Monday, December 28, 2020

Erotic Pleasures (1976)

Note: By rights I should have done all the special characters for the French names and words, but I opted to skip all the "Alt +"ing since...well, I didn't feel like it.

Life is tough for three Parisian women. Joelle (Maryline Guillaume) is a student desperate to lose her virginity. Martine (Carole Gire, credited as Chris Martin) is a young housewife who feels trapped by her career-minded husband. And wealthy Arlene (Siegried Cellier) wants to find a true gentleman to love, but only seems to attract men who want to use her for her body and money. In pursuit of their Erotic Pleasures (originally released as Tout pour le plaisir; All for Pleasure), Joelle, Martine, and Arlene learn that their fantasies aren't all they're cracked up to be in reality.

Joelle's quest for deflowering begins when she decides to ditch school and runs into some sort of street tough. When he takes her up to his place, she asks him to teach her how to have sex.

Unbeknownst to her, the ruffian is into submission and humiliation, and can't get it up unless she beats him with a belt. Without sexual experience of her own, she can't know whether his requests to be disciplined are "the way it should be done," and he tells her that since she "hadn't made love before" he's "showing [her] the right way." Frustrated with his act, she gives him the lashes and kicks he's after, but rushes out of his place none the wiser in the ways of balling.

Later, a friend offers to arrange a hang sesh with the friend's brother who, the friend'd been told by her brothers girlfriends, was "a great ball."

After hitting a joint and while vibing out to some sitar jams, the friend convinces Joelle that they should practice what will happen when her brother shows up, culminating with the two of them 69ing on a pretty sweet couch. Unfortunately for Joelle, the brother never shows, because - psych! - her friend doesn't have a brother.

At long last, Joelle's able to get laid when she asks her dream teacher Hector (Andre Miller, credited as Herve Amalou) for a ride home on his motorbike so he can tell her what she missed that day in school. Hector doesn't seem like he'd be the most considerate lover since he didn't bother offering Joelle his helmet when she hops on the back of his hog.

And lo, when they finally get down to it and she's in apparent discomfort, he just keeps on pumping away until he finishes on her stomach. There's a bit of tenderness between them directly after the act, and they have a fine old time, laughing away, while stripping her bed to hide the blood stained fitted sheet that "marked" the occasion of her entering womanhood. But then, Joelle's father comes home and chases Hector out of the apartment, he leaves her a note that merely says "Adieu", so fuck that guy.

After Martine's berated by her husband for making shitty tea, buying the wrong sugar, and just generally keeping poor house, she decides she'll live a little and cheat on her husband. First, she looks up her old flame Eric (Gilles Kervizic) who she remembers as sweet and romantic, but turns out to be a slob that expects her to clean up his place after they screw.

Then, she makes a go of it with a swinging couple (Dolores Manta and some guy) in her building (the husband, apparently, is Martine's husband's best friend, the wife an ex-girlfriend, which is a double whammy of cuckolding), but is understandably put out when the husband takes it upon himself to invite some other dudes to the flat to join the party.

Ultimately, she decides to commit to being a great housewife, only to find that her husband has decided he'll always be more dedicated to his career than his marriage and leaves.

Arlene's first unsuccessful coupling is with a young guy (Louison Boutin) who appears to be crashing with her and is more interested in sipping coffee, smoking a cigarette, and making faces at himself in a mirror than taking her from behind.

Then, he bills her 100 francs per day for his time there. Next, while sharing a cab with a well-dressed man (Dominique Aveline), she engages in some backseat action only to find that the man has forgotten his wallet and she's on the hook for the fare. The guy got two free rides.

At last, Arlene seems to have found the man she's been looking for when a shop clerk tells her that she can't pay with a personal check or credit card and a suave fellow (Guy Royer) insists on paying her bill in cash (based on a couple of historical exchange rate calculators, I think it's around $411 2020 USD, for what that's worth).

The two dip out to a fancy hotel for champagne and afternoon delight, but while Arlene dozes in post-coital bliss, her assumed gentleman robs her blind. Interestingly, we're given a bit of insight into Arlene and her supposed predicament for attracting parasitic men when she returns to her apartment. Without access to her place, she asks to be let in by a man who's wildly in love with her. After he confesses hjs affections and Arlene all but seduces him, she suddenly throws a wad of cash at him accusing him of actually only desiring the money, so he angrily storms out. You have to wonder if her troubles are mostly the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Finally, all three women end up at the swinging couple's sex party that presumably got rolling when Martine left earlier.

