Friday, July 17, 2009

The Pen Is Mightier

In Anthony Lane's New Yorker pan of Bruno, he writes:

There really is a scene where, with a focus group watching clips of Brüno’s show (which he hopes will screen on American TV), he resorts to flaunting his member—or, for all I know, a schlong double—and twirling it at the camera, like the baton of a majorette. Then, presumably with a little help from C.G.I., it speaks. You could defend this as an update on the dog tattoo, inscribed on Harpo’s torso, that suddenly barks at Groucho in “Duck Soup,” but that was a wild visual pun—listen to the flesh of a mute!—whereas you can’t help feeling, as “Brüno” proceeds, that it is opting for the shock of the gross-out whenever inspiration wilts. To be fair, the two young women beside me howled at the talking penis (not a bad emblem of the average male, they would say), and, if I had tried to explain that the Marx Brothers—sowers of extreme sedition, like Baron Cohen—sustained an entire career of ignobility without displaying a single erection, they would not have believed me. Even so, there was something forced in the women’s laughter, as if they wanted to banish any suspicion of prudery, and to prove themselves far too cool for disgust.

1) I wonder if Lane knows the original gag the Marx Brothers planned was an outhouse door opening and being pulled shut from inside.

2) Why does he doubt the women sitting next to him would believe the Marx Brothers never exploited an erection in their movies? (Actually, they had a number of lines that could arguably apply to the penis, and quite a bit of innuendo otherwise. And we all know Mae West's act.)

3) The women "howled," but it was forced. How could he tell?

4) I found the talking penis weird, but not disgusting. In any case, the point is it's supposed to seem tasteless to the test audience within the film.


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