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Le Marquis, Part Five: Mila

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

Le Marquis de la Croix is Mila Joya’s performance masterpiece and I asked Jac Avila to give us some insight into this talented actress.

My thanks to him for providing some of the photos in this final installment on the film.

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In Praise of Mila

Le Marquis is Mila Joya’s film. It’s hard to imagine any other actress as Zynga, the gypsy. A lissom, statuesque girl with a body that begs to be displayed in all its glory, the native Bolivian is the perfect torture victim; she graces every scene with an eroticism that is never overtly intentional but commands every cinematic moment.

In bringing Zynga to the screen, Mila whimpers, cries out, and looks pleadingly at the marquis, all the while amusing his perversities. Her most talented feature is her eyes. The pain and desperation she projects through them equips her to excel in this type of role.

Pay particular attention to how Mila handles the humiliation of hunger. Wrists and ankles shackled, she slithers on the floor to nibble a scrap of bread her tormentor casually tosses aside in an arrogant gesture of contempt.

Mila fashions Zynga’s sadness into an image so imposing that the camera can’t stay away. Cinematographer  Miguel Inti Canedo’s lens absorbs the native Bolivian’s agony while celebrating her beauty in shots that offer frequent close-ups that place the viewer into the scene with her.

Developing the character of Zynga requires few lines of dialogue but a ton of emotion and suffering. Mila accomplishes both while physically coping with whippings that leave real marks on her flesh.

Minutes of filming are spent framing her contortions that become the overriding images of Le Marquis. As mentioned previously, they are the frozen moments that stamp the film with the high honor of pure artistic expression.

For the record, Mila’s story reminds me of an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Lana Turner, who at sixteen skipped school and headed to a local drugstore where the right person caught a glimpse of her.

It’s the stuff of legends, of course, revealing that the opportunity of discovery is never far away.

When I inquired about Mila as a performer for Pachamama Films, Jac Avila was most gracious in telling her story.

Here is part of it, so enjoy Mila Joya!

Young, Pretty, and Exotic

“There was a time when Amy (Hesketh) and I took very long walks, almost daily as a way to exercise,” Jac begins.

“We used to walk down to her therapist, an hour walk at a good and healthy pace, three days a week. The therapist used a Japanese method to help Amy with her back problems.”

The doctors, all specialists, shared a house for their offices, Jac remembers, and used the same receptionist. Unfortunately, one day she absconded with the business’s bank deposit and “left for parts unknown.”

Now shorthanded, the physicians hired another girl Jac describes as “younger, pretty, exotic and very shy.”

Here is where discovery offered its fortuitous self to Mila Joya.

Jac explains.

“I was writing a script then based on [Robert Louis Stevenson’s] Jekyll and Hyde. Doctor Jekyll in my version is a psychologist and, yes, he has a young, shy, receptionist, based on Mary Reilly, of course. I mentioned to Amy that the new receptionist was very much like the character in my script. I began to flesh out that character by observing Mila’s behavior while she was doing her job. Amy started observing her too.”

Small World

“A few weeks passed,” Jac says.

His habit was to sit with Amy during her treatments passing time in conversation with the therapist.

“At one point I decided to pick up on my reading instead and wait for Amy at the reception area, finally sinking my eyes in the gigantic De Sade collection I bought in a recent trip to New York,” he recalls.

The receptionist with a sultry allure and an unashamed elegance that filmmakers die for, took notice.

 

“Mila got curious. She asked what I was reading. I mentioned the book with a few descriptions of what the stories were about. She asked which of the stories was my favorite. I said Justine.

The receptionist was hooked.

“Days later she asked where I was from because all the time she saw me with Amy we were speaking in English,” Jac recalls. “I told her I was Bolivian. She was surprised, she was sure I was American.”

Mila inquired about Jac’s profession and found out he was a filmmaker, whereupon she wondered if she had seen any of his work. Sirwiñakuy had just been released and Jac mentioned it was currently playing a local cinema.

“She knew about the movie because her sister was friends with the make-up woman who worked in that movie,” Jac says.

But there was a surprise.

“Her sister actually met me once when she visited the set. Yes, I remembered her sister. Small world, I thought, this is meant to be. Mila also mentioned that she would love to work in movies.”

Jac was intrigued and invited Mila to meet with him and Amy to “talk about the possibility of a movie or two,” suggesting a minor role in one of the films they were currently shooting.

Nudity?

Mila later came to Jac’s house where the subject of nudity on camera was discussed. Was she game?

“She was hesitant,” Jac relates, “but she said she might. I also mentioned to her that she would need some training, she was ok with that.”

Of course, when it comes to the film business, money is a motivator!

“I asked her how much she was making at her job. She mentioned the amount and that she actually hated that job. I told her I could pay her twice as much just for her to train for the movie(s) and work for me in menial things, like running errands.”

So a deal was made and Mila took on all kinds of jobs.

“She was very happy with that'” Jac states. “I also told her that she needed an artistic name. I baptized her Mila Joya. She loved it.”

Mila Joins Amy

“Then something unusual happened,” Jac remembers. “We were offered some funds for a film I was thinking of doing about the Inquisition. We took the offer and I decided to do Maleficarum with Amy and Mila in the leading roles of lesbian lovers who are tortured by the inquisition.”

This meant that Jac and Amy had two films on their agenda for the close of December 2010: Barbazul and Maleficarum.

