December 15, 2009
RSO [Registered Sex Offender]: The Movie
Just in time for the holidays - the perfect gift for your pervy uncle! We are happy to announce the arrival of the fantastically funny new indie, RSO [Registered Sex Offender] to DVD.
Why buy? From Aint it Cool reviewer junesharp: "It's scrappy. It's raw. The whole thing is shot on handheld HD. It's hard to compare this to any other film, simply because most films made on this scale simply aren't as funny as this one. Take the dialogue and wit from Welcome to the Dollhouse, the quickness of Waiting for Guffman, add a pinch of Heathers, and combine the aesthetic of Funny Ha Ha with The Office, and you almost have an idea of what this film is." Plus leading actress Kristen Tucker is smokin' hot. Pair it with the hilarious Harmony and Me, also from director Bob Bob Byington, and have yourself an indie little Christmas.
November 12, 2008
RitualMichael Ninn's ultra-hot Ritual will make you want to make a ritual out of it. Raves Dr. G: "A showcase for Ninn's brilliant art direction and cinematographic skills. Like all of Ninn's work, this film features a stunning array of dazzling visuals, interesting and engaging camera angles, and colorful, creative costuming. The camera work is on a par with big budget mainstream movies. The close-ups are particularly well done as they fill up the whole screen and cater to the viewers' desire to get close to the action. Outstanding film editing never allows us to get bored with one perspective as Ninn continually changes the camera angle and fades gracefully from close up to long view without losing the pace of the sexual excitement." Vicca stars in this edgy adult winner.
January 5, 2007
Gram Ponante's Best Adult Movies of 2006
[This article originally appeared on GameLink.com.]
Gram Ponante's Best Adult Movies of 2006
January 3, 2006
Read the entire article on GameLink >> [Adults only, of course]
O: The Power of Submission - Adam & Eve. This movie had a hot all-star cast directed ably by Ernest Greene with standout performances from Tommy Gunn, Nina Hartley, Adrianna Nicole, Kylie Ireland, and Carmen Luvana. It also had the most ambitious story, adapted by Greene from "L'Histoire d'O."
Girls Lie - Vivid-alt. Eon McKai's best movie showcases Charlotte Stokely in a manner that was dirty, sexy, and sad at the same time. While McKai's style sometimes gets in the way of the story, he certainly cleaved to what has become the Alt signature by casting the likes of the juicy Dana DeArmond as well as Tom Byron, yet another move that should (but won't) quiet the McKai-haters who think he is an upstart, when in fact he has a capacious knowledge of the adult industry's history.
The ReBelle Rousers - Vivid-Alt. Winkytiki's movie about pinup models gone bad features the delicious Page Morgan and Mysti May in a scene with Tyler Knight that makes porn seem fun. Shouldn't it be fun? Also delightful is Smokin' Mary Jane.
Avenue X - VCA. Joe Gallant's loopy, smart, and dirty movie features Kimberly Kane, Trina Michaels, Tommy Pistol, and Brian Surewood chewing up the scenery in this trippy, Aquarian porn about Big Brother.
Gang Bang #5 - Red Light District. Naomi and Sasha Grey each takes on several guys in this two-disc set that showcases, well, the way porn is looking lately. Naomi is - and has the looks of - a runway model. People wanting to see runway models swallow loads of cum from a roomful of dirty guys need look no further. But it is Sasha Grey who really means business. Grey's talent is that she is a wanton girl who doesn't end up looking used up at the end of her movie. In fact, she looks ready for second helpings. Naomi, on the other hand, appears ready to go home and cry.
Island Fever 4 - Digital Playground. What makes Digital Playground probably the most savvy company in porn is contained in this movie. Each of its contract stars is shown off in the best light, and each has her own separate personality. There really is something for everyone in this movie, and it is no mistake that there is no talking at all, just beautiful shots of sex-toned whippet-girls on a beach fucking in the sand. Note: A Ponante Family Favorite is Sophia Santi, who was left off the cover because she looked too much like a normal woman. A normal, built-like-a-brick-house hotter than fire woman. Shame on Digital Playground for not putting its contract girl on the boxcover.
The Da Vinci Load - Hustler. Funny, smart, and irreverent, this movie didn't do nearly as well as it should have, easily walking the line between frat porn and Vivid-style high gloss features.
