Saturday, 23 June 2012

TV Review - Louis Theroux - Twilight of the Porn Stars

Since the internet has invaded the popular consciousness pictures of naked ladies which were once as rare and treasured as ancient Babylonian scrolls are now as common as a discarded Metro on the Underground. In the time it takes to say "where's the Kleenex?" porn can now be accessed by your average punter for free on their phone with the minimum of fuss. Or so I'm told.

Louis first dipped a toe in the adult entertainment industry over 15 years ago when as a fresh faced reporter he went behind the scenes to document the curious lives of L.A's porn stars. Now he is back in San Fernando to find the porn business on it knees, an appropriate metaphor, in the face of this abundance of free amateur smut.

For a while the adult industry tried to combat the insidious threat of D.I.Y. productions by making ever more hardcore movies, as popularised by extreme director Rob Black.

"I created genres no one had ever seen. Assholes shredded open..."

Even he has had to tone it down when faced with ever dwindling sales which have forced the industry to aim for the more lucrative couples market by ditching the shocks and upping their production values.

Louis is on one such set and chats to Sander, a performer with 18 months in the business. His solution to "getting wood" with unattractive performers is the "boner pill" Cyalis. If there was any doubt about the tawdry nature of porn it is here in all its glory. The performers don't know the name of the film, the crew are busy texting and the director doesn't even remember the performer's name despite having had sex with her.

"Its work. Its not sex for pleasure"

Louis then visits talent agency L.A. Direct where performers can get €3000-$8000 for a gang bang, paid for with cash in a carrier bag. One of their office staff Fran Amidor is surprisingly candid about the respect they have for the performers in relation to the rest of the staff.

"I don't go to set and fucking suck cock...I don't want to be a mother of a whore"

So, in this age of the internet domination how do porn stars do to make ends meet? Webcams obviously. Louis interviews Kagney Linn Carter who performs regular live shows and has an unorthodox relationship with Monte her boyfriend and full time assistant. Its unorthodox because as Monte runs errands, cleans the kitchen and plays his video games he is fully aware that different men are regularly shagging his girlfriend. Despite this reality he appears relatively non-plussed. Does Kagney's career choice not bother him?

"I expressed a preference that five guys didn't jizz over her." he says diplomatically

Kagney tries to explain Monte's sanguine approach is down to her plan of action.

"He knows I'm always thinking about the future. One day I won't have to do this no more"

I don't know whether to be shocked or impressed by her incongruous professionalism. Its a strange and bizarre partnership but it seems to work despite itself.

"I've had 5 great years and whatever more we can get I'll take"

Of course not all relationships are able to withstand the obvious tensions between a career in porn and the monogamous expectations of would be partners. Louis interviews Tommy Gunn a porn veteran with 1100 films under his belt (who could forget the classics Chow My Puntang, Incredible Expanding Vagina and Grand Theft Anal 4) who has

"won everything they make".

it seems the industry has affected him badly. He is desperate for a family but his career has made that impossible. He readily acknowledges that porn hardens a person to the emotional feelings that civvies take for granted and this leads to a loss of self. Despite the good looks, cut torso and abundance of sex he cuts a lonely and insecure figure.

"Would girls be fucking me if they weren't getting paid to do it?"

Understandably the human side of relationships suffer when

"you leave someone you love to go and have sex with someone you don't"

Its not just relationships that suffer. A common strand running through the documentary is the suicide of Jon Dough a leading figure in the adult movie world who Louis interviewed in 1997. Many of his peers remember him but seem reluctant to go into detail about his suicide, the vulnerability of one of their own a thorny subject for a profession that prides itself on its emotional and physical "hardness".

Louis tracks down his widow who confirms a life of sex drugs and rock and roll took their toll on him

"He felt like he failed in life as a man"

Life in the fast lane lead to a life of addiction that was far harder and far more damaging than the world of porn. He leaves behind a daughter who wants to be a police officer whose desire

"to stop people doing the wrong things"

is perhaps a reflection of her father's unfortunate life choices.

Twilight Of The Porn Stars plays out like a real life Boogie Nights and is impressive for only having been shot in a week when a alternate documentary about the Conservative Tea Party fell though. However Louis has set the bar very high with his recent output and the programme is neither funny enough to match Louis' work on Weird Weekends nor a serious enough expose to rival his recent exemplary documentaries on Autism and Dementia.

His underlying point that the porn industry is a heartless, damaging and exploitative business is hardly the stuff of revelation. Whilst Louis is still the master of uncovering the human elements underpinning any controversial topic Twilight of the Porn Stars really offers little that viewers haven't seen before and whilst still entertaining, suffers from being neither fish nor flesh.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Film Review: Prometheus

For all the fan boy negativity surrounding Ridley Scott's new film you would think he had made a child porn cash-in starring Jimmy Saville and called it Alien 5: Hide The Kids.

Such is the esteem held for Scott's back catalogue with classics such as the original Alien, Gladiator and Bladerunner it is inevitable that some people have ended up disappointed.

Whilst Prometheus does have delusions of grandeur tackling as it does the weighty concerns of mankind's very existence, which it ultimately fails to satisfactorily live up to, Scott creates a visually grandiose universe and a movie that delivers on most fronts. Yes, it lacks the creeping claustrophobia of Alien or the emotional impact of Bladerunner but the criticism is misplaced. Its like describing Mount Kilimanjaro as a hill because Everest is taller.

The fact that Prometheus is not a sequel, rather a quasi-prequel, to Alien has also riled a lot of net nerds. It does inhabit the same universe of cold hearted cyborgs (Michael Fassbender succeeds with his best Rutger Hauer/Ian Holm/Peter O'Toole impersonation), cryo-pods and critters bursting out of orifices but attempts to build an alternate mythology from some familiar strands.

 Scientists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) find ancient cave drawings that they believe have been left by our creators "the Engineers" that may shed light on the origins of humanity. They get elderly billionaire Peter Weyland (an unrecognisable Guy Pearce) to fund a scientific expedition to a distant moon to get some answers. On arrival let's just say they get a close and personal welcome.

Much of the criticism of film as centred on the rather haphazard script by Lost writer Damon Lindelof which veers up a few logic cul-de-sacs. As scientists, most of the crew are dumber than a remedial class of toddlers with learning difficulties. Even before they leave the ship they decide the security expert they have brought along is surplus to requirements as this is "a scientific expedition" and weapons would somehow be a hindrance. They all promptly opt to take off their helmets and walk around dark, unchartered underground passages like lambs to the slaughter. Worst of all the brain box of a botanist (Rafe Spall) thinks nothing of pissing about with an obviously dangerous space cobra like he were petting a puppy. He gets what's coming to him.

 As characters go only Fassbender's cool calculating cyborg David is a match for the Ripleys, Vazquezes and Bishops that came before. His economy of movement and his creepy calm are perfectly pitched to his ulterior motives in the movie. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag, neither funny nor appealing enough for you to really root for them. Idris Elba is competent enough as the ship's captain, Charlize Theron's ice maiden looks nice enough in a catsuit but Noomi Rapace is a bit too wide eyed to be any competition for Sigourney Weaver. To be fair to the actors they don't have quite the same quality of zingers to work with.

Despite the inevitable comparisons the two hours flew by without a single check of the watch (as good a test as any) and included a good number of scares, a visceral finale and and open ended denouement that leaves ample room for a sequel and the possibility of filling in a few of the blanks critics have highlighted.

 One thing is for sure.  It ain't fucking game over man!