720. The Sexlife of a Chair – Phil Mulloy

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SUMMARY: A series of sexual acts are demonstrated by chairs.

WHY IT’S HERE: Having made some of his most powerful and serious films in ‘The Wind of Changes’ and ‘The Chain’, Phil Mulloy’s ‘The Sexlife of a Chair’ feels like something of a break from the bigger issues, and yet it is also a spot-on satire on contemporary obsessions with sex and a comic desexualisation of potentially titillating and disturbing material. In some ways reminiscent of Bill Plympton’s examinations of the ludicrousness of the sexual act, ‘Mulloy’s film uses minimal animation to depict a series of sexual acts using chairs. A German narrator reads out each heading in his native language, his voice becoming bizarrely distorted as the film progresses. We open with the heading ‘Celibacy’, which is depicted by a simple picture of a chair sat alone doing nothing. The heading ‘Masturbation’ simple shows the chair’s seat moving rhythmically backwards and forwards. The juxtaposition of sexuality and something as mundane is at first oddly incongruous and slowly becomes hilarious, particularly when the images are at their most bland. For instance, the provocative heading ‘Group Sex’ is followed by an image of two rows of chairs, uniformly arranged as if for a small function like a church fete. Mulloy highlights this by adding a wood-panelled floor to the image, a small detail that is somehow crucial in making the joke ten times funnier. ‘The Sexlife of a Chair’ may not be Mulloy’s most brilliant work but it is certainly more insightful and funny than many people give it credit for. If all you see is a series of cheap laughs, you’re not looking hard enough.

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