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Monday, January 30, 2012

Cigars, Pizza Puttanesca and A Dangerous Method

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge DEBORAH HYLAND
  • Deborah Hyland

Watching David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method can leave the viewer feeling dangerously complacent. Look how far we've come from those uptight Victorian and Edwardian women with their long, rigid corsets; their impossibly white shirtwaists; and their yards and yards of lace.

Why, those women were literally driven mad by repression!

The heroine, Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley) arrives at Carl Jung's sanatorium manifesting what previous generations would have termed "hysteria of the womb." She writhes, twitches and screams, jutting her jaw so far forward that Knightley's normal underbite begins to resemble the creature from Alien. Jung (Michael Fassbender) helps Sabina first voice and then accept her forbidden desires, which turn out to be masochistic. Finally, he joins in, becoming not just her therapist but her lover. Freedom through being tied to the headboard.

Why, she even earns a doctorate!

As a film, A Dangerous Method doesn't entirely satisfy. Along with the Spielrein-Jung plot, Cronenberg also follows the growing rift between Jung and his idol, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Neither plot comes to a particularly satisfying climax, sexually or otherwise. Gut Check had to content ourselves with the sensual pleasures of the period costumes, the beautifully restored wooden sailboat, the exquisite exteriors and formal gardens and the carefully rendered interiors, especially the gentlemen's clubs.

Searching for a suitable dinner afterward revealed that we are not so far, alas, from the repressive, censorious past. Naturally, a movie about Freud and Jung required dinner in a cigar bar, but campaigners for a smoke-free St. Louis have stamped out such delights. In St. Louis, one can no longer enjoy an after-dinner cigar in the same restaurant where one has just dined.

click to enlarge DEBORAH HYLAND
  • Deborah Hyland

Fortunately, we discovered The Hill Cigar Company (5360 Southwest Avenue; 314-776-4455). There, customers can bring in their own carry-out dinner and beverages, purchase a cigar from the massive humidor and head to the smoking lounge in back.

The lounge may be one of the last vestiges of the Victorian gentlemen's club, complete with kitchenette, leather sofas, over-stuffed chairs, side tables, private storage lockers, a big-screen TV and free wi-fi.

And, unlike in Victorian gentlemen's clubs, female patrons are more than welcome.

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