Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007)



Watch out anonymous commenter, I'm about to get into "pretentious Women's Studies grad student" mode again



Maybe if the term "feminist horror film" hadn't been thrown around so many times in regard to Teeth, I could have enjoyed it more. I did a paper for a senior seminar about feminist avengers in 70s European/Japanese exploitation films, so I was expecting Teeth to be a modern update of what is a classic exploitation framework. Teenage Dawn, star of her high school's abstinence movement, realizes one day that she has teeth in her vagina. She doesn't actually find this out until over halfway through the movie; the first half is a really expanded set-up. We see Dawn preach, get a preachy boyfriend, we meet her slacker stepbrother and sick mother, and we finally get to the point where Dawn and boyfriend Tobey's hormones get the better of them, and they decide to have sex. Dawn decides, halfway through the act, that she wants to go back on it, but Tobey, totally against everything we've seen about his character so far, ignores her, hits her head on a rock, and rapes her. This does not go well for Tobey, and is the point at which the movie turns for me. The first half of the movie is almost Cronenberg-esque body horror; the audience knows what's wrong with Dawn far before she does, and we are all waiting tensely for her to discover it. After her encounter with Tobey, the film mostly depends on weak humor and shot after gratuitous shot of cut off penises. What would have really shocked me would have been some sort of revelation of Dawn's affliction, but that, of course, didn't happen.

And that's partly Lichtenstein's point, it seems. Near the beginning of the film, Dawn's biology class is allowed to study a diagram of an erect penis, but their textbooks have giant stickers over the vaginal diagrams. (In fact, the scene where Dawn soaks away the sticker and discovers the vagina for the first time is my favorite of the film.) We're not allowed to see, or even to talk about or acknowledge, the vagina in our culture, and here, Lichtenstein (half-heartedly) takes on one of our deepest fears, that of female sexual power and violence. But isn't it a little presumptous for Lichtenstein to write and direct a film about a girl's relationship with her vagina (would I, for instance, write a similar script about a penis)? And why does he have to fall back onto gross-out sight gags and weird humor? It's as if the second half of Teeth can't decide whether it wants to be a drama, a comedy, or a horror film, so it tries to do everything.

Not to say I didn't like the movie -- it's a great premise, and even when it falls short, it's way more thoughtful than most movies released in any given year. Plus, Jess Weixler as Dawn is a great breakthrough performance, and I really expect and look forward to seeing more from her in the future. But all these little cracks in the movie add up by the end, and when Dawn finally realizes that she can use her vagina as an avenging weapon, it made me more uneasy about its implications than want to cheer out loud.


6.5/10

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Comments on "Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein, 2007)"

 

Blogger Momel said ... (3:32 AM) : 

Hi! This film's a total riot! I also did a review on this, and if you're interested, maybe we can exchange links?

Hi, my name's Momel. I have this blog where I write horror movie reviews and a truck of gay things.

Cheers!

 

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