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Rated X

      A female friend thought she had me pegged. "Your reviews are so predictable," she lectured me. "You like any film that's left-wing and has pretty young women." Well, many left-wing pictures leave me cold. But yes, this critic's libido can definitely be at play when watching a movie, and when I'm writing about it. But before you're grossed out, delicate reader: I'm not the only reviewer aroused in the dark, and it's not just drippy straight guys, and it's not only guys. Recall Pauline ("I Lost It At the Movies," Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") Kael, who, decades ago, wrote openly and brazenly about Hollywood hotties, Paul Newman and Warren Beatty. Hugs for Pauline!

      Critics are given license to unzip in The X List: The National Society of Film Critics' Guide to Movies That Turn Us On (Da Capo Press). I promise you a genuinely raunchy anthology, finely edited by Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News. In fact, Bernard's own essays are a splendid place to start, her acknowledging the allure of all-time sex kitten Ann-Margaret in Bye-Bye Birdie (1963), and also championing the conniving nympho first Mrs.Manderlay, the unseen titular Rebecca of the Hitchcock 1940 classic, over the timid-girl, second wife (Joan Fontaine).

      Boston critics are nicely represented in the book, beginning with the Boston Herald's James Verniere's wonderful chronicle of his Catholic-lad infatuation with cult actress Barbara Steele in Black Sunday (1960), "a gothic-erotic fever dream, a kinky Russo-Italian mix of violence, cleavage, bondage, and vampirism." The Phoenix's Peter Keough is another child-of-the-Vatican gone awry, lusting after Ingrid Bergman's frocked Sister in The Belles of St.Mary's (1945). Our own Chris Fujiwara sets his scopophiliac peepers on the unknown Susan Denberg of Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), in which "she wears a startling low-cut blouse and adopts a bland pose of infinite sexual availability."

      The Globe's Ty Burr thinks back amusingly to his post-college employ as a "Cinemax sex-movie content appraiser," where he rubbed against the joys of Young Lady Chatterly (1977). Me? I'm in there with the pretty young girls, mooning about pubescent Drew Barrymore and sharing dinner with porn actress and world gang-bang champ, Annabel Chong.

      Alex Karpovsky's The Hole Story had an "in-progress" screening at last Spring's Independent Film Festival of Boston, but it was worth a drive to the recent 2005 Northampton Film Festival in Western Mass to see, at last, the completed version. Make note of an important, talented, and original filmmaker in our midst. After weary years as a Boston-based editor of corporate and karaoke videos, Karpovsky achieved this feature, and what a feature. It's a kind of "mockumentary," but so much more, as there's little "mock" in this fictionalized non-fiction work, and lots of drive and spiritual-existential ambition.

      Karpovsky plays the center figure of angst, a satirized version of his own lost self. He's a desperate video director pitching a silly cable TV series. Paid for from his own pocket, the project takes him to frozen-tundra Minnesota: an obsessive Albert Brooks movie in Fargo land. The Hole Story can be hilariously funny, but it also dares ask, and seriously, why the hell are we on this earth?   Karpovsky's movie needs a distributor. It needs to be shown theatrically in Karpovsky's own Hub.

(Boston Phoenix, December 2005)


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