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Working out of Barcelona, Erika Lust is typical of filmmakers interested in creating erotica while avoiding the clichés of pornography. Her pretentious project "Cabaret Desire" fails on all counts: zero for eroticism, zero for explicitness, zero for casting, zero for story and zero for conduct.
Okay, I was flippant at the end there, but Jean Vigo she ain't - no visual poetry here. Even the premise of the film, a "decadent" cabaret where untalented performers sing or dance but which is built around young poets giving intimate readings to one or two customers at a time (illustrated on screen by pantomime sex vignettes) is a shuck. An informative short film on the DVD titled "The Poetry Brothel" by Patrick Catuz interviews practitioners at Barcelona and NYC "brothels" emulating Storyville or Parisian atmosphere but where folks go off into a corner or secluded nook to listen to one-on-one poetry readings and presumably have sex.
Changing from brothel to cabaret is a major leap that destroys the original concept: the intimacy (beyond sex) of the inn-person poetry readings is quite the opposite of the voyeurism and ABSENCE of human contact/connection of watching pantomime vignettes on one's TV screen.
But what really killed off my nascent interest in this feature was Erika's connection with the cult of amateurism. Along with Max Hardcore's introduction of gonzo into porn, the predilection for watching amateurs rather than pro actors is the most detrimental change in both Adult Entertainment and even mainstream TV (reality-TV) in recent decades. Erika uses untalented performers, as well as those poets whose way with words escapes me (most of the gibberish passed off as poetry here sounds more like the dubbing script for turning a Spanish or Italian movie into a junker for American audiences than original writing). Result: who wants to look at or listen to this set of losers?
The four vignettes are introduced by a male or female poet who sidles up to a client or couple and receives a poker chip as payment in advance (like a hooker -the chip bought expensively upon entering the club being a ritual associated with the real-life poetry brothels). They narrate the pantomimes, tall tales that really aren't interesting. Silliest is that of a guy who's mom is an art historian/cat burglar (?!) who we see in fetish gear clad in latex head to toe, making her look like a stereotypical BDSM movie masochist, but instead dominating a famous author who she binds and gags and then humps. Punch line of this segment is predictable and corny enough to make Rod Serling groan.
Worst vignette is the finale, which departs somewhat from the previous structure in that the blonde poet merely starts the tale and then the two protagonists in the pantomime have their "voices" presented in clashing views of events, basically a lame reunion a year after a torrid but fleeting affair, combining sentimentality and cynicism.
As in her short films, Lust is all about the tease, but I found her approach to Adult XXX tease to be annoying, not stimulating. The payoff is explicit sex, but shot largely from soft-core angles so that the viewer is jerked around rather than promoting any jerking off. Sex scenes are relatively brief by modern standards and shot with many hokey camera placements and non- stop editing, both of which are techniques long rejected by porn fans in favor of the current more realistic, unedited half-hour of continuous sex approach. One of the four vignettes played just like a lame late-night pay- cable (Skinemax or Showtime) boredom special. Erika, for obvious p.c. reasons, de-emphasizes or eliminates the cum shot and flunks out on portraying any real semblance of human connection beyond mechanical sex - a failing of the pantomime format.
Film ends in a laughably bad performance of an original song titled "Sperm", with poor lip-sync of the band (Cava Cabaret) and its jazz singer, an insipid attempt at double entendres. Cast is thoroughly unimpressive, both naked in the sack and lamely reciting their poetry/narration.
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