It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely candidate for an elite French film journal than the new release Lumberjack Gang Bang, a frank exploration of the man-plowing and mouth-jamming that can be expected when lumberjacks are stranded in the wood due to a bridge collapse and can’t get their weekend quota of — as the screenplay drolly puts it — “pussy banging.”
Even the film’s tagline is simple and direct, warranting, it would seem, no further analysis: In the forest only lumberjacks can hear you beg for more!
Thus we were electrified when we picked up the December issue of Cahiers du Cahiers, which specializes in close readings of American film and bills itself as “a meta-journal.” (The name means “Notes on Notes” and is one step up in mental abstraction from the now aged Cahiers du Cinéma.) On the cover was the entire cast of Lumberjacks, in various stages of undress and — the French touch — various stages of arousal, something no American magazine would dare.
“A wartime masterpiece,” raved cinéaste Jean-Baptiste Bresson. “An assault on the senses, in which the subtext is the invasion of Iraq and the context is the American soul.”
The massive essay begins with a typically long, self-reflective anecdote on how Bresson had intended to write about Ken Burns’ The War, a 19-hour documentary on World War II that he had just seen at the Cannes Film Festival. Upon leaving the premier, he walked along the beach in an understandable daze, for the series had been shown without break from the early morning.
The night was gay, the yachts were strung with lights, music and laughter drifted across the water from the after-parties. He stumbled upon his hotel more by luck than design and, retiring to his room, poured himself a hefty nightcap from the toy liquor bottles in the minifridge. The sound of the festivities carried faintly on the wind to his balcony where he stood overlooking the moonlit Mediterranean. Just to have a bit of life in the room, he turned on the television. Lumberjack Gang Bang was on the rented channel. It took no more than two master shots for all thoughts of the Ken Burns epic to be pushed aside.
“In a beautiful evocation of the homefront films of the 40s,” writes Bresson, “like Since You Went Away and Mrs. Miniver, where the husbands and fiancés are absent and the women must fend for themselves, Lumberjack Gang Bang challenges our gender expectations in a modern reversal of the sexes: it is the women who are here inaccessible and the men who must comfort each other as best they can.”
Our men, rather than tending Victory Gardens or raising prize-winning roses, pass the lonely hours in mass rape, choosing the “camp bitch” by straw vote. In their effort to create normalcy out of chaos, Bresson sees “the eternal dilemma of the homefront” When “the young, angelic Rhett O’Hara” (whom the screenplay repeatedly refers to as “that pig bottom”) is cornered by “the commanding Matt Sizemore,” Bresson cites the famous Nazi in the kitchen scene from Mrs. Miniver, which he assures us “was pointedly referenced, right down to the menacing way Sizemore’s forelock keeps falling over his eye, in the manner of Helmut Dantine.”
The last 2/3 of the review is a long diatribe on war and “Bush’s America,” reinterpreting the film through the somewhat convoluted lights of dialectical materialism (as is the Cahiers du Cahiers wont). It need not concern us here, except for a 500-word exegesis on a single line of dialog — “I need poontang the way an addict needs dope” — which Bresson contends “both celebrates the American character as well as reveals its belligerent isolation.”
The Bresson piece, unmoored from the intended Ken Burns review, was eventually retitled La Qualité Pornografik: Keep the Home Fires Burning, Boys. It is, alas, not available online ( quel dommage), but good news, the Gang Bang itself is now playing in Nightcharm’s members-only video theater.
Come. Be transported. To another time and place. Where no one can hear you beg for more — except perhaps Mrs Miniver who might be taking a shortcut through the woods to the vicarage, or picking mushrooms for a “Victory Salad” of bitters and roots, or simply looking for a man, preferably not a Nazi.