It has finally come. The unrated "Volume I" of Lars von Trier's erotic opus "Nymphomaniac" arrives in 25 US theaters this Friday March 21. But you may have already seen the saucy, hotly debated, artsy sex epic on VOD, as Magnolia Pictures made the film available on March 7 on cable on demand, Amazon and a smattering of other platforms. While the studio has kept numbers very hush hush, needless to say, and in their words, the film is doing "very well" in this model.
Meanwhile, "Volume II," plating up darker meat than its predecessor, will be available on demand as of Thursday, with an April 4 theatrical release to follow. So for those watching at home, you could potentially do a back-to-back double feature of the film which was, really, never meant to be cleft in the first place.
Fear not, von Trier purists, for Magnolia's two-tiered release doesn't shuck the film of its racy content -- you'll see Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin, Charlotte Gainsbourg and, yeah, Stellan Skarsgard fully disrobed. But "Nymphomaniac" doesn't use sex simply to sell itself, even though that element certainly doesn't hurt. It's a smart and provocative piece of work from one of our most creatively uninhibited international filmmakers.
And even though hiccups have plagued the film all along, why would Lars von Trier, persona non grata of Cannes and now more-than-ever of Hollywood, want it any other way? It started when Shia "I'm not famous anymore" LaBeouf scampered out of a Berlinale press conference, whether in the wake of plagiarism allegations or in the name of some Joaquin Phoenix-esque PR stunt, who knows. In Turkey, the film was deemed pornography and outright banned.
On the whole, reviews for "Volume I" are favorable, with David Edelstein calling the film "both dumber and more entertaining than anyone had a right to expect." Village Voice is seduced by the film's "off-kilter pleasures" -- from digressions into fly-fishing and cake forks to infantile onanism, "Nymphomaniac" goes deeper into von Trier's head (or quite possibly his ass) than ever before. There are detractors, as per any von Trier outing. Dana Stevens calls it "theater of degradation," while Film.com proclaims it "the worst thing Lars Von Trier has ever associated himself with." Um, has he seen "Epidemic"?
But we at TOH! quite like the film(s). Anne Thompson enjoyed and chuckled through Volume I, and looks forward to Volume II. Here's Beth Hanna's review of "Volume I" out of Sundance, and my review of "Volume II," which I caught in Mexico at the Riviera Maya Film Festival. My grand impressions of the entire epic? Expect to laugh your head off in the first film and feel dirty and lost in the second, but you may never be titillated. Coming from von Trier, sex is a dish best served cold.
"Volume I" trailer below. Here's the trailer for "Volume II."