Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: The Devil in Miss Jones 2

The Devil in Miss Jones 2 (1982)

Directed by:
Henri Pachard

Anna Ventura
Dena Ferrara
Georgina Spelvin
Jacqueline Lorians
Joanna Storm
Sharon Kane
Sharon Mitchell
Alan Adrian
Ashley Moore
Bobby Astyr
George Payne
Jack Wrangler
Joe Santini
Joey Silvera
Michael Bruce
R. Bolla
Ron Jeremy

Before I get into particulars, I feel I should mention that I really enjoyed DMJ 2. That being said, I really, really wish it had been a stand-alone film and not a "sequel" to the The Devil in Miss Jones. The original is one of the freshest, darkest, most surreal adult films I've ever seen. With the exception of the titular character, DMJ 2 has nothing in common with its predecessor.

In defiance of Hell's "no orgasm" policy, Justine Jones (Spelvin) proves too much for Lucifer (Wrangler) - or "Lucy" - to handle. After giving him his first fiery orgasm in thousands of years, she makes him send her back to Earth to live a life filled with lust. Her first "home" is the body of Roxanne, a call girl (Lorains). Though he's loathe to admit it, the Devil has feelings for Miss Jones, and can't bear to see her in ecstasy, so he transfers her to another body, a female soldier (Storm). After she defies rank and enters the mens' showers, she's sent to her superiors for punishment. Naturally, she ends up seducing the Captain, which further irritates the Devil. Hoping to stop her sexy fun times, the Devil transfers her into the body of a dull Tupperware saleslady (Ventura) - as a side note, regardless of how unsexy of a profession he chooses for Miss Jones's host, he probably would have been better off not sending her into the body of a super attractive woman...just saying.

The Devil's Advocate (Bolla) seems to be conspiring against him*, though, because he works with one of Hell's minions (Jeremy) to have the Tupperware lady's wares changed from kitchen utensils to blow up dolls and vibrators. Of course, after she ditches salad bowls for vibrating prostate probers, her first attempted sale ends up with her in the throes of passion with the first man she came across. Further frustrated, the Devil throws the Tupperware lady/Miss Jones down an elevator shaft.

While she's in the hospital, the Devil moves Miss Jones into the body of a nun (Samantha Fox, non-sex). The "man upstairs" is none too pleased with the fact that the Devil used one of "his" people as a vessel, so he shorts out the Devil's system and has St. Peter call "downstairs". Lucy's commanded to pop Miss Jones back into Roxanne, the thought of which really breaks the Devil up. With his back against the wall [SPOILER ALERT] Lucifer abdicates his throne so he can be with her.

Like I said, I really did like the film. The costuming and sets were very impressive, and the film was loaded with pretty amusing visual gags and puns. But it's this lightness that sets it completely at odds with the original. If it was called, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Out of the Underworld, or something, I'd have probably given it a straight A. Since it used the DMJ name, though, I'm going to have to mark it A-.

* It's also possible I misread the story and that the DA wasn't aware that his boss was intentionally trying to keep Jones from getting laid....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Sweet Surrender

Sweet Surrender (1980)

Directed by:
Dick Milford

Merle Michaels
Heather Young
Georgette Saunders
Pamela Presley
Samantha Fox
Tricia Ascot
Veri Knotty
Alan Adrian
Roger Caine
David Ruby
David Morris
Marc Valentine
Michael Gaunt

I'm going to hazard a guess that Mystery (that ridiculous "pickup artist" douche) saw this movie when he was young and it served to shape his entire life and career. Granted, "peacocking" isn't mentioned anywhere in the film, but the story is that an author (Caine) is shopping a book of time-tested techniques for seducing women to a publisher (Ascot). Predictably, the book's chapters are the film's hardcore scenes. (The structure of the film lends itself to being a clip recylcer, but that doesn't seem to be the case.)

The author claims the "moves" are all legal, but a few - a man (Valentine) pretends to be a doctor interviewing a new secretary (Michaels); another man (Ruby) pretends to be the manager of the Rolling Stones, convincing a fan (Fox) to have sex with him in order to meet Mick Jagger* - are ethically dubious.

