Walking to Inspiration!

Holmdel Park, New Jersey

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Today, I’m gonna share on where I get my ideas. I’ve written hundreds of gender swap short stories, novels, novellas and now scripts over the years. While they share a common element– someone gets gender swapped– they also are all different and unique in their own ways. Mostly, that does not result from a kind of logical process, but from an imaginative experience.

One of the greatest idea generating activities in my life involves walking. Aside from getting story ideas, I just like to walk. It’s healthy, and for me it’s a form of meditation. When I walk regularly, I just feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.

And, I get ideas. In the case of my current novel, Carrolwood, for example, the voice of the narrator came to me as I walked around my neighborhood after dinner one sweaty summer night. I sort of met this character, and I thought the voice was funny, and I began to think about what kind of story I could tell with that voice. The characters and setting all then just kind of emerged from my subconscious.

Another time I was walking around the beach down at Asbury Park, NJ, where the evil, 19th century clown Tillie still serves as town mascot, and I just started to think about what if Tillie were an evil spirit haunting the town? As I walked around, I took pictures of different locations, and the story ended up being built around that walk.

In addition to getting ideas for stories, I sometimes walk to inspiration while in the middle of a story. Sometimes when I am writing I get in a jam and can’t figure out what the character would or should do, I take a long walk, and the answer a lot of times just comes to me. Sometimes I see the scene in my head, and at those times I am very much inclined to believe in the idea of a muse that is feeding me ideas. It really does feel to me sometimes like I am seeing the story happen and just writing it down rather than “coming up with it.”

There are other ways ideas come to me. Sometimes I create a cover and then write a story to match. I have been inspired sometimes by other authors. For example, I once decided to write a TG story in the style of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Likewise, Forever Mine started out as “forced femme version of YOU (the book and Netflix series). There must be others I can’t think of right now– Oh, yeah– It Girl! What? Just started out as “TG Anime.”

But, I would say, without walking, I think I would write a lot less. There’s just something about walking along a shady, tree-lined path that allows my mind to open itself up and accept the gifts of inspiration!

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The Beauty: Gender Bender Fiction (spoilers).

The Beauty by [Aliya Whiteley]

Aliyah Whiteley’s The Beauty merges Invasion of the Mushroom People, literary fiction flourishes and Old-school Fictionmania for a gender bender experience best described as different. Based in a post-apocalyptic world in which all women have been wiped out my a mysterious plague, when the book starts off we are introduced to a small village composed entirely of men living in a world that has regressed technologically to a more primitive, hunter-gatherer state.

Since it is literary fiction, there must be some shimmering shrine to “the power of narrative” and so these men spend their nights gathered around a campfire as their village story teller regales them with what have become their tribal legends. Outside the town lie the graves of the last women from their group.

Enter the mushroom women. Mysteriously, mushroom creatures begin to emerge from the graves of the vanished women. They can’t speak, but they have female shapes and a kind of psychic empathy. Soon, the men began to couple with the mysterious creatures, who also take over all the manual labor in the village. The men grow weak, their arms smaller, and soon enough one of them discovers that he is pregnant.

This creates some anxiety among the men, and the story flows from there. The book certainly explores the idea of gender, and it is a different approach, the whole thing written in that literary mode meant to suggest the relating of an ancient myth. Check it out.

The Beauty

A survey of sexual fantasies

One third of all men and women surveyed by Justin Lehmiller for his book, Tell Me What You Want, reported fantasizing about trading bodies with a member of the opposite sex. I found the number surprisingly high. I had often imagined the number much lower. And yet, thinking about how many mainstream movies and television shows and books and comic books have explored the body swapping theme, I suppose I should have imagined it much higher.

Tragically, there wasn’t any more depth to this question, and it left me wondering– did they fantasize about trading bodies with specific people– a lover, a crush? A celebrity? Or was it more abstract?

Though I would have liked more depth, I still found the number interesting. It also made me wonder how many people may have still been too embarrassed to admit to this fantasy.

