by Rich Moreland, May 2014
A professor during my graduate school years insisted that superior literature requires repeated readings. Testing his advice, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby five times and, indeed, my prof was correct. Each reread brought out another image, another symbol, another interpretation. By the fifth excursion into the book, I understood why some critics believe Gatsby to be the “Great American Novel.”
To evaluate a Jacky St. James’s film, multiple viewings are a minimal prerequisite. She and Eddie Powell integrate images, movement, dialogue, lighting and shading to authenticate their central message: adult film is art.
As a team they create an atmosphere in which the sex scenes compliment, but do not drive, the storyline, while remaining an irreplaceable part of it. Bear in mind, they minimalize gonzo porn’s hard, blasting sexual mechanics unless it fits a specific mood and message. Instead, Jacky and Eddie combine the raw desire and tender touches that embrace couples’ pleasure.
The Temptation of Eve exemplifies the cinematic grace of a St.James/Powell production. It is intriguing drama with quality acting.
One reviewer wrote, “Don’t rent this movie, buy it.” I could not agree more. In fact, I endorse a Jacky St. James collection as a necessity to any adult film library because its richness entertains long after the first viewing.
As another reviewer (Astroknight for Adultdvdtalk) said of Eve, “I’m not nearly a good enough writer or reviewer to really do it justice.” Well, perhaps I am, at least I’d like to give it a shot. So, here we go with the first part of a superb film.
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“Temptation is a very powerful thing. It’s hard to fight off and even harder to walk away from.”
Brandon Parker’s words introduce an ancient dilemma Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell have transformed into a cinematic masterpiece, The Temptation of Eve. The viewer is treated to a plethora of images and motifs that offer a unique spin on an old story.
Though I rarely recommend doing this, fast forward to the final scene. It sets up the narrative, is invaluable in understanding the emotional dilemmas the film presents, and will enhance viewing pleasure.
Tangled and Twisted Metal
Containment themes within a minimalist vision is the complication of The Temptation of Eve. For the curious, minimalism is an artistic rebellion against abstractionism. Minimalists pare down visual components in a reductionism that cuts away the clutter to expose an idea. In other words, replace a jumble of colors with an ordered and defined space.
Accommodation and repression dominate the film; boxes and circles are ever present whether in photos on the walls, furniture, cartons for personal possessions, candles, pillows, or doorways. Eve (Remy Lacroix) must contain her temptations and free up her past to invest in the present, her boyfriend, Danny (Tommy Pistol). Her former lover, Brandon (Xander Corvus), must control his game playing and admit his suppressed feelings for Eve in a fight he is destined to lose, at least for now. And, Danny struggles to abandon all confinement to move forward and escape a potential emotional triangle this reviewer believes he senses.
It’s all there in the film’s ending scene, it’s final denouement and most dramatic statement.
By the way, the closing moments bring to mind a scene from The Submission of Emma Marx in which the kneeling Emma (Penny Pax) waits inside the front door of her master’s house to be called to her pleasure. Where Emma enters, Eve exits, but, unlike Emma, she leaves with feelings repressed and doubt hanging in the air.
There are three doors in the final shot. The double entrance doors are brightened by translucent light, an indication that Eve and Danny are working hard to make their relationship work in tough economic times. To the left is a closet door , symbolic of Brandon perhaps, who is being left behind, locked into his cramped and limited view of sexuality and affection.
Or, is the closet door Danny’s isolation? A possibility because of what he may suspect. A hint appears earlier when Danny asks Eve if Brandon brought girls over while he, Danny, was away in Seattle. She says no, but adds,
“He couldn’t find someone I hated enough to do this.”
A curious answer to a seemingly innocent question. Danny never asks for a further explanation, but must perceive it’s time to move quickly.
To the left of the front door hangs an abstract painting that presents the story’s complexities: Brandon’s chaotic life, Eve’s once torrid relationship with him, her inability to resolve a past that haunts her, Danny’s frustrations, and the suggestion that there is indeed a love triangle at work.
To complete the exit scene is a large metallic grid of tangled and twisted lines geometrically arranged in squares, positioned to the right of the double doors. It screams for order while bound in chaos. It’s a movable piece, by the way, that appears early in the film.
What does it tell the viewer? Is it Brandon? Eve? Their relationship? Or, does it speak of Eve’s torturous desires to explore her past, her addiction to Brandon’s journal, or her uncertain vision of a future rooted in Seattle? Is she trying to establish order out of mixed up emotions ?
Line up your guesses and then watch the film to see where the pieces fall.
Danny and Eve have fallen on difficult times and are staying at Brandon’s house. Danny has lost his job as a graphic designer and Eve hers in journalism to a “blonde bimbo,” Jen (Bailey Blue). According to the rumor mill, Jen’s oral skills were nicely received at work and she became the new hire.
