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January 26, 2022

Lust Life Love

lust life.jpg

Benjamin Feuer & Stephanie Sellars - 2021
1091 Pictures

As co-director, writer and protagonist, this is primarily Stephanie Sellars' film. Some of the material is autobiographical. Essentially we follow a still youngish woman, Veronica, who is known for her blog detailing her polyamorous relationships. The main theme, of balancing relationships, boundaries, and jealousies is not new. What is interesting is that a film that could have been made as a glossy work of exploitation does not try to be erotic, presenting the sex with a cool detachment. The actors are not overly photogenic and for the most part would not be noticed if passed on a sidewalk. Most of the film takes place in Brooklyn where the cheap apartments are a bit bigger than what passes for a studio apartment in Manhattan.

For myself, dealing with a monogamous relationship is difficult enough. In addition to her blogging, Veronica is a regular attendee of parties of people in various polyamorous relationships, with its temporary couplings and groupings. Veronica's girlfriend chafes against continuing an open relationship, culminating in a public break-up in a bar. At a party, Veronica meets Daniel, a married real estate broker who is new to the scene. Veronica leads Daniel into exploring multiple relationships, with their own relationship unclearly defined causing problems for both of them. The film is ultimately open ended with Veronica finding polygamy as questionable as monogamy.

What is also unusual in this film is that while how one expresses love is the big question, except for one scene, there is no questioning of who one loves. Race is never a factor in any of the relationships. It is only brought up casually when Daniel mentions his Korean heritage. Gender and gender identity become issues when Veronica's former girlfriend complains about Veronica's bisexuality, and Daniel expresses discomfort in getting a blow job from another man. The party scene is presented as an ideal space of equals, multi-racial, multi-sexual, with one young woman in a wheel chair spotted briefly in the background.

The sense of detachment in the sex scenes pervades most of the film. Sellars is primarily observational about her fictionalized self and the people in her life. What may be the truest moment is an early scene with Victoria and a fan of her blog. A rather physically imposing man recognizes Veronica while she's walking in her neighborhood. The scene is revealing of how being an internet celebrity unintentionally creates a sense of intimacy and even a sense of ownership on the part of the consumer. That scene is a reminder that even with those whose lives may be judged transgressive, there are still always boundaries.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 26, 2022 03:22 PM