Sick: The Life & Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

This unflinching documentary was the succes de scandale of the 1997 Sundance Film Festival: Viewers loved it, hated it and walked out on it in equal numbers. The late Bob Flanagan, performance artist and self-proclaimed "supermasochist," was certainly a paradoxical figure: Articulate, funny in an intensely self-deprecating way and admirably resilient --...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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This unflinching documentary was the succes de scandale of the 1997 Sundance Film Festival: Viewers loved it, hated it and walked out on it in equal numbers. The late Bob Flanagan, performance artist and self-proclaimed

"supermasochist," was certainly a paradoxical figure: Articulate, funny in an intensely self-deprecating way and admirably resilient -- when he died of cystic fibrosis at age 44, he had survived decades longer than most people born with the chronic and debilitating illness -- he was also a man who

nailed his private parts to a board, and did it in public. Shock value aside, the fascination of Flanagan's performance art lies in the ways in which physical illness and sexual submission -- the twin engines that drove his inner life -- intersect, overlap and become completely intertwined

with one another. This funny, eye-opening and ultimately very moving portrait by director Kirby Dick includes extensive interviews with Flanagan's collaborator and longtime companion Sheree Rose (who may change some viewer's perceptions of dominatrixes) and shorter but breathtakingly telling

interviews with his family. "Where was I?" asks his mother, describing her reaction to learning of the secret life that was well under way when Flanagan was still living at home: Among other things, he confesses to hanging himself so often from the backs of doors in the family house that

they were all pulled off their hinges. Then there's Flanagan's brother, who figures that his own hidden gay life paled next to what his brother was getting up to on the sly. Warning: not for the squeamish.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This unflinching documentary was the succes de scandale of the 1997 Sundance Film Festival: Viewers loved it, hated it and walked out on it in equal numbers. The late Bob Flanagan, performance artist and self-proclaimed "supermasochist," was certainly a p… (more)

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