Some other numbers: 25% of all men and women reported fantasizing about cross-dressing. 59% of women and 26% of men who identified as “heterosexual” fantasized about having sex with a member of the same sex. Both men and women fantasized about changing their own gender role, or the gender role of their partner. Men reported fantasies of being feminized, and women reported fantasies of feminizing their male partners and taking the dominant role.

No women reported fantasizing about being masculinized by a partner, but this makes perfect sense to me in that the masculine fantasies they have involve them seizing power and demanding dominance, so it is something they take and do not wait to be given.

As an author and a human being fascinated with gender fluidity, I read the book primarily out of curiosity as well as looking for potential inspiration. I didn’t love the author’s speculation on why people have these fantasies– he suggest that they mostly rise out of insecurity, which may in some cases be true, but I think often people’s personalities are simply more diverse and multi-faceted than the binary constructs of gender allow, and we simply have a multiplicity of needs and interests. Sometimes people need to be dominant; sometimes they long for the pleasure of surrender. Sometimes people who are deeply in love not only long to be near the person they love, but to be the person they love.

Just some musings. I thought my readers might find the numbers interesting, as I did. If you would like to read the book, you can find it on Amazon.

Check out Lehmiller’s website

The Wild Boys: DVD Now Available!

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Buy the North American Blue Ray HERE!

Though I feel few share my fascination and admiration of The Wild Boys, I nevertheless decided to post up my review of the DVD, in which I will discuss in greater depth why I love this movie, as well as the Bonus Features.

To start with my love of the movie, let me express my admiration for the film making itself, which comes from what some, including the director, call the “Incoherents” movement.  Simply, this means the director does not concern himself with creating a false sense of unity and realism such as a viewer would find a mainstream Hollywood film.

So,  in TWB, sometimes the movie looks like an old-fashioned sea adventure, sometimes like a period drama, sometimes like dream.  In fact, to my mind, the result creates for the reader an experience much like a dream– with the  use of compression and symbolism, for example, inviting a series of sub-conscious reactions.   All of this works very well with the material, which explores mutability, metamorphosis, boys turning into girls, men into women.

As with the camera, the director does not ask the actors to play everything in a naturalistic way, which in any case he rejects as just another technique.  Sometimes the actors do seem to deliver their lines “California Style” but often, working with the camera, lines are infused with gravity, characters look off in dramatic ways or turn their heads for effect.  Within that context, the actors in this film, and particularly the young women who play the boys, I find all of their performances compelling.  The young women embody young masculinity, with the mannerisms and voices feeling right– not caricature  or camp, but like boys.  Similarly, they commit totally to surreal scenes, such as when a bout of boyish rough housing beneath falling feathers turns erotic just as they stand on the cusp of their new, female bodies.

So, innovative directing that matches the themes and subject matter, plus epic performances, and that’s a great film.  But, of course, I have a particular affinity for work that explores gender, and this one does it in ways that most such movies never have the nerve to explore.

Some of favorite moments resonate either because they blow past previous limitations, or else they celebrate what seem to me “classic” TG moments.  For example, there is a scene where one of the boys, still identifying totally as a boy, is startled and screams in a “feminine” manner, then discovers he now sounds like a girl when he talks.  The “voice change” had always been one of my favorite tropes, and so it was very fun to see this played out, with the boy clutching his throat, clearly embarrassed, and the others, not realizing they will share his fate, mocking him and calling him “girly.”

Another trope I enjoy the movie explores is that they boys develop breasts before they become biologically female, so we see a couple of them struggling with the shame of having breasts, the insecurity and ways it challenges their sense of identity.

Finally, the role-reversal and feminizing– or at least the forcing of the boys into feminine roles and situations, begins long before their physical change.  The Captain sexually harasses one of them at one point, while they also are forced to walk through a field full of “groping” plants.  And, of course, there is the phallic tree and its white juice they must drink to survive, as well as a suggestive fruit they are forced to eat.  So, while some may struggle waiting for the physical changes to occur, there is plenty to see in terms of gender before they even get to the biological morphing.  After the morphing, this film gets much more naked than most, so the reality of the new bodies is right there on the screen.

