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Evolved, A Commentary: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, September 2017

This is the second installment of my review/analysis of The Submission Of Emma Marx: Evolved, a New Sensations film written and directed by Jacky St. James.

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The Message

When Mariah pleads with Emma to teach her about BDSM because she is “in dire need of discipline,” Emma explains that the fetish is all about “practice and training” and asks Mariah why she wants this so badly.

Her response is a nod to all BDSMers.

It’s who she is, Mariah says.

So Emma agrees to take Mariah on her journey. The film moves through brief scenes of Mariah’s education. The best are those surrounding “slave training” when Emma teaches the neophyte to arch her back and open her legs for inspection.

There is a collar for Mariah to wear and shots of spanking and caning with tasks that come with the instruction, “please you dominant.” Emma tells Mariah, “Most important, find joy in what you are doing. When it stops being enjoyable, it’s probably not for you anymore.”

Later after her first real BDSM encounter with a Dom named Nicholas (Jay Smooth), Mariah asks Emma how can she ever return to normal sex?

What Mariah is experiencing now is normal for her, Emma says.

Emma informs Mariah that she belongs in this world. It’s just not the way she came to know it when she realized she was a submissive.

In other words, Emma implies that her pupil’s early experiences were limited to physical sensation. Now she is progressing beyond those restrictions and  becoming more spiritual in a sexual way.

Mariah’s character poses the question Jacky as writer and director addresses in her BDSM films; that is, how do we define normal? Part of this conundrum is to accept that different does not mean not normal.

In other words, if a fetish is legal and doesn’t harm anyone, then it passes the normal test. Of course, this is not something people who are vanilla oriented necessarily believe, or even want to consider. To put it another way, according to Jacky St. James, the definition of normal sexuality is broad and expanding and someday may not exist at all.

It’s the battle feminism has fought for decades in its effort to escape female sexual circumscription.

How we express ourselves

Normal is what we make of how we express ourselves. Emma has cleared this hurdle under Mr. Frederick’s guidance. She’ll do the same now for Mariah.

To best understand this idea, contrast Mariah’s first sex scene which served no deeper purpose than to have some fun. As mentioned above, when Emma as tutor and trainer sets up Mariah’s experience with Nicholas, she is satisfying Mariah’s needs beyond fleeting physical sensation.

In other words, Mariah is enriching her sexuality with psychological meaning, becoming sexually aware and mature: a reflection of the journey Emma has already taken.

By the way, notice how Emma persuades Mariah to select a dominant for the scene. Once again, Jacky St James reinforces the hegemony of female choice, reminding the viewer that choice also defines normal and normal, within the bounds of what is legal, is individually oriented.

In other words, it’s okay for a girl to want to be tied up!

Who We Were Before

In the final analysis, two themes connect Evolved with the original trilogy to reveal that Jacky St. James is always progressing as a filmmaker.

Her script points out that often a woman can best teach another woman the psychological aspects of sexuality, regardless of her preferences be they fetish or vanilla. Evolved is female-oriented and we see this with the extended conversations between Emma and Mariah and the emphasis on eye contact during the sex scenes mentioned previously.

Overall, Evolved is a further exploration of Emma’s closure on her past. The pain of losing Mr. Frederick haunts Emma when she tells Mariah it’s time to move on to a male dominant. Mariah reacts with an outburst that reflects what she believes happened to Emma.

“Are you going to pawn me off on someone else? Is this how this works?”

Confronting her personal sense of abandonment and loss of trust, Mariah disappears from the story without explanation.

Of course, irony grips the narrative at this point. This is the second time Emma feels forsaken, the first being the result of Mr. Frederick’s death. Her saving grace is that she is an evolving Emma, so to speak, who is well schooled in how to cope with the unexpected.

And then, the letter arrives.

It reveals that the chemistry between Emma and Mariah referenced in the first installment of this analysis has transcended misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Mr. Frederick as narrator helps us understand this major theme of Evolved when he says, “To survive we have to let go, acknowledging what no longer works for us, acknowledging that who we were before may not be the person we are today.”

William Frederick is the omnipresent voice inside our soul that urges, prods, and disciplines us at every turn while reminding us of our capacity to love.

So it comes as no surprise that with the narrative’s fade out, we hear “Mr. Frederick” whispered almost inaudibly.

Will he continue to dwell in Emma’s spirit for the next film?

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Final Thought

Adult fans who appreciate the feature film sub-genre realize there are few writer/directors who develop original ideas. Relying on parodies where plot and characters are already in place or adopting an established story line from existing sources, such as superhero comics or popular mainstream films, is convenient. Just add the sex.

But with Jacky St. James the landscape is more provocative. She writes her own narratives and uses sex as dialogue so the viewer can better understand her characters in such a way that the sex scenes emerge as characters in and of themselves.

Next, Jacky coaches and guides performers through the acting experience looking for just the right take for every scene. Being trained in drama and having once sought roles in mainstream Hollywood, Jacky understands the details and rigor of directing and acting.

Lastly, of course, she is part of a talented team of creative cinematographers that gives every adult feature she directs the Hollywood touch.

This combination of factors makes a New Sensations/Jacky St. James film unique to the business and we should appreciate that while we can.

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Evolved, A Commentary: Part One

by Rich Moreland, September 2017

Jacky St. James has ventured into a another film in her Emma Marx series.

Here is my review/analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, a New Sensations release under its Erotic Stories collection.

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The ancient Greeks believed the trilogy, a tale told in three parts, represented completeness. Academics interpret the trilogy’s interconnected dramas as a story arc which moves the main character through a change of some sort.

Jacky St. James refines this approach with her brilliantly crafted original Emma Marx series which follows Emma’s sexual and emotional development. In the end, she must overcome the tragic loss of her lover.

So what to make of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, essentially a fourth installment that broadens the narrative and, as it stands now, presents a myriad of possibilities going forward?

Simply put, Jacky is continuing Emma’s sexual growth, or what is best described as her maturity. The process is not dissimilar to the basic human experience developmental psychologists divide into stages, in this case, thirds: young, middle age, and old age. Emma’s progress, emotionally and sexually, has moved out of its adolescence and young adulthood into the earliest beginnings of a sexual middle age.

Is this fourth film the beginning of another trilogy? Possibly. Consider this: at first glance, Evolved is not better or worse than the original series; it is just different, a fresh story that in effect carries on the old story with all the ingredients to initiate a new trilogy of its own.

We already see the wheels beginning to turn as Emma moves her own desires away from submission into experiencing BDSM from the other side of the spectrum. Assuming the dominant role, Emma reaches out as teacher, mentor, and guru to a submissive whose understanding of the fetish is in its infancy, just as Mr. Frederick did for her.

The youthful BDSM neophyte Mariah is the beneficiary now and the future is filled with adventure.

But Jacky leaves us with a difficult question. Does a submissive pass through that state and wish to become a dominant? Is that a natural progression, or does a submissive play an elaborate game of becoming a “switch?”

