Tag Archives: Ernest Greene

A Perverse Haute Couture

by Rich Moreland, 2014

I confess this review was generated by a conversation I had with Ira Levine (aka Ernest Greene) about his novel, Master of O. Within the BDSM community, Ira is a “master” in his own right and a renowned filmmaker. For a look at his visual trilogy wrapped around the O story, I’ve reviewed each installment here: O: The Power of Submission, The Surrender of O, and The Truth About O.

I figured that if his book landed anywhere within the vicinity of his visual storytelling dynamics, it likely has classic written all over it. I was not disappointed and must add that his print narrative is a giant leap ahead of anything that can be put on film.

Using the widely accepted Amazon rating system, Master of O is five stars, top of the line. If kink is your bailiwick, buy this book. You’ll find it a tasty delicacy of eroticism, pain, and high culture.

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master-of-o-book-cover

Falling Short

“‘Me you want. Him you need. You can have both, but we all understand that need is stronger than want.’
O pushed away from Ray’s chest and glared at him. ‘Maybe I don’t want either one of you, or all your crazy bullshit.’
Ray managed a laugh of sorts. ‘I don’t buy that anymore than you do.’
. . .
Again, O realized, someone had loved her and she had hurt him. Someone had tried to be the man she needed and couldn’t be. This was O’s fate. She could give everything, but only to someone who didn’t require it. Just as her need for formality and consistency exhausted Ray, his need for affection and reassurance exhausted her . . .”

Set in the decadent glitz of a modern Hollywood splashed with bling and bondage sex, Master of O is Ernest Greene’s updated version of the sixty-year-old Story of O, Pauline Reage’s original tale about a fashion photographer and the mysterious Sir Stephen. Framed in mid-1950s Paris, Reage’s narrative is a salacious peek into the whispered kinks of those whose sexual secrets remained closeted until the 1960s gave way to free fall the ensuing decade.

story of o 2But in Greene’s mind, Reage falls short. The final page of her novel finds O the morning after a party asleep, but still deliciously available.

Awakened, O is led “to the middle of the courtyard” where is she laid “upon a table” and “possessed” by two men “one after the other.” There is no further comment other than an awkward epilogue that offers a choice of brief and inconclusive endings. It is as if Pauline Reage created a character she did not know how to discipline, so she simply walked away, perhaps glancing back one last time.

In Master of O, possession, intertwined with need and want, drives LA’s rapid-fire entertainment planet of fashion, sleaze, and the commercial struggle between a fading print pornography and the internet. The narrative moves the reader through designer everything–cars, clothes, fountain pens, and food for starters. Not to be outdone, a perverse haute couture dips into the novel’s central fetish: bondage and discipline. Erotic wearables, including tattoos, piercings, and corsets, decorate female submissives who adore their kinks administered with stings and welts, erotic precursors to a sexuality that is faux violent but infinitely satisfying.

By the way, don’t let the significance of O’s tattoo slip by. It quite literally follows her around “That tattoo was going to be a damned nuisance,”  Greene informs the reader in the novel’s final pages, refusing to exonerate anyone’s judgment for its creation or its folly.

If Reage’s story ends indecisively, Greene’s does not; he favors  a sharp closing that tumbles head over heels to the finish line. But a conclusion does not always mean closure. With just enough evidence to avoid leading the witness, Greene insists the reader decide for himself. A cautionary word: do not dive into the novel without reading the Forward and after signing off on the final page, read it again. The author offers reflections necessary to decide how narrowly conclusion brushes up against closure for this modern O. She is more than servicing another penetration before the credits roll.

The Author Photo courtesy of Rick Brenes and XBIZ.com

The Author
Photo courtesy of Rick Brenes and XBIZ.com

By the way, Master of O offers a flare Reage could only imagine: authenticity. Ernest Greene lives in the BDSM world as a player, bondage rigger, actor, director, and scriptwriter. His fictional O and her master, Steven Diamond, an LA attorney fixated on the accouterments of expensive fashion, understand the nasty ways money is accumulated and how it buys self-indulgent debauchery.  O begins as brother Ray’s collared slave, but an exchange shifts the kinky photographer to Steven’s fast cars and lavish apartment where a distorted reality glistens beyond the massive windows overlooking the city. An oddly transparent pain and pleasure continuum captures O and Jacqui, a fashion model who occasionally slips into porn and, like O, loves her masochism. Both girls are delivered to their respective masters for frolic (Jacqui becomes Ray’s possession via “contract,” a BDSM nicety) spiced with flowing cash and sleeping late.

