Around a decade ago, Redemption Films’ main man Nigel Wingrove came up with the concept for The Satanic Sluts, a sort of aggressive and social Darwinist answer to Suicide Girls, and with typical enthusiasm, had soon signed up a bunch of young ‘alternative’ types and for a surprisingly extensive series of projects – a website, glossy photo book, videos, nightclubs and a regular feature in Metal Hammer magazine. The project got a mainstream PR boost when it turned out that Slut Voluptua was Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter and the woman at the centre of what would become known as Sachsgate (if for some reason this is unfamiliar to you, look it up online and remind yourself of what a cunt Russell Brand actually is).
While never quite dead, the whole SS project did seem to fizzle out a few years ago, but a good idea remains a good idea, and now Wingrove is resurrecting the project with a vengeance, having a whole series of DVD releases lined up (though I’d be more excited to hear that he was reviving the legendary Black Mass events). First amongst these to come my way is A Girl, and this is interesting for various reasons. Firstly, it’s not directed by Wingrove (he’s the producer), and I was surprised to see him letting go artistically of what seemed to be a very personal passion. Secondly, and more significantly perhaps, the film is far removed from the sort of gothed up soft porn glamour that you might have expected. Instead, it’s a black and white, bleak experimental film that is closer in spirit to some of the underground movies of the early 1990s that in turn were inspired by the Cinema of Transgression movement led by Richard Kern and Nick Zedd. While only people of a certain age now remember the likes of Richard Baylor and Damon Barr and Marie-Anne Ferral, these British-based filmmakers were creating some fascinating movies that combined the underground style, avant-garde, fetishistic sexuality and horror. I don’t know if director Simon Black ever saw any of their work, or even knows who they are, but A Girl is very much in that tradition. So this is a brave step for Wingrove – viewers expecting to see naked goth chicks gyrating about are going to be very disappointed in this, frankly, and while Hannah Short spends a fair amount of the film naked, I’m not sure sexual arousal is either the intention or the result.
The film immediately lays its cards on the table with a lengthy opening scene where Pearl, played by Short, visits a launderette. And stays there, watching an item of clothing spin in the washing machine, for the best part of ten minutes. This is clearly not how you start an erotic film (you generally don’t shot sex films in black and white either). What’s fascinating is that this sequence isn’t dull – at least not in any conventional sense. It’s hypnotically uneventful, and I imagine that was the intention – to not only convey the utter tedium of the main character’s life but also to force the viewer into another state of mind, where expectations of incident are abandoned.
Pearl lives alone and is suffering from financial issues (one of the few dialogue scenes sees her on the phone to her bank). She’s given up her work – she was an artist of some sort – and is causing concern for a friend and neighbour (the film’s only other character, played by mark Blackwell), who tries to reason with her in a scene that is at once woodenly acted and painfully realistic. He’d probably be even more worried if he knew that she was hearing voices quoting Depeche Mode coming out of the radio. Her own personal Jesus sends the demure Pearl into a state of sexual frenzy and self-loathing, which sees her doing unsavoury things with a raw chicken, writing ‘slut’ across her face and generally becoming more and more depraved. While I guess it is possible to see this as ‘erotic’, in truth it’s too deliberately disturbing and weird to be sexy. You’d have to be pretty dedicated to get off on this.
Short is certainly impressive and fearless here – not just naked but fully exposed and unglamorous. And the film is never less than interesting. But at 75 minutes, it feels a bit too long for what content there is – most of those earlier films were shorts, with good reason. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to admire here in terms of ambition, and I’m impressed that Wingrove is willing to push the boat out with challenging stuff like this. I hope he is able to make this resurrection of the Satanic Sluts into a continuing project and that he carries on releasing curios like this. Though the odd DVD of naked goth girls gyrating might not go amiss either…
Also on the disc is an earlier film by Black and featuring Short – Tar Rot is 11 minutes long, which perhaps seems a more suitable length for such things, and is more playful and so more sexy, as a scantily clad Short explores a curiosity shop and sucks on a dildo (it’s this film that provides the ‘nasty’ cover image option on the double-sided sleeve).