 

This we do know. The reason Evolved is not an extension of the original series is the absence of Mr. Frederick materially, though he remains with Emma spiritually. Sadly, the on-screen dynamics created by Penny Pax as Emma and Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick cannot find a space in this film. However, Jacky astutely maintains their connection with an occasional flashback.

She also pursues their relationship in a unique way that shapes the story: Richie, as William Frederick, narrates the film from the grave, we assume.

Chemistry

Despite the missing Emma/William physical component to hold the story together, there are other chemistries that quickly fill the void.

First, Riley Reid as Nadia and Van Wylde as her husband Ray once again open the film’s sex scenes with a romp of their own. If their pairing continues into the future, Riley/Van scenes will become the stuff of porn legend. Going back to each of the previous films: the original, Boundaries, and Exposed, we see them sexually evolve as they deal with the demands of their marriage and the changes that brings.

Second, there’s the acting chemistry between Riley and Penny that is a mainstay in the trilogy. Their collaboration continues in this film and, it can be noted with assurance, Riley is a deft handler of dialogue and emotional expression. She has pace in her lines and in-character attitudes that move the narrative forward. Nadia retains her snarkiness, but also demonstrates a compassion that is underdeveloped in the first three films primarily due to her superficial interpretation of her suburban way of life.

Finally, there is the chemistry between Emma and Mariah (Violet Starr). Though not as pronounced as Nadia/Emma, it is still evident and predictably will grow should they be paired in another Emma film.

As Domme and sub, they are on the doorstep of becoming lovers, but for fans who want to relish that girl/girl action they’ll have to wait for another Emma installment. Always on her screenwriting toes, Jacky has cleverly laid the groundwork for that possibility.

The Sex Scenes

Working our way backwards through the sex scenes, the last one is beyond noteworthy. Penny is paired in a threesome with adult male superstars, Mickey Blue and John Strong.

The action includes anal, a DP, and light bondage. The adorable redhead is a solid veteran and can pull off any BDSM scene, no matter its intensity. What is more important to the story, however, is the reason for the sex. It sets the stage for Emma’s further development as a dominatrix because Evolved pronounces this scene as the final episode of her life as a submissive.

The opening sex scene featuring Nadia and Ray alluded to above, continues the tradition of the rocking hardcore action Riley Reid has cultivated to trademark her brand. Of note is how different their sex scenes are in the series. In the first film, the sex is premarital. In the second and third we see them married with fantasy/fetish play, and now they’re separated and into “hate sex,” as Nadia calls it.

Hilariously, she explains to Emma that it’s the best she’s ever had with more orgasms than ever before.

The result?

Director of Photography Eddie Powell and his compadre Paul Woodcrest capture gonzo elements within feature film sex that offers the best of both porn sub-genres. With a series of “fuck mes” and “oh my gods,” Riley calls on her all-sex roots to steam up the stage. Lots of liquid everywhere (we’re talking spit here) and facial close-ups (an Eddie Powell tradition) mark the dynamics of the every scene.

In fact, all the sex scenes have an important gonzo element that is not always considered appealing to porn viewers of the fairer sex. After the pop shot, each performer runs her fingers through the cum deposited on her body and licks it off with her lips.

This is a departure from the earlier Emma films, but reinforces Jacky St. James’ personal love of gonzo.

Incidentally, other than being finger-licking good, the pop shots are tame compared to what other filmmakers are doing. Facials are avoided to keep the female-friendly and feminist component of Evolved in tact.

Newcomer Violet Starr presents her all-sex talents with Damon Dice and Jay Smooth in two scenes that show why she was cast as Mariah. However, looking beyond her physical talents, the viewer should pay close attention to Violet’s acting. She reveals that once again Jacky St. James can uncover the best performers for her films.

 

Mariah is aloof with Emma early on before becoming angry later when she feels abandoned. Throw in some fawning that Emma sorts through easily and Violet’s performance is good stuff for anyone who appreciates a well-paced and entertaining story.

Truth be told, this twenty-year-old’s acting is fresh and perky and, as the narrator tells us in describing Mariah, “unabashed and unapologetic.”

Cinematic Touches

As usual, a Jacky St. James film is flavored with references and motifs that enliven the drama. Take, for example, the scene with Emma washing Mariah’s back as she sits in the tub. Mariah has just experienced her first real BDSM sex after an education in the psychological perspective of bondage.

The episode is an emotional replay of the bath tub scenes in the original trilogy where the submissive Emma is bathed and caressed by her dominant, Mr. Frederick.

An important motif in Evolved is Emma’s trunk. It contains her bondage paraphernalia and toys. In the opening scene, it is toted up the steps when she moves in with Nadia and down again at story’s end as she moves out. That’s symbolic because Emma’s time as a sub has reached its height and she passing that baton off to Mariah. Emma has metaphorically reestablished her submission before putting it away as she occupies, then leaves, Nadia’s house.

When Mariah rummages through the gear, Emma takes the opportunity to mention that there is a strong psychological component to BDSM.

“It’s not about the pain,” she says, “It’s about exercise and control and anticipation.”

Up until that moment, Mariah’s fetish sex is plastic handcuffs and some spanking that lights up the physical senses as illustrated in her first sex scene with a guy (Damon Dice) she’s picked up. She directs him to please her in her favorite role as a submissive. There is a feminist component on display here, of course, but the BDSM message is underdeveloped, as Emma will reveal to Mariah.

When Emma takes control of Mariah’s BDSM training, new feminist avenues are opened up and we see Jacky’s version of feminism upfront and personal. The feminist touch in porn is as cerebral as it is physical.

Eddie Powell and Paul Woodcrest contribute to this female-centric motif by focusing on whole body shots during the sex so as to not minimize the men. Also, they celebrate female satisfaction with facial close-ups of the women. What’s more, eye contact is vital in this film, recalling the emotionally gripping scene when Emma meets her new Dom in the last installment of the original trilogy.

As for symbolism, notice the St. Andrew’s Cross print on the wall of Mariah’s bedroom. That traditional BDSM symbol is revisited at the end of the film where eye contact once again solidifies relationships.

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In Part Two of this commentary, we’ll briefly consider Jacky St. James’ message presented in Evolved.

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The Resolution of Emma Marx, Part Three: One Precious Moment

by Rich Moreland, April 2016

In this final installment of The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed, we take a look at the sex scenes and how they play into the story.

There is much more within this film than I have room to cover in three brief posts so watch the movie for yourself. It is an rewarding experience.

Watermarked photos are courtesy of New Sensations/Digital Sin, the others are appropriately credited.

TheSubmissionOfEmmaMarx03Exposed_front

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Sex scenes are the bait that keeps the porn fan fishing.

Often presented formulaically, they drive a film’s reason to be. However, when and where the sexual interludes occur and what meaning is attached to them is not always clear.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA Jacky St. James feature is the exception. Her scripts dictate where the titillation is placed and why the characters are having sex.

