Sunday, November 29, 2009

R.I.P. David Aaron Clark, 1960-2009

Sad news today, folks. David Aaron Clark, director of Pure, and likely soon to be a multiple AVN award winner thanks to his multiple nominations for Pure this year, died on Saturday evening of a pulminary embolism. I can't quite believe this, seeing as I replied to an email of his just a couple of weeks ago, thanking him for his promise to keep in touch about new products that might be of interest to me. In the very brief communications we had, Clark made his intellectual interest in pornography clear, as well as his artistic investment in it, and I was impressed at his knowledge and passion.

This is a sad loss for an industry that has so few edgy and risk-taking writers/directors, in terms of porn conventions. One of the things about Pure that I liked so much was how it took risks, and Clark told me that he was in the process of editing the film for the festival circuit. I was really excited about what direction he would take next, but now we will never know.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"It Always Has a Hard-on": Long Jeanne Silver (1977)

Hey folks. A queer oddity this time around, with Alex deRenzy's Long Jeanne Silver, starring Jean Silver, who was born with a deformity and had the lower part of her lower leg amputated at age two-and-a-half, leaving a phallic stump perfect for penetration. Long Jeanne Silver plays out like a documentary that's high on sex and low on dialogue, yet the situational segments, some candid and some constructed, are subtly revealing.

The movie begins with an immediate sex scene, already in progress, featuring Joey Silvera (director of the Strap Attack series) and Amber Hunt. I felt pretty happy at this point, reassured by the apparent normality of the scene in terms of how it was shot, and by Joey's presence - being a queer little devil, his participation made me feel that the scene was between happy and consenting adults who are totally down with proceedings.

Following this opening scene, we have a little narrative spoken to camera by Jean, detailing her sexual adventures as a teen. Apparently she liked to pick up gay prostitutes and take advantage of them, as this is what we're presented with as way of a reenactment of Jean's youth. Jean, wearing an artificial leg, picks up aforementioned prostitute, promising him, "You might be surprised - I have a few things that a boy has." At this point, I started thinking about Jean's stump as a phallus, and then cursed myself for not realizing that this was the focus of the film. More on this later. Jean and the guy go back to Jean's place, and after some fooling around Jean goes off to her bathroom to do something, and hops back out announcing, "You ready for this? Huh?" The guy responds with an "Oh god..." but then they both get down to business, lubing up the stump and fucking the guy in the ass - it definitely gives a new meaning to the term "pegging" (I'm sorry...I couldn't resist).

It's notable during this scene that the male's sexual pleasure does not seem to be the focus; rather, the traditional sexual focus of the female in heterosexual porn - vaginal penetration rather than clitoral stimulation - is occupied by the male in this scene. That is to say, the male is being penetrated on his stomach, with no stimulation of the penis, while Jean engages in clitoral stimulation and her orgasm concludes the scene.

My earlier comment about Jean's stump being a phallus relates to the interesting dynamic at work in the aforementioned scene. Note that the phallus should not be confused with a penis, as is the popular perception: the phallus is the cultural source of power, associated with masculinity, stemming from childish fantasies of the penis and sexual difference. Fast cars, battleships, and guns operate as phalluses, but they never achieve this unattainable source of power (it's a fantasy) and are anxious, unstable signifiers. The same applies to the penis, and in this way the dildo has been defended as not "like a penis" (as so many feminist anti-dildo theorists would have it) but rather "better than" a penis - it's just another phallic replacement, but (disconcertingly for some) it's always hard, it's detachable, and women can work them in diverse ways. These ideas came up in my Strap Attack 10 review also.

In Long Jeanne Silver, these concepts come to fruition in the scene between Jean and the two girls she has decided to "educate," Lori Blue and China Leigh. Sat together on a couch, they have a candid conversation about Jean's history, Jean shows the girls her spread in Cheri magazine (the centerfold of which is the DVD cover), and answers questions about her stump. The questions and answers are particularly revealing of the phallic nature of Jean's stump, and the masculine anxiety regarding the inadequacy of the penis: "Is this the same size as a cock?" "I've been told it's bigger than Johnny Holmes." "Is it just like a dick?" Jean's response: "People don't have to worry about getting pregnant from it, or get any diseases from it....It always has a hard-on." And finally, "If I could fuck myself with it, I would." The anxieties that such responses might elicit are quite understandable when you consider the efforts our culture has gone to to establish the penis as the dominant form of power, only to be undermined by a far more impressive dildo or stump.

