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Vanna Bardot: The Girl with Braces

by Rich Moreland, November 2018

New girls come and go in porn at what seems at times dizzying speed. A shoot or two and a lot of girls go home never to return to the industry.

Vanna Bardot, on the other hand, is more than the blink of the eye. She’s smart and friendly with a fan base that, I suspect, grows daily.

Interviewing her was more than a pleasure, it was downright fun!

All photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.

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On a recent visit to a Girlfriends Films set, I sat down with newcomer Vanna Bardot. Though a mere nineteen, she is wise beyond her years with a killer attitude that spells porn fame.

A camera presence is natural for this slim and spicy girl since artistry is in her DNA. Vanna attended a performing arts high school and was steeped in the rigors of ballet for much of her young life. With adoring audiences always close by, Vanna expanded her on-stage resume. At eighteen she was dancing in Miami clubs and exploring the delights of camming.

By the way, that’s all good with her family. Vanna grew up in a liberal household where self-expression was never stifled.

All of these adventures were a warm-up for the real deal: shooting porn. And boy, is she ready.  With a smile, this petite sweetheart proclaims, “I’ve done a lot of living so far.”

A Broader Market

Rather than delve into the formulaic interview questions every porn girl gets, we talk about Vanna’s career interests. Is filmmaking from the other side of the camera in her future?

“Transitioning from an actress to a director is sparking my imagination now, especially after becoming more familiar with different sets and meeting different directors,” she says.

As Vanna navigates through the industry, her education is expanding.

“I’m taking more time to really watch other people’s work whether it’s on sets or online.”

It’s inspiring she says. “I see things that I really like that fall into my style.”

Vanna does have her opinions on what she sees in the industry, however.

“I would never tell a director how to do their job, of course. But it may happen I see things that could be altered in a way that could be more efficient or more esthetically pleasing.”

That brings me to ask, “What drives porn, director choices or market demand?”

“I think market demand ultimately decides what’s happening,” Vanna replies.

“People want to make money and they want to cater to what people are asking for. But I think we’re coming into a time where a lot of people are starting to shoot the kind of content they want even if people tell them this isn’t going to sell. And those things do end up selling.”

She mentions Spain’s Erika Lust.

“She shoots a lot of porn that caters to LGBT people.”

Vanna believes Lust’s work is “a truer presentation” of porn’s demand because the stereotype that “only old dudes buy porn” is a misconception.

“There’s a much broader market for porn now, especially for younger people, people of different sexualities, gender identities, and race.”

The Bondage Scene

Porn is becoming more diverse and that is particularly true in the fetish arena.

For example, BDSM is popular today. How does Vanna regard the bondage product and does she want to try it?

With eyes brightening, she exclaims, “I want to. That’s what I’m most looking forward to. I really want to shoot for Kink soon. I’ve been kind of waiting to do everything super slowly. But yeah, that’s something I have a really big interest in.”

“What fascinates you about that?” I ask.

Pausing for a moment, the olive-skinned teen says,  “I started watching porn when I was younger. Once I started having my own sexual experiences, it’s something I started to dabble with. The power exchange is great, but I feel in BDSM porn I see real reactions.”

Too often BDSM scenes rely on “frivolous acting” and that hides the reality of authentic bondage pleasures, Vanna asserts.

So, if you’re listening Kink pick up the phone!

The Real Thing

For Vanna’s porn fun, it’s about authenticity, an advantage she believes the amateur porn product has over scripted studio shoots.

Speaking of real porn reactions, I mention that a woman’s sexual desire peaks in her thirties and beyond.

“That actually makes a lot of sense,” Vanna comments.

Perhaps in the future being thirty or forty will be an industry norm. Vanna is on board with that.

“I do think so. In porn, girls fall into only two categories. There is rarely a middle. You’re either a teen or you’re a MILF. Girls as young as twenty-one, if they have big tits, can be cast as MILFs which is crazy.”

She mentions director Greg Lansky, three-time winner of AVN’s Director of the Year.

“What I’ve noticed with Greg Lansky’s work is it’s a lot less teen and MILF. A lot of the women he casts are girls who are women, not necessarily ‘little girl’ and not necessarily ‘I’m your friend’s mom.’”

Vanna believes that there are “girls in their twenties and forties and no girls in their thirties,” or at least it seems that way. For whatever reason, today’s content dictates that “those are usually the characters girls have to play.”

She’s hopeful that “more women in their thirties” will come into porn.

Her remarks lead me to delve into the final questions I have. The first has to do with camming and how that ratchets up the amateur porn universe in the mind of the online customer.

Reagan Foxx and Vanna along with Elsa Jean and Sarah Vandella.

The New Porn Girl

Is the cam girl the new porn girl?

“It’s interesting,” Vanna muses. “I think camming is really taking over the porn world, at least what I hear from a lot of men. They don’t watch [traditional] porn anymore. They like to go on camming websites because they see this girl next door who is camming in her room. Then they can interact with her.

“This is a really big market now and it’s easy for any regular girl to do it. You don’t have to go through this whole process of getting into porn which is very daunting for a lot of young girls.

“So, this idea that you sign up on a website and work from the comfort of your own home appeals to a lot of people.”

However, this self-proclaimed homebody believes that camming presents a major change, like it or not, for girls accustomed to shooting scenes.

“For porn stars, it’s not usually enough to just do porn. A lot of girls do weekly or monthly cam shows because people want to be able to interact with their favorite girls and see them in real-time and not always acting in a role.”

This brings us back to the young girl in porn. Regardless of camming or playing the ‘little girl,’ as Vanna puts it, an amateur product that markets a naïve girl sells well.

I’m interested to know if the young girl image represents a power exchange concept for the viewer, especially if he is an older man.  Does it fit a formula that is easily repeated in amateur shoots?

Vanna is doubtful about that.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a formula that is going to work because I don’t think everyone enjoys seeing that,” she says.

“It definitely works for a lot of men because they like this idea of preying on a young innocent girl but I think for a lot of other people they’d rather see a more empowered role not necessarily of a girl who doesn’t know what she is doing but a girl who is more eager. She going to find this sexual encounter, or this sexual experience.”