Since the filming duo had a schedule in hand, an available set, and a sensational newcomer in Mila Joya booked for both films, further possibilities sparked Jac’s thinking.

“We had the great dungeon location for Maleficarum so I told Amy we should shoot a third movie, based on De Sade, with me and Mila in the leading roles and with Amy as the director. I even had the title, Le Marquis de la Croix.


“So, Mila went from being a receptionist with a miserable salary, to become a leading actress in three movies where she plays complex characters who go through a lot of suffering and where she had to be naked most of the time, particularly in Maleficarum and Le Marquis,” Jac recalls.

Amusingly he adds, “She never played the shy receptionist I had in mind for her.”

Honing his new star’s on-screen potential came next and Jac offers that it took some time.

“Mila and I worked for a few months on her acting techniques as well as widening her comfort zone with the nudity and full torture aspect of our work.

“We had sessions where we would work out scenes from the Maleficarum and Barbazul scripts, just the two of us in the dark room I used in Fantom (a Red Feline Production) and with all the gadgets I had there.

“In a weird way, we became Mr. Hyde and Mary two hours a day, five days a week, until she was ready to play Francisca in Maleficarum, Soledad in Barbazul, and Zinga in Le Marquis de la Croix.

“The rest is history.”

Taking a Break

Finally, I’m interested to know what Mila’s future with Pachamama Films looks like now a few years later.

Jac updates us. She’s cast in Pygmalion (Bernard Shaw’s play) as the main character, Eliza. The film is yet to be released. Beyond that, everything is up in the air.

“What is next for her with the studio is in question,” he says, because her opportunities, not surprisingly, have expanded.

“Mila is cast in some TV ads, movies and most recently in a TV series. She’s not against the idea of working in other films with us; it’s just that she wants to take a break from the heavy torture and nudity for now,” Jac explains.

“She’s very much into art, drawing, and she loves tattoos. So she took lessons on how to make them and now she’s on her way of opening her own tattoo parlor,” he adds.

If you have not seen Ollala, do so and take a look at some of her ink.

Jac concludes his thoughts on Mila.

“I believe that maybe she wants to see if her acting alone will get her some attention, without the nudity. It’s not common here (Bolivia) to have nudity in films. We’re very unique in that sense.”

He goes on to say that Mila has made a name for herself in the “heavy films” he and Amy make and “wants to be in something different.”

Understandable, but the fans of Pachamama Films will miss her, I’m sure. In every sense of the word, this once shy receptionist is Jac Avila’s Pygmalion.

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For Mila Joya fans, here’s a parting image of her talent, one of those “frozen moments” that endear Pachamama film goers to the craft of Amy Hesketh and Jac Avila.

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Le Marquis, Part Four: Most Corrupt

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

In analyzing Le Marquis de la Croix’s message on religion and de Sade, once again I relied on the commentary section of the DVD  to get Amy Hesketh’s and Jac Avila’s views on their film.

Le Marquis can be purchased from Vermeerworks and Amazon. The other Pachamama Films referenced in this series, Barbazul, Justine, Dead But Dreaming, and Olalla, are also available at both websites.

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The Right to Torture

As mentioned, Le Marquis ends with a crucifixion that lingers on Zynga’s suffering.

Her hands and feet are nailed into place and she is suspended within the marquis’ cell. Taunting her, he asks if this fate is better than the guillotine. In other words, is the slow agony of the cross preferred to the quick death  under the blade? Does religion’s absurdities dignify the afflictions of the masses or simply mask them?

“What then are religions if not to restrain therewith the tyranny of the mightier to enslave the weak,” the aristocrat declares.

He claims “the right to torture, dominate and execute” the gypsy in a god-like pronouncement then blames the Christian God for forging “the irons” that “cruelly manacled her, the whips that bring her agony and the nails that pierce her.”

Of course, he then announces that “all religions start with a false premise” because God “never existed.”

While he philosophizes, the gypsy struggles to keep whatever life in her remains. It’s a battle she fights alone because there will be no divine intervention.

Unmoved by her pain, the marquis tells us “the sacrifice is complete. The naked woman is attached to the beam of her cross, that sacred symbol of our august religion.”

His pomposity challenges the similar vainglory and hypocrisy of the Church. Spurred to mock ritual with his own versions that border on the sexual, the torturer feigns a bit of pity for his dying victim.

He dips a cloth into the wine to give her drink in a mocking reference to the Gospel’s version of the crucifixion.

Is it vinegar (spoiled wine) she tastes? Is it sweet wine that supposedly is dispensed in Paradise? Or, is the wine a perverse celebration of her agonizing death?

Divine Maybe?

At this point, the film displays the irony of the marquis. He is the self-appointed instrument of the repression society and the church foist on non-conformists, the disempowered, and the fearful.

Recalling that European culture endeavored to crush the gypsy and others of the lower classes, the nobleman exclaims, “I show complete unconcern for the blood I shed or the suffering I caused upon her.”

In other words, Zynga’s torturer plays out what he despises, then sarcastically offers a strange salvation.

“If you are innocent,” he whispers to the dying girl, “this is divine.”

A little wine to go with the vinegar, perhaps?

Sacred Feminine?

Recognizing that “de Sade is in love with religious iconography . . . I wanted to bring that to life” before deliberately “perverting it,” Amy Hesketh says.

When I interviewed Amy, she revealed she is not personally religious preferring to characterize her film work as an expression of her Gothic point of view. On the other hand, Jac Avila was steeped in the faith growing up.

