The Elegant Spanking
The Elegant Spanking (1995)
B&W, subtitled, 30 minutes
Directed by: Maria Beatty & Rosemary Delain
Produced & Edited by: Maria Beatty & Rosemary Delain
Cinematography: Alice Sheldon
Story Concept: Rosemary Delain, Richard Rodgers & Maria Beatty
Starring: Maria Beatty & Rosemary Delain
Music by: John Zorn
“The Elegant Spanking” from Bleu Productions by Maria Beatty is shot in black-and-white, giving it the nostalgic characteristic of a vintage film. Unlike “The Black Glove” (my review), however, which employed the camera-work of Ethan Mass to resemble a film noir, this film was shot by Alice Sheldon who instilled upon it the washed-out, ephemeral quality of a silent film. The contrast of these two differing styles of cinematography give each film a distinctive appearance-one submerged in shadow that manifests a sense of danger, the other infused with light that whispers and sighs-each functioning in unusual, yet dissimilar ways.
Beatty is cast as a submissive maid, opposite Rosemary Delain, the cruel and unyielding Mistress who becomes cross with her for carelessly smudging lipstick upon her white shoes while administering a tongue bath. The punishment comes, as one might expect from the title, in the form of a spanking. This film also encompasses various other fetishes including golden showers, mutual masturbation, as well as high heel and foot worship.
Like The Black Glove, the soundtrack is composed by John Zorn, a sophisticated, classical piece employing harp, cello and viola, that subtly compliments the choreography of the imagery. Incidentally, Delain, who co-directed the film with Beatty, chose a different style of music in her release of the film. Unfortunately, because the film is co-directed, it is not as successful as The Black Glove, no doubt to Delain’s influence on the piece which contradicts Beatty’s understated style. Beatty in fact admits that there was conflict over their “creative collaborations together.” “It was either her way or no way,” she says, in an interview with Katrien Jacobs.
Another thing that doesn’t work in the film is the use of subtitles. Although an intriguing idea that might have been successful and complimented the silent film style if it had chose to utilize poetic juxtapositions that contrasted the imagery, it weakens the imagery by repeating in words what is happening on screen, and by jerking the spectator out of a pleasurable voyeuristic experience.
Like, “The Black Glove”, this film utilises haptic imagery, but in a very different way, by means of unsaturated, close-up imagery, numerous lapse-dissolves and montage sequences. These, like the use of deep shadows, create an elusive image that encourages active viewing and makes the film spectator work at what they are seeing. This technique is especially evident during the “dream-sequence” where various images are overlapped adding to the transitory quality.
Both films have a genuine feel, partly because the characters are real people playing roles that they embrace in actual life, and also because of the impromptu approach to some of the scenes. Beatty notes that the golden shower sequence was unscripted, transpiring “naturally and spontaneously during the filming…” To Beatty this scene “represents a ritualistic and romantic form of intimate lovemaking [that engages the] vows of love and obedience.” It is entirely spellbinding to watch, drawing one in even as it repulses, as Beatty eagerly laps urine from Delain’s pussy. It demonstrates her complete submission and adoration for her Mistress, leaving her utterly vulnerable, a scene so raw with intimacy that its documentary aspect makes it feel almost too private to be revealed on film.
Although, Beatty has had no professional training in the art of film, she is a master at manipulating its structure. For her, the film process is both intuitive and organic, using “the same personal and direct intimacy [with] which a writer writes and a painter paints.” Both “The Black Glove” and “The Elegant Spanking” use similar organizational motifs-seducing and tormenting the spectator with a gradual strip-tease that eventually escalates into stunning and provoking private encounters that mystify the senses. These works drip with a deviant decadence as Beatty “live(s) out the darker side of [her] sexuality on film-exploring the thin line between fantasy and reality, art and erotica.”
The Black Glove and The Elegant Spanking can be purchased together from Amazon.Com.