SICK: THE LIFE & DEATH OF BOB FLANAGAN SUPERMASOCHIST
March 9, 2006 by
|On its face, this is a fun-filled documentary about nailing one’s cock to a board, slicing one’s chest with a dull blade, and gleefully submitting to the lash. Upon deeper examination, however, this story of Bob Flanagan, a performance artist who, remarkably, lived past the age of 40 with cystic fibrosis (a hideous disease that usually kills people in their teens) and documented the experience for our, uh, enjoyment. His masochism, shared by his hard-nosed wife (who acts as the sadist of the pair), might offend those who believe death is cute and cuddly, but we come to see how the intentional affliction of pain is a way for Bob to take some semblance of control over a body and illness over which he has no real power. The torture, then, is a “pleasant” diversion from the realities of his affliction. But rather than sentimentalize his plight or turn this into a one-dimensional “affirmation,” the filmmaker (and Bob) has given us one of the most painful and realistic examinations of death I can imagine.
Sick is decidedly not a freak show, but rather an unvarnished look into pain, fear, mortality, and empowerment (which can be trivialized in less capable hands, but feels genuine in this case). That, and we get a bird’s eye view of a ravaged penis spurting blood all over the camera lens.
Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52
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