Keeping this in mind, Exposed, the final drama of the Emma Marx trilogy, is textbook Jacky. There are five scenes (a deviation from porn’s usual four) and each is effectively worked into the plotline. The result presents sex that operates on more than one level.

Of interest, are the following.

Call the Babysitter?

The Nadia and Ray scene repeats the set up Jacky presented in the initial Emma Marx. Not yet married at the time, they have sex at the film’s beginning. In the next Emma installment, Boundaries, they go at each other once again as the story opens. In Exposed Jacky’s stays with the pattern and Nadia and Ray complete their own personal trilogy.

The couple has progressed to role-playing to keep their marriage interesting, or at least modestly so since their carnality is mired in the middle-class conventionality Nadia holds over Ray. They hinted at a bondage fantasy in Boundaries, now they’re interested in the illicit pickup.

Nadia and Ray have their fantasy while the wedding plays on

Nadia and Ray have their fantasy while the wedding plays on

Nadia is on a balcony with drink in hand. Background music suggests a social gathering. Ray comes up to her and they chat about the ongoing wedding celebration. Ray tries to put the moves on Nadia and she, insulted, splatters his face with her drink.

The scene quickly shifts to a bedroom all done up appropriately in vanilla white with a touch of gray. Only this time, the shades of their fetish sex seen in Boundaries are tossed aside like so many pillows.

The sex is top-of-the-line Riley Reid and her acting chops kick in when she says, “Wait, do you think we’d better call the babysitter?”

What’s this? A baby?

Ray assures her the sitter is “good all day” and that she, Nadia, is “ruining the fantasy.”

Mom reverts to character, telling her pick-up lover “this is just a one-time thing.” Later Nadia has to remind Ray to stay with the program when baby concerns come up again.

Their sex scene is the perfect transition into the third Emma Marx. Nadia and Ray are suburban bourgeoisie, of course, but deserve some credit for their mutual fantasy . . . though laughing about Ray’s getting off on the “horny girl at the wedding” remains stilted. Unlike Emma, their imaginations are play acting and unconnected to their reality.

Barely a Trace Left

Later Nadia phones Emma to share her sexual escapade as if it were purchased online. “It’s our new thing, just like you guys are playing with your whips and chains,” Nadia says.

Her affectation is cheesiness extraordinaire. Their role-playing romps are little more than larks, here today, something new tomorrow. This latest version plays within the bounds of what is passable as illicit sex. Sadly, throughout the Emma series Nadia never quite grasps that Emma and Frederick have a lifestyle, not “new thing.”

Incidentally, Nadia, dressed in a postcard version of a French maid’s outfit, later skypes Emma. She’s ready for role play night, she announces, but she’s not happy. Nadia doesn’t like the getup, too sleazy. It’s not her, she declares, because she spends all day being his maid anyway. It’s a mask that doesn’t do much for her sexually.

Nadia skypes Emma to decry her maid fantasy

Nadia uses skype to decry her pre-planned maid fantasy

The real difficulty with Nadia is that her fantasies are scripted, not spontaneous. She comments that the outfit is “supposed to be me pretending to be someone else.” But her remark induces Emma to reflect on her relationship with Frederick.

“The truth was I felt more myself as his sub than I ever did as Emma. There was barely a trace of her left anymore.”

Emma’s revelation leads Jacky St. James to reveal the potential shortcoming of fantasy. Sometimes, it only goes one way. Emma admits that at least Ray shares his with Nadia. Mr. Frederick, on the other hand, is another story.

Rebecca to Joelle

Emma broaches the subject with her Dom and learns about Audrina, an uncomfortable episode that damaged his relationship with his former sub.

Two comments on this sex scene. First is Samantha Hayes who plays Rebecca. She is gorgeous with a smutty vigor that is as good as it gets. Second is the disastrous tone of this dalliance which proves sex in porn can carry a message.

Tugging on the collar keeps Rebecca excied Photo by Eddie Powell

Tugging on the collar keeps Rebecca excited
Photo by Eddie Powell

Among other BDSM elements, there is light flogging and a collar and leash. Rebecca is taken to erotic heights while a hogtied Audrina, who set up this scenario, looks on unable to participate.

Frederick has to command Audrina’s attention when she lowers her gaze, telling her to keep watching. She obeys, but sadness overwhelms her as the sex gets heavier. This “gift” she’s given him, which ironically began as her fantasy, has changed their relationship.

Audrina looks on Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Audrina looks on
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

In an effort to deter Emma from a similar mistake, Frederick lets her in on why his fantasies are not important to their relationship. As described in Part Two of this analysis, the scene opens up the remarkable talents of cinematographer Eddie Powell. Almost drowned in shadows, it’s shot in their bathroom, Emma submerged in soapy bubbles with Frederick sitting on the edge of the tub.

As the camera pulls away, Frederick, steeped in regret, drops his eyes, explaining that Audrina wanted to return to “a more traditional relationship.” Emma’s face is blanketed with alternating layers of determination and doubt. It’s a lesson in trust, problematic self-esteem, and implied jealousy. Though reality, illustrated by the looming darkness on both sides of the screen, is squeezing them, Emma moves forward with her plan.

The camera looks in from the doorway. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Reality and a plan that is risky
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Ignoring Audrina’s ill-fated mistake, Emma orchestrates the sex scene that she perceives to be her Dom’s fantasy. Joelle is introduced to Frederick and unlike Audrina, Emma will participate in their fun. Within the narrative, the threesome sex carries a transition message as illustrated by the doorway into the rec room that offers up the new play partner.

Joelle waits in the background as Emma's gift for Frederick

Joelle waits in the background as Emma’s gift for Frederick

Aidra Fox is Joelle. Like Samantha Hayes, this brunette hottie has superstar written all over her. The show is fantastic with the twenty-year-old sporting a bondage outfit that shouts out the sassy eroticism that is Aidra’s trademark. In this reviewer’s opinion, her energy makes this scene the best of the film.

The scene with Joelle. From L to R, Richie Calhoun, Penny Pax, and Aidra Fox.

Michael

As Exposed winds down, Emma needs to reconnect with her real love, her fetish. Finding a new mentor whose compassion guides her reawakening, Emma explores a relationship with him she identifies as “therapeutic.”

“I paid him to dominate me a few hours every week, easing me back into that familiar world”

Among dark shadows, Emma enters a new doorway, the open gate of a bondage cage. Michael, in suit and tie, closes it behind her and binds her arms. Emma is now secure in the world she loves. Various shots of her yielding to his intense BDSM play follow.  Emma faces her greatest challenge, conflating a partner she is just getting to know with her lust for the fetish.

“I was determined to overcome the fear of the pain of trusting someone new, no matter how intense the situation or the pain.”

Michael's tenderness nurtures Emma's transition at film's end

Michael’s tenderness nurtures Emma’s transition at film’s end

Ryan Driller’s warmth and compassion demonstrates why he is the perfect choice for Michael’s role. Pay close attention to their eye contact moment, a deftly placed mechanism to rebuild trust. In fact, psychologists say that holding a gaze with another person releases emotion and becomes a precursor to love.

