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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.


TheSubmissionOfEmmaMarx03Exposed_front

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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.”

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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

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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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Hilarious Dads: A Review of Jacky St. James’ Father’s Day

by Rich Moreland, July 2014

In a classic stag of yesteryear, the main character is the butt of a joke that centers on an early version of the glory hole. On the other side of a farmer’s fence, the buffoon thinks he is copulating with a hottie he can’t see, but he’s in for a surprise. Three young women control the fun, substituting a goat for one of their own. It’s comedic porn in its purest form.

Comedy is the key difference between Jacky St. James’ Our Father (reviewed here) and Father’s Day, an amusing set of tales in which the clumsy step dad is seduced by his sexually aggressive stepdaughter.

father's day 10

The dads are hilarious. In the first episode, Evan Stone is a cheesy disco era throwback with an unbuttoned shirt, lengthy unkept hair, and a medallion. The second segment features a self-indulgent Hollywood agent (Steven St. Croix) who “seduces” his career seeking stepdaughter, but is clueless to the real deception. A shy and warmhearted Mark Wood is led by his stepdaughter through sex with a tender touch. Lastly, step dad Alec Knight is so embarrassed by his stepdaughter’s nonchalant poker face that the smiles keep coming along with her, of course.

These shoots are no nonsense porn unburdened by troublesome issues of real family sex. That’s their magic. Mom is never around and rarely mentioned; this is just a bit of fun.

That Would be Tragic

Casey Calvert is home for summer vacation and mentions that her stepfather always tried to be “cool with the kids.” Once she found this embarrassing, but now grown up, her affection for him has matured.

While cleaning Casey’s room, Evan Stone finds a small object sitting on the bed stand. Remembering his younger days, he immediately thinks drugs and confronts his stepdaughter. Suppressing giggles, Casey casually mentions it’s an “anal plug.”

Casey and Evan Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Casey and Evan.
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

In an amusing exchange, Evan admits that in his time unless a man was gay, he would rarely have anal sex. “Your mother thinks it’s disgusting,” he says.

“Well, I don’t,” Casey responds and raises her miniskirt to reveal another toy inserted in her backdoor.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, she says, “You can’t die without ever experiencing anal sax. That would be tragic.”

With pants quickly unzipped, dad is in for a treat.

Other than carrying on a dirty talk monologue, Evan Stone’s character steps aside because the shoot is all about Casey Calvert’s provocative and exotic look. Porn is a menagerie of female body types and the sultry Casey’s is smooth, pure, and perfect.

With her characteristic “bang me hard” frown, she deep throats, loves rough sex and choking, and alternates seamlessly between anal and vaginal penetration. Her reverse cowgirl is the best shot in the entire film. By the way, don’t miss Casey’s turquoise heart-shaped ear studs, appropriately tacky for the sophomoric college girl look.

Of course, a St. James motif is in every scene. Notice the three-pronged candle stand. The center candle rises above the other two, just as anal dominates oral and vaginal when Casey gets down to work.

Jacky St. James’ casting is close to perfect. Evan is the right look for this scene and Casey Calvert is worth the price of the DVD.

The ear studs and a hot frowning Casey. Photo courtesy of Digital Sin

The ear studs and a hot frowning Casey.
Photo courtesy of Digital Sin

Incredibly Naive?

“I guess you could say I nailed the part,” Remy La Croix thinks after doing her step dad Steven.

This episode borrows an old stag theme, the casting couch. Remy is a Hollywood hopeful and stepfather Steven a big deal agent who wants to play her in the finest Tinseltown tradition.

Eying his “incredibly naive stepdaughter,” the self-assured Steven fully intends to use his power to satisfy his carnal desires.

First, he must get her to ditch her hula hoop and “girl next door” look. (Remy La Croix is more than an award-winning porn performer, she’s an accomplished hula hoop artist and dancer.)

Dad, daughter and the hula hoop Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Dad, daughter and the hula hoop.
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

The high comedy of this episode occurs in the bathroom where Steven’s freshening up routine is sensational . Set for the kill, he kisses a photo of himself hanging on a hook beside a towel.

Later, Steven puts his hands on Remy’s hips, drawing her close to him. “What are you doing?” she protests weakly before demonstrating how much she wants the part and, co-incidentally, how well she is playing a part. As the supposed “victim” of his power play, Remy’s drama skills rival Steven’s bathroom antics.

The diminutive veteran’s sweetness and natural body highlight this segment. Steven and Remy have an overflowing mutual chemistry that underscores their teamwork.

Remy and Steven. Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

Remy and Steven.
Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

Like other scenes in Father’s Day, this vague familial set up is overtly covered in a porn overlay. The plot line tends to scoot away, though in her usual manner, Jacky St. James drops in a reminder that it is still relevant. In the background are two items of note on a shelf: a pair of trophies (who really wins one for their deception?) and a modern sculpture of two s-shaped figures, one looming over the other. The flowing motion of the art work relfects the Remy/Steven sexual Show.

Incidentally, Eddie Powell’s cinematic trademark—facial close-ups—eroticizes the sex no matter what the shoot demands. Remy La Croix knows how to balance enticement and innocence with subtle expressions.