Ravenous - Anarchy Films. Director/Performer Nikki Hunter delivers a solid porn movie featuring women who know how to fuck, like Trina Michaels, Mika Tan, and Aurora Snow. Watching Hunter work is watching someone with her eyes on the prize; she understands the realities of what porn audiences seem to want and she delivers.
The New Neighbors - SllabWurks. While the company seems to have imploded due to squabbling among its financial backers, the movie that took about a year to release is one of the most satisfying porn movies I have ever seen. It combines great performances from people like Randy Spears and Nikki Hunter while operating in a feature film-worthy storyline of succubi and open marriages. Of all the movies that came out this year that really could be edited up and down for maximum commercial exploitation, this is the one, and it is a shame that the company never got up on its feet. Director Frank Castle has indicated that he will put together a sequel with the right backing, so here's hoping he gets it.
Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist and his work can be found around the InterWeb. He is the author of "Porn Valley Observed".
February 1, 2006
Isadora Alman on Sex Education Videos
by Isadora Alman, M.A.
When you were a kid, if you wanted to know how to build a wooden bird house you watched some neighborhood handyman, maybe even your dad or grandpa, putter in his work shop. You asked questions about the various tools and maybe even tried to build something under his direct supervision. Later in life, when you wanted to learn how to ice skate or play tennis, you watched those more proficient, asked questions, and then tried on your own. When all did not go perfectly you asked for coaching from those who had mastered the art - or at least those who were further along in the learning curve. So what about when you decided to become sexually active, or better yet, a good lover?
Most of us, woman or man, received precious little practical advice on the matter from our parents, besides "Don't" or, at best, "Be careful." There were no experts around to watch in action. Friends knew no more than we did and what information they did share with us was likely to be wildly inaccurate. So some of us turned to film and video pornography.
There we saw that men were all hung like elephants, could keep it up and go at it for hours, and when they came, they pulled out of their partner and blasted off like Mt. St. Helens. Women all had breasts that resembled cantaloupes that pointed at the ceiling when they were on their back, moaned and gasped as if in excruciating pain, and smiled with delight when a guy ejaculated on their face.
How true is this picture compared to what you know of sex and how the human body works?
Porn may be a step up from teenage-shared misinformation and does offer some pointers on what fits where and how, but some of it also promotes hurtful and blatantly wrong stereotypes about men, women, and sex. Pornography made particularly for woman and by women isn't a whole lot more accurate. Fantasies about the hungry older woman and the eager young stud who delights in hours of romantic foreplay is no more true-to-life than the horny neighbor housewife or coed nympho. So what's a poor body to do when he or she wants to learn about one of life's greatest pleasures?
Enter Sinclair's Intimacy Institute (and a few other sex education video makers) to fill the gap (pun intended).
We can start with the basics: Satisfying Her and Satisfying Him. Even more basic, there are pre-intercourse teaching films demonstrating Erotic Dancing and Erotic Massage. And starting even before that there are titles showing techniques for both male and female masturbation to be used solo or with a willing partner.
Okay, you're ready for a naked romp. You can watch tapes on oral techniques by and for both men and women on men and women, sexual positions galore, anal sex in all possible combinations, even the how-tos of double penetration.
What if you're nervous about your performance? Most men and women are when they begin having sex with someone new. How about Becoming Orgasmic, for women alone [another is Tantric Journey to Female Orgasm] and/or their partners, or a Man's Guide To Stronger Erections or Lasting Longer.
You've heard about the famous G Spot and women who ejaculate [see also: Female Ejaculation for Couples] , and probably wonder if they exist? Well, there are several titles demonstrating quite clearly some who do, where and how.
Suppose you just can't identify with all those lithe, lovely bodies (usually athletic, thin, white and young). Do not despair. Those who produce these teaching tapes try to use a variety of people and body types. Although I've yet to see anyone fat, I think that's just as much a product of who is willing to be filmed having sex as the selection process of the video makers. There is a complete series featuring African-Americans - Sinclair's Better Sex for Black Couples, and its follow-up, Advanced Love Skills (With Toys and Fantasies) - and another series for those over 40.
Do you find all these too straight for your taste - in both senses of the word? There are videos for women - Sapphic Lovemaking Techniques; and for men - the Ultimate Guide to Gay Sex Techniques. Perhaps you're just curious about what other people do. Straight, gay, or bisexual, you may be surprised to find that people are people, bodies are bodies, and there are just so many ways that any of us exchange pleasure; it all looks very similar and very familiar. Perhaps that's the most important piece of information of all.
