Mitchell Lichtenstein’s film Teeth—a black comedy about an adolescent girl coping with vagina dentata—premiered on Monday, Jan. 14, at MoMA’s Celeste Bartos Theater. In the film, Dawn, played by Jess Weixler, tries to suppress her blossoming sexuality in the face of her stepbrother’s overtly wanton behavior.
Recalling her own sexual awakening, Ms. Weixler’s sleepy eyes came alive. “I remember the process for discovering that I was a sexual being—that I wasn’t just a girl, but a sexual girl,” said the actress, 26, who was wearing a layered, blue-and-black A La Disposition dress whose skirt flared below a corseted bodice. “I think anything that’s overwhelming and emotional can be scary, but eventually that turns into empowerment,” she added.
Writer-director Mr. Lichtenstein, 51, who was clad in a colorful paisley shirt and tie beneath a dark brown suit for the occasion, regarded his own experience of puberty less fondly. “It was a long, extended, scary time,” he said with a laugh. “I’d like to go back in time and start a bit earlier.”
Mr. Lichtenstein went on to say that he thinks the paranoid notion of vagina dentata, a myth typically associated with ancient cultures, thrives in America today. “I would offer as proof the Hillary Clinton nutcracker that I’ve heard about,” he said, referring to the popular, Web-based novelty item. “Whenever there’s a strong woman, immediately—people, men—see it translate into a castrating image.”
The actor John Hensley, 30, who plays Dawn’s naughty stepbrother Brad in the film, agrees. “This myth actually exists,” he said, shaking his head in wonderment, a scarf billowing around his neck. His own first sexual experience, he said, was nothing short of “amazing.”