‘Psychopathia Sexualis’


As reference book adaptations go, Psychopathia Sexualis is hardly Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex*: The money shot does feature bared breasts, but they aren’t giant, and alas they don’t attack Woody Allen. Based on entries from a late-19th-century catalog of kinks, Sexualis‘s narrative vignettes illustrate an array of “shocking” fetishes. The source material predates Freud, and it shows: The examples of deviant behavior include homosexuality, sadism, and domination by stiletto. Yet it’s clear from the pedantic tone of the dramatic re-enactments (imagine an adult History Channel) that writer-director Bret Wood believes he’s showing us the sexual revolution’s Magna Carta. Wood’s previous documentary was about highway safety films, and the ungainly rhythms of instructional cinema have obviously crept into his script. Question: “I take it that at that moment, your feelings toward this man—your virility was restored?” Answer: “At that moment, I was in full possession of my virility.” Drearily pretentious, Sexualis has even less softcore appeal than an American Apparel ad.