What started off as a riff on the Mickey Rourke/Kim Basinger hit NINE 1/2 WEEKS, turned out to be perhaps Nica Noelle's most adventurous video experiment. I was blown away by the powerful performances in 6 1/2 WEEKS, and in a better (more tolerant) world it would be required viewing for students at the Actors Studio or Stella Adler Studio.
Noelle in fact sets the artistic bar for herself perilously high here, opening the feature in mid- scene (we hear the sound first before the credits are over) with a relentless 20-plus minutes of Manuel Ferrara abusing submissive London Keyes in a no-holds-barred two-hander performance piece.
I lost track of all the things Manuel does to her, with a spontaneity any actor would envy, ranging from choking, biting, slapping, forced deep throat (a mouthful considering it's Ferrara's cock), smacking her with his feet, all at a rapid, non-stop pace while humping the girl. This is not ritualistic BDSM or some other artificial fetish nonsense for specialized voyeurs, but an out-and-out assault on both her and the viewer's senses, and the sense of relief when he finally delivers his money shot, pushes her away and storms out of the anonymous bedroom is palpable.
Despite or perhaps because of his great popularity I have resisted appreciating Ferrara's work, but his several features requiring acting (and not just gonzo sex acts) for director Nica are impressive, especially this one. It fulfills all the clichés and sometimes b.s. one associates with a director or acting coach encouraging his flock to break down barriers and reach deep down inside for "truth" in their performance. Though admittedly assigned to be more punching bag than actress here, Keyes is also memorably effective - I'll look forward to watching her dish it out in one of Noelle's Sweetheart lesbian features.
The film begins in earnest at the end of this vignette, telling the story of Inari Vachs as a party planner working with friendly associate Teri Weigel. She meets by chance Ferrara at a space she's considering using for a 100-head wedding party -he's a mysterious wealthy guy (think Trump) planning to buy the building from an artist (Lee) who I identified as '60s British singer Ian Whitcomb (who performs occasional non-sex roles for Nica Noelle). Another uncredited non-sex cameo is by Doug Farel who played Nica's son in LESBIAN CHRONICLES PART 1.
In a structure different from her usual feature videos for Sweet Sinner or Sweetheart Video (just as the first vignette's rough violence was a huge departure from Nica's ordinarily romantic/sensual approach), the couple gradually develops a relationship but Manuel hints by saying "I might be dangerous" (even playing a game with a whip that she rejects) and leaves her hanging rather than having sex with Inari. This sexual suspense is very effective, and at odds with the thinness of instant conquests that one is accustomed to in porn.
Instead segment two develops into a showcase for Teri, who makes a date with a Black sales rep Mr. Ken (I guess he named himself after Mr. Marcus in hopes of emulating that superstar's success). The May/December roll in the hay has Weigel up to a modified version of her famous ear-splitting shriek routine while having sex, but I enjoyed her "showing the ropes" to the young man as she puts it. Her cop-out to the much-criticized aural barrage is an "I'm orgasmic tonight", but what keeps the vignette from being great is the non-acting of Ken, who never achieved an Adult industry career. I believe Nica erred by giving the role to new talent rather than some more experienced thesp. Sequence ends sort of amusingly (to me at least) as after he shoots on Teri's ample breasts he gets a slap from her as his reward.
Act III has some interesting plot developments, superior in my mind to the rather banal Adrian Lyne oft-copied original. Wandering around Manuel's sparely decorated digs, Inari finds a cache of letters and photographs that explain the video movie's title: he's made a habit of loving and leaving beautiful women, who have written him in vain wondering when they might get together again. One of the ladies is French and there's a photo of Katsuni/Katsumi (she would have been using the former stage name at the time), a nice in-reference.
Manuel catches her rummaging through his things and is hopping mad, treating her to some of the insistent sex that London Keyes and we the audience know he's capable of, but not rough. Sympathetic and underplaying, Vachs is excellent in dealing with this force of nature and has yet to really experience his dark side.
Finale is well-measured as a now led astray Inari is contemplating marriage and the good life whereas we know Manuel is up to no good. Sure enough, after giving her romantic gifts including a priceless painting of a lonely woman (done by Lee) she had a yen for, the mystery man disillusions her in the most effective way.
She's dressed to the nines expecting a proposal when he invites her over "for a surprise", and instead is blindfolded and gifted with the person of Jessie Andrews. This yields a torrid threesome including some welcome lesbian sex, but afterward Andrews tells her (fibbing) that SHE is Manuel's girl friend, accustomed to him finding some beauty to share a threesome with her.
Even though Manuel later protests to Inari about Jessie: "She's not my girlfriend", Vachs' romantic illusions have been shattered and she's had enough of his games. She sees Manuel walking down the street with a pretty new girl (uncredited extra) and he barely glances at Inari as he passes by. In place of the expected bittersweet ending, Nica gives us a decidedly downbeat conclusion.
Especially due to the rough sex of its early reels, 6 1/2 WEEKS is not for all tastes but I found it an unexpectedly powerful experience.
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