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by Ellen Von Unwerth
Finally, a book about women who end up captive and enslaved, that "isn't graphic or offensive in any way".

Part "The Story of O", part Andrew Blake and vintage erotica, Ellen Von Unwerth veers even further away from fashion and more towards conceptually innovative work in this playful, S&M tale. Revenge is one of the most incredibly audacious works of recent memory, especially when you consider how conservative our culture has become. The story is as bold as the photographs, and in many ways, as sexy. Though the viewer is treated to page after page of women wrestling in mud, spankings and bondage, this isn't as dirty as the material it pays homage to, but it is twice as fun.
Revenge is the story of a group of women who end up captive and enslaved, but turn the tables on their captors. The book is almost pocket sized, and is a beautiful black and white, hardcover collector's dream. This is the thing that coffee tables were meant for, (but not if you have young children around.) Truth be told, Revenge is pretty tame, with full nudity on display and some eyebrow raising scenarios, it isn't graphic or offensive in any way. By contrast, it is actually the nicest fashion meets erotica study I have seen. It doesn't hurt that Ellen Von Unwerth has a skilled eye and a gift for capturing perversity in a comfortable and natural setting. She makes taboo subjects very familiar and creates adult subject matter that has class and style.
Like adult filmmaker Andrew Blake, Von Unwerth focuses on female couplings where there is a wink and a nod to S&M and bondage, but the underlined exploration is actually on how beautiful women are. It is difficult to imagine anyone not flipping through Revenge without a smile. The book replicates the look of vintage erotica, but brings it into the modern age and declares it OK to enjoy this kind of material. In an era where we have become so afraid to speak our minds and explore themes outside of the status quo, Revenge is a welcome tribute to sexuality and freedom. One could say that Revenge doesn't break any new ground, but that would be ignoring the fact that this isn't welcome subject matter in your average bookstore, and Ellen Von Unwerth is a woman who isn't afraid to take risks. Like her previous books, Wicked and Couples, Revenge proves that Ellen Von Unwerth plays by her own rules and creates art that is outside of the conventions. Revenge ends with the famous words, "To be continued..." Let's hope so. Buy the book!

Terry Osterhout
September 2003


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