Both director/producers remind us that the Marquis de Sade is against any authority, especially the church. Amy mentions that it was the most powerful institution in Sade’s time; Jac chimes in with the “most corrupt.”

So in the end we see the crucifixion as a mockery of the gypsy’s innocence, assuming she is as she claims.

But if she is not, is it salvation? Not in the eyes of her executioner who the insists it is divine only if she is without transgression in a point Jesus might argue.

A final note. The chains on the wall behind the rack form an “M” and a “W” in an ascending order.

Could this be the marquis and his celebration of the sacred feminine in defiance of the Church? Has the imprisoned aristocrat played God and created a divine revelation in the crucifixion of the gypsy, a most unlikely candidate for Christianity iconography?

Or, do the letters imply that despite their suffering through the ages at the whims of men, women are destined to rise above them?

If that is the case, Zynga represents “everywoman” and her suffering deserves the highest praise. Perhaps that is what defines the sacred feminine–the bringer of life–and its challenge to the traditional Church steeped in its patriarchy and oppression (and repression, more precisely) of the sexual.

Could it be that the feminine is really the caretaker of whatever vision we have of eternity? If women birth humanity, why not Paradise?

The Tourist

Beyond culture and religion, Le Marquis is an innovative film with an intriguing conclusion concerning our basic human needs.

Here it is.

Psycho-sexual desires create sexual fantasies, especially when they involve pain and humiliation. From that standpoint, female crucifixion is erotic.

More than any other theme in Le Marquis, this is the one that encapsulates the narrative. We see it in the marquis’ sadism, no doubt, but what about the real driver of the entire story, the American tourist whose fascination with torture leads us into the museum in the first place?

While the romantic couple expresses a mild and playful interest in the museum guide’s narrative, the tourist is intensely focused on it. She envisions the scenes, projecting the couple into the marquis and Zynga.

This is evident when tourist “sees” her own version of the torment Zynga suffers. Does she envision herself in the girl’s place?

When the tour is over, the guide says no one knows if the tale he’s related actually happened and offers everyone tea. The girl waves it off and the couple leaves.

Now alone, the tourist wanders around the museum examining the horrible instruments. She is, in fact, caressing the tools of pain with a reverence found in the faithful.

Gingerly walking around the rack, she bumps into the dangling rope and steadies it with her hand.

“How did you like the visit,” the guide asks, returning with the tea and giving her a cup.

She wants to know if the instruments are real. They are, of course, he says.

Finishing her tea, the tourist becomes woozy. The guide smiles knowingly, opening another door, so to speak, to a very private fascination.

We are treated to one more vision of torture that begs for a sequel to this engaging film.

Obviously, the marquis is not finished and the tourist must take her turn . . . at least in that very active masochistic imagination of hers . . .

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The final installment in this series centers on Mila Joya, how she got involved with Amy and Jac and where she is headed now.

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Le Marquis, Part Three: Insights from the Producers

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

In this third post we’re going to take a look at the “arc” of  Le Marquis de la Croix. 

Jac Avila’s and Amy Hesketh’s remarks come from the commentary section of the DVD. I’ve used their thoughts to build my analysis of film.

As always, I encourage everyone to watch Le Marquis and interpret the story for themselves. To check out trailers from the film, click here.

All photos are courtesy of Pachamama Films.

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Personal Catharsis

Amy Hesketh gives us a snapshot of the type of characters she and Mila Joya play in Pachamama productions.

Roles like Zynga are “special” for a woman, the director of Le Marquis declares, because they become a “personal catharsis.” In other words, an actress encounters experiences beyond her present reality and the range of emotions that accompany them.

Amy mentions death as an example.

The director also believes that films like Le Marquis concentrate on image making as a statement of art. The tortured woman becomes poetic especially when portrayed by the talented Mila Joya.  She expresses so much without words, Jac Avila interjects, using her eyes to communicate pleading, pain, and resignation.

Intimacy

There is another character in Le Marquis: the setting. It dictates the narrative, emerging as a force that brings out the pain suffered by both victim and torturer. Other Pachamama films like Maleficarum and Justine also do this well.

The dungeon is a state of anima/animus and yin/yang, Amy believes, opposites that are psychological constructs of the self. In other words, the torturer and his victim develop a personal intimacy within the confines of the chamber.

“There’s something that happens in this whole arc . . . the characters are together” in their state of mind, she says.

Their intimacy emerges. Zynga often gazes at the marquis with abject servility, offering herself to him while he worships her as the object that gratifies his sadism.

Do they have real affection for each other? Perhaps.

At any rate, the tension between denial and survival further defines the arc of Le Marquis.

To put it another way, Zynga’s needs are physical and immediate; the marquis’ are psychological and emotional. Both are sides of human existence that combine to form a whole person severely circumscribed within the miserable confines of the prison.

Consider this, the torture scenes reinforce one kind of denial when Zynga begs for the wine so she can physically survive; whereas, another version of denial, this time psychological, is overcome when the aristocrat gives in to his need to increase the intensity of the tortures.

In Le Marquis survival is at stake in the power play between the dominant and submissive. As Amy puts it, the desperate gypsy makes a deal to be sold rather than being executed only to discover her choice will lead to her doom.

That, I think, is the “arc” that Amy creates with her performances and directing, not only in Le Marquis but other films as well.

An Intimate Position

The image of Zynga in chains is a device of suffering, Amy asserts, but it’s also erotic. The marquis’ control over her and her reaction to the tortures are part of the carnal appeal of the film.