Braces

We should mention that for the present, Vanna’s appeal lies somewhat in her braces. That certainly helps to sell her teen image.

“I still have my braces [which is] something I’ve been able to build my fan base on. It is pretty unique thing that not a lot of people have. I got them really late when I was seventeen, so I still have them.”

For now, they’re very marketable.

“But it’s not something I plan on keeping forever. I don’t want to be twenty-one with braces as much as I’m sure my fans would like it. I’m looking forward to taking them off. But I think it’s a good thing because my fans are kind of growing up with me and can see me turn into a young woman.

And, the future?

“I don’t know how long I’ll be in porn, or if I’ll reach MILF years. But I think it’s going to be good. I think people are going to enjoy seeing me grow up.”

Then this very intelligent sweetheart gives us the feel-good news.

“I’m here because I like sex, I like these sexual experiences, I like to see myself out there.”

Braces and all!

*          *          *

Dan O’Connell’s sets are always idyllic, a refreshing touch to the day’s work for any performer.

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Sofie Marie, Part Three: Hotwife

by Rich Moreland, April 2018

In this final post on Sofie Marie, we’ll look at her on-screen adventures.

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For Sofie Marie, her swinging history prompted her move to porn. I’ve interviewed other girls with similar experiences as swingers and wanted to know what Sofie could tell us.

A Hall Pass

“I am doing porn because of swinging or ‘the lifestyle’ (as it is known among its adherents). I am a true Hotwife which means I have a hall pass from my husband to go and explore whatever I want to as long as I am one hundred percent open about my plans and experiences with him. He likes to see and hear about my exploits from me and from Spike,” Sofie says.

From what I’ve learned as a journalist, being absolutely open about everything is the cornerstone of acceptance into the swinging community and the ongoing enjoyment of it.

Sofie’s interview with Adult DVD Talk gives us the back story. Her husband introduced his new wife (they’ve only been married for a couple of years) to the swinger community. “He told me about it and I didn’t have any idea what a ‘swinger’ was,” she tells Captain Jack.

Now husband and wife savor the lifestyle together which means parties and the excitement of hooking up in a consensual atmosphere. Sofie has loved it all, especially the variety of sex partners-in-waiting, an unexpected treat for her.

“We’ve met a lot of great people and I have been with girls through that. That’s where it all began as far as fooling around with other girls,” she beams.

That ongoing adventure of self-discovery became an important step in initiating a porn career.

Sexy Young Guys

Sex for the camera is another story.

Sofie’s photography career began with bikini modeling which, as sometimes happens with porn girls, led to nude work. From there, her exhibitionist tendencies and relishing all things sexual nudged Sofie to take the next logical step: her own website and porn.

Sofie explains to Captain Jack that x-rated shooting is “no big deal” because she enjoys exploring her “sexual boundaries” which includes, no surprise, being naked and revealing her “girl parts.”

Has porn benefited Sofie’s free-wheeling spirit? You bet.

“I have gotten really comfortable in front of the camera. So, being nude or having sex is easy for me with the camera rolling,” she says.

“I am really a shy person and exploring my sexuality and now doing porn has been a great experience.”

From a psychological perspective, exhibitionism is a common trait among porn performers and often counteracts shyness. Sofie’s fans are undoubtedly thankful she has made it work for her.

By the way, Sofie’s age would dictate a career as a MILF, but she’s not really into that. When it comes to shooting, “It’s the job for me to play the MILF,” she comments, “but I like playing the Hotwife better.”

Actually, being a MILF took some getting used to, Sofie declares, because she not a mom in her real life, so the label feels a bit “weird” to her. But it does have its rewards. “I get to have sex with the young sexy guys as a MILF so that’s a bonus for me!”

That’s something all her fans can watch with delight as Sofie redefines “cougar!”

Work Sex

There is something about Sofie Marie that separates her out from the run-of-the-mill porn girl. Though I’ve not had the pleasure of being on one of her sets, as I’ve said, I can infer from the short clips I’ve seen that she is cultivating an image that sets her apart from the crowd.

That is a huge reason for her popularity, I believe.

In talking with performers and directors I’ve been reminded that porn sex is not the type of sex civilians (pornspeak for non-industry people) experience in their everyday lives. What is surprising is this: that goes for porn performers as well who are happy to separate film sex from home sex.

Another way of putting it is this: porn sex is acrobatics that involve contortions and positions that directors insist be held minute after minute to get the footage desired.

As you might expect, performers don’t go home in the evening to their significant others and hang from the chandeliers. Work sex is a business and exhausting enough as it is.

Social scientists and educators tell us that porn, with all its outre positions and hard banging, has become the new sex education for today’s young people.

Sometimes it’s difficult for them to understand that sex is supposed to be enjoyable, intimate, and a mutually shared experience. It doesn’t need to be nasty, rough, or vulgar and doesn’t have to be dominated by deep throating, gagging, choking, tears that smear mascara, and reverse cowgirls (the most graphic position for the camera).

Here is what I mean. Watch Sofie in a girl-on-boy oral scene, for example, and compare her with popular porn performers today. The difference is noteworthy.

Her on-screen sex is instinctive and unpretentious. Without doubt, this is Sofie Marie’s tour de force and why she is destined to luxuriate in the adult industry for as long as she wants. When she proclaims she projects the girl-next-door image, Sofie isn’t kidding or trying to sell her fans a bill of goods. She really is as she appears on-screen and that, in a business that is turning more and more to the bizarre to keep fans energized, is in itself remarkable.

Think of it this way, Sofie communicates her sexuality without saying, “Hey, look at me!” Her scenes are less about her and more about personalizing the sexual experience for the camera. The more natural she is, the easier it becomes for viewers to imagine themselves in the shoot with her.

As I’ve already hinted, Sofie Marie’s shoots explore sex as a spontaneous expression. In other words she reinforces the idea that sexuality as meaningful on a human level. It’s not a superhero cartoon or the perils of Pauline. It’s just us.

There’s no drool, spit, or slobbering when she is performing orally. Dirty talk is subdued, and, she completely turns the porn formula on its head when she fails (forgets?) to point her toes. Those things are not important in her shoots because they are not her. As Sofie keeps telling us, she’s natural . . . and she is a natural.

