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A bit of a warning: This post is rated PG-13, perhaps R. I’ll have to consult the MPAA, but in the meantime, don’t go leaving it up around children or coworkers.

I’ll devote this post to two movies I’ve recently seen: “Motel Cactus” and “Woman in the Dunes”. Both hail different countries, different decades, and vastly different photographic visions. Although they are dissimilar, the threads that tie them are superb cinematography and tastefully extreme sensuality.

I won’t delve too deeply into the plot, the directors, or much else. There is an allure about watching these films, separately or together, that a profusion of words cannot touch and may indeed spoil.


“Motel Cactus” is shot by Christopher Doyle, the wild man cinematographer of much (deserved) acclaim. In my mind, the plot is characterized by the ever present water, which the vignettes flow with, as well as the gilded corniness of the wallpaper, see through room partitions, and stained ceilings.


The characters enter, take their turns shedding veneers of normalcy and emotional detachment, and then leave. A denouement then check out. The space is all that is constant, and that’s fine by me, as its neon soaked chintz really evokes a seductive sense of longing.


Next watch “Woman in the Dunes”. If you’re looking to compare and contrast the two films, you’ll find a lot of material for both departments. I’m not so concerned with the themes here and now, but parallels are there to be drawn.


What attracted me again the keen eye of the camera. The photography and direction take what could have been another surrealist exercise in off-putting to an intimate level I’ve not experienced in many films, and probably won’t again for some time.


The grit of sand clinging to sweat illuminated by gas lantern. The looming dune (a trick of perspective on the part of the cinematographer) blazing through the rotten planks. The faces of entomologist and the widow rendered close up in a luscious, contrasty monotone. All of this makes for a visual experience both fantastically unnerving and surreal, but intensely sexual and gut-wrenching.


I could drone drooling on, but I’ll spare you this once.

And a tie in to photography to end it. Both films have an unrivaled sensuality of place. Were I to take my photography in the direction of shooting models, I’d hope I could somehow find a small world out there with even half the allure of that shack or love motel.

Motel Cactus

Woman in the Dunes