Doris Wishman - The Sex Perils of Paulette (1965)
Not my rip...thanks to the ripper. The print (and the source) is in rough shape.
This is the story of Paulette (ANNA KAROL), yet another Good-Girl-Gone-Bad-Through-No-Fault-of-Her-Own. A small town gal in search of fame and fortune in the Big Apple, Paulette moves in with Tracy (perennial Wishman bad-girl DARLENE BENNETT) who claims to be a model and knows lots of people in the, uh... "entertainment" business. Not only does Tracy demand two months rent in advance - leaving Paulette broke and vulnerable - but the scantily-clad strumpet then suggests that Paulette go to a swinging party where she can meet theatrical agent Sam (perennial Wishman bad-guy SAM STEWART)...
Sex Perils of Paulette contains more black bras and undies, stilettos and black eyeliner than you can shake a stick at. lf you've seen any of Wishman's other black & white epics, you'll immediately recognize the tackily-furnished apartments, bric-a-brac, eccentric photography (by C. DAVIS SMITH, director of The Girl from S.I.N.), and the supporting players that make her films so quirky and unique. And what's with those wheat sprigs in the vase, anyway? - Lisa Petrucci, somethingweird.com
"Doris Wishman, who was once overlooked for her sexploitation films as 'low-culture', should really be considered as the most prolific female director of the sound era. The Sex Perils of Paulette may seem to be filled with unrelated digressions, inept cinematography, and discontinuous narratives that appear insane at first, but closer analysis reveals specific patterns and themes that are usually associated with art cinema. Wishman's film uses the same narrative distanciation techniques that Jean-Luc Godard utilized in Pierrot le fou, which he made that same year. Given the swell of the New Wave, which made many filmmakers abroad reconsider the concept behind the art, it would seem as though Wishman incorporated the cinematic ideals of that cultural moment in order to make different social/cinematic commentary.
Closer analysis of Wishman's work expose repetitions and unique trademarks that are prevalent throughout her films, dispelling any perception of her work as just meaningless digression. What appears to be a mistake in the film's structure takes on an entirely meaningful statement about narrative itself, and towards the genre in which Wishman made her films. The similarities that appear between these two films are uncanny. Both films exhibit the same deviations in narrative continuity, causing the viewer to become more engaged in the film's form rather than the story line. In some instances, both filmmakers rearrange the story's chronology to make the chain of events more perplexing. Godard uses scrambled chronology in the famous escape scene in Pierrot le fou. The viewer is shown the two protagonists, Marianne and Ferdinand (Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo), escaping from an apartment building, followed by a shot of them getting into a car. We are then shown the couple walking down a long corridor, then back at the car, then on the roof of the apartment building. During the entire sequence there are fragmented voice-overs and sporadic nondiagetic music. Wishman utilizes these same techniques in one sequence in Sex Perils.... One scene entails Paulette (Anna Karol, whose name coincidentally sounds like one of Godard's femmes) waiting in an agent's office, getting aggravated that no one has shown up. A jump cut leads to Paulette making a date with Allen (Tony Lo Bianco), followed by Paulette (alone) walking past department store windows, admiring the clothing display. We are then shown Paulette engaged in conversation with her 'scantly clad' roommate Tracy (Darlene Bennett), which is then interrupted by a shot of Paulette meeting Allen for the first time. The only distinction between this sequence and Godard's escape scene is that Wishman's use of voice-over is solely to describe the corresponding visual image.
But more times than not, the voice-over in Sex Perils... do not correspond with the visual image. The dubbed dialogue may be a continuation of a conversation, while intersecting images of surrounding mise-en-scène are inserted. One example of Sex Perils'... apparently irrelevant diagetic inserts is within the opening sequence. This scene involves Paulette and Allen walking through the park together, discussing her problems, then segueing into flashback where Paulette first arrives in NYC. Throughout the sequence there are inserts of the nearby pond, a pigeon walking along the sidewalk, and a rather long (and slightly out of focus) shot of a squirrel climbing down a tree and on to the grass. It would seem as though these inserts are either character subjectivity or authorial commentary. Most critics would dismiss these inserts as insane digression, having nothing to do with the story and drawing attention away from the characters. But given the extremely low budget that Wishman was forced to adhere by, and given the price of film stock, these digressive shots of the environment must be completely intentional.
The only major distinction is that most of her films involve a strong female protagonist, whereas Godard's Pierrot le fou lacks a positive representation of women, displaying Godard's misogynist tendencies. Wishman's representation of gender could be stated to be the exact opposite of those proposed by Godard in Pierrot le fou. Albeit Wishman is making sexploitative film, specifically for the male market, her formal digressions could be seen as the feminine intervention of the male gaze. Frequently we are shown scenes of women wearing only their underwear (black lace, a Wishman trademark). When we are introduced to Tracy in her apartment, the camera is positioned on her face, and then slowly moves down to reveal her body, much like the heterosexual male gaze would scan an attractive woman's body. Wishman intentionally cuts away from Tracy's body, inserting images of surrounding mise-en-scène, interrupting the male gaze by showing different objects. The inserts of objects in the room provide a feminist vision of common household items. This undercutting of the narrative deliberately refuses the male's anticipation to view half-naked women. Although the film is for the benefit of the male gaze, Wishman avoids the 'money shots' by inserting objects of feminine desires. All the male characters in Wishman's film are emphasized for their sexual deviancy, as well as their simple mindedness. The only gender that is given any sort of sexual power is the women, evoking the re-conceptualization of female sexuality as part of the feminine desire and self-fulfillment. All of these elements are prevalent to retract away from the pleasure of male spectatorship, through means of feminine intervention.
Most critics have ignored the excellent work of Doris Wishman, considering it to only be sexploitation for male spectatorship. Deeper analysis proves that feminist reading strategies give reason for the representations of gender and formal deviations of narrative continuity. While The Sex Perils of Paulette is ostensibly awkward and amateurish, Wishman is able to captivate the viewer with good quality jazz music, which never loses its beat from scene to scene. Above all, Wishman was able to turn genre that was once considered to be purely for men into a re-feminization of the sexploitative film as 'high art'. " - IMDB comments from primolandia
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