Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trippy, Beautiful, And Definitely Just For Grown-Ups--Celluloid

CelluloidI really enjoy the artwork of Dave McKean. He and Grant Morrison did a great job on Arkham Asylum (even though some people hate that story), Cages is snazzy, etc. I heard he had a new book coming out called Celluloid and figured it was about movies, that was all I knew. Then, I learn it has some controversy because it is an adults-only book that is arguably pornographic with its graphic depictions of sexuality. Well, this is definitely no-holds-barred in that sense, but I don't think I would say it is pornography because that would mean it has no artistic merit, and this is quite assuredly art. It's just really, really, explicit art that is  appropriate for grown-ups only most likely. Oh, and as it is McKean I was expecting it to be beautiful art-wise and it is that too. Let's discuss.

Basically the story is told with no words, just pictures. Even where characters speak we just see pictures in their word bubbles. It's kind of hard to describe what it is about, but basically a woman is drawn into a world made up of movie cells and proceeds to have a variety of sexual experiences. That makes it sound pretty simple, but each scene with the woman is illustrated in a completely different style resulting in incredible imagery. You have this really abstract scene, a photo-realistic scene, one that looks painted, drawn with pencil, etc. Dave McKean illustrates beautifully, , so on a purely aesthetic level of how the art looks, I would say this is amazing. The mixed-media stuff is especially neat too, like when pictures of fruit or objects are incorporated onto the page's image.

The start has a simple style of art, things get weird later.
As for the sexuality portrayed in the story, it definitely is explicit, but not done in a way that I think one would find gross or offensive. It isn't drawn in a way that is supposed to be prurient, I would think--it is erotic, but not pornographic. Actions sometimes are very abstract-looking and other times it is quite clear what is happening, but yes, there is a lot of sex, this is undoubtedly a book about that. There isn't much of a plot beyond the woman entering this world and a little twist at the end I found interesting.
This is one of the few pages I can show you that is safe for work and also awesome-looking.
Celluloid is an interesting little book. It isn't going to become a huge best-seller because even though it could be argued it isn't pornographic the publisher behind it, Fantagraphics, doesn't want to take any chances and says it is for the 18-and-over crowd. True, most comic readers are over 18, but a lot of comic stores aren't just going to put this out on the shelf for fear of it causing a ruckus, this is a special order item most likely at your store. That raises the question, who would special order it? Pretty much people who like Dave McKean, because if someone wants porn-comics they have plenty of other options, and as I said, this isn't porn. Would I recommend this? Sure, if you enjoy the work of Dave McKean a lot like I do, or want an erotic book that is also classy enough you wouldn't be embarrassed to admit you own it. If you don't like Dave McKean or are very prudish about sexuality, I would say pass on this.
4 out of 5 stars.

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