In truth, it’s the psychological essence of sadomasochist sexuality.

Accepting that vision, Amy comments on the rack scene. It offers a different feel from whipping because the victim is lying down which injects a sensual component into the scene.

She references the rack as “an intimate position like someone sitting on the side of the bed and talking to you.” This scenario creates “an emotional and physical dialogue” between torturer and victim.

We see it in Ollala, for example.

How easy is it then for the marquis and Zynga to take the next step and become lovers? After all, the victim is open to penetration were that a choice the torturer decides to make.

In Sade’s writing, that line is crossed frequently, but only suggested in Le Marquis . . . or at least we suppose.

A Violent Act

Amy Hesketh emphasizes the rack’s sadomasochitic implications by underscoring sex as a violent/aggressive act often witnessed in animal mating behavior. For Sade, torture is part of a sex act that exists within in the mind, she believes.

This is in play when the marquis touches Zynga lovingly, then releases the tension only to begin the process again. On a metaphorical level each pull of the ropes is a moment of ecstasy for both the masochist and the sadist . . . an orgasm, so to speak.

Later in the preparing for Zynga’s crucifixion, the nobleman runs the tip of the nail over her cheek and body in a gesture of admiration and sacred adoration.

The emotional intensity is breathtaking.

Of course, the nails will penetrate Zynga’s body in an intimate act much like Dracula’s blood sucking when his phallic-like fangs puncture the flesh.

So how far can we go in equating sex, the act of procreation, with the end of life? I suspect Amy is telling us it is part of the “arc.”

It’s worth mentioning that hints of sex and torture as interchangeable parts subtly pervade films like Justine, Dead But Dreaming (consider the vampire roles of Jac Avila and Mila Joya) and Barbazul (the erotic writer, Jane, is whipped and strangled when she resists Bluebeard’s offer to sexually “play”).

But Le Marquis presents a twist. The gypsy’s sexual presence is so overwhelming that she emotionally emasculates her torturer in the best moments of denial in any Pachamama Film to date.

How do we know? Study the marquis at his desk writing and sipping wine while Zynga suffers behind him. His manner defines what it means to be clinical, distant, and devoid of overt emotion before modern psychology studied such things. Simply put, he has repressed his need to “feel” in order to sate his deviancy.

Frozen in Time

Amy Hesketh comments that the Marquis de Sade lived in his mind. His psychological self and his world were well-developed because neither extended beyond the walls of his prison.

In Le Marquis, Amy puts this observation into play. When Zynga becomes part of her torturer’s limited universe, he introduces her to severe acts of misery then follows the gypsy’s agonizing rhythms as her suffering intensifies.

It is the motion of the sexual, waves of ecstasy crash and recede in the poetry of the human condition.

Her painful contortions devolve into images frozen in time when she loses consciousness.

Zynga’s crucifixion animates this point. Amy states that she wants to create visual representations much like “a painting from a book” when shooting such scenes. It’s another way of interpreting the “frozen moment.”

To “Feel” Something

Though Le Marquis is told through a progression of images depicting the gypsy’s gradual descent into the horrors of the abyss, Amy points out that audiences today are not shocked by physical depictions of blood and pain (modern slasher films probably contribute to an ennui that numbs all of us).

On the other hand, persuading people to “feel” something in that regard, to get them to take notice, so to speak, is new.

To do that, film must become a mirror, she implies.

“The only emotions you can show someone are their own,” Amy declares. The key is to find the triggers that engage the viewer.

Le Marquis reaches for that difficult goal.

Next the fourth post will look at the Zynga’s crucifixion as a statement of the sacred feminine.

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For my review of the other Pachamama Films mentioned in this analysis, check the following: Dead But Dreaming (May 2016), Ollala (July 2016), Barbazul (September 2016), and Justine (December 2016).

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Le Marquis, Part Two: Wild with Lust

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

In this post we find out about the gypsy’s significance in Le Marquis de la Croix.

Pachamama productions are always more than they seem at first glance and Le Marquis is no exception.

All photos are courtesy of the company.

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Wretched Creature

Le Marquis de la Croix is the dance of the gypsy, suspended and exposed to the nightmarish whims of her aristocratic master. Her time with him is short. Her trials encompass less than a twenty-four hour period.

After he purchases Zynga, the marquis uses her sexually then shackles her to a pillar for a good flogging.

The scene rivals similar punishments from Dead But Dreaming when Amy Hesketh is the Irish traveler humiliated at the whipping post and Justine where Amy is spread-eagle between pillars for a public lashing.

In this reviewer’s opinion those scenes is are the finest Pachamama Films has produced, but Zynga’s scourging–back and front with her dress torn away in the same manner as the Irish traveler and Justine–ranks among the best.

To clarify the above statement, Pachamama Films presents female whippings under varying circumstances and settings.

In the case of Le Marquis, flogging is torture for its own sake as we see in the dungeons of Justine rather than an interrogation technique in Maleficarum (below) or enforcing discipline shown in Ollala .

Curiously after the marquis is finished and the gypsy is properly marked, a chanting and singing crowd is heard outside his cell. The aristocrat comments that Zynga, whom he calls a “wretched creature,” may not have committed any crime. Nevertheless, he treats her abysmally in a highly sexualized ritual spurred by his sadism.

“Zynga excited me violently,” he says as he abandons her manacled to the pillar. Her suffering makes him “rigid,” he admits, before calming his “ardor and desires” with an act of self-pleasure.

