by Rich Moreland, May 2014
Here is the second segment of my analysis of Torn, a romance from New Sensations. As with my first article on the film, it is my impression of the story without the use of dialogue.
Analyzing a film by silencing actors’ voices tests their ability to communicate the story through body language and facial expression. Of course, the director’s skill at setting up scenes and the shooters’ artistry in capturing effective cinematic angles are also paramount.
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Back at the house, Drew succeeds in sexually arousing Christine. Though initially reluctant, she gives in quickly for a visually enjoyable performance.
In fact, the sex scene comes off as a little too passionate for a couple whose relationship is getting stale. Granted, Drew is trying to keep the flame alive and when the pop shot occurs, the performers are finishing the shoot on a bare mattress, a testament to their hard sex. But what about Christine? Is her enthusiasm for a good screwing equal to Drew’s?
Jacky St. James’ challenge is fitting an emotional film into an adult genre that expects typical porn sex. Because Torn is more art than porn, her task is magnified as this scene reveals. To her credit, she makes it work.
By the way, India Summer (Christine) is an adult film treasure. The dark-haired beauty possesses the classic female proportions so highly valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Her face is finely shaped with angular features that mark the human perfection sculptors and painters desired.
From the Hot tub to the Parking Lot
A young woman attracted to older man needs to talk, especially if she believes her future may be troubled. In a short hot tub scene, a pensive and unsure Mimi chats with a male friend (Chad Alva). There’s no sex between them, not yet.
Back at the office, Vicky unpacks a huge dildo. For Drew it explains much about the sexual scenario Christine so abhorred at the party. He gives her a sly and amusing “that’s more than I want to know” look.
Americans have always adored their cars and early in the last century vehicles became portable nests for young love. Where better to start secret dalliances than in a parking lot? Mimi shows Drew photos she has taken of him then suddenly kisses him. Cars whiz by on the expansive left side of the screen while Drew and Mimi are tucked away on the far right next to two parked cars.
Flashes of Drew and Mimi pop up on the screen and in one instance, there is sex in a car.
The camera moves into the dining room of Drew and Christine’s home. It’s darkly lit with strong indications of secrets and suspicions. On the table and the chandelier above it are several candles in metallic holders: different heights on the table, more uniform on the chandelier. The table represents years of marriage with its ups and downs; the chandelier is delicate, floating with the promise of new romance.
A pacing Drew is on his cell apparently to Mimi who is alternately shown talking on hers. In the meantime, Christine approaches from outside the dining room. The entire moment is reflected in a large mirror, a recurring image in this film, that is on the wall next to the table.
Reduced in stature, Christine is confined to the background. She turns away from Drew’s conversation unobserved, her reality now a mere reflection in his life.
Alone, she retreats to their bed. The pillows are pushed far apart to emphasize the growing divide between them. Eyes cast downward, Christine is a confusion of suspicion and resignation.
A series of images speed up the affair. Drew texting Mimi, Mimi in conversation with Chad, and Drew and Mimi talking in a restaurant amid ghost images of the city embedded in the storefront glass, another mirror-like reflection.
Trouble brews. Dressed and ready to go out, an unhappy Mimi is on her cell in the bathroom. The scene is shot from behind her, casting her image in the bathroom mirror. She turns, walks toward the camera and pulls back her hair. No reason to go out now, apparently.
With its hood raised, Christine’s broken down SUV sits on the side of the road. This moment speaks volumes about her marriage from her view, a once aroused clitoris disabled in a relationship mired in boredom. Drew pulls up in the darkness, his car pointing directly toward, but not touching, the raised hood.
Later in the rec room Drew is watching TV. A visibly concerned Christine comes in, cell phone in hand. They hold hands as if facing a worrisome situation.
The camera takes the viewer to Mimi, who is hanging her photos in a gallery setting; one is of Drew. He shows up with unpleasant news and she is immediately crushed. This is another disappointment, the tale of a younger woman in an affair with a married man.
Turning away, Drew occupies the awkward moment by scanning her work hung around the gallery. She slides her hands down the wall beneath his picture. Their talk is heartfelt, she has some tears. They kiss. In the most expressive scene of the film, it’s time for a good-bye.
Revisiting the Retaining Wall
The story moves to a kitchen in which Chad is in conversation with Mimi. Their mutual status is probably “friends with benefits” because the third sex scene appears here and serves as a hopeful “feel good” rebound for Mimi. Incidentally, the viewer becomes so involved with Remy La Croix as Mimi we forget she is still a top porn star and can be as down and dirty as any girl in the business. Remy is so good in this scene, particularly with her oral skills and body positioning, it’s obvious why her name sells movies.
After the money shot, they lie side by side on the floor. Eddie Powell frequently uses close-ups to highlight the expressions of the performers. In this one, Mimi stares straight ahead, her mind is distant from the sex she just had.
In the meantime, Christine and Drew air out the affair in a retaining wall setting that mimics Drew’s first encounter with Mimi. Body language reveals that communication is dying with the relationship.
The characters’ backs are to the camera. Christine’s left hand reaches in Drew’s direction. He doesn’t respond. Later Drew puts his right arm around her with a tentative, comforting motion and rubs her back. Christine pulls away. The shot moves closer and she throws her legs over the wall, turning her body toward the camera.
The confrontation continues later in the bedroom and the viewer wonders why they are still sleeping in the same bed.
Tension stays alive, this time in the rec room. They are arguing, debating, but when one talks, the other is not on the screen. Drew is annoyed; Christine is defiant. Like the long couch that divides them in the shot, their marriage has devolved into a massive chasm.
The scene shifts outdoors once more with Drew’s back to camera. As if conceding defeat, Christine comes over and puts her hand on his shoulder. His pained expression is laced with guilt. She almost cries, then nods slightly. It’s over.
On a small table in her studio, Mimi is putting a vase of yellow and pink daisies, symbols of purity, innocence, love and loyalty. Drew appears. Bewildered by their conversation, she seems to say, “I’m working to get over this and now you show up.”
A kiss begins the final sex scene, a very private expression that renews their relationship.
Even though this is a porn film, I was reluctant to invade this personal moment, feeling somewhat like an intruder once the sex began. For me, that illustrates the power of Torn’s imagery and the intimacy it portrays.
To put it another way, the kissing and eye contact, a tribute to the acting talent of both stars, creates a romantic experience so strong that it relegates the sex as secondary to the film’s emotional impact.
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As the film says good-bye to Mimi and Drew, he still reads in bed, but she nestles next to him.
Oh yes, they share a single bathroom mirror.
Incidentally, why are there so many mirrors in this film? Is it because the story requires us to take a long look at ourselves to understand how time and relationships dictate our lives?
Are our emotions genuinely ours, or are they simulations of those around us? And, do they spark a longing to chase the adventurous: the desire for a sexual three-some, a friend with benefits, or a May-December romance?
Or, to borrow a little from Shakespeare, are we merely a play within a play as seen through images in a mirror?
Perhaps. Take a look at Torn.