The scene is a resolution both by being the final scene and where the three women come to terms with what they'd experienced on their day's journey. Joelle is pleasured by the party's hostess. On the one hand, it could just be due to the relative dearth of dicks. On the other, it could indicate Joelle's budding preference for sapphic delights after her earlier g/g rendezvous and being dissed and dismissed by Hector after her first and only "successful" hetero intercourse. My eagle-eyed wife (and sometimes Pornonomy collaborator) pointed out that for the first time since dressing at the start of the film, Arlene took off her boots (especially noteworthy since she was wearing pants, so she'd have had to put them back on after undressing), suggesting she was done searching.

Martine has sex with the same man whose invitation by the hosts earlier offended her to the point of leaving. Has she decided that now, left by her husband, she will start "screwing everybody in Paris"? And Arlene, paired with the host, is pointedly shown reading Guido Crepax's adaptation of the infamous Story of O.

My assumption is that Arlene is using O's journey into submission as a way to accept (and enjoy) being "used" by men for her money.

Basically, she loves being used.

Despite how I've structured this review, the women's stories aren't told one-at-a-time, but rather by rotating focus. The film is very nicely shot though I wouldn't have minded the use of the just-invented Steadicam. Admittedly, the handheld camera work is very French, but there were some parts that verged on motion sickness-inducing. The editing was also great (particularly during the Martine/Eric scene while she was considering the sorry state of Eric's place while they were doing it). And there were some instances of sophisticated and nuanced humor. Unlike Hot Action, the English voice acting was more than acceptable. (Strangely, it seemed like the French audio track was also over-dubbed for some reason, so also unlike Hot Action, I don't think it'd've made a substantial difference watching it in it's native language.)

What's Rimmer say?

[T]he film has a laughing comme-ci-comme-ca sophistication that escapes most American films.

I don't completely disagree, although there was a slight melancholy to the film, underscored by the end. Rather than a raucous orgy that ends in a cavalcade of money shots, the three protagonists are having sex with people they wouldn't have expected or preferred to at the outset of the film, and the camera simply focuses in on the record player as the credits roll.

The only thing Rob whiffed on is that he said that the film took place over a few days, whereas it was definitely only one day.

This is the second French film I've watched as a part of this endeavor and I'd say I enjoyed Erotic Pleasures about five times more than Hot Action (although looking back I may have been slightly harsher in my rating than was warranted), so objectively I should rate it around CC50, but subjectively, I'll bump it up to CC25.

° Four of the seven men with sex scenes in Erotic Pleasures were also in Hot Action (Andre Miller, Dominique Aveline, Guy Royer, and Jacques Gatteau). There was no overlap in the women.

° The box copy claims that Erotic Pleasures was director Francis Leroi's first x-rated film, but IAFD lists him as a co-director (with Frederic Lansac) of 1975's Pussy Talk. Among Lansac's brief filmography is a movie from 1977 called Big Fuck, which is a hilarious title.

° Francis Leroi is credited with twenty films. Eighteen were released between 1975 and 1982. The final two had nine (1991) and ten (2001) years between them. I wonder what he was up to the rest of that time.

° Martine calls Eric a dentist and he condescendingly corrects her by saying he's an "orthopedic specialist". I think they meant "orthodontic" though, because he has photos of bridgework on his wall and insists they both brush their teeth before having sex.

° Joelle's innocence was really magnified right before she lost her virginity. First, she has a swing in her room, and then she points to her bed and tells Hector, "That's a young girl's bed. Nothing's happened there yet."


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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Corporate Assets (1985)

Paul Verhoeven would love Corporate Assets. There is high drama, wide swings in tone, and a wilder final six-ish minutes than about any adult film I've ever seen.