For viewers interested in seeing how characters adjust to their change, this film does not offer a lot.  After initially shocked and embarrassed reactions, including some morning for their lost phalluses, the characters seem to accept their new genders readily.  In addition, they seem largely unchanged, simply becomes female versions of themselves, with the same attitudes and values as before, something which I find interesting, but might not satisfy all viewers.

Bonus Features

Not much.  Of the deleted scenes, I did find two very worthwhile:  First, as he has first turned fully into a female, one of the boys is crying, staring at himself in the mirror.  A character known as The Doctor walks over and pulls his shirt open, so he now must confront the sight of his breasts.   In the second, a group of sailors comes to the island, and we see the boys– now all female–  moving in feminine, erotic poses, luring the men to their doom like sirens.

The others were well deleted.  In addition, the Behind the Scenes, while interesting, was a disappointment– and probably meant to be.  I must confess that here I had hoped for something more conventional, especially interviews with the actors about what it was like to play boys, for example, how they prepared, the voices…etc…  But it is a surreal short film shot on Super 8 with the actor murmuring poetically.  It works as a short film and ads some to the experience of the film– there is a scene of the actors, all in their boy forms, having fun with fake phalluses– but it doesn’t reveal as much as I had hoped.

 

Buy the DVD!

 

Wild Boys Now Available to Stream

The Wild Boys [Blu-ray]

Sadistic and cruel, the Wild Boys live only for art and pleasure.  Constantly in trouble for rebellious acts of defiance and disrespect, they finally take it too far when they commit a particularly heinous crime against a woman.  Enter The Captain, a cruel and lumbering Dutchmen known to be able to turn wild young men into docile persons.

As it turns out, The Captain’s method involves a great deal of abuse as well as exposing the boys to the juices of a mysterious, phallic fruit which ultimately transforms them into women.  The movie takes awhile to get to the actual transformation, which begin with the boys experiencing haunting, erotic dreams, progresses to them becoming infatuated with each other and then rapidly moves through their voices changing to girl’s voices, the blossoming of breasts and then ultimately the loss of their manhood.  There is nudity.

It’s a surreal, arty French film with a lot of Freudian imagery, but moves along well and uses the dream-like qualities of the production to great advantage. The boys are all played by young women, who are extremely good at portraying young men, and then equally fascinating in their female forms. The performances stand out as each is a skilled and professional actor, and the direction and cinematography are first rate as well.

There is a little strain of Femdom in the film as well, as the mysterious Severin, who runs the islands, explains that she has a plan to feminize the world as she feels it will be a more peaceful and harmonious place– a theory which the movie seems to refute.

It’s a worthy watch and one I will look over again.  My only regret is we never get to see them back in civilization living as women, but then again, maybe there will be a sequel?

You can find all the links on Amazon to stream or buy!

Stream IT! (NOW!)

Buy IT! (You Can Pre-Order.  Available 12/11)

The Wild Boys– Right out of Fictionmania!

(The director with the “Wild Boys” at premiere.)

A group of arrogant boys commits a terrible crime.  As punishment, they are sent to a mysterious island where they are transformed into girls.  It may sound like the plot of an old school TG story, but it is actually the plot of a new TG film from director Bertrand Mandico.

See Trailer

One of the excellent decisions the director made was to cast female actors to play the boys before, during and after transition.  The reviews I read have lauded these performers, and based on the trailer they did very well.  The film has the look and feel of a fever dream, the images taken directly from the seething cauldron of the unconscious.  There are screening dates set across the US for this summer and fall, and you can find them as well as links to buy tickets HERE

For non-US or if you live too far away from those locations, it is going to be streaming on a service called Mubi, and, of course, you can check European and French distributers for details.

I will report back when I have seen the film!

Forsooth, a TG Opera from the 1700s!

 

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(Photo: Discovery of Achilles on Skyros)

Achilles, the mighty warrior, pretending to be a girl and fighting off the manly advances of a king?  Finding himself pestered on all sides by people determined he should become a bride?  This and more all happens in John Gay’s 1700s opera, Achilles in Petticoats.

The story of Achilles and how his mother, the nymph Thetis, convinced him to live as a girl dates back to ancient times and has been the subject of paintings, sculptures, epic poems and operas in French, Spanish and, happily for me, English!  For a listing of the many depictions of this event, check out the Achilles on Skyros Wikipedia page.