Ready to build bigger and better bird houses, so to speak, or to try the equivalent of a sexual triple axel? Beyond the many tapes on sexual positions and Sinclair's Better Sex Guide to Forbidden Pleasures (what the rest of us know as "kink"), some of the titles available are on sex toys, fantasies, bondage techniques for domination [see the Learning the Ropes series: Male Submissive 1 and 2, and Advanced Techniques], and various arrangements of threesomes and more. Although my personal choice for erotic night music is the sounds and sighs and squeaks of two passionate people in bed, some might prefer Sinclair's Better Sex Music Selection CD or other CDs specifically designed as backgrounds for sex. My personal favorites are rhythm and blues from the middle of last century with a beat that for me absolutely choreographs the rhythm of sex.
The sex ed titles I've mentioned here are the answer to some of the most frequent questions I hear about visual erotica. For those who want to introduce a partner to particular techniques or simply introduce him or her into the joys of visual erotica, here is the perfect tool.
And, yes, it's very common to become turned on while watching them. Who says education and entertainment can't go hand in hand? Seeing people have sex is sexy... and inspiring! And you'll be too busy to think about springing for a $5 bucket of popcorn to accompany their viewing.
ISADORA ALMAN is a California licensed relationship therapist, a Board certified sexologist, author of several books, and a syndicated sex and relationship columnist. Her Ask Isadora column has been running in alternative weekly papers worldwide for more than 20 years. Web surfers can find columns on her online free interactive Sexuality Forum. She conducts her private counseling practice in San Francisco.
January 12, 2006
Nurse Me, Doctor Shameless! Please!Reviewed by Kristy Lin Billuni
Mainstream live-action porn is jam-packed with naughty nurses-themed flicks, but too often, when the little white shifts and funny hats come off the babes, it's just like any other porno. Behold, two of the most artfully crafted Hentai medical-themed movies I've seen: Nurse Me! [individual episodes are available via Video-on-Demand: episode one, episode two, and episode three] and Doctor Shameless.
Each one offers two thrilling episodes packed with all the nastiness the medical fetish genre has to offer. Nurse Me! is the story of an aspiring nurse, Yumi. Doctor Shameless chronicles the transformation of Nagatsuka Hospital from financial ruin to perverse success under the experimental guidance of the depraved Doctor Shinji.
Nurse Me!'s innocent Yumi will do anything to fulfill her life's ambition to enter one of Japan's most noble and sexualized professions, and her teachers and patients are demanding. In one scene, Yumi's set to learn how catheterize a penis, but her head nurse informs her, "You have to make him ejaculate first," and proceeds to show Yumi the finer points of the hand-job, insisting that Yumi finish the patient off. The scene ends with lots of messy kisses.
Yumi's nursing school experience is very Story of O, and so, too, is the experience of one patient, Miss Hagashi, in Doctor Shameless. In a scene that will win over golden shower fans, Dr.Shinji forces her to pee into a cup while he watches. The sound effects, sighs of relief and the tinkle of urine hitting plastic, are realistic and even satisfying.
Both flicks serve up surprisingly graphic enema scenes - Doctor Shameless focuses more on the patient's experience of discomfort and shame, an emotional scene to be sure, whereas Nurse Me! offers what is by far the most visually assaulting enema fetish scene ever. If this is your thing, you'll want to see Nurse Me! just for this little treasure. Poor Yumi unwittingly volunteers to play the patient for the enema lesson, and at first the stills of Yumi's classmates at their seats, leaning in to behold Yumi's appealing ass are downright cute. But when Yumi's experience turns from embarrassing to painful, she writhes on the floor, begs for a toilet, and eventually, in full-color illustration, dumps her excrement all over the hallway.
And if that doesn't make you uncomfortable, hold on to your feminist ethics.
Watching and enjoying Nurse Me! means having to let go of a need to see consensual sex; the more I watched Yumi's objections to sex acts go unheeded - she gets raped more than once, and she utters the word "no" a thousand times - the more I squirmed. And the second episode of Doctor Shameless introduces Mrs. Kimshita and her daughter, Tomomi, in a subplot that blurs the line between children and adults, an unholy no-no in live action American-made porn. Is Tomomi a child, a teenager, or a young woman? She flits about in a schoolgirl uniform, but everybody knows college girls do that in Japan. But her mother and the staff treat her like a little girl, so it's exceptionally shocking when Mrs. Kimshita catches the doctor performing various perversities on Tomomi and calling it "treatment." True, once her school uniform's been cast aside, she looks a lot more like a woman than a little girl. The doctor then "treats" this mother-daughter duo with a titillating, disturbing, and plain old naughty orgy. It's classic girl-on-girl action, only these girls aren't best friends at a porn slumber party, and they're not twin bombshells. They're mom and daughter.