The pendant and its memory Photo courtesy of Penny Pax

The pendant and its memory
Photo courtesy of Penny Pax

The film’s defining moment centers on its denouement. Emma removes the pendant with its W and the metaphorical mask it represents. She is now prepared to give herself to Michael, a significant step that moves her from the past into the present. In so many words, Emma’s world is now turned upside down, just as the W now is free to bec0me an M, in all ways that are good.

An older, wiser Emma tells us she is now “the strong courageous woman who is no longer living the socially acceptable existence, but one who has found her truth, [becoming] the person she was always meant to be.”

Using Exposed as her dramatic vehicle, Jacky St. James illustrates that playing roles is part of being human no matter our lifestyle (humorous scenes of Nadia and Ray enjoying their own ephemeral fantasy moments are shown at the end of the film).  But when the masks that define our personas are stripped away, the heart is unfettered, no longer a prisoner of its past or shackled in the present. The real self is bared for all to see in its delicious liberation.

As Emma says, “your only thought is of this one precious moment and you’re left beautifully, perfectly, comfortably exposed.”

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A special congrats is due to the pair of actresses whose performances place the Emma Marx series in adult film’s library of legendary cinema.

Riely Reid and Penny Pax own all the bragging rights they can muster!

Riely Reid and Penny Pax own all the bragging rights they can muster!

Also, kudos are in order for two alluring porn princesses, Aidra Fox and Samantha Hayes. Their erotic shows heighten the impact of Exposed.

Aidra Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Aidra
Photo by Eddie Powell

 

Samantha Hayes Photo by Eddie Powell

Samantha
Photo by Eddie Powell

 

Of course, the hardworking crew that forged the Emma Marx trilogy into a porn classic deserves accolades!

Jacky, Paul, and Eddie Photo by Jeff Koga

Jacky, Paul, and Eddie
Photo by Jeff Koga

 

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Some of the crew and cast associated with this film can be followed on twitter.

Here are their accounts: @jackystjames@mreddiepowell,  @pennypax@OfficialAidraF, @RileyReidx3@SamanthaHayesxo, @ryandriller

 

 

 

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The Resolution of Emma Marx, Part Two: Transitions

by Rich Moreland, March 2016

This is Part Two of my review/analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed. Here we take a look at the film’s imagery.

Photos courtesy of New Sensations/Digital Sin are watermarked, all others are appropriately credited.


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“In life we sometimes play roles to mask who we really are, to hide our fears, protect our hearts.”

The above voice over opens the third installment of the Emma Marx series and defines what this movie is all about: love, devastation, and spiritual rebirth.

Throughout the Emma Marx saga, Jacky St. James shapes a meek college student with a mere flicker of sexual awareness into a fully-formed independent woman. With Exposed the feminist director completes Emma’s emotional resurrection and closes the door on a film trilogy worthy of academic study.

Emma’s Mask

Jacky St. James spins this final chapter around images–masks, books, shadows, and doorways–that are used strategically to move the narrative forward. They represent Emma’s transition and rebirth.

Emma and her dominant, the wealthy Mr. Frederick, have moved across the country into a house built of stone immersed in a luscious garden: the perfect Eden for the perfect BDSM relationship.

Setting up for a garden scene

Setting up for a garden scene

The times are bright and sunny until the day Emma quietly walks away. At that moment, clouds hang over the house and the foliage is lifeless, dry, and brown.

As mentioned earlier, Emma’s mask is the focal point of the opening credits. She sits before a large mirror illuminated by a row of lights similar to those in a backstage dressing room. Displayed are a collection of make-up brushes. Her auburn hair is hidden beneath jet black, saddened eyes heavy with mascara are paired with scarlet red lips. She has the mien of a hooker, war painted and headed out to tough streets where services are fast and cheap.

What is happening here?  Is Emma brushing over her pain to conceal her real self, metaphorically beaten into submission by forces she can’t control? Why does she remove the necklace and pendant, another sort of mask, that Frederick gives her in Boundaries, the second film? Has Emma changed?

Indeed. She is confronting redefinition in a search for the mature Emma who can holster her misery and open up to a new relationship.

Without a reawakening, Emma Marx remains as dead as the plants and shrubs she now leaves behind.

Books

Emma and Frederick love their books. Reading hers in the kitchen while he cooks, Emma says, “Frederick and I had fallen into such a beautiful pattern. Not the kind that couples dread, but the kind that really works.”

As she does over the entire series, Jacky St. James contrasts Emma’s fetish-driven romance with her sister’s marriage that seems, at times, annoying to both Nadia and Ray.

Jacky setting up the kitchen scene Photo by Jeff Koga

Jacky discussing up the kitchen scene with Penny and Richie Calhoun
Photo by Jeff Koga

Books are markers of acceptability, acting as props or facades to help Emma and Frederick adjust to the ordinary when their fetish is put away.

“Downshifting to conventional living at times proved challenging,” Emma tells us when she and Frederick play at being suburbanites. Not surprising, no BDSM couple lives the life twenty-four seven. Notice the scene where Emma tries to entice Frederick into some BDSM fun on one of their “days off.” He sits in the den reading, totally ignoring her. Frustrated, she storms out.

EMMA_MARX_EXPOSED_RICHIE CALHOUN_PENNY PAX

After leaving Atlanta, Emma returns to live with Nadia and Ray where books show up again to serve another purpose.

In the scene where Nadia brings Emma a plate of brownies in an attempt to console her, the setting is morose. With book in hand, Emma sits in a window well on a rainy day. Reading is her retreat, her effort to suppress or mask her pain while comforting the memory of what she once had.

Shadows and Windows

To touch upon all the shadowing employed in this film is a study in itself. Eddie Powell and his cohort, Paul Woodcrest, use light and dark in ways that are complex, sometimes despondent, and often foreboding. They rely on doorways and windows to complement their message, adding a vital element to Emma’s story. Here are a couple of artistic moments.

The camera looks in from the doorway. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The camera looks in from the doorway.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

In a scene referred to earlier, Frederick tells Emma about Rebecca and Audrina. Emma is in her bath, relaxing in soapy water while he massages her leg. The bathroom is shot from outside its doorway with the shadows creating the effect of a time portal.

Later when Emma gets the phone call, she is lying in bed positioned to the right side of the screen with a heavy shadow subduing the left. The light that penetrates the scene comes from the left framing Emma’s metaphorical death while offering the hope of resurrection.

Shadows dominate the rest of the movie. In a dramatic shot that screams of isolation, Emma sits alone in front of a window. Hazy illumination filters in, holding back the darkness that is pressing in on her. Though the scene is melancholic, the light is a beacon, reminding the viewer of the celestial sublimity and promise that graced the films of Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Finally, shadows define the bondage scenes when Emma encounters her new dominant, Michael Sullivan. There is no airiness in these shots, only chains and cages. The shadows of the bars on Emma’s body as she is being offered the terrifying light of liberation speaks volumes.

