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Someone is watching me
Not all of this thriller’s dark secrets are revealed in the first viewing
There are some movies that are just difficult to understand. You walk out of them thinking to yourself, “What the $*#% just happened?”
There are a few reasons why this can be the case.
First, the movie might be so insanely bad, or have been edited so poorly, that the darned thing just doesn’t make a lick of sense. Examples of this sort of film are far too numerous to mention, but Fresh Horses, a 1988 Molly Ringwald stinker, comes to mind.
The second reason is that the film might just require a higher IQ to comprehend than a given audience member can provide. Taking your idiot cousin who got kicked in the head by a horse when he was a child to see Memento is not conducive to having a fellow audience member who gets the nuances of the plot.
Finally, there are films that are so complex, so well-contrived that, on first viewing, one is left scratching one’s head and asking no one in particular, “What the hell did I just see?”
David Kittredge’s Pornography: A Thriller, now available on DVD from Wolfe Video, falls soundly in that final category.
The film is told in three interlocking segments. The first follows former porn star Mark Anton (Jared Grey) who, a few years after leaving the business, is told by his producer of a prospective client who just wants to videotape him, and will pay $40,000.
It seems like a great way to set himself up and get away from porn forever, so eventually he decides to take the deal. The problem is, what the client really wants is a snuff film with Mark as the star.
In the second segment, journalist Michael Castigan (Matthew Montgomery) is researching a book on the cultural history of gay porn films, while moving into a new apartment. The apartment, however, seems to have a few dark secrets of its own, leading Michael on a trail of discovery involving Mark and his ultimate fate.
The final installment revolves around Matt Stevens (Pete Scherer), a successful porn star making a move into directing. He has a dream that he transcribes into a script for a gay porn thriller, The Mark Anton Story. However, making the movie, especially with himself as the star, might just be the death of him.
Along the way, there are boyfriends who might not exist, realtors in New York who are psychologists in California, urinal peepers who are film producers, and more supernatural mystery than one can shake a stick at.
“I don’t want to say exactly what happened (because a lot of people have a lot of interesting theories), but there’s a solid objective plot, it’s just told through a very subjective point of view,” director Kittredge noted when e-mailed by a befuddled reporter. “There’s definitely a ‘reality’ in the film along with the stuff that doesn’t happen.”
“We went out of our way to make a film that was original and unique,” he continued. “It forces the audience to pay attention, and I will say that from what I understand, viewers ‘get it’ a lot more on their second and third viewings.”
“Personally, I really hope gay cinema and the fests start to embrace more challenging material again,” he responded. “I doubt if some gay festivals would program [Todd Haynes’ seminal film] Poison if it were made today, but I’m really happy with the warm reception Pornography has gotten on the fest circuit and from many of the critics.”
One really fascinating facet of the film is how Kittredge made a movie called Pornography, and yet there is not really that much in it that could be considered pornographic. There is nary a penis to be seen, and very few bare buttocks. As the film gets nearer the end, there is more, and more explicit-looking, sex, but somehow it remains a far more high-brow film than most of the festival circuit.
Also surprising for a film that made the queer rounds is the acting. Everyone is at the very least quite capable, and most of the actors are very good. Montgomery is becoming the go-to guy for gay indie films, and he is most deserving, and even Dylan Vox, whose appearance in the execrable Dante’s Cove and The Lair for the Here network would lead one to believe that soap opera work might be too taxing, is good as a somewhat smarmy porn star. Which is not to say he’s been bad in those previous roles, it’s more to say that those series were horrendously cheesy.
Yes, the majority of the people in the film are quite good-looking, but considering that much of it is set in the porn industry, even that is fitting.
It is easy to imagine how paranoid one might be after watching this film. A central theme is voyeurism, watching, being watched, and as each of the characters is watched, or believes he is being watched, that is a sensation that the audience will take with them. There are cameras and eyes everywhere.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go watch Pornography again . . . and again . . .
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