I could be wrong and if I ever see her in action on set in a way that disputes what I’ve said here, I’ll let you know.

Consent

Not surprisingly, consent is important to Sofie.

“So far I have been treated with respect one hundred percent of the time. I expect nothing else from this industry or I will not shoot with a company who does not respect my time and boundaries,” she proclaims.

For girls to accomplish what Sofie asserts, they must take control of their image just as this statuesque beauty clearly demonstrates in her work. That is a link to feminism she may not know she possesses.

Balancing Act

Finally, I had a couple of questions for Sofie that arose from personal interest. She and I are similar in two ways.

First, I was raised in a conservative evangelical home (Southern Baptist) and didn’t know much about sex growing up other than it was sinful outside of marriage.

I don’t know if Sofie’s childhood attitudes were the same, but she had this to say about her background.

“I, too, was raised in a very religious household and I still maintain my spiritual connection to my faith. But I have come to realize that I am a consenting adult and the people I perform with are adults as well and we are not hurting anyone by having sex.”

She concludes with, “I always try to be kind to others.” A lesson we could all share. Are you listening evangelicals?

The other area Sofie and I have in common is endurance sports, specifically triathlon and marathons. The training is grueling and fatiguing and I can’t imagine having sex on camera in addition to that.

So how does she balance everything out?

“My last Ironman was 2016 so my training has been easier for the past year. My husband and I train together, so when we get our schedules synced, we will likely do another one. But my focus is my career now.

“Yes, it’s hard to a balance business and training . . . business is first for now. I do workout with weights and cardio six times a week, just not as long as when I was training for my Ironman!”

We wish her well with all her loves: racing, on-camera sex, and of course, hubby!

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A final note. Sofie Marie did not talk about her fetish performances because regretfully I didn’t ask.

So, for the followers of this blog who like BDSM, I want to assure you Sofie is not shy when the fetish comes her way.

Take a look here:

And here:

Be sure to follow Sofie’s fetish adventures with your bondage dollars!

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A Gonzo Afternoon: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, December 2017

Their shoot for Eddie Powell wrapped up, Steve Holmes and Mandy Muse are game for a dual interview so we move outside to the veranda.

Steve’s wife soon joins us.

Here’s some of what we discussed.

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A Convenient Marine

I open the discussion with a question about getting into the business.

Mandy starts us off. She’s been shooting for a while and works with Kendra Lust’s agency, Society 15.

“I’m 23 years old. I’ve been in the industry for 4 years now, started when I was 19. I have a big booty which I’m known for. I do pretty much everything except for double anal and double vag.”

Mandy has no background in acting other than a film class she once took. But the Southern California lass is well versed in sex, having her first experience at the tender age of twelve.

“I had my first threesome with two guys when I was fourteen and then my first orgy at about fifteen.” Her voice rises as if she’s not sure of the age, or doesn’t remember exactly.

She got into the industry once she turned eighteen, Mandy says, and relates how it happened.

“I was attempting my first DP with these two marines on base.”

A good time was had by all before another soldier shows up. He was on duty but that didn’t faze Mandy.

“He was really attractive and I wanted him to join in,” she remembers.

The marine was interested but declined. He was on duty. Undaunted, Mandy gave him her number.

“He later asked me if I’d do a scene with him for a uniform fetish website. I wore my cheer leading uniform from high school and that’s how porn found me!” the brunette declares gleefully.

Married with Children

Steve’s path started at a much later age.

“I’m German, born in Transylvania, then went to Germany as a kid.” he begins. “I worked in IT for ten years, before that in different jobs, always sales and marketing.”

I can believe that. He’s easy to get along with, just ask Mandy who met him for the first time today.

Steve’s wife arrives to pick him up and takes a seat.

As if on cue, he says, “When I started I was already married with children.”

I suggest his wife is a tolerant person. She smiles and sends him a knowing look.

“She is, yes,” he responds and turns to Mandy, “I did a nice feature with your agent, Kendra Lust. She played my wife.”

Come to think of it, I guess Steve has had lots of “wives” but only one real wife.

I tell Steve I first learned about him through his work with Kink.com in San Francisco.

“Kink is a funny story actually,” he offers. “They booked me the first time in 2007. I didn’t know the company. They always asked the girls at Kink who they like to shoot with. They were requesting me.”

The fetish giant explained that before they booked him he needed to do a little research to find out his comfort level with what they do.

They said, “’It’s not like the regular stuff. We’ll send you a link to our website and a password,’” Steve remembers.

He checked out their shoots and noticed something. He didn’t know how to do the rope work that seemed to be everywhere in a Kink production.

“They told me, ‘no problem we have people for that,’” Steve explains. “So that’s my first shoot at Kink for Sex and Submission in February or March, 2008.”

As time passed, Kink expanded their offerings to Steve.

“They asked me if I can help with producing and organizing. That’s how I started directing. One of the websites I produced was Public Disgrace. Princess Donna initiated that with the company.”

Donna has since left the adult business. I remembered seeing her a couple of years ago in a shoot for a European BDSM company called Elite Pain. Their work is rougher than anything stateside.

“Yes, a company owned by a friend of mine in Budapest,” Steve interjects. “They normally just shoot nudity with no sex.”

He references a shoot he did for them and shows a still of the bound model on his phone.

“The girl contacted me many years ago. She wasn’t a porn girl. She was a medical student in Germany. I booked her in Europe and we shot her in Berlin for Public Disgrace and I asked her if she enjoyed the scene.”

“‘I was hoping you’d beat me harder,’” he remembers her saying.

Asked about her limits and the girl said, “‘I don’t know, I’ve never reached that.’”

It turns out that Steve suggested she might want to give Elite Pain a shot.

“She came for the scene. We did it together. Hard punishment. I fucked her and she had so many orgasms. She was happy for the experience, but she’d never do it again,” he says with a chuckle.

As time passed Steve’s work with Kink was so impressive that he became one of their directors and specialized in filming in Europe.

Warming Up

Turning our attention to the shoot just completed, I asked our pair how they got to know one another when they arrived.

Steve begins

“Easy. We met. We got attracted to each other. We use the time they are setting up the lights.”

