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Beyond Vanilla
Beyond Vanilla
Actors: Mitch Banning, Celeste, Chloe, Bud Cockerham, Casey Criste
Genres: Drama
UR     2003     1hr 32min

Beyond Vanilla explores the kinkier aspects of sex on the other side of vanilla. With interviews, demonstrations, and a good dose of how-to instructions, this documentary covers the gamut of fetishes and S&M practices. F...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Mitch Banning, Celeste, Chloe, Bud Cockerham, Casey Criste
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Studio: Strand Releasing
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 10/28/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 32min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Jed Ryan | New York City | 10/21/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)


Strand Releasing has done it again. The renegade film distributors never let us down when it comes to bringing pieces of cinematic rebellion to the big screen. The latest of these films is "Beyond Vanilla", from Swedish filmmaker Claes Lilja. In the director's own words, the movie "explores the kinkier aspects of sex on the other side of vanilla." The movie comes to life mainly through its colorful cast of diverse subjects, who describe their sexual proclivities and adventures (Note how I say "adventures" and not "experiences"!) to the audience, often with great delight. Interspersed with the interviews are demonstrations and film clips of the wide range of discussed activities. "Beyond Vanilla" is informative enough to pass as a "sex-ed" film, albeit one that goes WAY beyond the basic concept of man and woman in the missionary position. You may have already known, for example, that most of the people that take on the submissive (or "bottom") role in S&M are usually "control freaks" at their day jobs. You may even know that most of the men and women who get involved in outre sexual practices usually discover them relatively later in life (30's and beyond). But I'll betcha didn't know, for example, that "watersports" is probably the safest form of sexual play. Despite the educational aspects of the film, there's enough sexy male and female bodies in "Beyond Vanilla" to guarantee a rise in your jeans. A film that enlightens AND arouses? Who could ask for anything more?

Beautifully shot on digital video, "Beyond Vanilla" starts out with a feel that's a bit too "documentary-like", with too many talking heads and not enough action. But it then (intentionally?) gets more dynamic-- and more graphic. There are no extended sex scenes, with the longest of the most explicit stuff lasting a few minutes. It's often what we HEAR-- via the descriptions of the sexual habits of the participants-- rather than what we SEE on the screen, that have the maximum impact.

"Beyond Vanilla" starts with discussions of the fetishes/practices that are slowly infiltrating the mainstream: leather and BDSM (bondage/discipline/dominance/sadism/masochism). The film continues on to such wince-inducing activities as flogging, piercing, blood play, fire play, and electric shock play. A big theme in the afformentioned fetishes is "transcendance through pain", a phenomenon which many viewers will no doubt find hard to comprehend. Yet through the words of the participants--who hold their fetishes in very high regard-- the audience at least get to meet the concept halfway. We understanding it a bit more, if not necessarily embrace the idea of it as appealing. "Beyond Vanilla" then goes into such obscure activities such as catheter play (which stimulates the urethra), fisting, watersports, and finally, what's most likely (and thankfully!) the least popular of the fetishes, SCAT. Mercifully, Lilja doesn't show us any.

Over 100 subjects are seen in "Beyond Vanilla", ranging in age from the 20's to borderline elderly. All sexual tastes and orientations are represented. In fact, using terms like "gay", "lesbian", or "bisexual" to describe many of the subjects in this flick is somewhat pointless. Many of these sexual rebels put classification-- by gender or sexual orientation-- secondary to their own personal sexual identity as an individual. Among the more familiar faces in "Beyond Vanilla" include Nina Hartley, legendary actress of adult films (and Registered Nurse!), who mainstream cinemaphiles may recognize as the wife of a tortured William Macy in "Boogie Nights". Adult film star Chloe, one of the more popular starlets in XXX today, is also here. Gay adult film director and drag performer Chi Chi LaRue, out of drag in this movie, also appears to give her point of view. Interestingly, it's sometimes NOT the well-known participants of "Beyond Vanilla" that have the most impact, but the "ordinary" people. In one segment, an unassuming housewife in a Disney print sweatshirt talks about her affinity for S&M and strap-ons. In another segment, a straight-laced-looking lady with a PhD in Sexology goes into the mechanics of fisting... perhaps being a bit too descriptively! The incongruency of these mild-mannered women juxtaposed with their vivid sex talk is often unintentionally hilarious. But hands down, the most outrageous character in "Beyond Vanilla" is a huge, self-described "bigendered" guy (although technically a female-to-male transexual) with a beard, shaved head, and many piercings and tattoos. He uses a penis pump on his enlarged clitoris-- a site NOT for the squeamish. Along the way, experts in the areas of psychology and medicine give us a few facts and debunk some myths, such as the misconception that stretching the sphincter muscle (in fisting, etc.) will cause incontinence.

Open-minded viewers (And frankly, I can't imagine any other kind of viewer actually sitting through "Beyond Vanilla") will definitely appreciate seeing how the "other half" lives. But then again, the film makes you wonder exactly how UNCOMMON these assorted practices really are. One of the subjects in the beginning of "Beyond Vanilla" is a 20-something, "all-American"-looking guy who comments about how at face value, you'd never know he was into some kinky sexual practices. Makes ya think, huh?
A good try...
laffinggod | Chattanooga, TN United States | 11/17/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)

"'Beyond Vanilla' does very little to 'debunk' the misconceptions the general public has about the lifestyle, and gives very little information that anyone who is in the lifestyle for more than a year probably doesn't already know. As such, it does little to satisfy either side of the equation. Another problem is probably 75% of the content is focused on gay male activities. While that is fine for gay males, it leaves out a very large part of participants in the lifestyle. The one straight male Dom that is interviewed feels as someone chosen primarily on his looks, as opposed to any great skill or knowledge, as evidenced by his calling the falls of a flogger 'bristles'. Even my friends who have participated in the lifestyle for only a few months laughed at that statement.Overall, it's a good try, but doesn't do justice to the people, diversity, or breadth of the lifestyle."
Amazing film about sex
Tom Smith | New York | 10/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first saw this film in the movie theater in New York and was amazed at how well it explains an extremely wide range of sexual possibilities. I walked away from this film with a whole new point of view on sexual orientations and activities. It does a great job of erasing traditional boundaries and pushing your understanding further. I just got the DVD today and the quality is superb. The extra footage was very well executed and interesting as well. Everyone should see this film regardless of sexual orientation and interests. It explains what kink is REALLY about in a way that anyone can understand. Don't miss this one!"