But isn't that what some people love about animated adult film? Because in it we can see what we, our laws, and our sex-negative culture can't stomach in live action? Because drawings of the darkest, dirtiest, most inappropriate sex acts are somehow less upsetting than watching actors play that out for us? Perhaps because in it we can have medical fetish porn that really does explore medical fetishes.
December 9, 2005
The X List.
Judging by the teasingly neon pink and black cover, and the subtitle "Guide to Movies That Turn Us On," The X List practically cries out "Naughty! Naughty!" like a Times Square peep show barker - psst, wanna see something dirty? Ultimately, it proves neither naughty nor dirty - but it is a fairly engaging collection of essays and film reviews. Edited by New York Daily News critic Jami Bernard, who gathers a fine assortment of her peers from the National Society of Film Critics, The X List works well enough as a collective examination of the wide range of people and films that we find arousing.
I don't usually as a rule say this - not even on an adult-oriented site such as this one - but I'll say it now: the book could use more porn. There's something liberating in writing about an adult film; critics don't always allow themselves the same room to roam when writing about more mainstream erotic cinema. And the porn titles included here are the old chestnuts Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, and Talk Dirty To Me. We've all read about Deep Throat before - and probably all seen the documentary about it, too - but Emmanuel Levy's fair-minded essay on the legendary film is a worthy addition to the discussion. Levy's dissection of the film is from a historical perspective and not as much directly about the film itself, but then again, as he notes, the film artistically doesn't live up to its hype - though, for its time, "it was superior to its competition." Which isn't saying much.
Meanwhile, The Philadelphia Inquirer's Carrie Rickey remembers when she first went behind the Green Door, age 19, same age as Marilyn Chambers, "a Meg Ryan-type who played Gloria, the innocent babe abducted and whisked off to a private sex club where onstage she is stripped, caressed by tender women in black cassocks, sucked by a coven of hippies and penetrated by male trapeze artists in crotchless tights." Oh my. "Was my face red!" exclaims Rickey. "When the lights went came up, I recall lacing my boyfriend's fingers into mine and joking, 'Now that's process art.'" Rickey's admiration of the film from both a historical and personal standpoint give one a new appreciation of what might previously have seemed dated and corny.
More interesting, though, is Charles Taylor's probing piece on Talk Dirty to Me.
Taylor writes: "Even with the predictability inherent in a porn scenario, put a gal in the sensible blouse and skirt that Juliet Anderson's real estate agent wears in Talk Dirty to Me, and the moment she lifts that skirt to reveal she's not wearing underwear carries a real erotic thrill. The dirty fun in porn," Taylor continues, "lies in the way every encounter holds the potential for sex." And Talk Dirty, part of porn's so-called "Golden Age," also starred John Leslie, who was, Taylor notes, "born to fuck on camera... The slyest, funniest, most appealing man ever to work in porn movies." He equates no-nonsense co-star Anderson as the Joan Blondell of porn, while the other women in the film, Chris Cassidy and Jesse St. James, are nicely analyzed (why does that word suddenly seem dirty, too?) - the tall, natural looking strawberry blonde Cassidy as doing erotic things with her hips, and the slim, platinum blonde St. James "one of the adult performers whose beauty denoted class. [She's] vulnerable and sexy, with the warm charisma that draws people to the screen."
Taylor concludes that the film is an example of porn they don't make anymore - while today's adult movies lack a similar "sense of fun and what-the-hell abandonment. What's most depressing about contemporary porn isn't the interchangeable fuck-doll personas but the pervasive joyless professionalism that turns every encounter into a transaction." Debatable in a sweeping sense, perhaps, but hard to argue against as an overall critique of the industry currently. Taylor also contributes a sidebar article on actress Annette Haven, whom he considers the Grace Kelly of porn. They definitely don't make 'em like her anymore - or at least, we don't see her likes in adult films very often these days.
There are different ways of defining erotic, and everyone has different levels of turned on, too. For me: There's the eroticism in North by Northwest found between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint on the train at the dining car table - the gauzy focused, romantic kind of erotic; and there's the turn-ons to be found in Art School Sluts. Or, as Bernard says in her introduction, "I know it when I see it."
