Self-serving but fascinating combo of autobiography and satirical b.s.
This Vivid release represents something of a Rosetta Stone to approaching the work of quirky pornographer David Stanley, including revealing his real (street) name as David Broderson. I enjoyed its insider approach and blatant posturing, while picking up on all the hokey phoniness this particular auteur insists upon making part of his work -similar to Orson Welles' penchant for self-destructiveness.
Most of the scenes are shot on white-out sets, at one point revealed to be the background for still photography shoots, known in the trade as the "Pretty Girl" sessions that turn up as slide shows on the videos or generate cover art.
Stanley relentlessly narrates in voice-over this autobiographical portrait of himself, played on screen by one of his favorite players Eric Masterson. The great Broderson himself does show up a few times in person, pointedly and quite sarcastically.
References to previous films, notably what amounts to an impromptu mini- remake of his "Long Story Short" are included much in the manner of Peter Greenaway's cutesy self-references during his experimental "The Tulse Luper Suitcases". Stanley actually has a lot in common with the approach of the art-house genius PG, though toiling away (and complaining about it herein) in the lowly realms of porn.
He states, with some conviction, that he would have rather become a horror movie director or music video helmer devoted to New Wave rock. Either way, it would have been a loss for Adult Cinema, and I agree with his assessment that at least here (via kindly benefactors running Vivid Video and later Wicked Pictures, as a contract director) he operated with a freedom to do what he wants.
That boils down, often, to his fetishes, notably the creation of a silly character named after a hoagie "Big Baloney Sandwich", played by an actor in a gorilla suit. Big Baloney pops up quite a bit in "Pretty Girl", and is used as a hopefully fictional meet-cute introduction to his lover and muse Ashley Blue, played by the real Ashley Blue. At this point in the video I gave up on trying to sort out any semblance of real from invented in Stanley/Broderson's life story, but the short (69 minutes) video is fun to watch at that level of inverted roman a clef.
In the actual Vivid video "Long Story Short" by David, the star is Savanna Samson, and the girl in the Gorilla suit is identified as Sandra in the BTS reveal. But Stanley pretends that Briana Banks was the star of that show, and Ashley as a replacement for another actress, introduced to his life in that suit. Both Steven St. Croix and Eric Masterson appear in both films, but in different roles.
With lots of stills and brief archive footage, David attributes his porn career to the intervention of his cousin Nikki Tyler (is this true?) who introduced him to her "Bobby Sox" director Paul Thomas, and PT gave Stanley a job as a 25 year old working as production manager on several of his Vivid projects, including "Sox" and classics "Borderline" and "Bad Wives". The rest is history. In-joke at video's end has the show dedicated to "David Broderson 1970-1995", the end date not coincidentally the year that Stanley (Broderson) gave up the straight life to embark on a successful porn career sponsored by PT.
The auteur's romances center upon Lezley Zen, portraying a first love named Harmony (that's also the moniker of a famous porn star of the era), who callously leaves him flat. Ashley Blue's real-life connection with Stanley is something I know nothing about, but he effectively creates a myth here, even crediting her with popping his cinematic cherry, as Masterson humps her with homemade videotape to educate himself (that is, Stanley) on how as sex scene is performed for the camera, so that the budding filmmaker will be able to adequately direct same.
Part obnoxious, but quite revealing, is a considerable emphasis on how the industry rag AVN is so important for a porn career, with Stanley even presenting two endings to this film, one that is "too dark" for the AVN and the other loaded with sloppy sentimentality, a true Hollywood Ending. The viewer knows immediately which of these two routes Stanley prefers.
Briana Banks is sexy as always as the contract player who is the video's star, though clearly Ashley is meant to be its emotional center. The other actors are along for the ride, including among the NonSex extras a guy I take to be Johnny Applestock, playing Ashley's pesky nerd of a boyfriend who the director really despises, giving credence to some sort of triangle like that having actually occurred during his rise to porn success.
Not ironically or coincidentally, the real-life AVN rewarded Stanley with best director and best screenplay awards for this trifle, clearly a case of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" by the corrupt outfit. You see, even when Stanley is satirizing AVN, just as PT did in his more famous film "Layout" (also starring Banks) about a fictionalized version called AVG, he is also perpetuating its myth of make-or-break importance within the Industry, a shibboleth which has been pretty much shattered in our current Internet-dominated porn era.
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