After the pop, Remy’s voice over reveals a humorous little twist that begs the question of whose lusts are fulfilled. Her wry smile tells all.

The Unbroken String

For anyone who fantasized about making the grade with the blonde cheerleader type will love newcomer Lucy Tyler.

Having attended a sorority gathering with step dad Mark Wood, Lucy wants an after-date payoff. He walks into her bedroom with a few cut flowers as a “thank you” and she seizes the opportunity, pulling his tie to give him a kiss.

Thinking sex with an older man may disgust her, Mark is hesitant. But Lucy tosses aside his concerns along with the flowers. She has an unbroken string of dates with sex afterwards, she says, and she’s not about to stop now.

Mark and Lucy Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

Mark and Lucy.
Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

Behind her cute, huggable demeanor, Lucy Tyler hides a lusty appetite that feasts where it likes. Though the sex is fairly standard (oral, doggie, mish), Lucy’s smiles create a lighter atmosphere than Casey’s wicked sensuality and Remy’s manufactured naivete.

In a chair beside the bed is a mysterious pair of black platform heels pointed toward the action. Why?

At the end when Lucy and Mark are cuddling like lovers, she says in a voice over this was the day she “slept with her mom’s husband.” The phrasing is odd. Perhaps she doesn’t think of Mark as a father because he is a recent addition to a family she is growing out of, thus the slutty shoes, a mother-daughter commonality positioned to spy on a blossoming affair.

You Should Just Look

The final vignette features a down-to-earth Dillion Harper who disrobes bit by bit in front of her stepfather Alec. The game is strip poker and Dillion manages to lose repeatedly. As her nakedness takes over the tale, Alec psychologically backs away, fighting temptation in the name of preserving family dignity.

A little discomfort now has a payoff later! Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

A little discomfort now has a payoff later!
Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

He wants to know if she is bluffing him (what do you think?) only to get “Are you flirting with me?” from Dillion. At the height of the merriment, her boobs are staring at dad. “You should just look,” she says, before losing the last hand.

Once the panties are gone, they sit across from each other with mischievous stares.

The camera shifts immediately to the sex and Dillion’s slurpy, bubbly oral is her calling card. She’s as nasty as they come (pun intended) and her eagerness absorbs Alec’s manhood. Because she passes for barely legal, Dillion is perfect for the stepdaughter role.

Dillion enjoying dad. Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

Dillion riding dad.
Photo courtesy of Digital Sin and Jacky St. James

This segment has a couple of shooting moments the others pass over. There is good male to female oral and Dillion gets a partial facial, a Jacky St. James concession because most feminist filmmakers prefer to avoid them.

 

 *          *          *          *          *

In the modern era of adult film, the array of fetishes can overwhelm the viewer. Sometimes just straight up sex, charming and not overly gonzo, is a treat.

Of course, the performers are the linchpins of memorable shoots, no matter the subject.

Casey Calvert, a girl who cares and gives her best in every scene. Photo by Eddie Powell

Casey Calvert, a girl who cares and gives her best in every scene.
Photo by Eddie Powell

In the Behind the Scenes segment, Lucy Tyler references the industry’s earlier days when talent would sometime look bored and disinterested. Her remarks brought to mind 1990s director Greg Dark who tired of the business for a variety of reasons, one of which was the attitude of the starlets. In his mind, they showed up for the money, had sex with a “fuck buddy,” and left with no thought of how their performance turned out.

Today the art of porn is challenging such attitudes. Performers, and the directors who bring them together, take pride in their work in a business that is moving closer to mainstream culture. Nowhere is that more evident than in the films of Jacky St. James whose fans can be certain there is no ennui on her sets. In an industry that can get trapped in its reliance on sameness, a St. James shoot has hardworking talent that imbues every scene with a fresh outlook.

Father’s Day stands as evidence.

 

 

 

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Whatever is Best, Dad: Part Two of Our Father

by Rich Moreland, July 2014

A delightful installment in Digital Sin’s Tabu Tales series, Our Father proves once again that Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell are among the most creative filmmakers in adult cinema.

Incest porn’s “transition moment” is the topic of Part One of my review. Part Two explains how it is used in this film.

*          *          *          *          *

Dakota Skye on the box cover. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Dakota Skye on the box cover. Can you keep a secret?
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Our Father concerns step dads who tackle their stepdaughters’ sexual hang-ups. Each of the four vignettes is a secret incestuous arrangement that requires the willful suspension of disbelief. How this taboo is handled reveals director Jacky St. James and cinematographer Eddie Powell at their cleverest. By using the “transition moment,” they move the viewer away from perceived familial perversity and into a porn film.

To mollify viewer reservations about family sex, each episode is heavily laden with dirty talk, a porn fixture that, along with cheesy music and looped sex scenes, played to audiences of yesteryear when adult film was creating an industry. In Our Father, nasty verbiage is a reminder that this is a porn movie with professional entertainers who can psychologically move out of their characters when the sex starts.