Writing about it, attempting to translate this to others, may not be the sexiest exercise, but the critics here do a fairly solid job conveying the passion they feel for these films. And while some of the selections are predictable, if not debatable - Unbearable Lightness of Being, Last Tango in Paris (though the sidebar on that film by Desson Thomson, remembering his awkward first viewing of that film - with his religious grandmother - is the more entertaining), In the Realm of the Senses, Intimacy, and the more recent lascivious treats Y Tu Mama Tambien, Bad Education and Mulholland Drive (with its lesbian scene that drives straight men wild) - other selections are more surprising, and interesting. They range from the way, way back - like Dave Kehr's pick the pre-code Baby Face, which, Kehr tells us, "like many films of the period, blithely ignored those restrictions [of the Production Code]. The sweaty patrons of Pop's speakeasy merrily order bootleg beers, and the camera lingers over [Barbara] Stanwyck in her lacy slips and silk dressing gowns." Or Marlene Dietrich's early gender-bending in Morocco, in which, Stephanie Zacharek writes, "there's no greater image of the sexual magnetism a performer can exert on an audience than Dietrich dressed in a man's tuxedo and crooning a blasť siren's song."
The inclusion of Michael Powell's brilliant but highly disturbing Peeping Tom would seem an odd choice for a book about erotica; the viewing of this dark film might require a very cold shower afterwards, but not from any titillation. But Peter Keough's review acknowledges this head on - in this film "the emphasis is on morbid, not desire. Like many films exploring the nature of eroticism, Peeping Tom is not very erotic itself." Certainly not. A film about a serial killer who daylights as a cameraman and then uses the camera itself as a tool of murder is not going to turn many people on sexually - but it does turn many critics on, myself included, cinematically as a brilliant exercise. As does Hitchcock's Vertigo, a film referenced here in a brief sidebar piece by Amy Taubin, and by several other films written about in the book.
Another personal favorite is captured nicely by former L.A. Times (and current Seattle Weekly) critic Sheila Benson: Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now is more creepy than sexy, but the famously edited sex/postcoital/dressing/undressing sequence is undeniably sensuous, "the least exploitative erotic scene in cinema," Benson states. "Every moment has a reason: to make sense of a muted smile in the final frames."
Most fun to read may in fact be the book's sidebar musings, often about a writer's confessing to drooling after a particular actress; these are surprisingly skewed toward the male POV; you'd expect a book edited by a woman to balance that out a bit more (although there is an admirable number of female critics represented as a whole, and Rickey does contribute a sharp piece on "the female gaze" - a look at how perspectives are different when a woman is behind the camera). I also enjoyed Gerald Peary's musings on his obsession with pre-wholesome Drew Barrymore - and subsequent realization that most of her older films, with the exception, he notes, of Firestarter and Poison Ivy (also the subject of Rolling Stone's Peter Travers' amusing essay) - weren't as much fun as he'd remembered; and his take on "soft-core auteur" Radley Metzger, listing out four of Metzger's finest films, including The Lickerish Quartet and the one Peary (and myself) consider his best work, Score, which amazingly enough was based on an off-Broadway play, "a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? variant in which a George-and-Martha couple in their thirties seduce an uptight Nick-and-Honey in their twenties."
The book also brings back to our attention a few recent films that may have been lost in the shuffle or unfairly maligned, but have something in them to stir one's loins (or at least those of certain critics) - Brian DePalma's Vertigo homage Femme Fatale (when isn't a film of his an homage to something else?), In the Cut, Anatomy of Hell; a few I'd never have equated with erotic - Horror of Dracula, Bye Bye Birdie (!); and a few I'd just as soon never read about again - Eyes Wide Shut, Crash, Irreversible, the aforementioned classic, but overanalyzed, Vertigo. (And one puzzling inclusion - Jonathan Rosenbaum's fascinating look at Ayn Rand and the documentary on her, A Sense of Life; it's about the "erotics of Objectivism," but just seeing the name Ayn Rand may be enough to turn someone off all erotic thought for weeks thereafter.) But with very few exceptions, each critic's take here is a worthy, if occasionally dry, read. A collection like this calls for a little more on the side of wet, more boldness - but there's enough of it here at least to lubricate the mind. A few more - or any - pictures would have been nice, too, to break up the pages. A book about film without any stills seems a little lacking.
