Or it looks like a sexploitation flick anyway. Penned by novelist and professional blowhard Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader (best known for writing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), and funded largely by Kickstarter, The Canyons stars Lohan and James Deen as a couple caught up in sexual obsession and ambition (incidentally, I’m pretty sure that was the exact log line for Eyes Wide Shut). The first trailer was released yesterday and it’s done up in the style of the 1960s sexploitation B-movies that played in grindhouse theaters back when that was a real thing and not a Tarantino thing.
Lainey asked me about this trailer, if it was a proper genre reference that she was missing. Sexploitation, like any grindhouse style, resides in the gray area between artistic form and outright prurient indulgence, but yeah, it is considered a legit film style. My first foray into the genre was in a feminist film studies class—we watched The Student Nurses. To this day, that remains one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Sexploitation films are notable for their lo-fi production values (which is a nice way of saying they look cheap as hell), independent productions and fetishized subjects (nurses, students, cheerleaders, etc).
For all the feminist efforts to reclaim this territory as some kind of empowering moment in cinema, I can never get past the simple fact that these films exist solely for the male gaze and the derivation of male pleasure. And yes, I’m aware of Stephanie Rothman (see above, The Student Nurses), but no, I don’t consider her work any kind of achievement; I’ve got enough critical theory under my belt that I can make anything be about something, but I have a really hard time extrapolating positive feminist themes from movies that are about pretty women boning archetypical male figures, and then standing around talking about boning said men. Just because a character gets an abortion doesn’t mean it’s a feminist film. (We could have a similar discussion about Blue Steel, a Kathryn Bigelow film often held up as a seminal piece of feminist cinema, but Jamie Lee Curtis’ character is so f*cking boneheaded you’re rooting for her death by the end.)
It makes sense that Lindsay Lohan stars in The Canyons. First and foremost, she and Bret Easton Ellis are a match made in some kind nightmare world where being a self-obsessed entitled twat equates to being a worthwhile human being. He’s such a massive drama queen—if anyone can rival Lohan’s vacuum of suck, it’s Ellis. Also, this is one more step toward Lohan’s inevitable porn career. Interesting that half the movies she’s made in the last few years are grindhouse style (this and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete and Machete Kills). It’s one thing to have a go in one of these movies as a one-off gag, but when your career takes on a distinct grindhouse flavor, you have to wonder what it says about you as an actor (see also: Jessica Alba).
It’s worth noting that Lohan’s co-star, James Deen, is an actual porn star. Lindsay Lohan + pseudo-porno + real porn star = 19 months till she makes an actual porno. Remember when she was in movies with Meryl Streep?