The Opera itself, Achilles in Petticoats, can also be read online and features some scenes that, unfortunately, could have come right out of 21st century TG fiction.  I say unfortunately because it shows how little has changed in terms of women being sexually harassed.  Here, we see a man subjected to these kinds of sexist treatments, and that is what this opera explores, with songs such as this, a duet between Achilles and Lycomedes as the king is trying to pressure Achilles into sex, leading to a threatened rape.  This is the lead in and then the duet.  Notice how Lycomedes assumes Achilles is only pretending (s)he’s not interested:

 

Lycomedes:  Since your obstinate behavior then makes violence necessary–

Achilles: You make self-preservation, sir, a necessity–

Lycomedes:  I won’t be refused!

Air IX

 

Lycomedes:  Why this affectation?

Achilles: Why this provocation?

Lycomedes: Must I bear resistance still?

Achilles: Check your inclination.

Lycomedes: Dare you then deny me?

Achilles: You too far may try me

Lycomedes: Must I then against your will?

Achilles: Force will never ply me!

(Achilles pushes Lycomedes from him with great force and throws him down).

One of the more interesting twists in most versions of the story is that Achilles agrees to learn to walk and talk and live as a girl because he is in love with Deidamia, one of the king’s daughters, and the only way he can get close to her is if he pretends to be a girl.  So, it is full of gender role bending fun as it is his desire for a woman that makes Achilles willing to live as one.  There is also an interesting aspect in most version in that is is  his mother, Thetis, trains him to “graceful gait and modest tongue.”  It’s an interesting dynamic, a mother being the one who takes her manly and macho son and feminizes him– all to protect him from the early death it has been foretold awaits him at Troy.  But could there be more to it?  Could there be some other factors driving Thetis to this unusual plan?

I feel like a modern re-telling exploring all these relationships and issues is past due, and so I am starting to write one now, and I am having great fun in exploring these decisions by Thetis for her son, and Achilles for himself.  Of course, in my version, there will be a physical change!

 

 

Gender Bender streaming on Netflix

Check out my gender bending ebooks!

And especially My Epic Fantasy Series!

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In the future, you are not your body; you are data.  And, in this future world, corporations and governments can strip your data from one human body (called a sleeve) and place it in another, or even just store you indefinitely as information either with consciousness or within a simulated world.  This is the SCIFI basis of Altered Carbon, the name of both a book and a TV series.

Obviously, this opens up a lot of possibilities for gender swapping and exploration.  In the book and in the movie, it is clear that the main character, who identifies as male and embodies the tough guy investigator type (Deckard in Blade Runner, Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane novels…etc…) has spent some time in female sleeves.  He mentions it in the book, and in the show when people scan his ID, all his former identities come up, and several are clearly female.

Unfortunately, neither the book nor the TV show delve too deeply into the gender games.  For those who enjoy the much more rare female to male swap, there is a fun sequence where a main character, Kristin Ortega, brings her grandmother back in the body of a hulking, tattooed and very male goon in order to celebrate El dia de los Muertos.  The actor does not over play the feminine mannerisms, and is actually very good at embodying a grandmother enjoying spending a holiday with her family.

All of the characters we meet seem to identify as straight male or female regardless of their sleeve’s sex, and there is little sense that the body swapping has led to any major changes in society in terms of how people perceive male and female.  It largely reflects our mainstream world with a SCIFI filter.  However, there is some interesting action, and the little taste of gender bending that’s there was enough to fire up my imagination.

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Another Netflix series based on a novel that gets into some gender bending is Kiss Me First.  

Get Book Here

Kiss Me First follows a young woman who spends a great deal of her time in a virtual reality game, using the name Shadowfax.  This show delves into identity more intentionally than AC, and without giving away too much I will reveal that there is a character in the virtual world who is not what she seems!  We also have characters logging in as other people, and lots of questions about what’s real and what isn’t.  I would love to see more gender stuff in future installments, but again what is there and what is potentially there got my imagination working.