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Emma’s darkest fantasies of real pain are now upfront and personal. By the way, for seasoned BDSMers, this portion of the film will carry high appeal.

The wig and lipstick, in the cage. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Eventually, when Emma must face her truth, Jacky St. James positions Michael and Emma in front of a window. Like the bathroom scene mentioned above, Eddie Powell’s camera is outside a doorway looking in. The submissive and her Dom are sitting, she facing forward, he in profile gazing at her. Both are silhouetted by the stark contrast of light and dark. As Emma gently turns toward him, a tear slowly makes its way down her cheek. The camera moves in, illuminating Michael as he wipes away the sadness from a now visible Emma.

The shadows are retreat. Emma is exposed.

As I went through the film, I thought about its effect on the viewer had it been shot in black and white. Emma is squeezed, or crushed, by circumstances around her until her breakaway moment occurs. The heavy shadowing used by Eddie Powell and Paul Woodcrest illustrates this theme and carries a message of sharp contrasts. Perhaps the use of low-key lighting may have been more dramatic in black and white. Just a thought.

Doorways

Finally, what of the doorways? They are everywhere: the arch in the garden, the bathroom doorway we peek through each time Emma takes down the clothes Frederick has picked out for her, the one that lets us see into her bedroom when she removes her final outfit, and the doorway Emma is tied to when Nadia calls her early in the film. It is closed because at this point there is no need for a transition into renewal.

The closed doorways in a behind the scenes shot. Photo courtesy of New Sensations/Digital Sind

The closed doorways in a behind the scenes shot.

Incidentally, Nadia’s scenes lack meaningful thresholds. They are present, but never visibly used, never hinting of transition.

When her call to Emma puts her off, Nadia walks away to the right leaving the viewer looking straight into two exits she did not take. When Ray brings home the bouquet and argues with his wife, the double doors of their home are in the background. We know he probably used them, but we do not see it. On the other hand, when Emma arrives at their house, we actually witness her open and walk through those same doors.

In Nadia’s part of the story, physical entrances are ignored. The only portals she uses are electronic and impersonal like her phone and laptop. Jacky St. James reminds us that Nadia represents the limitations many women in our modern times feel. A young suburban mom ageing in her marriage, Nadia experiences little, if any, significant personal growth or transition, only grudging accommodation.

By contrast, physical passages are Emma’s gateways, placed artfully throughout the film to highlight each new “exposure.”

*           *          *

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA reflective comment on Penny Pax is due.

The demands made of this self-identified bondage enthusiast to go from girl to woman and endure the pain of her rebirth is certainly not the kind of acting common in adult entertainment. Her range of emotion alone is extraordinary. Don’t forget, of course, that Jacky St. James’ talent brings Emma to the screen, but it is Penny who brings her to life.

And, as I’ve said before, it is hard to believe Exposed is a porn film unless we consider how the sex scenes define the narrative, the subject of our concluding look at this enduring trilogy.

 

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Tommy Pistol on The St. James Way

by Rich Moreland, April 2015

Tommy Pistol is among the elite male performers in adult film, having entered the business in 2003 through his friendship with producer/director Joanna Angel. Today, he defines what stardom means for men who make porn a career. The former stage comedian is smart, artistic, and an exceptional actor in a business that does not reward such skills as it should.

We chatted in Las Vegas the day before Tommy was to host the 2015 AVN Awards show. Here is a portion of our conversation.

Tommy Pistol Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

Tommy Pistol
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse

A Little Too Close to Home

I bring up Jacky St. James.

“Amazing” is Tommy immediate assessment of Jacky’s work. “She writes her scripts and goes about it [directing] in a way that a male is not going to do.” Best of all, Jacky is bringing needed change to the industry, he adds.

The New Sensations film maker is hands-on, taking her time with the talent to explain what she wants. It’s a personal touch actors can sense. “She talks to people,” Tommy says, creating a comfortable atmosphere that transforms written words into artistic expression.

Verisimilitude is Jacky’s specialty. She “hits home” with scripts that are “driven by actual events . . . things that could happen” to anyone, Tommy explains.

“She’ll put me in certain situations I can actually relate to.” His acting skills flourish and the results are personally pleasing.

“I really appreciate the scripts that I’ve gotten with her.”

Tommy highlights The Temptation of Eve, a movie he shot with Remy LaCroix and Xander Crovus, as illustrative of what filming for Jackie means.

The script called for his character to be “the provider, the working man” in his relationship with Eve, Remy’s character, but he was unemployed. “There were scenes where we had conversations of me feeling like a failure [with Remy] supporting me no matter what,” Tommy recalls.

“I was at a point in my [personal] life where things were a little rough,” Tommy continues, so “the scene hit a little too close home.” Jacky was sensitive to his situation. “I really appreciated the way she went about everything,” he says. “It was awesome.”

The native New Yorker also has kudos for Remy.

Tmmy and Remy on the set of The Temptation of Eve. Photo by Jeff Koga

Tommy and Remy on the set of The Temptation of Eve.
Photo by Jeff Koga

“She was amazing, very professional, and knew her lines . . . We did really well together,” he remembers.

Remy’s humor and graciousness made being on the set a pleasure. Tommy adds a further compliment: the diminutive superstar “knows what she is doing and loves sex.”

Tommy Pistol also offers the film high praise. “It was a lovely thing to see it [the story] come full circle and to see how Remy stayed with the man she loved” despite being tempted to give in to Xander’s character.

“I was really glad that movie got as much press and awards that it did. It totally deserved it.”

Trading off Jokes

Jacky’s professional partner is cinematographer/director Eddie Powell. What is it like working with him?

Eddie keeps the atmosphere upbeat. He wants his talent to be happy, relaxed, and at the end of the day leave the set with a smile. Friendliness is the Arizona native’s forte.

In fact, Eddie “makes life almost too easy [because] he’s very tuned in and knows what he’s doing,” Tommy declares. “He’s not wasting anybody’s time.”

Unlike the close-ups of gonzo’s piston shots and oral workouts, romance movies require focusing on facial expression. It’s tricky business for those performers who are in porn for reasons that don’t emphasize roleplaying.

Does Tommy notice the camera work in those intimate moments?

“I do,” he responds, noting that performers are doing something not previously seen, having “real emotions.” Might the industry be moving in new directions with these theatrics? Tommy is inclined to think so. “People are going to adapt to that [emotions in porn] a lot more.”

Jacky and Eddie ready to shoot. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Jacky and Eddie ready to shoot.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The former singer believes that the St. James/Powell approach has “opened up a whole new door to selling movies.” Jacky and Eddie are “totally knocking it out of the park . . . making something beautiful.”

Are they edging closer to mainstream as film makers?

