It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely candidate for an elite French film journal than the new release Lumberjack Gang Bang — a frank exploration of the cum-flying, ass-plowing, and mouth-jamming that can be expected when lumberjacks are stranded in the wood, due to a bridge collapse, and can’t get their weekend quota of — as the screenplay drolly puts it — “pussy banging.”
Even the tagline for the film is simple and direct, warranting, so it would seem, no further analysis: In the forest only lumberjacks can hear you beg for more!
Thus we were electrified when we picked up the December issue of Cahiers du Cahiers, which specializes in close readings of American film and bills itself as “a meta-journal” — the name means “Notes on Notes” and is one step up in mental abstraction from the now aged Cahiers du CinÃ©ma.
“A wartime masterpiece,” raved cinÃ©aste Jean-Baptiste Bresson, “in which the subtext is Iraq and the American soul.” The massive essay begins, as is the style of the journal, with a long, meditative anecdote on how Bresson had intended to write about Ken Burns’ The War, a 19-hour documentary on World War II that he had just seen at the Cannes Film Festival.
But upon leaving the premier after those 19 hours, in an understandable daze, he retired to his hotel room for a nightcap and, just to have a bit of life in the room, turned on the television. Lumberjack Gang Bang was on the rented channel. It took no more than two master shots for all thoughts of the Ken Burns epic to be fully eclipsed.
“In a beautiful evocation of the homefront films of the 40’s,” writes Bresson, “like Since You Went Away and Mrs. Miniver, where the husbands and fiancÃ©es are absent and the women must fend for themselves, Lumberjack Gang Bang challenges our gender expectations in a modern reversal of the sexes : it is the women who are here inaccessible and the men who must comfort each other as best they can.”
But these men, rather than tending Victory Gardens or raising prize-winning roses, are driven to mass rape, choosing the “camp bitch” by straw vote. In their effort to create normalcy out of chaos, Bresson sees “the eternal dilemma of the homefront” and when “the appealing Rhett O’Hara” (whom the screenplay repeatedly refers to as “that pig bottom”) is cornered by “the commanding Matt Sizemore,” Bresson cites the famous Nazi in the kitchen scene from Mrs. Miniver, which he assures us “was purposely referenced, right down to the menacing way Sizemore’s forelock keeps falling over his eye, in the manner of Helmut Dantine.”
The last 2/3 of the review is a long diatribe on war and “Bush’s America,” reinterpreting the film through the somewhat convoluted lights of dialectical materialism (again, as is the Cahiers du Cahiers wont). It need not concern us here, except for a 500-word exegesis on a single line of dialog — “I need poontang the way an addict needs dope” — which Bresson contends “both celebrates the American character as well as reveals its belligerent isolation.”
The Bresson piece, as it became unmoored from the intended Ken Burns review, was eventually retitled La QualitÃ© Pornografik: Keep the Home Fires Burning, Boys. It is not available online, alas (or should we say quel* dommage?) But we do have fond memories of when we featured Lumberjack Gang Bang in the Inner Circle’s Blue Blake video theater. Days were freer then, nights longer and men were simply, well, MEN.