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Lastly, a more straight up gender bending French film called I am Not an Easy Man.  In this film, like Second Nature, a chauvinistic male finds himself transported to a mirror universe where gender roles are revered.  Women are the aggressors, and they hold most of the money and the power.  Men are expected to do their best to look attractive for the women and are viewed as the lesser sex.  It’s a fun and interesting take on the usual story as the man finds himself struggling to deal with being objectified …etc… and there is a little body image stuff as at one point he contemplated putting inserts into his underwear to give himself a bigger butt.  The acting is all good, and the film does make some nice observations about gender and politics.

Check them out and let me know what you think!  I get lonely out here in my virtual world and would love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading!  Don’t forget to brush your teeth!

The Assignment (Spoilers)

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First of all, let me say this movie is not so bad.  I have seen the word terrible attached to it many times, but to me I would rate it average as a film in the revenge/payback film noir genre.

The main characters is betrayed.  He then systematically hunts down his betrayer.   Most of that hunting down involves him walking around shooting people without ever being remotely threatened himself or even challenged.  He walks in and shoots.  People die.  There is tension and no struggle.  He shoots.  They die.

There is very little here for fans of TG fiction, especially if you are interested in media that really explores gender identity.  The character is given a forced sex-change, and after initially freaking out when he wakes up to his new face and female body, he just goes right back to acting and dressing the same way as he always did.  He doesn’t seem to really even care all that much, but just throws on some guy clothes and goes back to being a thug.

A few times, he is spoken to in demeaning ways based on his new sex– someone calling him babe or sweetheart, but it seems to have no impact on him at all.   He just shrugs it off like it didn’t happen.  Likewise when he, for no clear reason, decides to dress up in a sexy women’s clothing and heels, even donning a blonde wig.  He acts just like he’d put on his usual leather jacket and hoodie, and doesn’t seem to care at all about how he looks or what it might mean in terms of how he is treated.

In addition, the movie features a framing story where Sigourney Weaver, the doctor who performed the surgery, is being interviewed by Tony Shaloub.  This is mostly just an exercise in lazy writing, with lots of opportunities for exposition dumps and a pointless cat and mouse game where nothing really seems to be at stake.

The motivation for the sex-change is thin and unconvincing, and in the end the biggest problem for me is that I didn’t care about any of the characters.   If anything, the villain Honest John  was more charismatic and likeable than the hero, Frank Kitchen, so I didn’t much care whether he got his or not.

Still and all, I would say it’s an okay movie, the kind you watch on a rainy day.   It’s okay, but just okay.

The Skin I Live In: Off The Mark (Spoilers!)

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I should love The Skin I Live In, the Pedro Almodovar film featuring forced femme and role-reversal themes right off the pages of Fictionmania.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and enjoying stories like it, often somewhat poorly written stories just like it, which I enjoyed anyway due to the themes, and when I first heard about it I became as excited as I’ve been about anything since the first Lord of the Rings.

Here was a film by one of the great directors of my lifetime, a director who had explored gender themes throughout his career, and he was making a film out of the French noir classic Mygale. How could I not love it?

And then it came out. And I didn’t.

The movie is full of great performances, and is very well-constructed, but in the end it just didn’t quite do it for me, and I recently watched the DVD to try and figure out why.

Now, the actress chosen to play the lead character after his forced sex-change is exquisite.  Here are the before and after shots:

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In addition to have a very feminine beauty, and it has always been interesting to me to think about what would happen to a straight male’s mind if he found himself pretty, but the actress also has a very small, feminine voice, very much the “little girl voice” often assigned to characters in forced femme stories, so he finds himself not only with a very pretty face, but an extremely feminine voice.

The character, renamed Vera after the sex change, is subtly placed in the context of a storybook damsel in distress, a beautiful female who is trapped in the surgeon (mad wizard’s) tower and subjected constantly to his watchful gaze via cameras in his room.  This connection is driven home as we see the character sitting in poses which are then echoed in classic paintings of female nudes that hand in the surgeon’s palatial home.