Absolutely, Tommy says. “They’ve got full scripts, they’re shot beautifully, [and are] well-lit [and] edited. The dialogue is always great.” With expanded scripts and a more soft-core feel, Tommy believes, the duo is flirting with the independent film market.

“Keep what pays the bills, but branch out. They have such talent; it would a shame if they didn’t expand.”

To Shine Light

Before wrapping up, Tommy wants everyone to know that he and his girlfriend, Nikki Swarm, are putting together a documentary, The Unbearable Lightness of Boning. “A very positive piece about who we are,” Tommy says, the film is a look at today’s adult business with the conversations restricted to “people on the inside talking to people on the inside.”

Tommy and Nikki in a fun moment. Photo courtesy of Nikki Swarm

Tommy and Nikki in a fun moment.
Photo courtesy of Nikki Swarm

Adult film professionals are “normal” and “comfortable with their sexuality,” he says. “We’re doing this [performing in porn] because we love it.”

“The goal is shine light on the industry and hopefully change some minds because this country is very close-minded.”

As the author of a book with a similar purpose, I could not agree more.

Follow Tommy at TommyPistol.com and on twitter @tommypistol. Nikki can be found on twitter @nikkiswarm.

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Why Can’t We Have It All? Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

Atop the long dining room table, a masked Emma Marx is crawling toward Mr. Frederick seated at the opposite end. In front of his place setting is a bowl of milk. Emma laps away like a pet.

Emma ready to obey Mr. Frederick. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Emma ready to obey Mr. Frederick.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The scene quickly shifts to a bedroom. Emma is bound to the headboard with Mr. Frederick behind her, caressing and fondling his submissive.

Emma explains. “Mr Frederick and I role-play a variety of different scenarios all the time. Is there any room to blur that line between fantasy and reality?”

Mr. Frederick has his way with Emma. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Mr. Frederick has his way with Emma.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Trust

Early in the film Emma mentions “normal” in describing the difference between her sexuality and her sister Nadia’s. But there are gradations of “normal” that for Emma become tests of her willingness to break barriers and abandon shame to find out who she really is. Questions remain. Does self-discovery mean extending her vulnerability beyond the safety of her dominant-submissive relationship with Mr. Frederick? And, how do blurred lines between fantasy and reality redefine “normal?”

A bit of tension rises. Emma is indeed special, Mr. Frederick implies, because her sexuality excites him. He tells her she is always evolving, there is “no stopping point” in her sexual growth. Though Emma admits doing things that titillate her, she insists an exit strategy always exists if the pressure to overstep boundaries intensifies. After all, it’s part of the contract.

Seductively, he pushes forward. “There ‘s room to play.” Steeped in uncertainty, she replies, “I don’t want to play.” He kisses her. “Sure you do.”

Does Emma push into new horizons or retreat to Nadia’s lines in the sand?

Whatever her decision, the central theme of Boundaries shifts to trust. Emma learns that “normal” is fluid, what was “bizarre” yesterday, is just another talking point today. Her willingness to give up control while contradictorily retaining it throws obstacles in her path that will challenge her self-esteem. How Emma perceives her connections with Mr. Frederick and how subsequent events feed into her overactive imagination provide valuable lessons in trust.

Enter Audrina

Emma prepares to write another note. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga.

Emma prepares to write another note.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga.

As a result of her confessed fantasy about Shane, Emma is instructed to play a game of seduction with her co-worker by writing him notes. It has a sophomoric overtone that creates a degree of embarrassment for Emma. To get her instructions, she must report to Mr. Frederick’s second floor office because he dictates each message. After writing a final provocative note, Emma descends the stairs. Without warning, she says, “something unexpected happened, shaking me to the core.”

A girl named Audrina (Sara Luvv) is waiting to see Mr. Frederick.

“Audrina was his first real sub who ended the relationship when the lifestyle became too complicated for her,” Emma remembers. “Why was she here? She said he was expecting her. He never told me how beautiful she was, feminine and wholesome, the perfect physical embodiment of a sub.”

Brushing aside Shane’s now predictable interest in her, Emma decides to investigate. She goes back upstairs and quietly turns toward Mr. Frederick’s office. Incidentally, down the hall opposite from his office is a closed door with a green covering. Thoughts of Behind the Green Door, the Michell Brothers 1970s film about a naïve girl who is introduced into a BDSM sex club, are inescapable. Emma ignores it; she’s already been there and knows Audrina has also.

Audrina with Mr. Frederick in Emma's imagination. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Audrina with Mr. Frederick in Emma’s imagination.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

As she approaches, Emma sees Mr. Frederick talking with his old sub; neither of them notices her. Admitting that she “filled in answers where there were gaps,” Emma envisions them at play in cinematic flashes that are classic Eddie Powell. Thus, Emma’s imagination becomes the demon that possesses her. She confesses it “began to poison me with pictures and images and experiences that I created between them.”

Emma Marx represents the literary everyman/everywoman who suffers from anxiety, doubt, and irrationality. Emotional reasoning is not an intellectual argument and she knows the difference, but her fears and weaknesses take over. Emma confesses the images were “so vivid and raw and painful that I began to treat them as truth.”

So the downward spiral that St. James poignantly captures in the bathtub scene begins. Covered in beads of water, a desperate Emma sits alone trying to cleanse her thoughts while sinking deeper into despair. She is like a heroin addict trying to wash away the drug that torments her or an anguished soul crushed by suicidal thoughts.

Eddie Powell’s camera work in canvassing Emma’s agony is superb.

A word here is due about Penny Pax. Her emotional angst in this scene is as real as it gets, reflecting acting skills that place her on the door step of mainstream Hollywood.

A chasm now separates Emma and Mr. Frederick. They have ceased communicate and he becomes emotionally distant. Emma accepts the blame. “The more worried I became, the more I failed him.”

The tension thickens. He begins to ignore her in a passive-aggressive manner. “It was a form of silent treatment,” Emma says, that increased her pain.

After refusing to sleep with her, Mr. Frederick passes a forlorn Emma in the hallway and takes that dogleg, vanishing.

Teetering on the abyss, Emma at last faces her self-created emotional morass. “I realized I had fallen into a masochistic relationship with myself, one that I desperately wanted out of.”

Emma under the glare of her demons. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Emma under the glare of her demons.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

When Mr. Frederick disappears for periods of time, she says, “I was convinced I’d lost him.”

Excuse Me for Trying

A visit with her sister is in order.

Of course, with Nadia it’s all about her. As Emma sits politely, Nadia arranges fake flowers and announces that she is pregnant: conventional happiness in a conventional relationship. Emma’s emotions are muted and distant.

But an epiphany is in the offing.

An annoyed Nadia wants to be congratulated, instead Emma brings up her sister’s concern over Ray’s sexual suggestions. Without meaning to offend, she mildly jokes, “Is this what he meant by having a three-some?”

“Very funny, Emma. When people are having problems with their relationship they do whatever they can to fix it. Guess what? I did, so excuse me for trying!”