Yep, all that “warming up” paid off.

Mandy points out that being comfortable with your co-stars is important and in her case, she has “never really had a hard time finding chemistry especially with a performer like Steve Holmes. It’s just how I love being handled during a scene.”

“Thank you,” Steve says, forever the gentleman. Mandy giggles.

“We had a good time,” he continues, and comments on touching, caressing, and the like.

Mandy chimes in, “We talked about that too.”

Steve brings up the most important factor in porn . . . do you love what you do? It can make or break a shoot. And, of course, there is chemistry between performers.

“Productions have a certain idea about the scene and how they want it to be. But then sometimes they don’t always book the right people. When I feel the girl is just going through the motions, it usually reflects in the scene.”

Reading Expressions

How about communication when the camera is rolling?

Steve thinks of it as akin to dancing and uses a generational analogy I completely understand.

“My role model is Fred Astaire. Sometimes you go on the dance floor with a girl and she doesn’t feel it. You try to lead her, push her, you know. And then there are sexual girls. You dance to enjoy and also to put on a show. This is what we do here. We know where the camera is. We try to enjoy ourselves and look nice for the audience, the camera.”

I ask Mandy about making eye contact during sex.

She loves to do that but comments that in her personal life, it doesn’t always happen.

Regardless if it’s business sex or private sex, “You can see what they (your partners) are feeling more when you look at them.”

The eyes “make connections” and bring people together, she adds.

Steve is on board with that.

“Eye contact is very important. You know what your partner enjoys by reading their expressions. We react to each other.”

“Coming back to the BDSM fetish stuff,” he says, “it’s so important to read your partner so you can push them or back off.”

In shooting that type of scene, there is always a potential a safety issue, so everyone needs to be on the same page.

Did Steve use his expressions to get Mandy to go where he wanted to be in the shoot, or where he wanted her to be?

In chorus, Steve and Mandy exclaim, “Both.”

“It’s a given thing,” Steve says.

There was a fair amount of spanking in the shoot. How did this influence Mandy?

“I’m submissive,” she explains. “I like pain so I like to be spanked. It gets me stimulated. When the penetration after the spanking happens, it’s two different types of feelings so I just love the mixture of both.”

The PA for the shoot, AJ Westwood, comes out and offers to drive Mandy to her car. She’s parked at a local mall. Steve says it’s on his way and he’ll give her a lift.

Incidentally, in LA neighborhoods people coming and going from a house raises red flags. For that reason, my photographer and I parked down the street some distance away.

Keep the Energy

Before we wrap up, the conversation turns to Eddie Powell.

Steve says he’s worked with Eddie for about a year. He likes shooting for him because the director gives his performers freedom to express themselves.

“There are certain directors you enjoy more than others,” Steve says, and he’s known ones that are not to his taste.

He mentions a director from years ago. “The first time I shot for him was so boring.”

Once the director put the performers into a position, Steve explains, “he didn’t change anything. Don’t move your hand, don’t change anything. Hold the position.”

The crew worked around them.

“In the end the product looked great because the dynamic came from the editing. It was actually not a lot of fun, (just) hard work,” he says, adding that some shoots can range from five to eight hours on set.

Today was much different, Steve declares. He didn’t have to save his energy.

“The camera follows you, you can just keep going and enjoy yourself because you know the camera is going to pick it up.

“With Eddie, the scene is so good with the lighting and the camera being handheld. It’s not so easy and he pulls it off so well. That’s the quality of his shooting.

“The key is that Eddie actually tries to book performers who know what they are doing, then he tries to capture it. If you give him what he wants, then he lets you do it.”

Mandy offers a final comment about maintaining on-set energy especially during breaks.

“Even when the cameras aren’t rolling I want to continue the flow (of the scene) to still keep the energy there.

“Today was not supposed to be so hardcore. It was easy to not get worn out when the lights are changing,” she says.

What is important, Mandy insists, is “to continue flowing with the same energy.”

Understandable. That’s always a priority when you make your living as an entertainer.

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The Passion of Isabel: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, November 2017

This is the second part of my review of The Passion of Isabel, a Red Feline film starring Beatriz Rivera as the victim and Jac Avila as her torturer, Torquemada.

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The Passion of Isabel sticks with its erotic theme throughout.

No Escape

For instance, food is important imagery. Torquemada teases Isabel with water to replenish her energy and eventually brings her rudimentary nourishment after he has kept her confined for two days. She’s offered an apple and a small loaf of bread, both highly sexualized symbols.

Eating is a Freudian symbol for sex. Isabel is capitulating to his sexual control over her. When he tempts her with the apple in an Adam and Eve reversal, Isabel looks into his eyes with submission in hers.

Torquemada leaves the apple so she can feed herself in an act that implies dependence and obedience. He controls his prisoner totally now and wants her strong enough to endure the abuse she will suffer. Taking the food from Isabel, Torquemada stands her up for the first round of punishment, the exquisite whipping scene mentioned in Part One of this review.

Other symbols enhance Isabel’s enslavement. During her second rape, Torquemada chokes her with the chains that keep her under his control. In BDSM play, restricting breathing during sex increases its orgasmic intensity for the masochist.

Is Isabel being taught to perversely enjoy her trials?

Another prominent image is the metallic collar which is prominent throughout the film before it is locked around Isabel’s neck. When it is on the floor on its side, the camera shoots the scene through it, framing the device with a double meaning. It represents Isabel’s manacles and its round opening is a clear statement that this is a highly sexualized film.

As a foreboding of her death, Torquemada hangs Isabel in another erotic act. He stretches out her neck with the chain attached to the collar, once again suppressing her breathing and intensifying her sexual experience as he takes control of her soul.

Notice the other circular object, the pressure belt, is secured around her waist and also acts as a metaphor for the female sex. Isabel’s youthful beauty is slowly strangling her as the collar and the belt act as opposing forces.

There is no escape. She suffers because she is desired.

Rack and Wheel

A ladder becomes a rack to stretch Isabel’s body in the proper manner prescribed by the Inquisition. As Isabel’s misery continues, close-ups of her face underscore looks of desperation and defeat.

Her whimpering increases as the intensity of her trials is ratcheted up, but she never screams or cries out. Even as the end nears, Isabel displays a fortitude that is commendable.