Mostly Sooner

Greene enriches his tale with social and political commentary. Steven’s ex-wife Marie, The Pythia of his self-created universe, is the narrative’s moral compass such as it is. She speaks casually to her girls of Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi Germany’s famed filmmaker who denied her fascism post-war, prepares them for theatrical play dates in The Mansion (Greene’s version of Roissy/Samois) that get them off, and anchors Steven when he chooses to listen. Later the reader passes notables who populate the vagaries of the adult film world just as Dante’s Inferno lays bare the Florentine’s contemporaries of dubious distinction. AIDS Health Foundation’s front man and Kink.com’s founder are among Greene’s distinguished guests who wallow in self-aggrandizement.

The book is a hard-boiled noir experience in which Steven combines the cool smoothness of a wannabe James Bond with the shiftiness of Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe in survival mode. Ambrosia for BDSM aficionados, the sex is freely given and taken in ways that would delight the pervy nastiness of a medieval inquisitor.

Where does this lead, and leave, the enigmatic O? Perhaps her submissiveness plays on the margins of sexual slavery as femme fatale, or maybe she is exorcising her rich girl demons by contradictorily using servitude to reinforce her rights of choice. Or being thirty, perhaps she is just having fun her way while her body maintains its desirability.

And what of Steven who is haunted by a repeated dream that takes him to Venice where he declines to loll with his deceased relatives on a forever weekend? Upon waking, an apparition within reality–a violin’s eerie melody in the empty park beyond his window–reminds him of the novel’s central message.

“Sooner or later, mostly sooner, everyone said good-bye. Attachment to this world or anyone in it would ultimately end at this destination.”

One thing is certain, Ernest Greene takes an erotic original whose character development surrenders itself to the fetish and turns out a gem that is a lengthy, but fascinating read. Master of O is a journey in which gradations of want and need, chilly and self-serving at times, march lockstep in a single direction.

Epilogue for a Review

Some post-review comments might be helpful in getting the most out of Ernest Greene’s story.

The author is married to the irrepressible Nina Hartley, one of the most dynamic women in the adult film industry I have personally met. Nina is, I am certain, the model for the perceptive and humorous Marie. Everyone’s guidepost and the voice of reason at the novel’s every turn, Marie guards her girls and reminds Steven and Ray not to go beyond their own personal boundaries, or as we used to say in my adolescent years, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Nina talking with me about her feminism in Vegas, 2012. Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

Nina talking with me in Vegas, 2012.
Photo courtesy of 3hattergrindhouse.com

For readers who may know little about the adult film business, the author touches on key issues that roil industry waters: the timeliness of the blood testing protocol, the ongoing condom debate in LA county, and everyone’s demon, product piracy. The twenty-first century has also witnessed the decline of print and DVD sales at the expense of the internet. It’s a changing of the guard industry people have learned to accommodate as Greene illustrates when Steven, Ray, and internet entrepreneur, David Phelps, are persuaded to negotiate the fate of Forbidden, Ray’s magazine. Incidentally, the enduring art of the still photo, so important to modern adult entertainment, is replenished with the ongoing references to O’s photography.

As a literary experience, Master of O operates on several levels. There is the main story, of course, built around Greene’s successes in extending the direction of Pauline Reage’s thinking. Feminism is spot on in the book and anyone who doesn’t believe that Marie and O are pro-sex, sexually empowered women needs to pay attention. They are powerful decision makers, deftly placed in the narrative to counter the tightly controlled milieu Steven occupies for himself.

Additionally, there is the SSC (safe, sane, consensual) and RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) paradigm that is the BDSM community’s raison d’être for playing safe. Greene’s characters know their hard limits. O insists her boundaries are few but she does not want scars. Pushing aside the public’s misperception of a bunch of sadists who punish sick masochists, BDSMers are fetish lovers working together. By the way, don’t look past the black and red color motif  that metaphorically drives the community. I’ve always believed BDSMers adore the iconic and formally dressed Dracula and his sexy succubi of Hollywood’s pre-code days. Biting and sucking doesn’t do one in, it just keeps the game alive.

Speaking of games, the mythical glamor of the high life (no pun on product marketing intended) washes through and over the novel. Greene is an encyclopedia of international fashion, automobiles, the art of fine parties, good food and the sport of a Renaissance Man. The attorney’s favorite is fencing where “kills” refresh the soul while yielding a good workout. Vlad Dracul was good with a sword, too, I’ve heard.

Not to be left behind is psychology. Sigmund Freud’s id and superego collide with Carl Jung’s definition of masculinity and femininity as opposing forces. A natural since Sigmund and Carl parted intellectual ways by the early twentieth century. Jung’s male animus and female anima step into the fray between Freud’s animal id and the morally superior superego in the give and take between O and Steven. Neither is totally what the other thinks and the sticky prickly briar patch of love plagues them both, hanging in balance at novel’s end.