Anal is First

“It was weird how much I confided in my step dad,” Penny Pax says in an over voice. She’s sitting on the kitchen counter top talking with “dad” (Alec Knight) who is sipping coffee.

The conversation is about pregnancy avoidance. Alec speaks authoritatively about sex toys (he uses them in his practice) and offers Penny a backdoor education in birth control.

Penny and Alec Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Penny and Alec
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

To close out the storyline and set up the transition moment, Penny convinces herself any experience with her stepfather would not be “in a sexual way” because he is an instructor. She declares, “I think we should do it.” When the lesson evolves into real sex, the film changes gears, willful suspension of disbelief is abandoned and pure porn takes over.

Getting there, however, requires that St. James’ script highlight Penny’s naiveté. Alec explains everything about anal and she concedes to his authority. “Whatever you think is best, Dad,” Penny coos.

Comfortably lying on her stomach, the trusting “student” never looks back at dad. After inserting toys into Penny’s backside as a warmup, Alec quietly penetrates her. Unaware, she says it feels great, though different and natural. Suddenly daughter spots dad’s hands and turns to look. “We shouldn’t be doing this,” she says, trying to preserve propriety.

Her initial cooperative demeanor has moved through doubt into acceptance. Does she want him to stop? No, and they make a secret pact: she won’t tell mom, he won’t tell her boyfriend.

The camera pulls back, framing each of their bodies equally. For the first time the penetration appears on screen, completing the transition. She tells him it feels good and wants to know if he’s enjoying himself. Penny Pax is an anal queen and the scene continues with doggie and oral.

After the pop shot, willful suspension of disbelief reappears. Resuming her stepdaughter persona, Penny thinks of her boyfriend and dismisses any further thoughts of sex with her stepfather. Nevertheless, the experience was a valuable exercise with an upbeat conclusion.

Jacky takes a break with the talent Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky takes a break with the talent
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

A Lolita

In the second segment, the script uses the transition moment to create arguably the best sex scene in the film.

Stepdaughter Dakota Skye is struggling with a negative self-image and claims she has good reasons for wanting breast implants. Stepfather Ryan McLane hopes to quell her demands and insists via an over voice that his “intentions were innocent,” at least in the beginning.

Their disagreement quickly persuades her to pull up her shirt. With perky boobs staring at him, Ryan covers his face in feeble protest. Dakota’s invitation is up front. “You’re not my biological dad.” He concedes her assets are “incredibly beautiful” and the transition moment hits like freight train. A few kisses and the sex is underway.

Ryan and Dakota Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Ryan and Dakota
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

This episode has a different feel because the players are more youthful. Athletic and hard bodied, Ryan McLane seems much younger than his years. Dakota, on the other hand, is Lolita-like. Obviously, St. James paired these two so that the hardcore is anticipated when the performers first appear. In other words, such a step dad/daughter encounter is possible when age differences are minimized.

As the sex heats up gonzo style, Dakota screams “Please fuck me, Daddy” in the best of BDSM tradition where submissive women deliberately seek older men for “age play.” Incidentally, this small touch sets up the third episode starring Carter Cruise and Steven St. Croix which will delve into the power exchange common in BDSM.

While Dakota is getting her fill, Jacky St. James’ talent for placing explanatory objects about her sets steps up once again. In the background is a Grecian-type urn or amphora sitting on a pedestal, a reminder that the ancient Greeks believed the penetrated person, rather than the one who penetrates, gets the pleasure from sex. Dakota’s toe curling verifies their wisdom.

Following the pop shot, Ryan’s voice over embraces the Lolita shadow. “That’s how I convinced my stepdaughter to stay a sweet young girl as long as possible,” he says.

Please Daddy!

Steven St. Croix is a stepfather with an undisciplined daughter (Carter Cruise) who parades into his office, boasting that her mouth is her classroom asset. When Steven, whose business success hovers over the scene, gets annoyed, she retorts, “You can get farther in life by sucking cock than working hard.”

“If you were my daughter I’d spank you,” Steven growls. Dropping her pants, Carter goads him with, “Pretend I’m your real daughter.” He obliges, giving her a few whacks, then tries to get back to work. Unfazed, she taunts him about his porn mags and infatuations with college girls.

This episode has a strong age play component and high believability because parents do spank kids. But it doesn’t end there; the spanking is foreplay and suspension disbelief will soon be set aside when the sex gets rolling.

Carter tells Steven they are both screwed up and when she demands, “I want my Daddy to spank me,” the transition moment occurs. The viewer is immediately in the BDSM arena watching the players act out their dominant/submissive roles. “Brat,” “bad girl,” and “baby girl,” are thrown around as Steven manhandles her to intensify the sex.

Carter Cruise Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Carter Cruise
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Hair pulling, choking, spitting and slapping heighten the show. By the way, BDSMers appreciate a denial moment. Carter’s sucking wants a workout, “Please daddy, please daddy,” she begs, but Steven won’t let her. It’s all part of the game before she gets her wish.

In the background there’s a small statue of a raging bull, typical of a stock broker’s office, snorting and bellowing as if awaiting his turn. After the pop, Carter, whose orgasms sweep over her with a dead quiet, dips her fingers into Steven’s closing statement and licks away.

