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Michel Houellebecq and his recipe for Eroticism

Yesterday I watched Michel Houellebecq’s short film La Rivière, which was produced by Canal+ presumably to, ahem!, fill some slot in their programming schedule in 2001.  What slot they required to be filled I can only imagine, because this is essentially a soft core lesbian porno.

Now, I have previously read Will Self’s comment that Houellebecq is “just a little guy who can’t get enough sex” – but I dismiss this because Houellebecq’s height has nothing to do with anything (unless, of course, he is experiencing problems in reaching for some “top shelf” material) and, anyway, Will Self is, in my opinion: (i) just a guy who looks like a feeble-minded monster, (ii) a verbose and tedious writer.  So why take any notice of his opinionated opinion?

But when considering what I thought Houellebecq might have done with a short film entitled “Eroticism seen by Michel Houellebecq”, I had thought it might be more interesting than it was.  I get the lesbian thing – it’s a given that for some reason or other men seem to be interested in the idea of women together – but why, I wonder, does Houellebecq’s idea of eroticism include various tedious (and essentially pointless) conversations between two of the women?

Perhaps he didn’t think that a film that consisted solely of lesbian sex would be “erotic” enough, but I’m not sure why conversations like this would even feature in someone’s idea of eroticism:

Conversation One

Woman 1:  Your house is ancient

Woman 2:  12th Century – it was a Cathari fortress.  There’s been a lot of fighting for this place.  In the 20th Century it became an inn

Conversation Two

Woman 1:  When did the first men appear?

Woman 2:  400,000 years ago – a little higher in the valley

Woman 1:  The memorial isn’t mentioned…

Woman 2:  How old is your map?

Woman 1:  10 years old

Woman 2:  Things have changed…

Conversation Three

Woman 1:  When did you plant them?

Woman 2:  Seven years ago.  They died suddenly

Woman 1:  You don’t know what they died of?

Woman 2:  No, we didn’t try to find out.  We just buried them.  Naked, in the ground, with nothing.  Above each body we have planted a tree

Woman 1:  Are you sure they were the last ones?

Woman 2:  They told us.  They knew they were the last ones.  They knew they were going to die

Okay, so perhaps men do not feature in Houellebecq’s idea of eroticism, so there’s no German guy turning up to fix the photocopier they have installed in their 12th Century Cathari fortress – but is there really any need to make excuses for the lesbian sex?  The boring conversations above explain that there are no men, so this is presumably the reason why these 7 women are now turning to each other to fulfil their sexual needs; they’re lesbians by necessity.  But why they even have to go into the history of the Cathari fortress, I don’t know.

The women don’t bother to have a conversation about why they walk around naked except for a bandeau they wear around their midriff; they don’t explain this at all.  So here’s my imagined conversation about the bandeau:

Woman 1:  Why do we have to wear the bandeau?

Woman 2:  If we didn’t we would be totally naked and that wouldn’t be quite so exciting – I won’t have seen you totally naked until you remove your bandeau

Woman 1:  I see…

Woman 2:  Plus, if we didn’t wear a bandeau we would get chafe marks from our rucksacks

Woman 1:  Now you put it that way, I understand

I shouldn’t knock La Rivière totally – the cinematography is good; the film is well-made.  It’s just that it’s too half-assed to be a porn film and it’s also too boring – I don’t know much about lesbian sex but they really didn’t seem to be making much of an effort.  And on the other hand it’s not interesting enough as a narrative for it to be considered an “art-house” film that just happens to contain some lesbian sex.  But I guess everyone’s idea of what is erotic is personal and different.

In case you’re interested, I’ve made one of my little diagrams summarising Houellebecq’s “eroticism”:

Michel Houellebecq recipe for eroticism diagram


About tinynoggin

I love films (anything from exploitation stuff to stylish Eastern European cinema, but I'm not really into blockbusters and modern Hollywood), music (Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, Michel Polnareff, Left Banke, Francoise Hardy, The Seeds, Love, The Zombies, etc) and books (Kurt Vonnegut, Julian Maclaren-Ross, Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Hamilton, Alan Sillitoe, and more). I take photographs with my Lomography Diana F plus or my Olympus Trip and like making stuff in my spare time.

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