Of course, the magic of good literature is the unresolved debate over who are the most lovable, redeemable, disliked, weakest, sexiest, and smartest characters in the story. Greene poses the question with O and Steven. Where would you place them along a continuum of likability and fortitude?

Well, enough of this, but if I were teaching a course in modern literature, I’d include Master of O.

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To order the book, go to Amazon or the Master of O website.

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Her Trampy Best

by Rich Moreland, June 2013

Note: The history of BDSM porn dates to the “porno chic” era. Films like The Story of Joanna (1975) and A Coming of Angels (1977) are classics featuring the late Jaime Gillis who liked his women submissive. Hardcore sex is blended with bondage to titillate viewers whose taste ran in that direction.

Onto the soft-core scene came the French film The Story of O in 1975, a dark tale of submission based the novel of the same name. The film addresses deeply hidden taboos within polite culture at the time.

From the mid-1980s through much of the 1990s, the feds cracked down on pornographers and the worry over violence and penetrative sex on-screen took center stage. When whips and floggers are the basis for a film of that era, their use is fairly light and explicit sex is avoided. The work of filmmakers like Fred Lincoln, Ernest Green, and Bruce Seven was seductive at that time, but tame compared with today’s new horizons in the BDSM adult genre.

The new century is moving to the ultimate— heavy fetish mixed with acrobatic hardcore sex. The standard now emanates from San Francisco’s Kink.com. But not everyone is into Kink’s extreme filming. Roughing up women in an atmosphere of apparent humiliation is not on everyone’s viewing guide, especially couples who share their porn interests with each other.

With the film Bound by Desire, Smash Pictures is tinkering with a new formula for romance and flogging, kisses and ball gags, all complimented with penetrative sex. Perfect for the couples market, it presents women expressing their desires and facing the contradictions within them. A bit of character development emerges and gives reasons for the on-screen sex, a rarity to today’s gonzo porn market. In short, the old adage “You always hurt the one you love,” cannot be more intimate!

Bound By Desire Front

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Degrees of Commitment

In the opening scene of Bound by Desire, Part 1: A Leap of Faith, Elexis Monroe is preparing to receive the attentions of Evan Stone.

She’ll be tied face down on a bed, flogged, and caressed. All the while, a mounted camera that is part of the cast is across the room picking up the action.

Who are Elexis and Evan—husband and wife, horny neighbors, members of a bondage club?

Elexis at first appears uneasy. “Let’s just do it,” she says to Evan, dropping her robe. The action accelerates and Elexis’ guilt-ridden ecstasy, simultaneously intriguing and troubling her, peeks through. Her sex with Evan is anticipation stroked by nagging doubts. Is she having too much fun in something that is over-the-top kinky?

As the scene heats up, the camera moves to Elexis’ face. Her wantonness draws the viewer into the authenticity of a BDSM encounter while posing the question that lies at the heart of this provocative film. Is a BDSM relationship normal?

For Elexis and Evan, apparently it is. Their hard sex establishes the tone of submission that is the centrality of this film. It will play out in the lives of three women, each with varying degrees of commitment to the BDSM fetish.

Let’s Go Play

The BDSM lifestyle involves giving oneself over to the fetish. It’s never an easy decision. Though a master-slave relationship can be sweetly and sexually tantalizing, red flags of fear and weirdness flutter in minds of all BDSMers. After all, they dwell on the margins of cultural acceptability. What would the neighbors think if they found out?

First, there is Chanel Preston, eager for discipline, punishment, and rough sex. She is Evan Stone’s wife and from the outset it’s evident that she is powerful, dictating to those around her. Chanel’s kitchen conversation with her husband establishes that they are in this together. As the viewer will see later, Evan does his wife’s bidding, a seeming contradiction to her role as the submissive in their relationship, but not an unusual circumstance in the world of tops and bottoms.

The Controller Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

The Powerful
Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

Over dinner with Evan, Richie Calhoun, and Casey Calvert, Chanel is haughty and mocking toward Casey, the second woman in this story. Chanel tells the shy, reticent girl that it’s exciting to be shared with other men when your master insists. Chanel teasingly asks Casey if she has ever been dommed by Ryan Driller, a man who “collects” women to punish.

“No, I never subbed for him,” she responses quietly, as if under an interrogation.

To stir the atmosphere, Chanel takes charge of the table conversation for Casey’s benefit and her own ultimate pleasure. Evan takes the hint. Turning to Richie, who is sitting next to Casey, he says,

“Sir, do me the honor of beating my wife.”

Triumphant, Chanel responds enthusiastically, “Let’s go play!”