The best part of the film is the expository dialogue between the author and publisher. The script is obviously "first draft" material (I guess since I hardly ever draft or revise my reviews, I shouldn't cast aspersions; glass houses, stones, all that mess) and the performances are earnest, but not...good. Plus, the music that scores the office scenes seems to be straight out of Assault on Precinct 13 (the good one...).

Oddly, I ended up watching two 64-minute movies in a row. For all its shortcomings, Pleasure Spot seemed shorter than Sweet Surrender. However, on the whole, Sweet Surrender had more interesting hardcore scenes (and a moderately entertaining/surprising twist at the end), so it gets a half letter grade bump. C

* With a complete disregard for copyright law, there are two Stones songs (Some Girls and Miss You) that play during the scene. For some reason, stuff like that cracks me up. I can't imagine the band being too upset about their music in a porn, but their lawyers might have a different take....

Pornonomy Reviews: Pleasure Spot

Pleasure Spot (1986)

Directed by:
Jack Remy

Bunnie Blake
Bunny Bleu
Gina Carrera
Patti Petite
Billy Dee
Greg Derek
Hershel Savage
Kevin James

You get a pretty good impression what you're in for during the opening credits. Pleasure Spot is shot on video and has a quasi-New Wave theme. In fairness, judged against other porn videos of the era, it's actually not too bad.

The cast is comprised of capable actors and the story is moderately interesting: Melissa (Carrera) is unable to have an orgasm. At the urging of her boyfriend (James) she sees a doctor (Savage) who finds that she doesn't have a clitoris. Conveniently, another patient of his has two. After the world's first clit transplant, Melissa finds a whole new world of sexual pleasure. The movie definitely owes a debt of gratitude to Deep Throat, even if the idea isn't as...high-minded? (Seems weird to describe Throat like that....)

Eight hardcore scenes in a 64-minute movie doesn't leave a lot of room for plot development. The meager amount of story and the hardcorse scenes are fine, but nothing particularly noteworthy. The camera work and editing - though on video - has the feel of feature films, so that's something.

At the end of the day, with the Carrera/James connection, Pleasure Spot had me wishing I'd just watched Stiff Competition again. C-

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Destricted

Descripted (2006)

Directed by:
Marina Abramovic
Matthew Barney
Marco Brambilla
Larry Clark
Gaspar Noe
Richard Prince
Sam Taylor-Wood

Too many people to list

I'm of two minds concerning the use of hardcore by non-pornographers. On the one hand, hardcore scenes in otherwise non-pornographic films (Shortbus, 9 Songs, Antichrist) further the debate of the absurdity of the MPAA's tolerance of violence and intolerance of sex (definitely check out This Film is Not Yet Rated, if you haven't seen it). On the other hand, the idea that "straight" (as in non-hardcore) directors somehow have legitimize hardcore serves to reinforce the idea that porn is "less than 'real' film," despite the quality of great directors (like Gerard Damiano and Robert McCallum and Chuck Vincent and probably some that work today, but who I obviously don't follow). When you add another layer of constructing and deconstructing the idea of hardcore by putting it in the hands of artists, you could end up with a Grade A Clusterfuck.

When I was in college, as an art student, I saw - voluntarily and otherwise - my fair share of art films. I generally feel about art films the way I do about slam poetry: when it's great, it's really great; when it's anything less than great, it's fucking unbearable. Surprisingly, of the seven films here, I'd say two were really great, but the other five weren't without their interesting qualities.

Balkan Erotic Epic (Abromovic)
I don't know anything about Balkan folklore, so I'll have to take Abromovic's word for the way sexuality and genitalia are fetishized "een Balkan." Whether it's a groom-to-be penetrating holes he drilled in a bridge on his wedding day to ward off wedding night impotence or a woman suffocating a fish in her vagina overnight in order to make a coffee-lacing powder that will act as a sort of love potion, Abromovic's brief intros are illustrated - with varying degrees of literalness - by animation or live action. Overall, it's the sort of film that you expect to see in a museum or gallery. One which there's a more-likely-than-not chance of watching for a minute or two before moving on after "getting the idea."