In short, The X List makes for enjoyable, short attention span bathroom and bedroom reading; just don't expect it to spice up the latter.
November 23, 2005
Urotsukidoji and Beast City reviewed, with tentacles.By Kristy Lin Billuni
These two Hentai sci-fi/fantasy delights serve up creepy creatures mingling with adorable schoolgirlish heroines. And plenty of tentacle sex.
In the imaginative, violent, and far out Beast City, demon Sex King Lord Karma turns the citizens of Tokyo into beast slaves who seduce and screw people, stealing their endorphins for him. It's up to Mina, the Vampire Madonna (voiced by Tuesday Knight) and her Draculon sisters Aine and Annie (Ruby Seedless) to stop them.
In Urotsukidoji*, Amano-Jaku and his sister Megumi are half-man, half-beast characters seeking a "promised one," the fabled Cho-Jin, who will rise up, destroy the evil Makai, and make everything peaceful on Earth. They set their attentions on goofball-hero Magumo whose budding romance with the innocent Akemi serves as the sexual centerpiece in the story of his struggle to realize his Cho-Jin destiny.
The different approaches to plot serve as a nice metaphor for the types of Hentai each anime represents. Urotsukidoji's story has very little to do with sex - it's a solid, end-of-the-world variety sci-fi. The script takes its time developing, and with some of the violent fight and disaster scenes, it's easy to lose track of what's happening, but the story is the axis, with the sexual tension between Magumo and Akemi key. Their abbreviated sex scenes cut off early and end badly: Akemi and Magumo often kiss, but that's almost all we get. In one mean-spirited teaser, a nude Akemi thanks Magumo for saving her, but we don't get to see the thank-you-sex. Instead, we are escorted to more mandatory fight scenes and plot development. I never got to get-off to any prolonged, steamy Magumo-on-Akemi hard-core action although I certainly wanted and expected to.
In Beast City, however, the irresistible Draculon sisters get it on in a wet and vivid shower scene, reminiscent of Kondom's Bondage Fairies. One of the villains (in The Beast II: Awakening of the Beast, the second episode on the same DVD), sexy transfer student Seia is a hose-and-gartered dominatrix Sex Demon with schoolgirl sisters. And there's a sweet little masturbation scene where we get a glimpse deep... inside, fingers pulsing against a swollen g-spot - you just can't get that quality of interior close-up in live-action porn.
And the plot, with its clever and thorough weaving of sexual concepts and backdrops (rope-bondaged, live-babe furniture in the Sex Demon's palace, for example), devises penetration opportunities aplenty. Meanwhile, in Urotsukidoji we really don't get to see much that you could call hard-core: no close ups of penetration, no concentration on sexual bounce and body rhythms. Instead we get to see a brawny basketball star's tongue repeatedly on Magumo's cheek, a promise for hot boy-on-boy action that never delivers.
But be warned that even the naughtiest fetish scenes in Beast City can turn disturbing on you without warning. Just when you think it's getting really good - wet panties, bondage, discipline, sticky-tape torture, and lines like, "If the pain becomes pleasure you can come as much as you want" - the sexy characters are apt to turn into tentacle-throat beasts. In fact, the Makai in Urotsukidoji are very similar to the phallic-tentacle-out-of- throat-creatures as the sex demons of Beast City, but that's about all they have in common.
Pick up Beast City for sex-packed action and Urotsukidoji for heavy sci-fi sprinkled with sexual tension.
September 13, 2005
I used to work at a comic book shop near UC Berkeley, and also had a lot of friends who liked comic books. When you work in a place where your pals covet the merchandise, they ask you to get them stuff at a discount, and you do. Some wanted the standard superhero stuff, some wanted dark modern Gothic comics, some wanted little independent black-and-white comics that you never heard of; everybody, it seemed, wanted one of the hundreds of comics from the dozens of genres that we carried.
Now, instead of comics, I'm working in adult films; a thousand titles pass by my eyes a day, from the high-stylin' Vivid and Wicked costume opuses to the downest and dirtiest of independent-company shot-on-video in a fleabag motel, and everything in between. But everyone, and I mean everyone, wants a copy of The Fashionistas.
If you don't know what that is, you plainly haven't been watching porn; it's a veritable Gone With The Wind of adult cinema. A huge piece of engineering, it's John "Buttman" Stagliano's magnum opus (although he could well top it, considering the length of the average porn career and the creative and prolific nature of Stagliano's in particular). The DVD consists of four discs - and that's not even a collector's edition, two just for the movie, one for the extras, and one CD for the soundtrack.