Danny wants to support his love but like the down-and-out men of the Great Depression, he is having no luck finding employment. The well-off Brandon, who apparently is an old friend of Danny’s, welcomes them, particularly since he has a past with Eve.
Though Eve is troubled by the arrangement, she cannot resist sneaking surreptitious peeks at Brandon’s journal. She caresses herself while reading the accounts Brandon keeps as literary notches buried within the pages. To distress matters further, Eve discovers very personal nude photos that Brandon has stashed in a drawer. Could Danny find these?
Eve is haunted by memories of sex with Brandon recorded in the journal. They appear as flashbacks in the film. In one he is binding her to his bed; in another she is uses a vibrator while lying naked by the pool. Brandon is swimming through the water (very Freudian) like he does his women.
Caught in a situation that is playing on her emotions, Eve can’t extract herself from a swirling eddy of desire and trouble. Her dilemma is surrealistically illustrated with a hula hoop. The lawn scene is shot from inside the hoop with the background in a tizzy as Eve turns mechanically in a dream-like sequence that explores her confinement. Interestingly, the hoop’s colors reflect the blues of Eve’s mug, symbolic of water and the delicate flowers painted on the ceramic.
The hoop suddenly drops to the ground and an immobile Eve stands exposed before Brandon, fragile and vulnerable. Can she escape a situation she clings to emotionally, one that produces masturbatory orgasms called up by the past?
Buddha and a MILF
Alone in the house, Eve gets the journal again and learns about the older woman.
One of Brandon’s renters, Veronica (India Summer) offers sex in exchange for a break in her monthly payment. Though Brandon is unwilling to enter into an agreement she might use to turn their casual relationship into a more complicated one, Veronica is playing him. Cool, mature, in control, and suggestive of better ways to satisfy both of them, she isn’t going to extend anything beyond sex for rent. Veronica is as manipulative as Brandon.
Though their encounter is the usual stuff of oral, doggie, cowgirl, and mish, the scene is India Summer’s stage. She is elegant, graceful, and lovely in a way that endorses the MILF concept in porn. Her body is taut and ready for action. Best of all, India brings a bonus to the set, her dialogue delivery ranks with the best in the business. As an actress, she is supreme.
The scene emphasizes both bodies displayed equally through a distant focus intermixed with Eddie Powell’s frequently moving camera. He shoots sex through encircling the lovers, inviting the viewer in for a closer look. Brandon and Veronica’s scissors action, popular in girl/girl scenes, seems perfectly placed as the sequence wraps up.
Speaking of placement, two images dominate the scene where the sex happens. First, is the large gold face of Buddha. It’s a bright and alive wall decoration that adds a serene touch to the room. Next to the couch is the metal artwork, a reminder of the tangled lines that ensnare Brandon’s world. At one point during the doggie action, a vertical light blocks out half of Buddha’s face, leaving a phallic-like ear and the vulva shape of one eye on the screen. The images are not joined, of course, and speak of separation in Brandon’s sexual history.
Evident here is another motif Jacky St. James loves, candles. There are three, but they are not arranged in a triangle at this point. That occurs later, dropping a hint that Danny may be know more than Eve or Brandon suspect.
Keep these early images in mind, because the second sexual rendezvous is contradictory to the first. Eve and Danny will take the viewer into a muted, almost colorless and visually shaded room saturated in with a film noir flavor. But the mood is different there, the lovers are more somber with an embrace that spells survival.
Two awkward scenes set the stage for the second half of the film. Danny’s job hunting is a continued failure and Brandon offers to help him out. In the kitchen Brandon pours coffee into Eve’s mug which he brought with him. She mentions it is hers.
“I know, you left it in my room,” he retorts.
Despite Brandon’s caustic comment, the sting of discovery does not move Eve. Why should it, she probably spent a few nights there in the past. Perhaps her neglect was deliberate and serves to embolden Brandon.
Time for another flashback, this time sex in the bathroom.
Later while Danny sleeps, Eve is distracted by guttural moaning and giggling downstairs. Investigating, she catches Brandon having sex with a nameless girl who is wearing Eve’s clothes.
Confronting him, Eve says, “Did you ever think about how that may make her feel, making her wear someone else’s clothes?”
Interesting, is she projecting her feelings into the slut he’s doing at that moment? Is this another fantasy?
Minimally affected by her remark, Brandon confesses he thinks about Eve all the time and asks why she was in his room earlier. Of course, he knows and reaches into her pants, feels her wetness, and walks away in triumph. Is he setting up something?
Jacky St. James certainly is because Eve must face her dual realities—Danny and Brandon—with an understanding that the game of emotional hide and seek cannot endure.
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The second part of my review of The Temptation of Eve will be up soon.