Hoist (Barney)
Matthew Barney is probably most famous for being a former model and Bjork's partner, but people seem to be familiar with his Cremaster Cycle. I haven't seen any of the films, but the fascinatingly creepy production design is pretty well-known. Dude has definitely found the area in the Venn diagram where beautiful or horrifying overlap. Hoist is split into three - or maybe two and a half - parts. The first is what I'd describe as a Microcosmos in Hell. A close up of what might be a creepy slug in mossy cave is revealed to be a slowly engorging uncut dick against the dirty thighs and belly of some dude. (As an aside, after it was apparent what was going on, I couldn't help but be reminded of once - in a life drawing class - the male model got a boner; there was an audible silence in the room as it rose and fell....)

The perspective shifts to a video - shot at night - of a construction crew around some heavy machinery. With the low quality of the video and the fact that the crew's faces and company name are blurred out (let alone that it's shot at night) gives the impression that the guys aren't necessarily aware of what they're a part of. They seem to be working on raising an uprooted tree with a large piece of machinery, which is in turn hooked up to a crane and is raised off the ground.

Then, the perspective is back to the "cave" which is further revealed to be inside - or, underneath, I guess - the heavy machine which was raised off the ground. The machines spinning axle becomes a masturbatory aid for the "nature man's creepy slug dick." There's more than a little uneasiness - that'll probably be more visceral for men - while he's got his dong pressed against the spinning cylinder. Regardless of how you react to it, you can't argue that Barney's got a style and is pretty good at it.

Sync (Brambilla)
The film that I liked the most (and probably not coincidentally the shortest at a mere 135 seconds), Sync is a supercut of sex scenes from many different movies that stitch together into one, set to a drum solo. (Kinda Marclay Telephones-esque.) This is the film that, if you came across it in a gallery, you'd watch a couple of times and tell your friends about later.

In fact, fuck it, it's short enough:

Copyright violations be damned!

Impaled (Clark)
Larry Clark, the photographer and filmmaker most famous/notorious for Kids (1995), often - and not entirely undeservedly - faces criticism for seeming creepily obsessed with teenagers' sexuality. Of the films, Impaled is the most porn-like. Essentially, a "pro-am/gonzo/casting couch" film, Clark interviews a series of young men who answered a porn casting ad about their personal histories with porn and sex. After having the men disrobe - noteworthy both because of the non-porn-normative focus on flaccid penises AND a prime example of the voyeuristic tendencies that have informed Clark's career - he settles on one who'll be the male "star" of the show. The skinny emo kid - who seems likable enough, if not understandably nervous - is introduced to a series of actual "porn girls" (Clark always refers to them as "porn girls" instead of "stars" or "actresses"), before settling on his co-star (Nancy Vee, who, despite the kid's aforementioned interest in being with a woman significantly older than him, would probably seem to be the woman least-likely to be picked by an average dude).

With the casting set, Clark directs - or, at the very least, films - a scene between the two. Presented relatively un-edited, from a technical perspective, it's pretty interesting because the camera rolls during parts that would normally be edited out (Vee re-lubing; stopping an anal scene because things got a little messy). Anyone with a passing knowledge of the potential pitfalls of - and the oft-cited reasons for there being relatively few - male pornstars will be impressed by the kid's ability to get and maintain an erection (even through having his co-star wipe him down after the aborted anal scene, which he describes as "kind of sick" in the post-scene interview) and hold off his pop shot. The film ends with the camera holding for an uncomfortably long time on the kid's face. There seem to be about eight different emotions painted there simultaneously, and you can't help but expect him to start crying.