Bizarrely, the plot of Fashionistas is much the same as the plot of "Cyrano de Bergerac"; the general outline is the same, although the details are necessarily different. For instance, Cyrano does not, at the end of the Edmund Rostand novel, nearly choke to death on Roxane's enormous penis. In The Fashionistas, Rocco Siffredi (a la Roxane - the object of desire) is an Italian designer being courted by an emerging fashion design company owned by Taylor St. Claire (in the Christian de Neuvillette, dumb guy role) who is hot but not that smart and thus has to rely for inspiration on the ideas of Belladonna (Cyrano - the smart guy). In order to make Bella Donna appear to be unremarkable and in the background, she is, when first seen, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, which she immediately and uncompromisingly discards.
That said, all resemblance to Cyrano de Bergerac, and indeed to any literature at all, ends there. The real attractions in the movie, notwithstanding Belladonna's bottomless throat, are A) the fetish wear by real life fashion designer Syren, and B) the fact that Stagliano treads dangerously and maybe actionably close to making a hardcore bondage film. In addition to its content, the production values are comparable to the best of adult's efforts, which is to say Michael Ninn or the higher-end Private releases, but still not quite Hollywood mainstream quality.
Hollywood or not, though, the thing is definitely a phenomenon, the clearest indication of which is the fact that it's not only a movie, it's a Las Vegas stage extravaganza, too. By all reports, it's a combination of a softcore cable edit and a Cirque du Soleil show - occasional nudity, fashion galore, and music by Madonna, Tool, Lords of Acid, Crystal Method, and Led Zeppelin. One friend who went said it was worth the trip just to see the costumes. If you go, watch the movie first, or you won't be able to follow the plot. A key point in the film is the plucky little leather-and-latex fashion company doing everything it can to break out in the mainstream, and that is exactly what Stagliano has done by creating and producing the show, which is a tribute to the Stag's perseverance and vision. He envisioned the movie as a Vegas dance show even before it pulled in a staggering 22 AVN nominations, of which it won ten, making it the Lord of the Rings of the porn industry, and in spite of huge obstructions both cultural and technical, got the thing staged, to critical acclaim.
It hasn't inspired too many other really ambitious imitations yet; the other companies that shoot on film and aspire to plot-driven greatness aren't leaping on the huge (by porn standards) budget bandwagon, no more than usual, anyway, and they certainly haven't achieved anything like its cult status. It would be great, though, to see the industry parody its own biggest success the way it does with mainstream Hollywood movies, wouldn't it? Visions of "The Assanistas" dance in my head. One of the reasons may be the film's fetish content. We know there are rules about such things, but Stagliano may have bent them as far as they can be bent, in the Lenny Bruce/Larry Flynt sense of the word.
Although the Vegas show was carefully engineered to break no rules and offend no sensibilities, at least none that wouldn't balk at any other Strip offering, the film is a different animal. One friend, who you might call a hardened porn aficionado, was shocked, not quite sure whether or not to be offended by the heavy-duty bondage and domination mingling with the hardcore sex in "The Fashionistas".
In addition to furthering Stagliano's famed obsession with callipygian hindquarters, to the extent that there's nary a character in the movie who isn't at one time or another being asphyxiated by some shapely backside, there's a darker tone - near-rape, whips, chains, slapping, spanking and spitting all mix in a way that you probably haven't seen on film. (Or, at least, since the lawless old days of the Seventies, when you could do anything you wanted because Congress ignored porn, partly because some of them were funding it. Check out Alpha Blue Archives' reissues of Long Jeanne Silver or Anyone But My Husband for examples of stuff from the really dirty old days.) There are other movies that have taken the S&M ball and run with that theme, like Jim Powers' Dementia and Dementia 2, but none that have done so with the flair and style, not to mention budget and quality, that The Fashionistas brought to the table.
I have another friend who wants to make a "good" porn movie with a real plot, and I've always told her you couldn't do it because with, say, five fifteen-minute sex scenes, you'd only have room for fifteen minutes of plot in a ninety-minute movie. Now Stagliano has gotten around the problem by simply making the movie nearly five hours long. Let's hope porn follows his lead in producing movies that are high-quality, high-budget, and that push the envelope for people who like the unusual. -- by pweasels