Heavy Petting

"OK"

Heavy Petting Review


When it was first released in 1989, the sex documentary Heavy Petting made good use of the counterculture's obsession at the time with naïve postwar cultural kitsch, mining the extensive back catalog of sex education films from the 1950s and '60s in order to take a none-too-subtle jab at American society's hysterical hypocrisy about sexuality. In 1982, The Atomic Café (made by some of the same people) had utilized much the same method to make a statement about government propaganda about atomic warfare during the 1950s, also having a deep well of ludicrous and self-satirizing films to draw from for comic effect. Like Café had been earlier in the decade, Heavy Petting quickly became a favorite on the arthouse and film society circuit, fulfilling much the same sort of function as Reefer Madness did in allowing hipsters an easy laugh at the squares. Finally available on DVD, what seems clear is that it was probably better the first time around.

Directors Obie Benz and Joshua Waletzky deserve credit for not trying to impose too much structure on their purposefully goofy project. So they freely mix the personal recollections of their many guests, who talk in wistful terms about their first time and how much their experiences differed from the hushed and censoring ways in which sex was talked about in society, with all those priceless sex-ed films, not to mention clips from old films and TV shows. The interviews themselves are a roster of '80s alternative cool, with artists associated with icy reserve like David Byrne and Laurie Anderson opening up with jokey and self-deprecating candor. The late, great monologist Spalding Gray shows up to spin some wit at his own expense, as do those other veterans of the downtown scene, Ann Magnuson and Sandra Bernhard. The more freewheeling experimentation of an earlier counterculture is celebrated by a wildly grinning Abbie Hoffman. The most priceless interview, however, is Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs', done together, with an ebullient Ginsberg going on and on while the skeletal Burroughs listens to the side and giving the occasional dry comment: "Who wants to be loved?"

Where Heavy Petting goes off the rails is in not assembling its starry roster of interviewees into a more forceful piece of work. As it stands, this lively free association essay on sexual freedom has more heart than a half-dozen more standard-format documentaries, but it doesn't know what to do with it. Interviews are inserted seemingly at random and without really any identification -- which isn't really necessary with the likes of Byrne and Burroughs, of course, but it would have been helpful for some of the guests. While enjoyable as far as it goes, this is in the end too thin a piece of work to really make much impact, seeming at times in its wildly haphazard assemblage of random elements to be more of an ad for itself than a coherent piece of work.

But, then again, you do get to hear David Byrne talk about sex, which holds an undeniable and strange fascination.

The DVD comes in widescreen format with extended "sexual confessions" from many of the film's participants, as well as an interview with Obie Benz. The second disc comes with original source material: 10 sex-ed, anti-pornography, and VD scare films from the 1930s to '50s; including "As Boys Grow" and "Easy to Get."



Heavy Petting

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 15th July 2008

Budget: $2.8M

Distributed by: Docurama

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 4.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Obie Benz, Joshua Waletzky

Producer: Obie Benz

Starring: as Daphne, Brendan Hines as Charlie, as Ras, Jennifer Ikeda as Grooming Proprietor

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.