We Fuck Alone (Noe)
While Impaled would provide porn scholars with the most to write about, We Fuck Alone is neck-and-neck with Hoist for the film that would provide an art student with enough bullshitty fodder to stretch into an extended essay. From the title ("To 'fuck' implies a partner, whereas being 'alone' would imply masturbation. Perhaps beholden to our egos, regardless of our assertion that pleasing our partners is important, all 'fucking' is really 'masturbation.' The film uses pornographic scenes, and indeed the idea of pornography, to blahblahblahblahblah....) to the specific scenes (the couple fucking in a sparse concrete room; the male masturbating with a sex doll; the female on her stuffed-animal populated bed) to the ham-fisted imagery ("The man is sticking his dick in the sex doll's mouth, and now it's a handgun, and now it's his dick again!"; "The 'girl' is masturbating next to her over-sized teddy fetishizes pre-adolescent girls!!!") to the strobe effect given to the ENTIRE 23 minutes, making it easily the hardest film to watch ("By only giving us partial view of what's occurring, the strobe effect underscores the artificial nature of pornography.") All told, We Fuck Alone seems like less of an art film and more like the sort of edgy avant-porn that seemed to be the toast of the internet for awhile around the time Stuntgirl was made. I guess that slightly contradicts my prior assertion that Impaled was the most porn-like. I guess just list them 1a and 1b. But, anyway, definitely avoid this if you have a history of epilepsy.

House Call (Prince)
The film I enjoyed most after Sync, House Call appears to be a vintage loop that was converted to video, which was then filmed being played back on a monitor. A busty woman (credited as Kora Reed) seems be under the weather while oiling herself up (for some reason), so she calls up her doctor (credited as John St. John) for some treatment. What appears visually is juxtaposed with a sort of art-film-audio-by-numbers soundtrack. It's like if you fed a composer a steady diet of found audio, Brian Eno, drone rock, and circus music and asked them to come up with something. At one point, the music cuts out for a minute and there's only the sound of a film projector, giving the sense of being in a theater - or perhaps more accurately a wood-paneled den or garage. Perhaps it becomes a sort of porn version of John Cage's 4'33", a "silent" song in which the ambient noises (people clearing their throats or shifting in the seats) become the music. Hear though, I guess it'd be the ruffle of a rain coat, or the nervous swallows of awkward viewers. (How's that for a little bullshitty art student analysis?!?)

The most compelling part of the film is whether the hardcore was found/classic footage or an incredibly well-done original-in-the-style-of. If it's the latter, Richard Prince absolutely killed it. I suppose it'd be possible to find out if I was willing to do any research whatsoever, but I like the ambiguity. One thing's certain, I didn't recognize either of the actors, and their credited names are almost certainly made up.

Death Valley (Taylor-Wood)
The camera pans across a desert landscape. A man shuffles into frame, drops to his knees and jerks it. That's about it. The best part was the score, credited to Matmos and Andrew Hale.


Phew, that's probably the most I wrote for a single post. Since this is so long, even though I'm not grading either the whole project or the individual films, and because I'm so impossibly behind my 100 reviews in 2011 scedule, I'm counting this as seven reviews.

So there.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: The Story of Joanna

The Story of Joanna (1975)

Directed by:
Gerard Damiano

Juliet Graham
Terri Hall
Jamie Gillis
John Bush
John Koven
Roy Carlton
Zebedy Colt

Boy, oh boy, The Story of Joanna is a piece of work. Whether or not it was a conscious decision on Gerard Damiano's part, the film feels like a purposeful attempt to subvert the conventions of pornographic film. In the first 35 minutes, there is only one brief hardcore scene (Gillis, Graham), the last hardcore scene is a solid 15 minutes before the end of the movie, and that's a scene between two men (Gillis, Colt)! Along the way, there's an extended (surprisingly well-done) ballet/modern dance scene, and (more surprisingly) throughout the handful of hardcore scenes, a total lack of traditional "money shots."

Anyone with a passing knowledge of The Story of O will - correctly - assume that The Story of Joanna is about the sexual enlightening/discover of a woman by the guidance of a mysterious man. In this case Jamie Gillis chooses Teri Hall in a restaurant, brings her to his estate, and sets her on the path of physical discovery. Both Graham and Gillis excel in their roles, but knowing Gillis's ability to straddle the line between charming and disgusting, it's too bad that he wasn't pushed harder in his role.

Technically, the film looked great - in particular, the scene between Graham and Colt would have to rank as one of the best shot hardcore scenes I can remember - but suffers from uneven pacing. It's dark in tone, but not as arresting as, say, 3 AM or Damiano's Devil in Miss Jones. I'm glad I saw it, but there's little chance I'll ever revisit (except, maybe, to check out that Graham/Colt scene...). B-