Missing Link between Golden Age porn and Today's product
Just caught this unfairly obscure porn classic on DVD, and was in for quite a surprise -it fills the bill as THE quintessential throwback to porn's Golden Age of the '70s and early '80s that so many IMDb members keep referring to with nostalgic memories. How this beauty slipped through the cracks (no puns please) is beyond me.
Filmmaker Beth Kaplan hearkens self-consciously back to a period 20 years before her 1998 shooting date, when Cecil Howard, Rinse Dream and other pornographers were pushing the envelope with story-based erotica that was frankly avant garde and abstract in nature. Not as abstract as the 2-day wonders of Nick Millard, at least 20 of which have been recently unearthed in near-pristine quality on DVD reissue, but still going in for the kaleiodoscopic effects one associates with art-house geniuses like Fellini, Cocteau and Ken Russell. I can't say I liked all of Kaplan's effects, but she gets an A+ for effort in a genre where even the top practitioners nowadays -think Jules Jordan - prefer the gonzo/all-sex (=boredom) route.
What is amazing here is that Kaplan mixes rather effortlessly the 3 predominant porn formats: hardcore sex, softcore simulated sex and the grey borderline in-between -namely the "almost hardcore" familiar to fans of the scores of '60s/early '70s features revived by Something Weird lately. All 3 types of scenes are presented seamlessly in feature film format, and the viewer comes away not feeling cheated (or overwhelmed with "too much" as in contemporary porn) for a change. In terms of explicitness, I was impressed with the balance achieved here. In fact, back in the day this would be considered a couples flick.
Shooting on video is a disappointment to any porn purist, but Kaplan mixes black and white, near monochrome (color diluted) and bold full color scenes to dramatic effect. The stunningly beautiful women here, including Playboy grads, are a real treat -some acceding to hardcore scenes while others prove equally erotic in softcore mode. The masturbation and "hand job" scenes fall into the grey area between hard and soft, and are directed with aplomb, most notably emphasizing well-synched, highly erotic sound effects.
Nominal story of heroine Zoe, a NYC avant garde theater director, visiting a weird, New Age retreat, is hardly Oscar-worthy, but at least there is a story here, and actual acting/dialogue scenes. I could well imagine sitting through this one in a theater like in the old days, admittedly with video projection, but not bored out of my gourd as would be the case with trying to survive 3 hours of a 20 minutes per tryst all-sex tape, made in the 2000s.
Through the wonder of pseudonyms, I couldn't find a single additional credit for the director, writer or producer here, a full decade after this was shot. I wish they would come out of the woodwork and help create a porn renaissance, or has the operation of Gresham's Law seen cheap, amateur junk completely drive ambitious porn from the marketplace? I'm guessing that the very tastefulness of presentation here might have resulted in sales resistance - porn fans today want their particular fetishes served up front, with no frills and definitely with a repetitiveness predicted by cultural philosopher Umberto Eco (read his brilliant Superman Theory essay and you'll see what I mean).
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