The Spaniard

Wielding his whip on the fair body of the gypsy causes the marquis to wax poetic. “What beauty. These are roses strewn upon the lilies by the Grace’s very hands.”

What’s going on here? Is this a divine moment?

Early on when Zynga is first sold to the aristocrat, he tempts her with an apple in a reversal of the Genesis story when Eve seduces Adam. But that’s not quite as simple as it sounds because Zynga is, in fact, the marquis’ temptation and a reminder of the emotional pain he endures.

In other words, both have a hunger for freedom and the aristocrat in the end will facilitate hers.

When she is kneeling in front of him in total subservience, the marquis demands to know what she will do for the fruit. The gypsy offers to sing, the ancient’s oft-used reference to oral sex. Don’t forget the Romans noted that the intoxicating Cleopatra (not known for her beauty, by the way) had an enchanting voice, a reference to certain performing skills respectable Roman women found onerous.

Addressing Zynga as “a Spaniard,” the nobleman demands she “come get it.” Her shackled hands and feet require her to edge toward him using only her knees.

This sets up the film’s lone sex act (she is “fed” another way) and reveals the political theme of this brilliantly crafted script.

Stoicism and Silence

That Zynga is a gypsy is not incidental. Known as the Romani, nomadic gypsies were often expelled from the regions of Europe they entered during medieval times.

In 18th century Spain and Southern France, the historical period of Le Marquis, they were frequently arrested and imprisoned. Though stereotypically known for their passion, temper, and disrespect for the law, some gypsies eventually became Christians.

Thus, this man of the upper classes has tacit permission to torture Zynga who was sentenced to the guillotine anyway.

Important, however, is her stoicism. As we progress through the story, she may scream from physical pain, but she never weeps while enduring it. Zynga reflects her people, unwanted and familiar with the lowest of societal conditions that requires them to live by their wits.

There’s one more significant point. Founded in Greece during the Age of Alexander, the stoic philosophy precedes Christianity and contributes to it. If Zynga is a Christian, the marquis’ love/hate relationship with her is understandable because he has a personal disgust for the Church.

In fact, the aristocrat acknowledges Zynga’s stoicism. When she is crucified he observes, “Only she knows the intensity of her pain, but she does not speak of her agonies.”

Oh yes, it is curious that gypsies in Celtic England were known as, you guessed it, Irish Travelers. Their pre-Christian existence doves tails with the vampire legends that pervade Pachamama’s Dead But Dreaming, keeping the nomadic gypsy alive pre- and post-Christianity and allowing the doomed Romani in Le Marquis to represent a foil to the faith.

Back to the Roses

Allowing his eyes to feast on Zynga’s naked and welted image, the marquis says, “I dwell upon the picture. I’m fired by it. I approach her lips but dare to kiss them, but I do not.”

In fact he can’t because of what she represents: the wrong done to him by his imprisonment. The gypsy and the nobleman are reflections of each other, share a similar fate, and are separated only by that which gives the him the singular right to torture: social class.

It’s a power play that is as old as history itself.

He asks, “Do you like this? Do you want to do it again? Are you going to do better?”

Is he talking about her submission and the pain he inflicts or her eagerness to sexually accommodate him . . . or both? We don’t know but the gypsy has an answer.

She nods slightly in hopes of upping her chances of survival. The whipping commences again.

Christians regard lilies as purity, the symbol of the Virgin Mary. Red roses, often attached to romantic love, also represent the blood of those martyred by their faith. As he ratchets up her pain, the nobleman sips the red wine associated with Christian passion while denying it to Zynga in a mockery of her plight.

When he relents and puts the glass to her lips, is she drinking the blood that drains from her slowly as the narrative weaves its way to its conclusion?

Weaving his sadistic desires into his scorn for the Church and his social class attitude toward gypsies, the marquis shapes the film into a chilling drama haunted by a woeful, plaintiff musical score whenever the torture is reignited.

The Dangling Rope

The gypsy remains a prisoner manacled to the pillar overnight, just as the Irish traveler in Dead lingers in her predicament. The images of slow suffering arouse an exciting admiration of the whip.

Zynga is only beginning her tribulations, of course, and a central image reappears often: the rope that lords over the Marquis’ cell.

He writes that the accused criminal finds herself in his “cavern” and “from a traverse beam dangled a rope in the center of this room of torture and which as very soon you will see, was there for no other purpose than to facilitate my dreadful and costly expeditions.”

It will accommodate the gypsy’s torments. She is caned while in strappado and later in classic BDSM style is punished again with body exposed and arms over head.

Almost in celebration, her presence makes him “wild with lust,” the marquis remarks casually, and another whipping begins.

In the next post, we’ll get some input from the filmmakers and take a look at the rack scene.

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Le Marquis, Part One: The Museum

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

Le Marquis de la Croix is a film by Amy Hesketh that features Jac Avila and Mila Joya. It is available for download or on DVD from Vermeerworks.

This is the first of a five-part series on the film and combines a review with commentary from  Amy and Jac. The final post is exclusive to Mila Joya, the star of the film.

Le Marquis is another provocative work from the collaboration of Amy and Jac. I highly recommend it.

All photos are courtesy of Pachamama Films.

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The Story

The wealthy marquis, sentenced to his prison confines (luxurious as they are), writes lurid accounts of his sexual imaginations. Fortunately for his perverse addictions, an occasional condemned female criminal is brought to him for a price.

