Lesbian Spank Inferno
Lesbian Spank Inferno (or LSI) is an award-winning 1998 independent film about lesbians and spanking. The film was an immediate arthouse success, but took a while to get wider appreciation. In the end the Swedish Academy awarded it two Oscars. The film, highly prized for its visual & acoustic verisimilitude as well as its existential integrity is sometimes referred to by aficionadi and aficiondas of the lesbian spank genre by the more discreet shorthand title "Inferno".
Because the title was so dubious, the film remained in those shops that cater solely for men who wear long raincoats. It came to wider notice in the British documentary series Coupling which was about train carriage connection mechanisms and the trainspotters who like them.
In that show Steve Taylor had a video of the film in his "collection" of "art" films, and his girlfriend (yes, improbable as it seems this trainspotter had a girlfriend) brought it up in conversation at a dinner party.
It seems Taylor thought the evening was supposed to be more of a film buffs discussion group than a dinner party, or he might have let it pass. He might also have worn more clothes if he'd known it wasn't a buffs evening.
As it was a psychiatrist guest, a long-time subscriber to the philosophy of I. Ron Butterfly, took issue with the film's representations of women (though we now know this was solely based on the title, not from her actually seeing it). Taylor proceeded to explain in detail the artistic values in the film, with the happy result being a now universal recognition of its merit.
The film itself is about a group of five lesbian filmmakers who decide to experiment with reverse incentivising the creative process. They set out each to make a short film, with the winner to be spanked.
Films about film-making are something of genre, and one which frequently fails to rise above the level of the director sticking some of his or her own gear in shot (and nobody wants to see a director's dangly bits, really), but LSI shows what can be achieved with a careful and thoughtful approach.
All five filmmakers decide not to make films about gay cowboys eating pudding, which is a little cinematic in-joke. It's also most desirable because the world did not then need, nor does it now need, more films about puddings or about gay cowboys.
Instead they choose themes of female sexuality and longing, the status of women in today's misogynistic patriarchy, and they choose to shoot mainly in the nude, to symbolize at once their femininity and the filmmakers' complete honesty in baring all and thereby performatively repudiating the petit-bourgeois fetishisation of privacy.
When complete they vote on a winner, and proceed to spank her. The runner-up, peeved at losing in a close race, wants to be spanked too, and is. The film climaxes with an inferno, a huge firey conflagration, of all the lesbians spanking each other; a powerful depiction of the interconnectedness of all things in nature and an inspiring hommage to homoerotic female bonding as they recreate, share and affirm their common experience of being beaten by men. Ultimately this film is a collective triumph of the female will in which pain is wrought into orgasmic joy thus transmuting female oppression and abuse into transcendent spiritual liberation.
All the naked women, and lesbianism, and spanking, meant of course there would always be a certain male audience for the film, but that was largely unintentional. The director made it clear in the film, and later, that she was a feminist and it was a feminist film, no matter how many of the early critics misunderstood its message, and she threatened to bobbetize any "misogynist male" who said otherwise.