by Rich Moreland, August, 2013
Because of its complexity, The Submission of Emma Marx cannot be satisfactorily reviewed in blog format in one sitting. Consequently, it will appear in segments. This is the first.
“I don’t think controlling someone liberates them.” Bespectacled graduate student Emma Marx is sitting in the office of entrepreneur, William Frederick.
“Do you think you are liberated?” he questions with a shade of annoyance.
“I’m very liberated,” she responds, though her expression cannot conceal doubt and a feeling she has violated a tacitly understood boundary in this conversation. Sensing the interview is winding down, Emma apologizes for her impudence. “I hope I didn’t offend you. I’m not usually one for self-restraint.”
“That’s too bad.” He is unemotional and aloof.
She rises to go, politely offering her hand as a “thank you.” Touching it, Mr. Frederick says nonchalantly, “You are absolutely breathtaking.”
* * * * *
Thus begins Emma’s journey to reconcile her attraction to a man whose allure will redefine her vision of normal with an acceptance of that normal. Along the way, she will abandon her illusions of self-control, face questions that challenge her concept of sexual deviancy, and find carnal pleasures within herself she never knew existed.
New Sensations’ The Submission of Emma Marx is written and directed from a female, dare I say feminist, point of view. A woman’s desires and search for happiness are its focus and the star, Penny Pax, offers up a performance that is superlative. The director’s chair is dually occupied by the film’s author, Jacky St. James, and Eddie Powell. Together the imagery they create is memorable, deeply symbolic, and the best example of submission pornography out there today.
The movie opens with a sex scene that is standard Porn Valley vanilla featuring Emma’s sister, Nadia (played beautifully by Riley Reid) and her fiancé, Ray (Van Wylde). Nadia is petulant, self-centered, and bossy. Her personality and her sexuality are counterpoints to Emma.
Riley and Van sparkle in their sexual show. Using fluid camera work, St. James and Powell establish the film’s ground rules with these opening shots. The larger realities of Nadia and Ray are presented with cinematic gusto. The sex, playfully shot among rose pedals, features both bodies equally displayed in their erotic presence. In other words, the penetration shots are only part of the sex, not the sex itself, a theme that carries the film.
By the way, Emma Marks is not gonzo decorated with heavy doses of gynecological close-ups. In this scene, the focus is on Nadia’s pleasure, her engagement ring is visible as most of the action is shot from her left, and there’s lots of oral to satisfy her. Incidentally, the directors’ collective vision is summarized in a brief moment. Nadia is in reverse cowgirl with the camera shooting from in front of the bed’s footboard. Her enjoyment is emphasized strictly with her upper body and facial expression. Penetration is obscured, as is her lover; only a woman’s pleasure is on display.
Nadia and Ray represent sexuality as it is socially prescribed, albeit tainted with the relationship drama that spices the mundane in a social media age. Later they will furtively discuss the deviancy of Emma’s apparent degeneration into BDSM play. Nadia picks up on her sister’s red butt; Ray notices rope marks on her wrists. As snoopy and self-satisfied as they are, without them Emma’s journey lacks definition.
Admitting in a voice over that she is “hopelessly detached” when it comes to love, Emma feels little joy for her sister’s upcoming wedding and gets on with her life working around Ray and Nadia’s constant bickering. A lifetime union may be their destination, but arguing is its counterpoint.
Emma is old school in a youthful package, solid and thoughtful with a “textbook perfect life,” she claims. When she reports to Mr. Frederick’s office for the interview, she is prepared with a small notebook, a pen, and a valise which she will hold against her chest for protection when her feelings of apprehension and uncertainty confront her.
While waiting to see Frederick (played by Richie Calhoun in his subdued style), Emma sits in front of the stairwell to his office. There are two white chairs. The one to Emma’s right is empty and dominates the shot. Emma sits pigeon-toed with the valise open in her lap. She is meek and malleable, a vision that is reinforced when Frederick’s secretary steps into the scene from stage left. She is near the camera and her legs and skirt dwarf Emma, who looks at her with the trepidation of a school girl outside the principal’s office.
The empty chair is symbolic. Emma’s existence craves emotional connections. William Frederick, whose adoration for Emma will pull her out of her self-confined world, requires patience. As is later replayed in the hallway of his home, Emma will have to wait for his arrival . . . and his affection . . . to become worthy in her own eyes of happiness for Emma is dominated by self-loathing. “I ran from myself and the fears and judgments that plagued me all of my adult life,” she will say later when she no longer needs outside validation to find her dreams. The vacant chair is awaiting Emma’s rebirth.
This reviewer offers special kudos to Penny Pax who, of course, is Emma. She narrates the story in the voice over that walks the viewer through Emma’s maturation. Penny’s dialogue delivery is superb and her facial expressions reveal Emma’s inner self with clarity. Not to be ignored are Penny’s sexual skills, after all this is a porn film. The story drives the sex which in turn completes the narrative and develops the characters. When the sex occurs, it is hard-hitting and locks the viewer in on the action. Penny Pax gives an unbelievable and emotional performance.
* * * * *
Leaving Frederick’s office, Emma is joyous, relishing his “breathtaking” comment and realizing she has an undeniable attraction to him. She plays out her fantasies in the privacy of masturbation, her self-limiting sexual performances. In two beautifully shot scenes, Emma substitutes real intimacy for the counterpoint of self-pleasure, something Frederick intuitively understands, as we shall see.
In the first masturbation scene, Emma lies on her belly fingering herself, but it is suggested, not overt. The second swirls around a phone call from Frederick. During the conversation, an aroused Emma feebly attempts to hold her ground in their verbal sparring. She pleasures herself again, genitalia under the covers, with the camera flashing back to the call while her face is etched in ecstasy. The key image in both shoots is her glasses. She has set them aside on the bed cover, proof that Frederick who “leaves your head spinning,” she acknowledges, has indeed stripped her of her defenses and started her on an odyssey to find the real Emma Marx.
Coming next is Emma’s first experience with new kind of love, a binding obligation . . .