When the film returns to the circle motif, the scenes move to the breaking wheel, sometimes called the Catherine Wheel. Isabel’s whippings continue and to increase her humiliation, Torquemada confines her in two ways: on the rim of the wheel with her back arched and then spread-eagle on the spokes in a crucifixion position.

Beatriz Rivera deserves high praise when she is stretched on the rim. Because the weight of her body pulls her down, she is steadied by the rope around her upper body and between her legs (sensationally erotic since she is nude) while the camera captures her pain.

Though accustomed to acrobatic maneuvers to show the sex they are having, only top of the line adult actresses ever deal with such an unnatural position.

Torquemada asks, “Do you repent for your father’s death?”

Isabel remains defiant, smiling slightly and shaking her head with a “no, no.”

There’s more lashing, rape, and anguish before the film’s denouement.

Allegory

In the final crucifixion, Isabel is subjected to probes with sharp objects (the medieval test for witches) and the pressure belt to add to her torment. Torquemada nails her feet and hands and rotates the wheel so that Isabel goes from the upright Christ position to the upside-down configuration of St. Peter.

When the crown of thorns is placed on her head, there are two single branches pointing upward resembling the horns of Satan. It’s a comment that Isabel’s tribulations symbolize the fight against evil that reaches into eternity. Pay close attention when her eyes look upward.

Isabel’s stoicism soars to its heavenly heights at this point. Rightly or wrongly, she accepts the responsibility for the crime she stands accused of committing and understands her punishment.

One more observation is worthy of comment. The ball attached to the pressure belt is allegorical. The pre-Christain Atlas bears the weight of the world just as Christ takes on the sins of man.

Isabel has clearly moved from sinner to saint and as the film closes. A heartbeat is all we hear. It slows, becoming almost imperceptible into eternity with the message that death is a state of mind rather than a spiritual end.

Bea’s Triumph

In the first part of this review, I suggested that Beatriz Rivera learned her craft in the film Justine and has now matured into an artistic performer in The Passion of Isabel.

This juxtaposition of a sixteenth century story in a twenty-first century film is evident in Bea’s performance. First, she rises to fame as an erotic actress. Notice, however, that she parts with Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya when she trims and partially shaves her pubic area so the female sex is on-screen. She lets us know she’s a modern bondage star and a woman making her own statement of sexual liberation.

What’s more, the decision to leave in the stud in her nose and her single ear piercing establishes a contemporary identity. Throw in her tattoos that are only lightly covered with make-up (the one high on her back is not) and we have the kind of presentation that excites today’s BDSM aficionados.

What of Bea’s acting?  As mentioned in part one, her range of expressions are largely non-verbal which requires concentration and awareness of what the scene is asking of her. She is subtle in her message of suffering.

Not only that, but her whipping scenes are realistic. At no time does she appear as a caricature of a victim. The viewer can feel her pain and the lingering agony of her relentless torture.

For these reasons which move Beatriz Rivera as actress beyond her lovely nakedness, Red Feline fans are going to demand more from this Bolivian sweetheart. Her film presence is pure erotic pleasure marked by the whip.

Final Thought

In Part One of this review, I pointed out the difference between the three tortured women in Red Feline/Pachamama Productions I’ve reviewed.

Bea’s performance in Isabel clearly delineates how differently she handles the erotic role of the tortured female from Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya. Bea is not horror-oriented as is Amy. Her pain is internalized so that crying out and screaming is not reflective of how she portrays pain. Likewise, she is not the submissive and docile character that appeals to Mila. Bea is defiant and in many ways totally feminist.

The magic of a Jac Avila film library allows the viewer to choose and appreciate the different ways talented actresses approach their masochistic roles and the brutal situations they find themselves in.

As for Bea in  The Passion of Isabel, she yields in the end, but the viewer gets the feeling that her heart never really stops beating.

*         *         *

A Jac Avila film rarely disappoints even the harshest critic. Yes, his work is not for everybody and the viewer must have a taste for the performance art the Red Feline/Pachamama studios present.

At no time are the actresses abused, but as Jac will tell anyone who will listen, shooting his films can be an arduous experience. The scenes are hard on the body and the psyche, but each performer values the opportunity to make her own artistic statement.

Keeping this in mind, our wholehearted thanks is extended to all the women who appear in Jac’s films, and particularly to Beatriz Rivera as Isabel, for enriching our film experience.

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The Passion of Isabel: Part One

by Rich Moreland, November 2017

Entering its eighteenth year of production, Red Feline Pictures (RFPIX) continues its mission to bring BDSM film to a niche audience fascinated by crucifixion themes hammered and nailed with religious imagery.

The films typically center on a single female and her suffering under an oppressive regime or doctrine, such as the Inquisition, or as a product of her own fertile and willing imagination.

The Passion of Isabel stars the incomparable Beatriz Rivera as the heroine and longtime Red Feline actor and director Jac Avila as Torquemada.

In addition to Isabel, all of the films mentioned in this review are available at Red Feline and have been reviewed on this blog. I encourage anyone who wishes to purchase The Passion of Isabel to read my analysis of the other movies to get a further flavor of the Red Feline/Pachamama Films product.

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The Passion of Isabel is set in early modern Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Age of Discovery promises the dawn of a new day that will challenge outdated belief systems.

However, for the youthful and beautiful Isabel, the old ways remain in place. Her father has arranged her marriage to an aristocratic friend named Torquemada and announces it publicly.

“Isabel is called to her father’s side at the high tower in a palace,” we are told, where she refuses the union, asserting that she will be her own woman and make her own choices.

“Enraged by this public humiliation, her father rushes to chastise her. To free herself from his grip, she pushes him, causing him to fall from the tower to his death. This dooms Isabel. For she is locked in a dungeon to await trial.

But there will not be any trial… Her fate now rests in the hands of Torquemada. And he has only one goal: Destroy the woman who humiliated and rejected him.”

If there is a single weakness in this film it is illustrated above. The viewer is not introduced to the story and instead is taken immediately to the dungeon where Isabel will suffer at the hands of Torquemada. To fill in the gap, I encourage everyone to read the entire description (parts of which I have quoted here) on the Red Feline website.