Such is the case with Zynga, a gypsy girl sentenced to death, as the marquis tells us, for “three crimes: murder, theft, and arson” (borrowed incidentally from the Marquis de Sade’s 1791 novel, Justine).

The film explores the tortures Zynga endures and her eventual demise. The story is presented as a narration extracted from the marquis’ writings in his cell. As he completes one torment and plans the next, the aristocrat returns to his desk to record his thoughts and lets the viewer into his mind via voice over.

The bound and naked Zynga is the consistent background image and the main motif throughout the film.

Strikingly Innovation

Le Marquis de la Croix is a literary fantasy that operates on different levels. On the surface, it has definite appeal to the BDSM community. Heavily sadomasochistic, the whippings and rack scenes are about as exciting as a bondage film gets. It is realism personified.

The film does, however, offer more. There is an engaging political and religious message that is as appropriate today as it was in Sade’s time, the 18th century setting of the narrative.

Told with a modern flavor, the story also hints at the erotic fascinations of a modern tourist who seeks out a museum then confronts her own sexual fantasies in an ending that, as they like to say in commercial media, is priceless.

Clearly, the American tourist lets us know that whims of the Marquis de Sade are more accepted today than ever before and perhaps more fascinating.

As you might have deduced, the film is a story told concurrently by a contemporary museum guide and the marquis’ pen. Whose imagination brings the story to life is always in question as we work through the film.

Clever, strikingly innovative, and beautify filmed, Le Marquis de la Croix highlights the emergence of Mila Joya as an actress. Though she has few lines that are often blunted by the pain of torture, her performance is exemplary.

The native Bolivian uses her physical expression, particularly her eyes, to tempt, seduce, and react to her torturer, who struggles against his own sexual arousal to complete his self-appointed task.

Jac Avila is the story’s creator; Amy Hesketh the film’s director. The pair also produced the film while Miguel Inti Canedo serves as the chief cinematographer. His image making is exceptional. By that I mean this: any number of stills he took could have easily served as the box cover for packaging the movie.

A final caveat before we look into Le Marquis: there is a commentary section available on the DVD that features Amy and Jac. As noted in the intro above, I have referenced their remarks where appropriate in this series of posts.

Back Streets

Le Marquis opens with an American tourist (Amy Hesketh) checking her guidebook for an out-of-the-way museum in the back streets of a contemporary South American city.

Locating her destination, she descends a stairway into an underground cavern that looks much like a dungeon which of course it was centuries ago.

The museum guide (Eric Calancha) is talking with a couple (Jac Avila and Mila Joya) and welcomes the tourist to the group.

He references a cordoned off area that was the Marquis’ cell. The tourist is wide-eyed and fascinated; the couple, probably on an afternoon date, appears mildly interested and, at times, the girl seems cautious, restrained, and perhaps a bit uneasy (setting the viewer up for her transition into the film).

As the guide talks, the camera moves into the cell and the marquis becomes animated but in whose mind–ours, the guide, the couple, or the tourist?–we don’t know.

In period dress, he is writing at his desk, candles provide the light throughout his expansive environs where the film takes place.

The Gypsy

As the guide explains, the nobleman was imprisoned and “because of his wealth, he could buy women . . .”

Brought in by a paid confederate (the second role for Eric Calancha), a gagged and manacled girl appears behind the marquis . . .

“. . . Women who were condemned to die. There was a person who brought him women in exchange for a sum,” the guide says.

The marquis in over voice brings the story into focus.  “There are no limits to what I can purchase. Zynga the gypsy . . . was sold to me bound in chains full of fear, hunger and rage.”

The marquis (Jac Avila) drops a small bag of coins in the confederate’s hand and Zynga (Mila Joya) is offered a chance to avoid the guillotine.

But as the money predicts, she will receive a proper scourging and crucifixion for her decision in a political mockery of the Christian faith.

Next we will look at the images and themes of this extraordinary production.

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You can follow Jac Avila:

 

And Amy Hesketh:

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Darker Side of Desire: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

Here is Part Two of my review/analysis of Jacky St. James’ Darker Side of Desire, a production of Mile High Media.

To get a flavor of the images mentioned in this analysis, watch the “not safe for work” trailer here.

All photos and images are courtesy of Mile High Media.

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A Balanced Message

The sex scenes in Darker Side of Desire are Jacky St. James at her artistic best and reflect the mission of Sweet Sinner video. The scenes are woman-friendly and romance-oriented with female consent the focal point of every shot.

Passionate kissing abounds with everyone receiving oral pleasures, but the gagging, choking, and deep throating of today’s run-of-the-mill porn are conspicuously minimized; not surprisingly, the same applies to porn as an anatomy lesson.

Facial expressions communicate desire while the camera focuses on both bodies equally when the sex heats up. Cinematographer Hank Hoffman often shoots a symmetrical view of the lovers to highlight carnal expression as a two-way street.

Speaking of visual clues, Jacky St. James concentrates on phallic symbols like candles and vases paired with flowers (very Freudian) to underscore the psychology of sex. Since vases offer a canal to be filled, so to speak. . . Well, I think you get the idea.

As mentioned above, communication is the heartbeat of each sex scene. Darker Side is solid feminist porn with male performers who express their feelings through conversation and touch. Take note, for example, of how Mickey Mod gently cradles Cassidy Klein’s head during their intimate moments.

To shoot a female-centered film requires men who are comfortable with their sexuality and are willing to yield their masculine focus in favor of pleasuring their partners.