Disbelief suspension briefly returns; Steven notes that he now pays all her bills in the best of sugar daddy fashion.

(Note: The Carter/Steven sex scene lasts approximately 28 DVD minutes. At its beginning Steven’s watch reads 4:10 and when the sex is a wrap, the clock behind the desk is at 5:55, corresponding closely with the last shot of Steven’s watch at 5:50. Breaks discounted, the cinematic results are impressive.

Making a porn movie maximizes budget and time. Most of the money goes to talent who can turn on when the lights are up. Unfortunately, appreciation is rarely extended to editors whose skills foster everyone’s success, so kudos to Gabrielle Anex!)

A Virgin?

In the final vignette, “dad” (John Strong) is having sex with everyone but his wife. Though he wants to be a role model for his twenty-year-old stepdaughter (Ava Taylor), an opportunity arises he can’t refuse.

Ava Taylor Photo courtesy of Sweet Sinner/ Mile High

Ava Taylor
Photo courtesy of Sweet Sinner/ Mile High and AVN

The bookwormish, but hardly shy, Ava wants to know how many women he’s nailed (a hundred, John replies) and coyly asks if he’d like to deflower a virgin. Dad hopes Ava won’t tell her mom because he’s game.

“If you weren’t my daughter, you’d be naked right now,” John says, maximizing his Lothario come-on.

Ava eagerly strips, sporting tats and piercings that highlight a shaved pubis. This is a virgin? Not on your life, but it is the transition moment, dissolving a weird situation in which a sexually well-traveled stepfather is willing to bang his untouched stepdaughter.

Chuckles abound when dad asks if his step sweetie knows how to “suck a cock” and if not, would she like to learn. Of course, that’s silly because Ava Taylor is a pro; she deep throats and sticks out her tongue for the pop shot, no virgin here! Suspension of disbelief aside, Ava is an exotic beauty with superb oral skills and a great career in front of her.

This final episode is all in good fun and there is never a moment when the viewer is in doubt this is porn, pure and simple.

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A Suspension of Disbelief

by Rich Moreland, July 2014

Written and directed by Jacky St. James and filmed by Eddie Powell, Our Father is part of Digital Sin’s Tabu Tales series . This is the first of a two part review of the DVD.

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Our Father, a series of four vignettes about stepfather/daughter relationships, plays with the incest theme, a taboo familiar to commercial pornography but not frequently filmed.

father, our 1Jacky St. James and Eddie Power offer up titillating sexual encounters that are a mix of seasoned performers and new entrants into the business. The older man role features four outstanding veteran actors: Steven St. Croix, Alex Knight, Ryan McLane, and John Strong; the younger woman is played by Penny Pax, recent arrivals Dakota Skye and Carter Cruise, and newcomer Ava Taylor.

Of course, a taboo that hints of incest survives on a secret. Because daughter and dad are willing co-conspirators, so to speak, the stepfather must not allow his sexual escapade to bring down his marriage. And, neither sex mate wants to upset an attractive arrangement beneficial to both. The result is a “don’t tell mom” collusion that flavors the forbidden intimacy.

But why does a porn film about pseudo incest work when the idea is “gross,” as Penny admits in her BTS (Behind the Scenes) segment? The explanation lies in a literary mechanism that convinces the imagination to allow a story, in print or film, to come alive: the willful suspension of disbelief.

Coined by British writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, suspension of disbelief is the reader’s (or viewer’s) desire to go along with the improbable for the sake of the story at hand. Logic and the limitations of realism are ditched (sacrificed?) in the name of entertainment. In other words, we can go down the rabbit hole with Alice and delight in the ride.

In Our Father, when the brief plot line of each vignette is established, the viewer engages the story as just that, a story. Disbelief suspension excuses any feelings that the episode is disgusting because it isn’t realistic or likely, at least in an ordered society as we know it. To think about it another way, the burden of disbelief lies with the audience, the filmmaker is merely the persuader who constructs the narrative to finesse the viewer’s imagination, recognizing that what works for some may not work for all.

Transition Moment

The idea is simple enough, but porn offers an interesting twist, something St. James and Powell skillfully employ. At the “transition moment,” the viewer reverses his or her expectation and, consequently, the reason for watching the film. The spectator now settles in for a porn movie in which the sex moves center stage and the larger reality of the performers as step relatives, established in the suspension stage, is set aside. For the duration of the film, a deliberate suspension of disbelief is no longer needed. Now it’s people having sex and they could be anybody. The scene survives on the performer’s skills and their attractiveness, the heart and soul of a porn shoot.

In fact, despite a brief wrap-up following the pop shot, the viewer is finished with this encounter and disposes of the characters’ final comments that are necessary to package the episode. The segment’s actual conclusion is an old porn standby dating to the stag film, the camera moves to fade out.

Notice that mom is mentioned in passing but never appears. As a result, she doesn’t mess up the arrangement and does not have to be dealt with as a real figure. Guilt is assuaged all around because the wife/mother character remains ethereal; in fact, she is non-existent. The viewer can relish the sex and once it’s finished who cares if anyone—family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers—really finds out.