An introductory explanation during the opening credits would have helped set the scene, especially since the DVD is not packaged with a box cover that would include a brief synopsis.

But that is the only shortcoming in The Passion of Isabel. For BDSM fans who crave the vision of lovely female flesh resisting and succumbing to pain, this film fits the bill.

Your Body or Your Soul

The story opens with Isabel brought into the dungeon where she will face the judgement imposed on her by a deranged mind, her “crime” a mere excuse for unabated sadism and the sexual satisfaction it brings.

“Why do you have me here? You know I’m not guilty.” She questions.

Torquemada, who has no interest in consoling her, grabs Isabel behind the neck (which he does frequently in the film), and announces her father died disappointed that his gift to a friend turned into a “rebellious daughter” who needs to be chastised.

“He wanted you to be mine. You’re mine now and you’re going to pay for what you did to your father.”

Isabel is angry, telling him he knows it was not her fault.

Unmoved, Torquemada asks which is stronger, her body or her soul, then lets Isabel know both are now his.

From here the movie examines the miseries Torquemada inflicts on his victim. Among the whippings and rack and wheel tortures, there are the repeated simulated rapes.

Does this make Passion a horror story for an a mature audience? Perhaps, considering that most people may not want the kids to watch a naked woman abused and used. But, there is no hardcore sex and certainly no gore. This is not a slasher film.

So, what is it? For some viewers, Passion is soft porn (because of its nudity) marked with ordeals of pain. But that is hardly adequate. From my perspective, Passion is exactly what makes the Red Feline label popular: an outré, extravagant, and kinky art film with an undeniable erotic overlay.

The Erotic

Yet, what is erotic has as many variances as there are film fans. Having said that, it is too easy and grossly unfair to dismiss Red Feline productions like Martyr, Agent X, and Red Room as mindless female torture movies. Like Passion, they explore the psychological aspects of how we as a society view our sexuality, especially the masochistic/sadistic paradigm.

Over the years, the Red Feline label has matured in its technical presentation and Passion, at this point in time, has reached cinematic excellence. Visually, the viewer will be stunned by the clarity of the sadistic trials Isabel must endure.

What’s more, actress Beatriz Rivera has an overwhelming assignment in this film: show Isabel’s evolution from angry resistance to total submission. Torquemada breaks her so that she may reach her “understanding” in peace.

Because dialogue is sparse, Bea must reveal this transformation with her eyes, her expressions, her body positions, and her cries. In effect, they become the dialogue of surrender.

Bea’s gift is her ability to do this in a way that is steeped in our old friend, eroticism. Isabel is no passive whipping toy. She’s a fighter with whimpering her only concession to Torquemada’s abuse and asserts her feminist belief in her own sexual power. She may break in the end, but her torturer will work hard for his triumph.

Bea as Isabel bravely endures her pain to the excitement of the BDSM crowd. But that is only part of her appeal. She uses Isabel’s anguish to seduce even the most casual viewer. It’s a rare talent indeed.

Take, for example, the first whipping scene. Isabel’s arms are manacled in a crucifixion position and she growls at Torquemada, “Why are you doing this to me? Damn you, get off me.”

But for Isabel, from now on it’s all downhill and there will be no tears only quiet resistance that still flickers at the end.

By the way, this a fabulous scene. Beatriz Rivera’s body is exquisite, her nakedness enchanting. It is one of the best lashing sequences ever filmed by Red Feline or Pachamama Films, for that matter, and that includes the riveting work of Amy Hesketh whose filming resume is without equal in this kind of scene. That, believe me, is high praise and Bea should be proud of her performance in this segment for it alone is worth the price of the DVD.

The Victim Role Times Three

Beatriz Rivera appears in Justine, a Pachamama Film that also stars Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya who take the stage together in other films, among them Barbazul and Dead But Dreaming.

What is fascinating is how each of the actresses plays the victim role differently. Amy is horror oriented (Olalla, a vampire tale like Dead, is the best example). Her scenes carry a shock value that departs from pure eroticism because Amy believes in putting psychological terror on an equal footing with S/M for its own sake.

Amy in Olalla

Mila follows a different path. Despite a brief irascible moment as the vampire Aphrodisia in Dead, Mila is the docile submissive (for the non-torture version check out her role in Barbazul). Her suffering is preordained, it seems, and she is led to the slaughter with her gorgeous body abused and bloodied. Mila’s anguish is highlighted in both Maleficarum and Le Marquis de la Croix where she is sensationally pleasing to the sadistic eye.

Mila in Le Marquis de la Croix

Truth be told, Amy and Mila are luscious displays of female pulchritude. They are as alluring as any BDSM model in adult film and could go that route if they chose. But the question remains how to show the erotic side of sexy under the lash. Both can do that with their established reputations.

Mila and Amy in Maleficarum

Where, then, does this place Bea? Easy, the Bolivian beauty’s seductive and steamy on-camera persona challenges Amy and Mila for the camera’s eye. However, in Justine, she is learning her craft and keeps her presence under wraps. Understandable, I might add, considering that at times in the film she is overshadowed by Amy’s star power and Mila’s sultry victimization.

Bea in Justine

Plus, Bea is not totally nude, a downer for eager viewers who like their whipped women totally exposed and an indication of some hesitation on her part, at least in that film.

Incidentally, her introduction to the sadomasochistic genre of the Pachamama variety puts more emphasis on plot line than Red Feline so Bea had to demonstrate her acting skills from the get go. Not a simple task for a fresh face.

But hey, it’s a learning curve and that was her beginning. The Passion of Isabel has moved her forward in giant steps. Whereas Justine offers the viewer a taste of Beatriz Rivera, Isabel marches her onto center stage to carry the story on her shapely back, pun intended.

As Amy and Mila begin to explore other artistic avenues that may limit their futures in front of the camera, Beatriz Rivera is ready to step up to the plate, as they say in baseball, and hit a few homers of her own.

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A few comments on the technical aspects of the film are in order.

First, three cameras are used to record the scenes with a pace that is Hollywood worthy. Second, the technical quality (color and clarity) of the film is top notch. And third, in the movies timing is everything and Isabel’s suffering is highlighted by frozen imagery when the camera lingers on her beaten body after the torture has ended.

