hero Championship Belt.” Grantland.com. 27 Mar 2014: n. page. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
Venus in Fur Program Cover Image. 2014. Photograph. ACT-sf.org, San Francisco. Web. 1 Apr 2014.