The mega-filthy and ultra-subversive Anne Sprinkle is back. The American sexologist, feminist, porn actress and former sex worker is best remembered for her extreme sex performances in the 1980s and 1990s (such as Public Cervix Announcement, when she invited audiences to “celebrate the female body” by viewing inside her vagina with a magnifying glass and flashlight). In Water Makes Us Wet, she gets behind the camera for the first time. The film investigates the connection between water, the Earth and our sexuality.
The outcome is far less hardcore than Sprinkle’s early performances. Alongside her wife and co-director Beth Stephens, the 65-year-old artist travels around her native California talking to various people, always questioning the significance of H2O in our lives. Their vehicle is aptly named the E.A.R.T.H. mobile unit, and they are accompanied by their dog Butch (who encounters a tragic fate towards the end of the film). This is a very lighthearted, lyrical and personal approach to documentary-making.
Annie and Beth interact with artists, intellectual, scientists, water treatment experts and others. They deep-dive into their subject, quite literally. The two women visit Annie’s family house swimming pool, where she gave the very first blow job ever. Annie claims that she is an “aquaphilic” (even her surname “Sprinkle” is a reference to water). There are 250,000 pools in Los Angeles alone, we are told. They also visit a seal colony, where Annie communicates with the animals: “Do the plastic bottles on the water bother you?”, she asks the attentive mammals.
The topic of ecosexuality is the central pillar of the film. We learn that “ecosexuals” are those who feel a romantic or a sexual connection to Mother Earth. But don’t expect penetrative and hardcore sex. Water Makes Us Wet is nothing like Marina Abramovic’s Balkan Erotic Epic (2006), when a several men literally have coitus with our planet and various objects. The sexual connection could be in your mind, we are told.
The idea that “water is erotic” and our planet has an enormous amount of sexual energy is indeed fascinating. However, Annie and Beth’s approach to filmmaking is too informal and incoherent. The topics are too varied and they don’t really gel together. The two women travel from water treatment plants to a seal colony, then go on to talk about Nestle’s water brands, discuss sensory arousal through nature and question global warming. I have no idea how all of these themes fit together. Maybe I’m just not fluid enough for Annie’s world.
All in all, Water Makes Us Wet is still refreshing enough to watch. Just don’t expect too much depth. Annie Sprinkle is very effective is a subversive performance artist, but she isn’t as skilled as a road movie documentarist (Annie is no Agnes Varda).
Water Makes Us Wet shows as part of BFI Flare, taking place in London between March 21st and 31st.