Jacky St. James casts the best of them.

Sexual Maturity

With Darker Side Jacky is as true to the BDSM community as she has ever been. Take for instance, the performers in the dream sequence. They’re older, a reflection of real-life bondage aficionados. The renowned MILF, Cherie Deville, is the perfect choice to perform with Tommy Pistol, a veteran of Kink.com who is in his forties.

Mickey Mod and James Deen are also Kink veterans who have been in the industry for ten and thirteen years respectively. Michael Vegas didn’t enter adult until he was twenty-six and is in his seventh porn year. Experience also characterizes the women. Cassidy Klein and Gia Paige are well into their twenties, hardly newbs by porn standards.

Only Riley Nixon is a youngster among this crowd, but she is mature by fetish standards. And make no mistake, this girl is a charmer with an adorable, disarming smile.

In the BTS segment of the DVD, Riley tells us she’s “very submissive” and BDSM gives her an exciting sexual space to be free of worry and responsibility.

Submission is “who I am deep inside, a natural state for me,” she declares. Can you feel the love?

Experience teaches BDSMers to be comfortable with their fetish. Sex is as much mental as it is physical and any bondage lover will tell you that understanding your sexuality and being open to talk about it is what the kink is all about.

The Game

Darker Side has two themes. The first, as we’ve seen, is the appreciation of authentically presented BDSM.

The second is feminism’s relationship to kinky sex brought out in the film’s pivotal scene, the drinking game. A tequila bottle (another phallic symbol) is positioned in the middle of a divan around which four players (Bryce and the girls) sit.

It’s a bit of truth or dare fun that unexpectedly wrings a bondage confession out of Sydney. Her words touch a nerve with Robyn (Riley Nixon) who challenges her roomie’s feminism by asserting that BDSM is anti-woman.

Sydney replies she did not give up her power when she played in the dungeon. A chill rises quickly around the group.

Robyn is indignant. “You bent over and let some dude spank you and you think you‘re in control?”

Sydney leaves abruptly. How do you spell tension?

Raising the Bar

Darker Side of Desire is an artistic commentary that raises the bar of the average porn film. Make no mistake, Darker can survive on its terrific sex scenes alone, but, as we’ve mentioned, Jacky St. James has a special talent for shooting sex that fits perfectly into the narrative.

Later, when Natalie persuades Sydney to tell her story, she learns that her friend researched BDSM websites which led to her adventure with Alex, an accurate comment on how kinksters find each other in today’s cyberspace.

He was “much older,” Sydney says (reinforcing the age factor). Their fetish sex was immediate.

“It didn’t evolve, it started there,” Sydney says.

They talked about everything.

“What I wanted, what turned me on. He was completely respectful of my boundaries.”

Negotiation and trust are the most important parts of the BDSM experience.

The rewards were enormous. The sex unleashed something inside her, she explains.

Unfortunately, Sydney was a college freshman at the time and sexual self-understanding was in short supply. Though she was happy with the arrangement, she broke it off because she felt “weird” and different from other girls.

Youth led her to judge herself negatively. Fear stepped in and now years later she regrets everything, Sydney tells Natalie.

You’re Next

Emboldened, Natalie is now ready to begin her emotional/sexual journey.

To prepare the viewer, Jacky St. James breaks the fourth wall in Natalie’s final dream episode. During the fantasy sex, Cherie Deville looks directly into the camera expressing her satisfaction before Tommy Pistol turns to the lens and confronts Natalie’s reticence with, “You’re next!” It’s her inner challenge to act on her desires.

She’s watched for too long, now it’s time to play.

When the final sex scene shows up, Natalie and Bryce come full circle. By the way, Cassidy Klein’s oral performance is stylish, more art than gonzo, a kind of sensual caressing.

In the bondage sequence, the lovers are reflected in a mirror to the left of the screen. The shot is laden with shadows and represents their transition, stepping through the looking-glass if you will.

Natalie, who submits to a blindfold, lives out her fantasy in her imagination. Bryce’s voice nurtures her internal visions, much like the radio dramas long ago when listeners created the visual scene for themselves.

The dream has come to life, a reminder that BDSMers always have their favorite scenarios in their heads.

Inside the Self

Finally, Darker Side of Desire is impressive for two reasons.

First, Jacky St. James has all the right performers. Each one brings a special talent to the screen.

Second, Jacky has grown in her understanding of BDSM. With Emma Marx, she successfully normalized the fetish. Now she has moved kink to a more personal level with the women of Darker Side. Words and caresses excite them while the sex is hot and heavy without gonzo-style sex for sex’s sake.

Simply put, the fetish is nurtured inside the self. Her desires inflamed, Natalie’s here and now contrasts with Sydney’s fond remembrances of a past experience that offers hope for the future.

There is a course correction needed in this story and it appears in the closing scene. Her wrists and ankles shackled, Robyn extracts a promise from her lover to say nothing of this to anyone . . . Appearances always matter, of course, even to feminists who decry that bondage objectifies women while wrestling with their own ideas about its erotic allure.

Just as Natalie’s over voice opens the film, another with real honesty steps in before the final credits roll . . .

“Robyn eventually acknowledges that sexual fetishes are deeply personal and not to be judged until fully experienced.”

For Natalie, Sydney, and Robyn, this is not the end, of course, but a beginning, or more precisely an electrifying rebirth . . .