Its a cinematic moment Jac Avila has perfected that enriches the artistic vision of Red Feline and Pachamama films. The film’s message is transformed into a museum painting.

In my view, for these reasons alone The Passion of Isabel has to be the best Red Feline picture made so far.

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Reflections on Sirwiñakuy

by Rich Moreland, June 2017

From the movie source IMDb about Sirwiñakuy:

The story of an obsessive relationship between a young French woman and an older Bolivian man. Their unusual romance, like the country in which they live, is transforming, sometimes violent and difficult to understand.

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Finally creating some time to watch Sirwiñakuy, a 2010 release from Pachamama Films, I recognized immediately it wasn’t supercharged like Dead But Dreaming, Olalla, Barbazul, or Justine, so my viewer “sleepwalking” kicked in after the first few minutes.

I did get through the opening Cafe scene where Luis (Jac Avila) picks up Anouk (Veronica Paintoux) after director Amy Hesketh has her Hitchcock moment. Not much here, I thought, other than a smidgen of a Bolivian street scene travelogue featuring a local hangout.

About an hour and forty minutes later it was over.

When I popped up Microsoft word on my computer to take a few quick notes to prepare for this “review,” I had nothing much to say.

Why?

Easy. I have “great expectations,” as Charles Dickens would say, for the innovative work of Amy Hesketh and Jac Avila but Sirwiñakuy didn’t deliver, or so it appeared.

But the truth did not lie within the film. My lack of appreciation for  Sirwiñakuy was rooted in my failure as a viewer. I didn’t pay attention to what was in front of me and I know better than that.

My “Oh Hum”

To put it another way, watching Sirwiñakuy reminded me of my university days when on rare occasions I snoozed in class. Whenever that happened, behavior modification was promptly needed so I’d go back to “the house” (yes, I was a frat boy, quite an admission in these days of fraternity vilification) for a nap. College is a waste if you can’t stay awake. My parental units were paying the bills and there were too many excellent profs at my school not to fully absorb what they had to say.

For Sirwiñakuy, a similar correction was in order. But in this case, it had nothing to do with physical or mental fatigue . . . or meeting someone else’s expectations, for that matter.

Here’s the real reason.

You see, Sirwiñakuy is Amy’s first film. It’s been around for a while. My mistake was looking at it from the perspective of a body of work that has matured over the years, a group of films I was very familiar with. That’s like taking a hall-of-fame player and analyzing his first game as a rookie. Appearances can be deceptive; conclusions unfair. I was moving in reverse gear with the movie, judging the past on the present.

Look at it this way. I watched Anouk get spanked, but I also remember Veronica Paintoux as Nahara the vampire in Dead, a spectacularly sexy portrayal on her part, and as the elegant Annabelle in Barbazul.

Anouk’s character just didn’t rev up my reviewer engine.

My first viewing sold Sirwiñakuy short and it doesn’t deserve my “oh-hum.” Just because the narrative lacks all those lovely whipping scenes so characteristic of Pachamama/Decadent Films, along with vampire angst, serial killers, female suffering, and theological tyranny (or rigmarole depending on the movie) that begs to be intellectualized, is in no way a takedown of this film.

So what I’ve written here is a process, not a review. Like an archeologist, I wanted to turn the soil on what Amy, Jac, and Veronica do so well in this film.

Rewind

So let’s rewind Sirwiñakuy, electrify our thinking cap, and get to work peeling away the layers that makeup the narrative.

What I’ve come to anticipate from Amy and Jac does not seem obvious at a Sirwiñakuy first glance. I repeat, at first glance because everything is there hiding under the covers, or to be more accurate, behind all those books and portraits from the past that lord over the action.

To delve into the narrative I returned to what shaped my literary education in grad school; I decided to study Sirwiñakuy . . and I mean go over everything in detail!

First, I read every review I could find. Some of them are pretty good and I suggest you google Sirwiñakuy and dive into them yourself. I don’t have a lot to add to what others much smarter than I have said about dramatic intent, imagery, machismo, action shots (taxi ride, taxi ride!) and the natural, always problematic, process of leaving childhood behind (observe the way Anouk randomly stuffs her stuff into her trolley cart and did I mention talking with her mouth full? I can hear my mother now).

Next, I devised a plan to watch the film again but in a different way to uncover its magic.

Ditch the Sound

I recalled what I adore most about Hollywood’s silent film era: faces, eyes and glances, gazing, nods, and expressive movement of hands, in particular. Actors in those days (think the Barrymores) had to emote with their entire physical and emotional consciousness because dialogue was limited to title cards. On screen presence was everything.

Unless the moviegoer was a lip reader, watching carefully to get the story through interpreting the actor, not the voice, was paramount. In other words, the viewer had to lean forward and not be satisfied with distant amusement as later became the habit when “Godzilla Eats Tokyo” in those silly 1950s Atomic Age B-pictures, for example.

Thankfully, silent era animation carried over into some of the great films of the 1930s: John and Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo, and Wallace Beery in Grand Hotel in 1932, then John, Lionel, and Wallace again in Dinner at Eight in 1933 and don’t hesitate to fast forward to 1950 and add Gloria Swanson in Sunset Bloulevard.

So, I went into silent movie mode. I turned off the sound (which means I gave up the music not something I would suggest because it is meaningful to the narrative) and relied on closed captioning . . .

. . . And just watched, every moment, every expression, every nuanced look and motion (notice how Anouk uses her eyes to show her annoyance with Luis whose own expression returns fire with quiet bullets of gentle criticism) . . .

I paused the film to study the scenes (love the old house, the eclectic furniture, and all the books) which led to my oft-repeated and inevitable question of “why is that there?” What is the director telling us? What are the actors communicating to each other and to the viewer?

Slowly in its slinky little way, Sirwiñakuy stared back at me with a wagging finger saying “Do you get it now?”

Yes, I do.

Based on its performance alone and the directing that breathes life into it, the film is gutsy. As for the story, it is pretty straight-forward. The complexity of the tale is “inside the characters,” Amy tells us in the commentary section of the DVD.

Creeping Up

Sleepwalking now conquered, what’s next?