Incidentally, an old stag component—the third party—can be added without skipping a beat. Perhaps an aunt, a cousin, or a neighbor happens onto the scene. No worries because a suspension of disbelief reappears to adjust the storyline, then it’s onto the sex especially if the third person jumps right in.

The transition moment is a clever artistic device St. James understands. Without its placement in the script and animated in the directing, an uncomfortable viewer may feel “grossed out” and set the movie aside.

Daddy Theme

Madison Young Photo courtesy of Jiz Lee

Madison Young
Photo courtesy of Jiz Lee

On another level, there is the Daddy theme that requires no willful suspension of disbelief, but can involve suspension of another kind that is not the subject of this review. Sexually submissive filmmaker Madison Young’s recent book by the same name discusses the many levels of “Daddy” that operate in the sexual arena, particularly BDSM. It involves the need to please and yield control in a loving relationship that fills a void and stimulates desire within both parties.

St. James’ script hints at the Daddy idea, actual relationships some younger women seek with older men that, incidentally, are not unusual within the porn community. For example, twenty-one-year-old Jessa Rhodes admits in the BTS for The Sexual Liberation of Anna Lee that the Daddy complex is her “thing,” though at one point she thought is was “so wrong.” Porn superstar and BDSM devotee Casey Calvert has always preferred older men, her personal long-term relationship is well into his forties.

Casey Calvert Photo courtesy of Twisty's

Casey Calvert
Photo courtesy of Twisty’s

In other words, age differences do not always require a disbelief suspension but may beg for sociological, cultural, or psychological exploration. Are Madison, Jessa, and Casey playing out a Freudian scenario, a father fixation within a their sexual make-up, or do they simply have a natural attraction for an older man? Or, are they flaunting a society that insists sexual relationships have a narrow age acceptance, unlike generations past? Hard to say, perhaps their real life lovers simply indicate that sexually one size does not fit all.

If porn performers are widely accepting of age difference, then a twenty-something girl having on-screen sex with a man twice her age comes with no qualms or sense of impropriety.

Possibly then, willful suspension of disbelief in incest themes may be easier than at first it seems.

It Feels so Good!

There is an added component. The Daddy/Babygirl or Brat paradigm is not uncommon in the BDSM community where Madison and Casey flourish and Penny Pax often resides. In Our Father, Dakota says to Ryan as the foreplay heats up, “Please fuck me, Daddy.” In her spanking scene with Steven, Carter recalls this dynamic when she responds to his pronouncement that she’s a “manipulative little brat” with “I want my daddy to spank me.” This is language that is the lifeblood of BDSM age play.

Jacky with the cute and cuddly Penny Pax. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky with the cute and cuddly Penny Pax.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

The fetish community’s Daddy/Babygirl dynamic carries over to non-BDSM porn with the power exchange. In the first episode of Our Father, dad’s pride in his daughter and her sexual performance is part of that energy. Penny says to Alex at one point, “It feels so good,” and wants to know if he’s enjoying himself in a hoped for verification that they are sharing the moment. Sitting on the younger side of the age dynamic, Penny wants to please, complimenting Alex with “Daddy, you fuck me so good.” In the case of Carter and Steven, the daughter plays the power card in the beginning to get what she wants, the dominating father figure who’ll pay her bills, then allows the power interchange to reverse course to reside in his command over her.

In truth, power exchange is found in all sexual relationships. The playing field is never level and Eddie Powell’s brilliant cinematography captures this imbalance by focusing on faces and expressions. In traditional porn, pleasure is individualized, just as it is for the viewer who uses the film to “get off.” Unfortunately, that can disconnect performers from each other in gonzo type shoots that mute their abilities as actors. Eddie Powell never lets that happen. His close-ups move the eroticism along with a sensuality that complements the hardcore penetration.

Unlike porn romances, parodies, or BDSM fetishes, the art of making an incest-oriented movie is to assure the viewer that he or she can become a voyeur for voyeur’s sake once the story line is established then silenced via a transition. In other words, to appreciate the sex show for what it is, the sexual situation along with the characters’ attitudes and desires must be muted. The taboo may lurk in the back of the mind, but the viewer knows that the director and the performers are in on the game.

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In the part two of this review, each vignette will be examined with their respective transition moments noted.

 

 

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A Single Mirror: Torn, Part 2

by Rich Moreland, May 2014

Here is the second segment of my analysis of Torn, a romance from New Sensations. As with my first article on the film, it is my impression of the story without the use of dialogue.

Analyzing a film by silencing actors’ voices tests their ability to communicate the story through body language and facial expression. Of course, the director’s skill at setting up scenes and the shooters’ artistry in capturing effective cinematic angles are also paramount.

torn boxcover

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Back at the house, Drew succeeds in sexually arousing Christine. Though initially reluctant, she gives in quickly for a visually enjoyable performance.