Nadia resorts to the oldest of maneuvers, pregnancy. A new arrival will always gloss over problems and solidify an unsteady marriage, right?

A bystander in Nadia’s universe, Emma gives her sister credit for gumption and resolves she must likewise act. This is the moment the film has been waiting for. Emma’s growth is in her hands, not Mr. Frederick’s. Only she can solve her inner turmoil.

“I needed to fight for the only thing that ever made sense to me.”

A dungeon of redemption? Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

A dungeon of redemption?
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

There is a lot more to come in this film. Emma secretly follows Mr. Frederick to a duplex where she discovers a BDSM dungeon, a reticent Shane stills flirts a bit with a woman he really likes, and a pendant embossed with a “W” becomes a territorial marker of striking intimacy. Personal arrangements become fluid and Emma takes further steps in expanding her sexual universe.

By the way, there is one more sex scene and it is dynamic. Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell bulldoze their own boundaries to reinterpret what an erotic movie can do. Without giving away details of the scene, suffice it to say that a St. James trademark shows up again: candles. There are two sets of three, one for Emma and one for Nadia, whose role in this film is to act as its Greek Chorus. If Mr. Frederick is a guide for Emma, so is Nadia in her own unintended way. But the final actions and decisions are not those of Emma’s lover or her sister, and that is the magic of The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries.

Blurred, Pushed, and Crossed

Too often erotic movies designed for couples celebrate the romance and not the relationship, the exploration and not the day-to-day task of being a partner. As a result, the genre unfortunately discounts the emotional unfolding that redefines a relationship as it develops.

Ray and Nadia. Phtot courtesy of Jacky St. James

Ray and Nadia.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Boundaries gives the viewer two versions of certitude. First there is Nadia: manipulation disguised as taking a standing. Men are deceiving at worse and filled with tomfoolery at best. She has to one-up them to keep control.

The inescapable question is why she waits three months to reveal her pregnancy. Did she have that three-way Ray touted? Unlikely, but we don’t know. We only have her tasteless vegan food and her fake flowers.

Then there is Emma. Trust and control are interwoven into the same exploratory fabric and, as a mother would test her baby, Emma must throw herself into the water and survive. The proud submissive becomes empowered by giving up control, though her teacher and lover is never far away.

The story is not quite that simple, of course. Boundaries hints of a delicate freedom that is as alternative as Emma’s lifestyle. St. James places appropriate prints of butterflies in Emma’s bedroom, reminders of a more innocent sexual age when a blind man sang, “Butterflies are free.”

But this psychedelic version of freedom is fragility. Psychologist Erich Fromm posits freedom’s contradictions in his book “Escape from Freedom.” To be free is not always desirable and a return to control guarantees a security that negates escape. On the other hand, when escape is replaced with an openness to seek and develop positive relationships, growth occurs.

Is Emma completing the circle from fragility to empowerment?

Is she capable of moving forward without Mr. Frederick or can she only expand her world with his support?

We’ll depart with Emma’s words.

“Some people prefer the security and comfort of doing only what is expected . . . and that’s ok. But for others, boundaries are meant to be blurred, pushed, and crossed because . . . life isn’t about being comfortable, it’s about being free.”

But is that really the case?

Watch this thought-provoking and groundbreaking film and see for yourself.

*          *          *

A final thought about this film. Boundaries is a notable achievement because it explores adult film as literature. A complex story is told through a voice over with Emma as narrator. But actual voice is that of a trained actress: Jacky St. James. Clearly, the director wants to make sure all words are precisely placed so that the story challenges the thoughtful mind.

Boundaries is indeed literary and worthy of praise for that feat alone. However, I’m not sure the ending is as neatly packaged as it seems . . . and that is the mark of an intriguing script and superb directing.

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Why Can’t We Have It All? Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2015

tumblr_inline_niyv8fWLMv1qkrmi0

The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries is Jacky St. James’ sequel to her award-winning masterpiece, The Submission of Emma Marx which I had the pleasure to review in three parts here in August 2013. With cinematic partner Eddie Powell, St. James now boldly continues Emma’s odyssey.

Before moving into the film, it’s worth mentioning that sequels are financial risks. Though supportive of her project, New Sensations President Scott Taylor was cautious. “Sequels often flop.” St. James remembers him telling her. “They don’t sell as well. They seldom find that magic of the original.”

Perhaps, but in the case of Boundaries it is every bit as good as it’s older sister and I encourage watching the first film before enjoying the second. If not, the viewer will feel like a late arriving movie goer who takes a seat half way through a story with no understanding of its origin.

Boundaries‘ success is complemented by the reassembled cast. Penny Pax reprises her role as Emma, as does Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick. Though porn flirts with the edges of mainstream Hollywood, both players remind us its acting can be every bit as good. Pax is learning her trade, building a resume that separates her from adult’s usual “just give me the sex and don’t ask if I can act.” No doubt St. James’ directing is a crucial factor in the diminutive model’s professional evolution.

Jacky, Penny and Richie.  Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Jacky, Penny and Richie.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Riley Reid is perfect as Nadia and Van Wylde likewise as Ray. Their roles are not an easy sell because Reid and Wylde must come across as a vanilla “cookie cutter suburban couple” snug and homey in their conventionality.

In making the film, St. James confesses that “staying true to Emma and her sexual journey” could not be compromised. The result is Emma as a complexity that intrigues the viewer on various levels. I can imagine that her shadow seductively passes through the corridors of St. James’ mind just as she does in the film’s opening credits and its denouement.

Conceding that her “screenplays hold very deeply personal connections to experiences I’ve had or people I’ve known,” Jacky St. James faces a near impossible task with Boundaries, write a flawless script that moves Emma along bit by bit while confronting the viewer with unsettling issues. The question that captures the film’s raison d’être and St. James’ good storytelling is simple: Does sexual and emotional turbulence reach a satisfactory resolution that spells the end of the story?

Or, is there room for Emma redux, part three?

One thing is evident, Boundaries’ tightly written script is worthy of industry accolades. Indeed, it is as close to impeccable as an adult film can be.

Part of News Sensation’s Erotic Stories line, this second Emma Marx falls into the couples porn genre, yet it is sexually groundbreaking for a date night film. The carnal scenes are integral to the story; nothing is thrown together or gratuitous. Some of the action, however, directly challenges the formula for what the industry touts as comfortable for lovers. But more on that later.

Just Drawing Lines

Emma Marx and Nadia are sisters whose relationship is close considering their sexualities are anything but. In the first Emma Marx, Nadia and Ray “silently judged” Emma’s fetishes. Now they are outspoken, letting her know of “their aversion” to BDSM.

Is this progress?

Over a bland vegan dinner she believes is suitable for everyone (one size fits all, if you will), Nadia announces she doesn’t understand why being tied up and spanked is not abuse. Deprecating BDSM kinkiness with her sappy smile and haughty attitude, Nadia tacitly reinforces her normalized sexuality in a way only modern moralists can appreciate. When Emma mentions consensuality, she is ignored. In an amusing moment, Ray condemns suspension and cattle prods while disgustingly holding a fork with two pieces of the vegan mystery food hanging from it. The real torture in this scene is inflicted on Ray.

