Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
A Labor of Love (1976)
Coming soon to DVD!
Nearly 35 years after my first viewing of A Labor of Love, I am pleased to report that both the print itself and the unscripted humor of the performers have stood the test of time. The reactions of a screening audience at the University of Chicago confirmed the notion that people not trying to be funny may often be hilarious.
Robert Flaxman and Daniel Goldman released their documentary A Labor of Love in 1976 during the early days of 35mm porn, when grindhouse cinemas in the seamier sections of large cities were the only places to view explicit sex in the movies. The filmmakers were granted carte blanche access during a three-week shoot in Chicago for an independent art film called The Last Affair, a serious drama that was to include hard core sex scenes.
The documentary opens with a dark screen and the metallic scraping of an unblimped 35mm camera. The whine of the motor serves as a constant reminder of the impersonal nature of staging erotic scenes in the presence of a director and crew. Several male cast members express their apprehension at achieving an erection in front of the camera.
The unscripted, verite nature of this film will appeal to today's reality savvy audiences. We meet several characters, some of whom we like and others we hope will fail.
There is Debbie, a young model turned actress who clearly believes her performance in The Last Affair will be a catalyst to stardom. She doesn't seem uncomfortable about her sex scenes until she notices non-crew members peeking around a door to the set.
Debbie's co-star is Jerry, a handsome hunk who worries his lack of attraction to his co-star will impede his ability to get aroused for their sex scene. The best stories revolve around conflict and these two clearly dislike each other.
We also meet a sleazy, middle-aged actor who writes his own dialog during a creepy daddy/daughter fantasy encounter at a male brothel. When his improvising becomes too uncomfortable, the director yells out "stop talking!"
The funniest character is an enthusiastic young man recruited to replace an older actor who was not able to perform during an essential sex scene. "They asked me if I would like to step in and I thought, why not?"
The director of The Last Affair is a gentle soul named Henri, a novice who is obviously uncomfortable with the prospect of shooting his actors engaging in various sexual activities. He signed on to helm a serious drama without realizing his financial backers were planning to use explicit sex as a marketing ploy. Flaxman and Goldman, the documentary directors, convinced Henri to wear a wireless microphone allowing viewers to hear his instructions to the actors.
The humor of this film is derived from the unedited comments of the performers. Just like kids, these young thespians say the darnedest things. Unlike today's reality stars, the cast of The Last Affair didn't promote personal agendas and weren't selling themselves to Flaxman and Goldman.
As tensions build, the frustrated cast and crew members begin to lash out at each other. When the atmosphere starts to resemble a porn version of Waiting for Guffman, Flaxman and Goldman keep the camera rolling and let the antics of the cast determine the direction of their documentary.
A Labor of Love allows the viewer to be a fly on the wall during the creation of a serious film that just happened to contain explicit sex. The cast of The Last Affair, inexperienced and vulnerable during the troublesome shoot, opened up to the documentarians and revealed their insecurities. This is unfiltered reality film-making without today's showboating attitudes.