Who’s Afraid Of Doris Wishman?

Elena Gorfinkel at Artforum:

HAVING RESURFACED late in life due to a revival of her sex films, an eighty-nine-year-old Doris Wishman, clad in leopard print and wedge sandals, appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2002. Conan is flummoxed by Wishman’s spiky retorts and willfully evasive manner. Affecting sheepishness when asked for the name of her latest (penultimate) film, she finally discloses the title: Dildo Heaven. Sensing discomfort, Wishman asks, “Conan, are you afraid of me?” The other guest, Roger Ebert, enters the fray to discuss Wishman’s work, announcing his familiarity with Deadly Weapons (1973) and Double Agent 73 (1974), which stars Chesty Morgan and her seventy-three-inch bustline. Ebert states that the only reason to watch these films, in his view, is to see Morgan entirely nude, and yet she remains mostly clothed. Wishman cannily replies: “Well Roger, I’m sorry you’re frustrated . . . Is there anything I can do?” Reframing male cinephilic desire as pitiful erotic disappointment, Wishman’s bait and switch is both the work of a cunning “exploiteer” in the old-school tradition, with some Borscht Belt thrown in, as well as a testament to the blurring of contraries she and her films embody: feigned prudery and ribald provocation, sincerity and self-consciousness. Asking Ebert why he didn’t put Dildo Heaven on his “Best Of” list, the filmmaker is met with the critic’s blanching reply—of course he likes to see films first before reviewing them! Wishman scoffs: “Ugh, how ordinary!”

more here.