Will there be a Darker Side of Desire, Part Two? If so, this reviewer is on board!

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Darker Side of Desire: Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

Jacky St. James is considered the leading feminist filmmaker in the adult industry today. As always her screenplays are Hollywood ready and Jacky’s latest feature, Darker Side of Desire, is no exception.

In this two-part review/analysis we’ll look at what makes this film a top-of-the-line production for couples and fetish lovers.

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Never for its Own Sake

After a successful run at New Sensations, Jacky St. James has taken her talent for storytelling to Mile High Media and its couples-oriented romance brand, Sweet Sinner.

The transition has already produced a winner, Darker Side of Desire, a feature film that once again cultivates a space for female-friendly BDSM. Jacky fans will remember her preeminent mark on the adult industry, the Emma Marx series reviewed on this blog in August 2013, March 2015, and April 2016.

Though reflective of the Emma Marx concept, Darker Side is a much different film. Here’s why.

In Emma’s story, BDSM is a learned sexual behavior that taps into the dominant/submission paradigm that exists to some degree in everyone. After all, what schoolgirl hasn’t had her hair pulled by that obnoxious boy in third grade? Flirtatious aggression is part of an instinctive primordial mating ritual psychologists tell us, though the kiddies are too young to get the picture.

Darker Side further explores BDSM as a preprogrammed behavior (it’s in our DNA, so to speak) that is clearly recognized by some of its adherents. In other words, no learning is required because “it turns me on, but I don’t know why.”

In that respect, the film is not Emma Marx, but is complementary of its message that submission is a legitimate sexuality that is part of a broader array of erotic behaviors.

And there is another difference worthy of note. While the many sex scenes in the Emma Marx series are BDSM exploratory, the scenes in Darker Side are a progression of how each woman in the story handles her inborn desires.

Emma normalizes a sexual fetish; the women of Darker Side don’t have that problem. For them, the fetish is already their normal.

Having said that, Jacky St. James’ philosophy that the storyline drives the sex is never more evident than in Darker Side. In other words, the sex informs character development, moves the narrative forward, and is never there for its own sake.

Simply put, Darker Side of Desire is sharp in plot and cinematography. For newbies to the bondage fetish who know what they want, the film is BDSM 101.

 

Hidden Affection

Natalie (Cassidy Klein) is haunted by a recurring dream of bondage sex. Vanilla in her lovemaking with new boyfriend Bryce (Mickey Mod), Natalie’s inner hunger to experience her fetish gnaws at her. The film moves her to a resolution that is set up by a progression of sex scenes skillfully placed within the narrative.

To get us there, Darker Side’s other characters come into play. We have Natalie’s friends and roommates Sydney (Gia Paige) and Robyn (Riley Nixon).

The men are Sydney’s past lover Alex (James Deen) and Robyn’s boyfriend Mike (Michael Vegas). The dream sequence features Cherie Deville as the submissive and Tommy Pistol as her dominant.

So how does the sex tell the story?

The first scene is Natalie and Bryce in a vanilla romp of raging endorphins that floods the new lovers.  As Natalie says in voice over, their relationship is a “whirlwind of romance and excitement.”

“You’re happy being out of control,” she declares.

The palette Jacky St. James and cinematographer Hank Hoffman present in the scene is top quality filmmaking. Mickey is a man of color so blending his darker tone with Cassidy’s paler one yields a visual perspective steeped in shades of brown, rust, auburn, and maroon. The sofa, candles, and the painting on the wall compose a pastel montage that flavors the romance.

Later, the palette reappears when Bryce and Natalie are playing pool (cues, balls, and pockets are Freudian symbols in this scene). The table felt and Natalie’s dress are shades of reddish-brown with a darker desert tone that is fitting, by the way, because their relationship may become arid if kinky erotic urges are ignored.

Spider Web

Next we have Natalie’s dream that composes the second sex scene. It delves into her psyche and its hidden affection for BDSM.

A spider web of chains is suspended between the camera and the imaginary players caught up in a tangle of bondage desires.

Denial, a subtle Jacky St. James theme, takes over as Tommy tempts and taunts Cherie throughout the entire scene. He calls her his “submissive little slut” and she responds, “Please sir, I want it so bad!”

With “I said beg for it!” Tommy spanks Cherie, whose coy smile reveals her submission pleasure.

Of course for the dreaming Natalie, the spider web is intimidating, a chilling look at the dichotomy of fetish sex: scary yet tempting, watching others while fearful of taking the step yourself.

Counterpoints

Later, roommate Sydney tells Natalie of a past lover Alex and their bondage hook-ups. The next sex scene between the two serves, along with the dream sequence, as fetish counterpoints to Natalie and Bryce’s vanilla theme.

The question of female degradation versus feminism’s empowerment is illustrated by the fourth scene. It’s a sexcapade between Robyn (Riley Nixon) and her boyfriend Mike (Michael Vegas), a playtime sprinkled with humor that tests traditional feminist sexual politics.

More on this in Part Two.

The final sex scene is Natalie and Bryce revisited. Now they’ve negotiated their mutual turn-on, the kink hidden within that finds the best of all outlets: a like-thinking lover.

So how does the movie take us through the BDSM experience as a feminist message?

That’s the question for Part Two of this review.

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Darker Side of Desire can be purchased from Mile High Media here.

To watch the “not safe for work” trailer, click here.

 . . . And for twitter fans, here’s your bread and butter: @milehighmovies  @sweetsinnerxxx @jackystjames

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