Denmark 2010, 90min.
A honest essay about eros, aging and loss. Leth travels to several countries (the locations include Haiti, the Philippines, Senegal, Brazil, Argentina, Panama) to cast one particular scene: a woman, usually naked, is sitting in a hotel room, lamenting the loss of her lover who has returned to Europe. But, with each new reenactment of the scene, one begins to questions its veracity. It’s a forlorn fantasy – a man’s need to re-experience a scene he could only ever have imagined, at best.
Godard famously said that “the cinema is truth 24 frames per second,” and Jørgen Leth has taken those words as gospel in his new and highly contentious feature documentary. Erotic Man is the kind of confessional work that can ruin an artist but Leth doesn’t seem to care. In the current politically charged climate where power relationships between sexual partners is under constant interrogation, Leth has dared to make a film about a 70-something wealthy white European male’s intimate encounters with young women of colour from what we used to call “the third world.” You’ve got to wonder: what did Leth think would happen?
The reviews in North America have been overwhelmingly unkind. Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York suggested the film could be retitled “I like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie,” and added that Erotic Man “feels ridiculously exploitative, vaguely racist and dunderheaded about its own objectification.” Robert Koehler in Variety called the film “embarrassing,” and went on to state that it “verges on being most suitable as a Playboy cable item.” Even bloggers at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), where the film premiered, felt compelled to cut down Leth for taking on such a highly charged subject.Luke Gorhan in The Playlist called it “Leth’s personal, visual, for-his-eyes-only catharsis, more appropriately titled Erotic Jørgen.”