So, my viewing experience was all shits and giggles up until this point, and I was really impressed with deRenzy's complex and fun-filled film. And then something happened. Jean started to cry while talking to the girls on the couch. At first I wasn't sure what was happening - whether she was laughing or crying - because I heard her making some noise off camera, and then she said something about getting it on if she can only stop crying, followed by the girls and Jean wiping the tears from her face. But a quick rewind confirms that, yes indeed, Jean starts crying while one of the girls is saying whether or not she wants to try fucking the stump. Immediately after they're drying Jean's eyes, another sex scene starts up, but I just couldn't get into it, even though all involved were giggling and smiling, and the whole thing ended with them bundling under a blanket and rolling around laughing. It was all very fun, but I couldn't shake the whole crying thing.

The remaining two scenes were more of the same, for the most part, with the second-to-last scene standing out as really cool. Paul Thomas plays a man who is given a very special birthday present by his wife, but must wear a blindfold. Naturally, it's Jean, and she sets about fucking PT's wife while he is serviced orally by her. After a while, PT is being neglected, and vocally expresses his anxiety, announcing that he's being neglected, demanding "Somebody pay attention to me!" Well, buddy, your pleasure will have to take a back seat for a moment, because Jean and your wife are getting busy. This doesn't last long, of course, as PT takes off his blindfold and is shocked by what he sees (see pic above). The remaining activity does *not* include PT engaging in some anal as I had hoped, but rather some good ole' hetero-penetration between PT and his wife, with a side-order of stump.

I really enjoyed this movie - at least until the sobbing, and then I started reassessing what I was seeing. Regardless of the ambiguity of the emotions on display, I am genuinely impressed by the complexity and subtlety of this film, and got a lot out of it. Recommended to those who can handle it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pegging It: Strap Attack 10 (2009)

Hola ladies, gents, and otherwise. I have been having a lot of fun recently exploring genres that I had no knowledge of -- on my journey toward being a porn scholar, I figure I need to dabble in as many different genres and studios as possible in order to be well-rounded. A genre I have been eagerly wanting to investigate is the pegging movie, of which the Strap Attack series is probably the most famous and popular. It's an Evil Angel production, made by classic porn star Joey Silvera, whom I've enjoyed on screen several times. He has proven to be a queer sexual explorer in the past, so Strap Attack seems to be a perfect fit for him -- it shows in his enthusiasm behind the camera, which I sense is infectious for the performers and viewer alike.

One of the main reasons I wanted this one is because Asa Akira, star of Pure, and my new favourite performer, is the covergirl. She does not disappoint, concluding the movie with a fantastic performance that she and her partner seem to thoroughly enjoy. Mz. Berlin, a red-headed professional dominatrix, is also very impressive, performing with Christian (who really charmed my socks off). Going into this, I wasn't sure how I would react, and I definitely had some questions in my head, particularly after reading a lot of men's perspectives that this genre is "gay." I wasn't sure if the movie would be solely about male pleasure, and then, if this were true, whether or not the movie would actually play out as a subversive contribution to mainstream adult film (as I had hopes it would).

Well, right off the bat, I could tell that this genre is something of an equalizer - both performers' pleasure is validated in every scene, particularly in the first two, with both partners taking their turn to fuck and suck. They also conclude with a money shot that is shared between both partners, a challenge to traditional money shots that raises some interesting questions. Also, due to the nature of this particular sexual preference, there is more focus on the male body (in non-traditional ways, for hetero porn), which I found refreshing. It's quite an odd thing to see male orifices toyed with on screen (bear in mind I haven't seen much gay porn, but even in the gay porn I've seen, there wasn't much enthusiastic probing going on), and I have heard some men say that they don't do anal with their girlfriend because it's "gay." The same attitude is expressed, in fact, toward any sexual activity that involves penetration of male orifices - something that is coded as feminine, and therefore plays out as "gay" in a man. The fact that the penetrating item in these movies is a giant rubber dong simply literalizes the anxiety all these other penetrative acts rustle up. There is nothing homosexual about getting pegged. It's a piece of rubber, shaped like a penis. It's no more gay than lesbian dildo banging is straight. But boy is it queer...

