ACIDEMIC Journal of Film and Media

Cinema and Indifference: Joy and Joan
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Samantha Charlip

From the mind of author Joy Laurey, the erotic Parisian novel turned silver screen classic Joy & Joan is one of a series of stories that chronicle the sexual and transcontinental adventures of Joy, a jaded supermodel who's searching to fulfill her deepest desires with a range of suitors. Curiously, it isn't until after a good deal of gratuitous nudity and emotionless heterosexual excess that Joy discovers none of the men she's been with meet her standards for true happiness and moves on apathetically. If it weren't for the raw uncut sexploitation (including something called a Philippine Sex Grotto sequence) and static postmodern silence that permeate the film, Id say Ive seen it all before. And in fact, I have.


At its core, Joy and Joan is motivated by a theme made popular in the early 90's by the hit sitcom Seinfeld of a group of people for whom sex and relationships are only passive, indifferent functions to understand ones own tormented nihilistic existence. Like George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer, Joy and Joan are residents of a universe where individuals are undeniably flawed, affairs are superficial and transient and where no one suffers pathos or punishment.

From the very beginning of the film, Joy displays the trappings of her godless, egomaniacal predecessors, showing symptoms of apathetic Seinfeldian malaise during a lucrative photo shoot, staring off into nothingness as the photographer coarsely reminds her that she is a top super model making boatloads of money, with not a thing in the world to be upset about.

Joy too seems to realize this, trying, temporarily, to pin her angst on philandering boyfriend Marc Charoux. though, when Marc rejects her in favor of having multiple lovers, Joy does not even shed a tear before skipping off to Singapore with love struck Bruce, who she cares little about though he, on the other hand, worships her to the point of obsession.


Joy's movement between relationships is characterized by such mendacity, such a blatant lack of feeling that any of her love interests in the movie could have easily been replaced with humdrum stand-ins like Man Hands or Mulva.

Bruce, for his part, tries to show Joy a world of extreme wealth, so much opulence in face that it becomes meaningless, as do the countless orgies and rape montages which hardly cause Joy to flinch, even as she is violated by one, two, ten men, tied up and drugged, it seems all just a means to an end, a wacky adventure in the search for something deeper.


Initially, we'd like to think this something deeper comes in the form of Joan, a woman she meets after running away from the sex palace Bruce has taken her to, but this relationship too proves to Joy that the endlessly devoted Joan still cannot satisfy the profound emptiness she feels inside her. And the moment she discovers this, Joy takes off like a freight train, only half wondering of the murky details of Joans whereabouts and whether she too was able to escape the Philippine grotto. Yes, nearly the whole movie goes by without the titular character improving or developing from her experiences at all, a motto expressed by Seinfeld writers known as no hugging, no learning.


In truth, the only character who does seem to exhibit any signs of life is Le prince CornÚlius, a kind of free-wheeling Kramerian figure whose whole function in the movie is to capture Joy and bring her back to his palace. It seems that through his blind determination to retrieve Joy, CornÚlius is the only character able to uncover his true purpose in the world.

The film ends with Joy, Joan and Marc living a polyamorous lifestyle and raising a child together in an old rustic home. One of the final scenes shows the three enjoying a group lovemaking session by a roaring fire and taking care of their young baby. In the final moment of the film, Joy wonders aloud to Joan, what happens after you find happiness? I believe this final question provides real insight into the films message as well as its more universal nihilistic implications. On the one hand, the fact that Joy even poses this as question seems its unclear as to whether she has truly found the happiness she seeks. In another sense, Joy is posing the query that philosophers from Sartre to Seinfeld have pondered over for centuries. What if all the quirky adventures, bawdy sexcapades and lackluster lovers added up to something like happiness? What then? Like Joy, Joan, Jerry and George, we too do not have the answer and must simply continue to wonder, continue to ask, even as the credits roll.

Samantha Charlip is a Brooklyn based writer who works in television and loves the French

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