The term ‘transgressive cinema’ was coined by underground film maker Nick Zedd who made several edgy black and white films which crossed moral boundaries. Indeed the term transgressive is used to describe any form of cinema, literature and art which goes beyond social mores and sensibilities. They are designed to be offensive and shocking.
Transgression in art forms can be traced back to French author George Bataille, the Marquis de Sade, Dadaists and surrealists. In cinema, transgression began the moment Luis Bunuel filmed his infamous eyeball slicing in Un Chien Andalou and followed that up with the blasphemous L’Age D’Or. Over the decades transgression has deepened in cinema to provide us with films as subversive and brutal as Pasolini’s Salo, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Gaspar Noés Seul Contre Tous.
I have outlined below 10 films that are transgressive works of cinema. They may not all be ‘good’ films but they are definitely unwholesome…
10. Frontiers (2008)
When a far right candidate is elected President of France, there is widespread civil disorder. A group of young people take the opportunity to pull a robbery but it goes balls up and one of them – Sami – is shot. The group splits up and Yasmine and Alex take Sami to the hospital while Tom and Farid take the loot to a family run inn and are seduced by two girls there.
The hospital tips the police off about the robbery. Sami tells Yasmine (who is pregnant) to run off and keep the baby. Yasmine and Alex phone Tom and Farid for directions to the inn. The owners of the inn (Goetz, Gilberte and Klaudia) then brutally attack Tom and Farid. When Alex and Yasmine arrive at the inn, they too are attacked and chained up in a muddy pig pen. Alex frees Yasmine and she runs away. Alex gets his achilles tendons cut for this misdemeanour, he later requests to be put down peacefully and he is granted his wish. Farid is boiled alive and Yasmine recaptured.
Yasmine soon realises that the family are practising Nazis. There is a showdown at the end where Yasmine manages to escape the house after much gun toting and giving the family members the slip. She surrenders to the police when everyone is dead.
With lovely themes such as children abandoned in a mine shaft, Frontiers goes all out for a transgressive movie. I actually found it really boring – nowhere in the league of other New French Extremity films such as Inside and Martyrs. The editing is terrible and the whole set up quite immature. There are no likeable characters to root for in the movie – you don’t really care what happens to them. The Nazi themes in the movie are poorly executed and don’t make any sense. I actually think that I fell asleep whilst watching this film. The gore, which could have been a saving grace, is infrequent and stupidly done. The whole film is a rip off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – a very poor and contrived rip off. It tries desperately to be a shocking transgressive movie but is really lame and boring.
This article was first posted on July 24, 2013