But, apparently the happily married duo is not opposed to a little experimentation.

With the superficiality of a Valley Girl who thinks a sip of wine makes her a connoisseur, Nadia announces to Emma the next morning, “Ray and I totally tried BDSM last night and I’m totally a sub.” Kudos to Emma for respecting her sister’s asinine interpretation of sexual enlightenment.

Jacky setting up the scene for Riley and Van Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky setting up the scene for Riley and Van. Blurred flowers framed on the wall.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Here’s the story. In the film’s first sex scene with Nadia and Ray, a blindfold is about as deviant as they get. (She does ask him if she can call him “master” in a laughable attempt to identify with what Emma authenticates.) Having now seen the light while not being able to see, Nadia tells Emma she “completely” understands what a BDSM relationship is all about.

Incidentally, the sex is classic Riley Reid, who is an industry gem. Considering it’s a script-driven vanilla encounter–necessary to set up Emma’s future sexual experimentation–Riley’s smile, spirit, and energy carry the show. On the wall bedside the bed is a black and white photo of two flowers that lord over the sex in front of it. The flowers are blurred, an important image for this film.

Blindfold in place, ready to shoot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Blindfold in place, ready to shoot.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Later when the sisters are in the gym, understanding suddenly vanishes. As she gives the elliptical machine a workout, Nadia is clearly irritated. “Trying BDSM was the biggest mistake of my life.” Now Ray wants a three-some, but Nadia slammed the door on that idea, proclaiming that men put women in “sexual situations solely for their benefit.”

Emma’s hint that Ray might want to expand Nadia’s horizons falls flat. “Men do that,” a fired up Nadia says. “They pretend it’s all about you and it’s really about them. They wait for the moment you say, ‘yes,’ and they push your limits.” Annoyed with Emma’s suggestion that Ray wouldn’t cheat, Nadia digs in. “I’m just drawing lines.”

But doesn’t everybody?

Open to New Experiences

Nadia’s indignation spurs Emma to confront her own crisis. Mr. Frederick has presented her with a new contract which she reads line by line in an earlier scene. It is a quest for “Why can’t we have it all?”

Preparing for an office shot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Preparing for an office shot.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

When she reviews the contract, equality and symmetry are visually emphasized to reflect the supposed state of their relationship. Emma is sitting on a long desk with her legs extended to a Mr. Frederick who massages her feet. The shot has perfect balance regarding the desk: two half full glasses of red wine on each end and a pair of tall plants in floor urns on either side of it. In the background, French doors halve the scene like the entrance into a Georgian manor.

As this segment progresses, brief glimpses of Emma and Mr. Frederick’s encounters are revealed as she goes through the contract.

In one, symmetry is repeated when she talks about training. It is a shot of interior French doors at the end of a hall. Framed prints are on opposite walls to balance the scene. Mr. Frederick leads Emma from left to right across the screen, moving her symbolically from an old definition of her sexuality to a new experience.

“I will not just play the role,” Emma says in reference to being a submissive, “I will become the role.”

When she is bound to pillars in the kitchen a la Fay Wray in King Kong, Emma says, “my body is his to do with as he pleases.”

The Kitchen Pillars. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The Kitchen Pillars with Eddie Powell in the background.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Incidentally, in the provision having to do with enjoying her orgasms, there is a quick flash of them having sex in a hallway that doglegs to the right, an image that is revisited later.

When Emma gets to the item that involves having sex with other people, she balks. Tense and unsure, she asks if he is bored with her, that fatal relationship blow everyone fears.

This moment sets up the rest of the film. Mr. Frederick orders her to stand up, face him, and masturbate while thinking about someone who sexually arouses her. With eyes closed, she confesses it is Shane (Logan Pierce), the new guy in the office. Emma loses her bearings in a rush of endorphins and says, “I wonder if he’d like me.” Projecting her sexual preferences into Shane, Emma says he’d be down and dirty and insist on violating her with anal.

Logan Pierce Photo courtesy of 101Modeling.

Logan Pierce
Photo courtesy of 101Modeling.

It’s the opening Frederick wants and sex scene number two begins with anal its focal point, a clear break from the couples’ porn formula. To emphasize this shift, Eddie Powell moves his camera over Richie Calhoun’s shoulder to get the standard male masturbatory gonzo shot of a kneeling Penny Pax, mouth at work and adoring eyes looking upward.

St. James and Powell have a dual purpose with this scene. For story purposes, Emma’s exploration is picking up steam, but on another level, they are forging a new path in romance porn. The bondage remains light, adhering to the submission pornography genre popular in today’s market, but the sex is edgier.

Several questions in the film are present here. Mr. Frederick claims he is turned on by Emma’s self discovery, but is he engaging in his own fantasy of whoring out Emma and role playing Shane? In her mind, is Emma mocking her sister, knowing Nadia would never be this unconventional? Or does this exercise add to the unpredictability of Emma relationship that keeps it from getting stale?

There is a deeper question. Is Mr. Frederick gently and firmly nudging Emma forward or is he applying subtle pressure with the bet that Emma’s devotion will give him carte blanche to ratchet up his demands?

Or perhaps what Frederick tells her is straightforward and eerily true. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I just want you to be open to new experiences.”

Mr. Frederick and Emma exploring. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Mr. Frederick and Emma exploring.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

At any rate, as Mr. Frederick anally penetrates his submissive, Emma sees and feels the new guy in her imagination. Before the pop, she begs, “Cum on me please, Shane.” Is Emma transitioning to a new experience or enjoying a healthy fantasy?

Whatever St. James’ intention, the scene explores the emotional complexities of BDSM characteristic of submission pornography, or what might be called in today’s culture, bondage chic. For raw sexuality, it steps beyond the inanity of Fifty Shades while pulling up way short of the hardcore fetish elements found on many extreme internet tube sites.

Dumbbells

Back in the gym the options posed for both Nadia and Emma are carefully defined. As the camera moves in on Emma’s treadmill next to Nadia’s elliptical, it floats past a rack of dumbbells that illustrate the choices available to each woman.

The top row contains two smaller dumbbells, both round and equal in size, with a exercise baton nestled in the juncture between them. This is Emma’s next possibility. Both weights are side by side and sexually open with the option of welcoming in a third person. In the same row, but to the far right, are two larger six-sided dumbbells of equal size representing Nadia’s view of her marriage, closed off and solid, or so she hopes.

Should either woman choose an unequal relationship, open or closed, in which her stature is diminished , the options are on the bottom row. Two round dumbbells and two six-sided ones, with the larger dominant one snuggled next to the smaller. Curiously, off to the right of the closed dumbbells is a single and smaller six-sided one, perhaps it is Ray’s suggestion that so infuriated Nadia and her no nonsense answer.

Where will all this drama leave Emma?

 

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