In fact, the sex scene comes off as a little too passionate for a couple whose relationship is getting stale. Granted, Drew is trying to keep the flame alive and when the pop shot occurs, the performers are finishing the shoot on a bare mattress, a testament to their hard sex. But what about Christine? Is her enthusiasm for a good screwing equal to Drew’s?

Jacky St. James’ challenge is fitting an emotional film into an adult genre that expects typical porn sex. Because Torn is more art than porn, her task is magnified as this scene reveals. To her credit, she makes it work.

By the way, India Summer (Christine) is an adult film treasure. The dark-haired beauty possesses the classic female proportions so highly valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Her face is finely shaped with angular features that mark the human perfection sculptors and painters desired.

From the Hot tub to the Parking Lot

Mimi and Chad in the hot tub.

Mimi and Chad in the hot tub.

A young woman attracted to older man needs to talk, especially if she believes her future may be troubled. In a short hot tub scene, a pensive and unsure Mimi chats with a male friend (Chad Alva). There’s no sex between them, not yet.

Back at the office, Vicky unpacks a huge dildo. For Drew it explains much about the sexual scenario Christine so abhorred at the party. He gives her a sly and amusing “that’s more than I want to know” look.

Americans have always adored their cars and early in the last century vehicles became portable nests for young love. Where better to start secret dalliances than in a parking lot? Mimi shows Drew photos she has taken of him then suddenly kisses him. Cars whiz by on the expansive left side of the screen while Drew and Mimi are tucked away on the far right next to two parked cars.

Flashes of Drew and Mimi pop up on the screen and in one instance, there is sex in a car.

Suspicion

The camera moves into the dining room of Drew and Christine’s home. It’s darkly lit with strong indications of secrets and suspicions. On the table and the chandelier above it are several candles in metallic holders: different heights on the table, more uniform on the chandelier. The table represents years of marriage with its ups and downs; the chandelier is delicate, floating with the promise of new romance.

A pacing Drew is on his cell apparently to Mimi who is alternately shown talking on hers. In the meantime, Christine approaches from outside the dining room. The entire moment is reflected in a large mirror, a recurring image in this film, that is on the wall next to the table.

Reduced in stature, Christine is confined to the background. She turns away from Drew’s conversation unobserved, her reality now a mere reflection in his life.

Alone, she retreats to their bed. The pillows are pushed far apart to emphasize the growing divide between them. Eyes cast downward, Christine is a confusion of suspicion and resignation.

Disappointment

A series of images speed up the affair. Drew texting Mimi, Mimi in conversation with Chad, and Drew and Mimi talking in a restaurant amid ghost images of the city embedded in the storefront glass, another mirror-like reflection.

Trouble brews. Dressed and ready to go out, an unhappy Mimi is on her cell in the bathroom. The scene is shot from behind her, casting her image in the bathroom mirror. She turns, walks toward the camera and pulls back her hair. No reason to go out now, apparently.

With its hood raised, Christine’s broken down SUV sits on the side of the road. This moment speaks volumes about her marriage from her view, a once aroused clitoris disabled in a relationship mired in boredom. Drew pulls up in the darkness, his car pointing directly toward, but not touching, the raised hood.

Later in the rec room Drew is watching TV. A visibly concerned Christine comes in, cell phone in hand. They hold hands as if facing a worrisome situation.

The camera takes the viewer to Mimi, who is hanging her photos in a gallery setting; one is of Drew. He shows up with unpleasant news and she is immediately crushed. This is another disappointment, the tale of a younger woman in an affair with a married man.

The studio, Drew and Mimi face reality.

The studio, Drew and Mimi face reality.

Turning away, Drew occupies the awkward moment by scanning her work hung around the gallery. She slides her hands down the wall beneath his picture. Their talk is heartfelt, she has some tears. They kiss. In the most expressive scene of the film, it’s time for a good-bye.

Revisiting the Retaining Wall

The story moves to a kitchen in which Chad is in conversation with Mimi. Their mutual status is probably “friends with benefits” because the third sex scene appears here and serves as a hopeful “feel good” rebound for Mimi. Incidentally, the viewer becomes so involved with Remy La Croix as Mimi we forget she is still a top porn star and can be as down and dirty as any girl in the business. Remy is so good in this scene, particularly with her oral skills and body positioning, it’s obvious why her name sells movies.

Setting up the scene just right while keeping everyone amused!

Eddie Powell hard at work keeping everyone amused with a shot he hopes doesn’t go to the dogs!

After the money shot, they lie side by side on the floor. Eddie Powell frequently uses close-ups to highlight the expressions of the performers. In this one, Mimi stares straight ahead, her mind is distant from the sex she just had.

In the meantime, Christine and Drew air out the affair in a retaining wall setting that mimics Drew’s first encounter with Mimi. Body language reveals that communication is dying with the relationship.

The characters’ backs are to the camera. Christine’s left hand reaches in Drew’s direction. He doesn’t respond. Later Drew puts his right arm around her with a tentative, comforting motion and rubs her back. Christine pulls away. The shot moves closer and she throws her legs over the wall, turning her body toward the camera.

The old adage in the  business is "They don't pay us to have sex, they pay to wait around." Steven and India kill some time.