Vera even starts to dress and act feminine, wearing flowery dresses and putting on make-up as he seduces and then becomes the lover of the man who turned him into a woman:

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Now, one of the first disappointments for me comes with how much is not in the movie in terms of seeing the character struggle with the change.   I have always found the struggle the most interesting part of these stories– how the guy deals with his new body and face, what pressures and incidents could lead him to accept a new life and even go so far as to offer his woman’s body to the man who gave him a vagina against his will.  But, in this film, we don’t see much of that struggle.

For much of his physical transformation, Vera just seems in a daze, staring out into space with a stunned, glassy face.  We see him after getting breast implants, looking stupefied but not reacting or emoting.  The doctor comes to him at one point and informs him that he will need to start inserting dildos into his new slit, and shows him a collection of dildos that get bigger and thicker, informing him he will need to progress until his new slit can take the biggest, deepest one.   The scene is disturbing to watch, and would no doubt be a horrifying revelation for a straight man, but again Vera just sits staring blankly.

The idea that Vera is in shock, suffering PTSD seems very plausible given what he is going through and has been through along the way, including being kidnapped, starved, kept chained up like an animal and then emasculated, and I do not question the likely reality of such a reaction, but it doesn’t work for me in terms of a dramatic choice.

Similarly, when the doctor sends down a bunch of women’s cosmetics and a book on how to put on make-up, Vera sends them back. He seems perturbed, and we see his efforts to resist being feminized in mind as well as body here, and in a scene when he shreds a bunch of flowery dresses that have been left for him to wear, but otherwise we don’t see much more in terms of the doctor’s efforts or Vera’s resistance.  For much of the movie we see him sitting around reading (women’s fiction), watching television or else passively posing when he knows the doctor is watching him.

Vera breaks out of his feminine passivity, finally, when he decides to use his curvy new body to try and gain his freedom.  It is delicious and fascinating to see when Vera first tries to seduce the surgeon.  Vera becomes the aggressor, pushing his body against the doctor, following him when he tries to retreat, and much like a man insisting “I know that you want me.”  The doctor, we have seen, has been identifying with his creation, even mirroring Vera’s feminine poses:

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But, and here is another artistic choice that disappoints:  Almodovar is afflicted with the contemporary belief that being artsy and literature means being vague, suggestive and creating works which are indeterminate.  The doctor’s mirroring is never really explored, much like Vera’s own move to seek to seduce him.  We are also kept in the dark about Vera’s motives.  Is he suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?  Has he fallen in love with his captor?   Or, is he now forced to use his feminine whiles and pretty face to get what he wants?

And what does he want?  Does he want his freedom?  Or, has he resigned himself to a woman’s life, and does he truly wish to live with the doctor as the other man’s wife? Does he want revenge?

And why put him in that ugly flesh-toned body sock, which may be the single least appealing item of clothing I have ever seen in any movie, including Joe Dirt?

I am all for sophisticated storytelling, but I would prefer to be even more confused, for the psychological complexity to be more deeply and fully explored.  It is very possible that both Vera and the doctor are conflicted, that they don’t know what they want, which is fine, but it is all glossed over, hinted at, and what’s left is a study in characters who are often cold, cruel and detached, who we are the viewers never get to really know and I, at least, didn’t ultimately care about all that much, which reduced the impact of even the moving final scene where Vera, now a woman, goes back and sees his mother for the first time.

Lastly, the story, like too much modern art film, hides safely in a world of grey.   Unlike much forced femme literature, the character of Vincent/Vera may or may not have had it coming.  He had sex with the doctor’s daughter, but it seemed consensual, and she only panicked at the last minute and tried to stop him after he was already in the act.   Often, forced femme stories deal with people who we as readers feel deserve what they get, and in Mygale the character is much less blurry in terms of his immorality.

In The Skin I Live In, the character may be innocent. Did he rape her?   He is portrayed as a basically decent kid before the incident, and by making him possibly innocent, the story lacks the kind of he deserves it quality that for me makes forced femme stories palatable.

To watch someone who probably didn’t have it coming being tortured and cut apart made me feel a little sick.   Now, Almodovar may have been going for that, I can’t say.

But what I can say is that I didn’t love the experience.

Rent or Buy It On Amazon