Pornographic musicals are not strictly unheard of - although I haven't seen either, both Jacob Pander's Suck It And See and Bud Townsend's 1976 version of Alice in Wonderland are examples - and, in a strange way, the two genres actually share numerous attributes; beautiful girls, stand-alone performance sequences which disrupt the greater narrative flow, and wilful disregard for 'realism' are key factors in each. It is, perhaps, a shame however that only one of these genres will ever find itself on Sunday afternoon television schedules.
Where Pornography: The Musical really stands out is in its blending of these (apparently) disparate genres with the documentary mode; as anyone who has (and, for that matter, anyone who hasn't) watched any smutty cinema will testify, pornography's detachment from psychological realism is often paramount. In order for these films to work, they can't be realistic portrayals of everyday life. To be fair, Pornography: The Musical isn't porn, and was never designed as such; the filmmakers have gone on record admitting that the whole business unnerves them deeply. (However, Pornography: The Musical has, ironically, more than enough mileage to keep connoisseurs of 'clandestine' cinema happy). This film aims more at being some kind of experimental documentary - candid (and, in at least two cases, surprisingly shocking) interviews with performers from differing parts of the industry, interrupted by segments in which these 'stars' proceed to perform specially-written song-and-dance numbers.
The main problem I had with this was, well, the whole structure seemed somewhat pointless; the recent explosion of television documentaries delving into the world of porn would have seemed to have motivated the filmmakers to creating something fresher and more original, although, in reality, all they did was retread the format of their earlier musical prison-documentary Feltham Sings (2002) in a manner which sadly evokes the desperation of a creative one-trick-pony. Although I am all for artistic expression which exists on the margins of genre and culture, I couldn't help feeling this should have simply been played straight; another porn-documentary may not have set the world alight in excitement, but it would at least have represented a solid, even attempt to understand this world.
As it stands, Pornography: The Musical is wildly uneven at best; the songs' often dark lyrics, penned by the filmmakers, seem at odds with the actual accounts of the performers themselves (only one of whom is less than enthusiastic about her line of work), leaving any intended message garbled and confused. The musical numbers themselves are pretty shoddy, if one is being kind; although generally performed with a definite (amateur) gusto, they are simply too forgettable and cheap-sounding to leave any lasting impact. Although it seems churlish to criticise what ought to be an admirably extreme piece of television on these grounds, if these segments of supposed expressionism are meant to be central to the film's distinctiveness, and we as an audience are meant to find them as interesting as the 'documentary' segments, then a better execution of these sections is surely not too much to ask for.
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