The old adage in the business is “They don’t pay us to have sex, they pay to wait around.” Steven and India kill some time.

The confrontation continues later in the bedroom and the viewer wonders why they are still sleeping in the same bed.

Tension stays alive, this time in the rec room. They are arguing, debating, but when one talks, the other is not on the screen. Drew is annoyed; Christine is defiant. Like the long couch that divides them in the shot,  their marriage has devolved into a massive chasm.

The scene shifts outdoors once more with Drew’s back to camera. As if conceding defeat, Christine comes over and puts her hand on his shoulder. His pained expression is laced with guilt. She almost cries, then nods slightly. It’s over.

Daisies

On a small table in her studio, Mimi is putting a vase of yellow and pink daisies, symbols of purity, innocence, love and loyalty. Drew appears. Bewildered by their conversation, she seems to say, “I’m working to get over this and now you show up.”

Mimi and Steven in the final sex scene.

Mimi and Steven in the final sex scene having a little fun while setting up the shot.

A kiss begins the final sex scene, a very private expression that renews their relationship.

Even though this is a porn film, I was reluctant to invade this personal moment, feeling somewhat like an intruder once the sex began. For me, that illustrates the power of Torn’s imagery and the intimacy it portrays.

To put it another way, the kissing and eye contact, a tribute to the acting talent of both stars, creates a romantic experience so strong that it relegates the sex as secondary to the film’s emotional impact.

 

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As the film says good-bye to Mimi and Drew, he still reads in bed, but she nestles next to him.

Oh yes, they share a single bathroom mirror.

Incidentally, why are there so many mirrors in this film? Is it because the story requires us to take a long look at ourselves to understand how time and relationships dictate our lives?

Are our emotions genuinely ours, or are they simulations of those around us? And, do they spark a longing to chase the adventurous: the desire for a sexual three-some, a friend with benefits, or a May-December romance?

May-December, a reflection of romantic dreams?

May-December, a reflection of romantic dreams?

Or, to borrow a little from Shakespeare, are we merely a play within a play as seen through images in a mirror?

Perhaps. Take a look at Torn.

 

 

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Moving to a Younger Lover: Torn, Part 1

by Rich Moreland, May 2014

Torn is another dynamic New Sensations film from Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell. No review of mine could top the ones already published. For excellent assessments of the film, check Adult Video News’ review here and XBIZ’s assessment here.

torn 20

With this article, I’m taking another avenue on this film. Rather than review the movie, I’m going to look at its imagery. In the silent film era, audio dialogue was non-existent, acting and the cinematographer’s craft drove the narrative. To move the story forward with words, filmmakers relied on the well placed title card to reveal snippets of the conversation between the characters.

My bet is that a St. James/Powell film can tell its story without dialogue because their artistry as a team is every bit as good as F.W. Murnau’s effort in the pre-sound fantasy, Nosferatu (1922), or William Wellman’s in the adventure classic, Wings (1927).

To test my idea, I decided on a two-pronged approach. First, I read the boxcover for a brief handle on the plot. Second, I did not view Torn from beginning to end. Instead, I studied the opening scenes in which the credits were superimposed on the screen then skipped to the final minutes of the film right before the last round of credits were run.

Would this sparse amount of information provide enough guidance so that the story would be meaningful if I sat through the entire film with the dialogue muted?

The answer is “yes,” because the directing, cinematography, and acting are that good.

(A disclaimer is due here. After the first silent run through, I watched the film again with the sound on so that I might fill in the names of characters and their relationships to each other. What is presented here is the story as I saw it without the dialogue, but with that information subsequently included. For the record, all photos are from Jacky St. James and are credited to Jeff Koga.)

Bedrooms: the Beginning and End

Beds reveal much about the story. In the beginning, the bed in which Christine (India Summer) and her husband Drew (Steven La Croix), occupy is immense, one of those extra wide varieties. The solid headboard is overly large, resembling a bridge between two faraway shores, or perhaps a dam or a wall that might be holding something back.

The crew setting up the opening shots with India and Steven settled in.

The crew setting up the opening shots with India and Steven settled in while Jacky (left) and Eddie (far right) get everything ready. Notice the headboard.

The room’s decor is subdued. As the shot is framed, the wall above the bed is blank and consumes an inordinate amount of space. The night stands are ebony (like the headboard) and the actors are dropped to the bottom third of the screen.

The feel is formal, distant, cold, and uninviting. There is brightness in windows on each side of the bed, but they are almost pushed out of the shot.

In the final scene, the camera is much closer to the bed. As in the beginning, the shot is taken from the footboard. Vastly different from the first scene, the bed is smaller, more intimate, and if the headboard is an open bridge (it consists of vertical metal strips, not solid wood), the shores are closer. No allusion to a dam, no way to hold anything back.

Smaller bed, snuggle and smile!

Smaller bed, snuggle and smile!

Color and warmth dominate the scene and the characters, Mimi (Remy La Croix) and Drew. Over the night stands on both sides of the bed are larger paintings of nature and fresh beginnings.