Another thing I noticed about this movie was the degree of fem-dom behavior - it says it on the box, so I was expecting it, but the excessive amount of spitting in the fourth scene with muscle-bound Monica Santhiago (who speaks in Portuguese throughout the scene, which was cool) was just too gross for me. I confess to using the FF button on this one. I did watch the concluding milk enema though - a new spectacle to add to my collection.

My question regarding the fem-dom element is whether or not there exists a pegging/strap-on movie in which there are no traces of fem-dom behavior. I wonder if this is possible for a straight market to consume; whether or not the dominatrix aspect acts as what Linda Williams calls an "identificatory buffer" - a sort of psychological, unconscious security blanket that enables you to indulge in deep-seated taboo pleasures. Women often perform this function in situations where without the woman, it would be deemed homosexual - the three-way, for example, or any of the other various communications that take place in our culture between men that superficially take place "through" a woman - and in Strap Attack, I wonder whether the aggression and fetish-clothing are mere cultural iconography employed to soften the blow (so to speak) of simply enjoying women fucking men with strap-ons. It lends it a kinkiness that I think people associate with transgression, and therefore accept a lot more of what's taking place than if they were watching a more "vanilla" fucking style.

Certainly, I need to see more of these movies - one thing I know for sure is that I am a fan. I loved the leveling out of genders, I loved the fact that the men and women involved seemed to simply *love* what was happening (and seemed well-seasoned in this particular art form), and I thought the whole thing was hot (except for the spitting) - particularly the scene with Mz. Berlin and Christian. Christian is a star.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pure (2009)

Hey folks! I received a very nice email from director David Aaron Clark a couple of weeks ago, complimenting my blog (thank you David) and offering me a copy of his new movie, Pure, for me to review. I was planning on buying it anyway, so this was an ideal freebie. I must admit, I was very concerned that I wouldn't be able to say good things about it - the original movie it's based on, In the Realm of the Senses (Dir. Nagisa Oshima, 1976), is one of the greatest sexually explicit films ever made, by many peoples' standards (including my own), and has been studied, written about, and generally considered bad ass ever since it was released. Clark has a lot to live up to, and I don't like lying, so I was crossing my fingers that this Evil Angel remake would be at least good enough for me to say a couple of neat things about. Well, I'm happy to say that I'm able to do more than that - this film took me by surprise in a lot of different ways. Read on, but be aware that my review contains spoilers, and some imagery may make gentlemen cross their legs.

As a company, Evil Angel has only meant one thing to me: gonzo. Turns out, they have made their fair share of features, many of which are highly regarded, but nevertheless, I was aware that a feature film from EA would probably be pretty high on sexual content. In many ways, In the Realm of the Senses is a perfect source text, seeing as it basically consists of sexual activity as narrative. Both the original film and Pure depict the relationship between Sada and Kichi - in the original film Sada is a concubine to Kichi's married man, and their sexual relationship becomes increasingly intense, violent, and eventually "resolves" itself through Sada strangling Kichi during sex, and then castrating him. Pure follows this narrative surprisingly faithfully, but set in modern Los Angeles, casting Sada (Asa Akira) as a former prostitute working at a fetish dungeon, while Kichi (Keni Styles) is the dungeon mistress's husband.

My primary concern about Pure was what I believed to be the impossible task of depicting Sada and Kichi's sexual relationship in a modern porn film. The majority of adult film, particularly in the last twenty years or so, relies on what Linda Williams, in her book Screening Sex, refers to as the "scratch" model - sex with the goal of climax, usually the male's, and is essentially male-centered. In the Realm of the Senses, Williams argues, uses an "itch" model, one that is female-centered in its "continuous sexual pleasure," focused less on male climax, and more on the man aspiring to meet "the woman's temporal rhythm of ecstasy" (201). Realm consists of prolonged scenes of sexual activity that are almost feverish in their drawn out pleasures - I didn't believe a modern pornographic remake would take such risks.

In a way, I was right - the opening sex scene appeared to confirm my concerns, and narratively the film takes a while establishing the intensity of the relationship between Sada and Kichi. With that said, though, there are a couple of these more conventional sex scenes that stand out as unconventional by today's standards, most memorably the scene between Akira and Jake Malone.

What I am most impressed by is the way Clark manages to incorporate the "itch" model into "scratch"-type scenes. In other words, a relatively conventional scene can be taking place, such as the one between the lovely Mr. Marcus and a lovely lady, while it is simultaneously being subverted by Sada and Kichi's activities in the background which are lingering and drawn out, at the margins, yet a part of the scene at the same time. The movie still conforms to a "pornographic agenda," yet there is a hint of a subversive sexual dynamic at work at the same time.

