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Heavy Petting Movie Review

benz magnuson allen friends

Heavy Petting is a dry hump of a movie, with all the assets and liabilities of early sex: the promotional teaser might be a turn-on, but the experience itself is something of a letdown. Obie Benz's shapeless movie is strongly reminiscent of Philippe Mora's Brother, Can You Spare a Dime, a 1975 documentary that attempted to reveal the 1930s with period newsreels and movie clips but without a narrative thrust. Working without a script, Benz cross-edited old educational films and movie clips together, showing the results every so often to his friends to see if he had a movie yet. He worked hard for seven years and his friends and many audiences may well love Heavy Petting. I found myself losing interest after half an hour, though, and the last 45 minutes were somewhat less than enthralling. Benz asked a dozen men and eleven women to describe their early attitudes about sex. Not all of their commentary is particularly enlightening or perceptive, but Ann Magnuson is funny at least, and the late Abbie Hoffman looks like the jolliest and least likely candidate for suicide ever. I don't even want to think about the last time William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, 75 and 63 when the movie first came out in 1989, indulged in heavy petting and neither looks like he wants to be in the movie. Also, were the 1950s the sole province of white teens? Sidney Poitier only shows up once in a Blackboard Jungle clip. This tired celebration of over-obvious cultural symbols obviously wasn't my movie, but if you think it might be yours, video is the best way to see it.

1989 75m/C David Byrne, Josh Mostel, Sandra Bernhard, Allen Ginsberg, Ann Magnuson, Spalding Gray, Laurie Anderson, John Oates, Abbie Hoffman, Jacki Ochs; D: Obie Benz; C: Sandi Sissel. VHS, LV

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