The opening scene imparts separation and divide, the final one intimacy and union. Knowing this, the story apparently revolves around Drew and how he moves from his wife to his much younger lover. Somewhere in this tale is a tearing away and a rebirth, at least that’s what is indicated so far.

The Afternoon Party

Drew’s life appears filled with drudgery. The snooze alarm is his morning friend and the drive to work is a bore. He has the look of “Is this all there is?” about his day-to-day existence.

Jacky sets up for the party shots.

Jacky sets up the party shots. India, Steven, Raylene, and Tom get their instructions while the crew hangs out.

An afternoon party hosted by Drew’s co-worker,Vicky (Raylene), and her husband, Roy, features an announcement of some sort. A somewhat disinterested Drew goes outside to smoke. (By the way, among the party goers is Jacky St. James a la Alfred Hitchcock, a cameo in her own film.)

Steven and Remy hang out at the wall before shooting the scene.

Remy flashes Steven before she becomes Mimi.

The home is in the hills and Drew sits on a retaining wall, a recurring image in the film. Mimi, the photographer at the party, joins him and they chat as if meeting for the first time. The scenery overwhelms the players and at this point in the narrative sends a distinct message. Nature is primal (remember the paintings in their bedroom referenced above), existing without assumptions and conclusions. Is this what Drew and Mimi will discover because they are not so much the focus of the scene as they are the recipients of its message?

Later in their bedroom, Christine tells Drew about something that is troubling her. It is related to the goings on at Vicky’s house.

A Bathroom Hideout

During the party, Christine is interrupted while she is in the bathroom. Desperate, she hides in the walk-in shower and peeks through the shower curtain. Roy, Vicky and a friend (Samantha Ryan) have three-way sex that features girl/girl oral, unusual for a Jacky St. James romance.

Waiting for the shoot to begin, Raylene, Tom Byron, and Samantha Ryan.

Waiting for the shoot to begin, Raylene, Tom, and Samantha fool around.

Apparently Vicky and Roy are swingers.

All the while, Christine is in the shower and her dilemma is told by the camera.

The angle is shot from above, an image akin to looking down an empty elevator shaft. Christine is trapped. Confined like the walls she has built around her marriage, Christine is devoid of the sexual passion right within her reach. At this moment, she gives the flimsy shower curtain an unassailable power over her. St. James’s message is clear: we only need rip away our self-imposed barriers and face what troubles us to free ourselves from its tyranny.

As the sex romps just beyond her, Christine sits on the shower floor, physically smaller, frustrated, and seemingly exhausted.

After the bathroom empties, Christine yanks back the curtain. Disgusted and upset, she washes her hands repeatedly and vigorously, much like the recurring imagery of tooth brushing that dominates bathroom scenes in the movie. What are the characters trying to cleanse in this tale of love’s failures and renewal?

The next day at the office, Drew talks with Vicky. Her surprise is followed by laughter, Vicky indicates Christine should have joined in. Drew gives her an “are you kidding me?” look.

A Living Room, then a Studio

A fireplace with large crucifix above the mantle dominates a room whose size stresses the divide between Drew and his wife. Christine is sitting in a loveseat under a huge mirror that reflects the crucifix on the opposite wall. Does the image comment on the sanctity of marriage and sexuality within it?

The crucifix sees all. Jacky directs Steven and India

The crucifix sees all. Jacky directs Steven and India

Hiding a piece of red lingerie behind his back, Drew approaches Christine. Incidentally, he wears a shirt that is also red, the color of passion. She doesn’t like the gift; rejection covers his face. Later he surprises her amorously in the laundry room but she pushes him away. Unfortunately, nothing is going to reignite passion in this marriage.

Mimi, who happens to be Vicky’s niece, shows up at the office. Remembering Drew from the party, the twenty-something wants to photograph him and they go to her studio.

In the foreground of the scene, Mimi loads her camera and Drew sits in a director’s chair some distance away. Mimi’s image fills the entire screen and is totally shaded. As the scene continues, Mimi emerges from the shadows, moving closer to him. Two close-ups of his hands emphasize his wedding ring.

Getting into position for just the right angle. Mimi foreground, Drew in the distance.

Getting into position for just the right angle. Mimi foreground, Drew in the distance.

The scene is playful and refreshing, smiles all around, the exact opposite of the deadness the viewer gets with Christine. But is Mimi about to dominate Drew’s emotions? Is she a harbinger of trouble to come?

Drew is about to make the move.

Drew is about to make the move.

As he leaves, the middle-aged Drew drops all decorum and kisses Mimi. She is stunned, but not unpleasantly. She did, after all, set this up.

The affair begins. Drew faces a relationship where second chances are rarities, but will Mimi become the dreaded other woman, the mistress destined to be shunted aside when tensions arise?

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One of the difficulties in eliminating dialogue is losing the nuances it adds to a film, a richness we appreciate more fully when sound is turned off and words are gone. But clearly the visual operates on its own, proving that filmmakers of the silent era handed down their skills to a modern generation with, of course, the complements of the title card.

The second part of Torn is coming shortly.

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