Tish Ambrose stars as Jill, an employee of the Beutel company. Jill is in charge of a small group of women offered as prizes to top-performing employees and influential men in business and politics at the whim of Beutel bigwig J.W. Sieverson (R. Bolla). While Lisa's the madame, of sorts, she's also expected to be available to men, as dictated by J.W. The harem are jaded, only-out-for-number-one Morgana (Rachel Ashley), sweet, romantic Tanya (Amber Lynn), and brash newcomer Babette (Sheri St. Clair), whose inability to fall in line ultimately has her broken - mentally and physically - by Louis (Herschel Savage), J.W.'s strong-arm thug.

For 12 years, Jill has had a penpal relationship with Winston (Eric Edwards), who was a POW in Vietnam alongside Lisa's brother, who was killed trying to escape. After the war, Winston wrote Jill to tell her what happened to her brother, and over the years, through their letters, they fell in love. With the urging of his "ol' country shrink" (Nick Random in a non-sex role), Winston travels to Los Angeles to meet Jill at long last, in an effort to get him past the visions of war that have plagued him.

We're given a glimpse of his recurring nightmare, which is revealed - during an argument with Jill, later - to be way darker than it initially seemed.

Jill never told Winston what she did for a living, so things are complicated when he shows up at Beutel asking after her. She's ready to move on from her role as madame and make a life with Winston, but J.W. is unwilling to let her out from under his thumb and has Louis keep tabs on her.

The cast is really great. R. Bolla plays J.W. with a cold ruthlessness. While he seems to express a degree of humanity, expressing admiration and affection for Jill during a poolside scene, his later actions left me wondering if he was genuine, or whether it was just the manipulation and gaslighting employed by an abuser....

Eric Edwards's Winston has a vulnerable sincerity. The worldweariness of Jill is palpable even while Ambrose portrays her as a consumate professional. Sheri St. Clair won some awards (1986 AVN Best Acress, 1985 CAFA Best Supporting Actress; I'd say the latter was more deserving than the former. Tish Ambrose or even Rachel Ashely would have been more deserving of Best Actress) as Babette. I'd posit that of all the actors, while Babette's fractured character may have experienced the biggest change (a statement debatable itself), her performance was the slightest. Many surprisingly deep characters were played with better care and nuance.

At 105 minutes (the Vinegar Syndrome release), Corporate Assets is well over my preferred 75-80 minute length, but I didn't feel there was a lot of fat to be cut. In fact, I did a quick comparison against the ~88 minute Vidco release, and what was left out of the shorter version were non-sex elements that would have weakened the story, for sure. I think there were a few of the hardcore scenes that could have been trimmed, but I felt most of the scenes were in service of the story.

Rimmer's take:

This one is so superior to many adult films that you may keep thinking it could have been better, especially if the character J.W. Sieverson...had been better developed.

If all the unrelated sex had been eliminated and the time devoted to a real tug of war between J.W.- not as a totally nasty man but a man who discovers belatedly his need for a loving woman - and Jill and Winston, this would have been a better film.

I don't disagree, necessarily, but I find it interesting that for all of the time Rimmer spends focusing on what women watching the films he reviews will respond to, he advises changing what is essentially a female-focused character piece into a film about J.W.

As for errors, Rimmer misinterpreted an early scene in which Bill Saunders (Harry Reems) has a heart attack during sex with Morgana and Tanya as an assassination orchestrated by J.W. rather than an accident during his "reward" for strong sales.

Corporate Assets also has the distinction of being an AVN 500 pick. They say:

Writer/director Thomas Paine uses common sense to incorporate veteran post-war trauma, the coupling of big business and government, and the sacrifice of emotional morals for material secruity, without drastically burdening the film or creating a grossly contrived product. The situations appear realistic and the dialogue natural; the plot's realism is the film's greatest asset.

High praise to which I agree, so: CC10.

° Another film where Eric Edwards is cured of impotence (see: Center Spread Girls).

° And another film with an Edwards-featured simulated sex scene (see: Virgin and the Lover).

° Tish Ambrose is in the same face family as Jane Pauley and Brie Larson.

° The romantic sex scene between Jill and Winston in Winston's mountain cabin was cut as a montage and bordered on self-parody. I wouldn't be surprised if it was an inspiration for the sex scene in Team America: World Police.

° Rachel Ashley is a smokeshow.


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Ah, oui, oui! Back to France.