It's later in the movie that Clark seems to really get at Sada's increasing fascination with ownership of Kichi's body, and Kichi's submission to Sada's desires. He actually does a good job of developing an intensity to the relationship, with them spending days on end in bed together exploring their bodies and desires, even if these elements are developed a little late in the film for my tastes.

Of course, the finale of the film was something Clark, Styles, Akira, and the make-up team were going to have to pull off (no pun intended) in order to really impress me. Well, let me tell you, I've seen a handful of castration scenes in my time, but the castration in Pure is without a doubt the most convincing. I genuinely don't know how they made it so realistic - but a very effective replica of Styles' penis, as well as some really great fake blood, have to be the key.

I also liked the way the film narrative is framed by police testimonies related to the crime, as well as imagery that foreshadows the film's finale, including a vacant Akira traveling the subway with something in a box...

Needless to say, I recommend this film - Styles and Akira do an outstanding job, and Clark impressed me. Pure certainly won't be to everyone's tastes, and I'm really not sure what audience it will appeal to. But, honestly, that's why I like it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hardgore (1974)

Well folks, this is my final Halloween review, a little late because this one took so long in the mail. I think it was worth the wait, and to reward you for your patience I even grabbed my own (favourite) screen shots for your perusal. Some of the imagery just wouldn't have been done justice with mere verbal descriptions.

Maria (Dianne Galke), a nymphomaniac and masochist, is sent to Fox Hollows Sanitarium by her frankly very suspicious boyfriend. All seems well until spooky things start happening at night - things like Satanic orgies, orchestrated by the frequently-fellated Devil dude, that culminate in castration; her nurse showing up at her door with her throat slit; a replacement nurse getting a burning dildo stuck in her cooch; and the like.
However, Maria keeps finding herself waking up in bed as though nothing happened, with the doctor acting as though all is well and treatment should continue. Naturally, all is not well, and after Maria sneaks out of her room and overhears aforementioned shady boyfriend talking to the doctor about Maria's destiny (to be used in a Satanic orgy ritual, and then killed by guillotine) she tries to run away. Of course, she is promptly caught and taken to "the room" where, quite honestly, most of the cool stuff happens. I started getting antsy after around the 30-minute mark, but after seeing what was in "the room" I realised my $25 was money well spent.

Quite honestly, I bought this movie on the promise of levitating penises (peni?), and levitating penises I got.

Furthermore, having apparently intimidated our heroine - who is strung up against a blood-spattered wall, surrounded by dead women - simply by being floating/flying cocks, they proceed to unload copious amounts of cum onto her body. And I mean copious amounts - probably around two pints.

Just after this scene, the dead bodies come to life, and then we transition into the culminating Satanic orgy, featuring our Devil dude. The sex seems to suit Maria (she's a nympho, remember), but she's really not so keen on the "unhappy ending" involving a guillotine operated by a guy in a peephole white body suit (just like the one Johnny Keyes wears in Behind the Green Door). So, in the spirit of the Final Girl, she grabs the nearest battle axe, kills the Devil guy, and then buries it into the back of a fellow who was minding his own business fucking the feathers out of a duvet.

Awesome! Well, it would be awesome in pretty much any other movie, because this would signal the moment when the disciples scatter, and our heroine emerges bloodied and traumatized, but triumphant. Not so in this film. Apparently, these disciples are so dedicated that a random guy who was part of the orgy gets up and beats Maria to death with a skull. Then they stick a lit candle in her cooch, and leave her dead body there amongst the feathers. Not quite the ending I was expecting, and kudos for catching me off guard.

Overall, I believe this is one of those films that speaks for itself - I have not come away with any profound ideas, nor did I learn all that much (aside from my tolerance level when it comes to obnoxious soundtracks - apparently my tolerance level is quite high. I only FFwded once). However, I did see things I have never seen before, and there has to be something said for that. I also think there were several moments in this film that were inspired and subversive - this is definitely the closest to a true horror/porn hybrid that I've seen, and in this sense it succeeds at making elements of sexuality so gratuitous and exaggerated that they become "gore," as well as positioning sexuality as a source of danger, fear, and violence for all involved (but, of course, especially the women). This is one I'm probably going to ponder over for quite some time.


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