The researcher/scholar in me wanted to find what Amy and Jac had to say about the production, so I went to the film again and tuned in on the commentary (for me, it’s like getting an interview).

What I found was verification of my thoughts on certain scenes: the shots of the portraits on the wall between smacks on Anouk’s butt, the Pieta that looms over the couple when Luis draws his bloody “pound of flesh” with the thorns on the red roses, and all those Freudian eating scenes (Bolivians must love their bread and Luis makes sandwiches that are precise and symmetrical in their contents!) just to name a few.

Viewing number three left me with several pages of handwritten notes. Sirwiñakuy is creeping up on me now complemented by Jac Avila, who in his usual graciousness supplied me with vital information about the film. I’ll cover that shortly.

As I indicated above, Amy and Jac have already established a very high bar for all their yet-to-come work. What is remarkable about Sirwiñakuy is in its cinematic expression, and, I might add, Amy’s tightly drawn story that uses quick transitions to keep the viewer engaged and the pace rolling along. There’s no dead time anywhere.

In fact, it is impossible for me to believe this is Amy’s first film. The characters and the scenes are interwoven with the skill of a master craftsman.

Ah, Miss Veronica

A word is due about the captivatingly gorgeous Veronica Paintoux.

She and Amy hardly knew each other when she agreed to do the film. Make no mistake, Veronica is the heartbeat of Sirwiñakuy. Her willingness to do just about anything—I’m talking nude scenes here—to bring the narrative full circle deserves high praise.

Take the masturbation shower episode, for instance, that reveals Anouk’s intentions and drops a few hints about her developing relationship with Luis.

Is she trying to wash away her sexual pleasure or wantonly readying herself to live with this much older man?

Veronica’s talent keeps the viewer on edge, particularly in the scene when she leaves her old clothes in the hotel. It’s symbolic, of course, and almost borders on the hackneyed, but Veronica pulls it off. Anouk’s got a ton of courage now, but for what?

When she hits streets Anouk is naked underneath that awful 1960s topcoat fashion statement Luis bought for her. Her audacity reminds me of the bar scene from The Story of O when O settles gingerly onto the bar stool because there’s nothing between it and the bare flesh under her dress.

She’s blatantly erotic and submissive and coy at the same time.

Oh, let me note, Veronica Paintoux is as natural as her nudity. She wears minimal, if any, make-up which enhances that childlike state Amy wants to reinforce in Anouk’s character.

Toying with a Story

Here’s what Jac has to say about Veronica and Amy and Sirwiñakuy‘s evolution.

“Amy had a story she was toying with, set in France, which in one of our long walks I convinced her to adapt it to Bolivia. In the French version, the guy was French and the woman was American visiting Paris. In the Bolivian version, she made the guy Bolivian and the woman French.

“Amy wanted Veronica to play the woman, she felt that she would be great in that role, she saw her in Martyr (a 2002 production starring Carmen Paintoux) and she liked the chemistry and sexual tension we had in that film.

“It was obvious that I would play the guy, Monsieur Montez. That was the original title, by the way, Monsieur Montez. We opted for Sirwiñakuy when I explained to her the tradition here where a man ‘kidnaps’ a woman, takes her home and after trying out for some time they get married if the situation works.

“Amy liked the idea. A friend of mine is the composer of the title song and Heni, my Hungarian collaborator, now a PHD in anthropology, provided the background for the title.”

In listening to Jac, what I’ve always wondered about Amy Hesketh’s work came to mind again. How personal is the film to her? I have a feeling Amy wrote Sirwiñakuy as a narrative of her own erotic and sexual evolution.

. . . But that is only a guess.

Authentic

Finally, Sirwiñakuy caused a bit of a dustup in Bolivian theaters. Apparently they don’t like BDSM relationships there, too much machismo.

Understandable, but that’s not Sirwiñakuy’s message, so listen up.

The interactions between Luis and Anouk are accurate portrayals of what an authentic Dom/sub arrangement is (to suggest it is master/slave is laughably overblown). In other words, BDSM is an agreed upon sexual interplay within an existing relationship and that’s what the film tells its audience.

Nothing BDSM is twenty-four seven, but when everything heats up, it’s all about the power play moment at hand.

Anouk is an equal partner in their relationship at all times and proves it with her expressions, her eyes, and her moods. She even walks out to think things over.

Pay attention when she takes the whip away from Luis and remember the haircut game. It’s only symbolic because he backs off. Score one for feistiness. Who decides who is in control?

By the way, they sell whips at rural markets in Bolivia which in my view confounds the objections to the film. In the commentary section, Jac mentions whips were around in the society before the Spanish arrived and Amy interjects with a chuckle, “Where there is a whip, there is life, there is BDSM.”

What is not to love about her?

But remember, it’s all consensual.

By the way, Amy adds an adorable touch in the commentary section. She notes that Anouk violates protocol when she sits in “daddy’s” chair to read, behavior that is “not allowed.” Beautiful. Submissives love their daddies. Anouk is learning the ground rules . . . or perhaps she acted deliberately to bank on a “correction” some time later, a little fun with “daddy.”

Keep in mind Anouk is no fawning submissive, but she doesn’t go for the harsher treatment that turns on Anne Desclos’ (Pauline Réage) heroine in O. In fact, Anouk plays an ongoing “cat and mouse” game with Luis throughout the film, thus the wall-mounted drawing of a rodent that pushes back against the overstuffed cat in the apartment.

The little bugger is within full view, but just out of reach of his furry pursuer. BDSM negotiation is always on the table.

A final note for S/M fans . . . if you want to see Luis discipline Anouk with the whip, won’t happen. It’s merely suggested. But take heart, check out Amy and Jac’s later films (under the Pachamama label) for that visual delight. And, consider this. Maybe someday we’ll see their version of O come to the screen . . .

Anouk’s character, much like O’s, is a feminist statement . . . a woman in control. And why not? In my view, Amy Hesketh is a feminist filmmaker in this supposedly post-modern era. Is feminism passé? Perhaps. But after all, I was once a frat guy, so we all have a past, now don’t we?

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Here they are, the three that give Sirwiñakuy its reason to be.

Here’s the director at work:

 

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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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