As the scene with Chanel cranks up, the punishment meted out is a BDSM delight. Evan binds his wife to the bed, applies a flogger to parts of her body, then pauses to watch Richie work on her with a riding crop. The red marks on Chanel blister the room with anticipation for the sex. Chanel’s oral performance on Richie is superb, and that’s for starters.

A licentious seductress who plays the males for her own pleasure, Chanel’s carnality feeds theirs. Her eyes exude raw sexuality. Like Elexis in the first sex scene, Chanel Preston is worth the price of this DVD.

Meek and Submissive

On the other hand, Casey’s situation plagues her with nagging uncertainty. Does she want the rough and tumble lifestyle with Richie? He’s collared her, an expression of affection among BDSMers, securing her devotion to do his bidding. Plans are validated that Casey is to be given to Richie’s friends so that they might sample what he experiences. But contradiction fills the air.

Meek and submissive, Casey is the perfect slave who is unconvinced of her part in her emotional bargain with Richie. An older and wiser Evan understands her emotional dilemma and knows how to heighten a woman’s sexual excitement. Sexuality is brain based, after all, and words fuel desire.

The Unconvinced Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

The Doubter
Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

“Do you like the attention you get from your master by doing exactly what he tells you?” Evan asks Casey in the hallway outside the dining room.

“Yes,” she responds softly. Her slightly stooped shoulders are an open book of submission.

“Women need discipline,” he tells her with a firm, quiet voice, knowing that words that offend most women, excite slave sluts.

Casey’s is uneasy. Haunted by visions of what she perceives “normal” to be, a loving vanilla courtship, she has doubts about life with Richie. How can she reconcile these contradictory feelings?

Casey turns to the one friend she believes can reinforce her ideas of romance, a head-over-heels in love Allie Haze, who is absorbed in changing her dominant boyfriend, Ryan Driller.

Vanilla Flavored Bondage?

Enter girl number three. Allie Haze is enjoying lots of rollicking sex in Bound by Desire—the ice cream scene (vanilla flavored, of course) is not to be missed—but there are growing hints that her lover has not yet thrown off his BDSM urges. To complicate Allie’s feelings, one of Ryan’s subs, Teal Conrad, is strapped to a St. Andrew’s Cross and flogged, while Allie, bound to a spanking bench in the scene, looks on. Once again director Powers focuses on the expressions of both women. Watching Teal flinch under the flogger’s impact, Allie is not sure she’s reformed Ryan, or that she personally has parted ways with BDSM’s haunting allure.

The Reformer Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

The Reformer
Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

To reinforce the cottage-in-the-country romance Casey thinks she wants, director Powers introduces Kimmy Olsen and Danny Wylde who perform run-of-the-mill boy/girl sex. Though not the hottest in the film, the scene does drive home the definition of “normal” and serves to move the story forward. By the way, Kimmy is cute as a button, pleasant on the eyes, and orally talented to boot.

The drama is now in focus. Casey’s thoughts drift into the wonderland of love that supposedly defines what a woman wants. But does it work for every woman? And, is it really for her?

Two Sexual Worlds

In a beautifully directed masturbation scene, Jim Powers captures the essence of Bound by Desire. Up to her neck in water, Casey relaxes in a bathtub and pleasures herself. As her arousal increases, Casey’s hips and body rise slowly above the waterline. This is a symbolic rebirth reminiscent of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, a goddess emerging from the sea. Casey’s sexuality is “cumming” out again from the watery womb of its original being. This time she is destined to be swept into the whirlpool of dominance and submission where all is not what it seems to be.

This episode also speaks for the film’s women. They are re-energizing their own sexual experiences. Chanel relishes her journey; Allie believes she has found her way, while Casey takes hesitating steps.

Using her nasty submissiveness as female empowerment, Chanel calls the shots with Evan, getting what she wants. Allie’s gushing relationship with Ryan, fueled by school girl love, is headed for a BDSM train wreck she thinks she can negotiate. Casey’s doubts and fears conflict with her desires. She wants the love and trust she believes Allie has found. Unnerved by the prospect of being whored out by Richie and equally hesitant around Chanel, the conflicted Casey is drawn to both like a moth to light.

How best to cope? Pleasure yourself and prepare. As the film’s centerpiece, Casey symbolically teeters between two sexual worlds, vanilla and fetish, knowing that the latter’s seductive powers will likely win out.

Part Two will tell that tale. Will Allie, who is farthest from the BDSM fold, be secured into the fetish? Will Casey join Chanel’s commitment to submissive pleasures? And the camera, the sentinel that captures every encounter, what is it all about? Who is filming these scenes, an underground cult of sadists and masochists, the neighbors next door indulging their passions, or a curious Evan and Chanel?

Final Thoughts

The BDSM scenes presented in Bound by Desire include the interpersonal affections that BDSMers revere in their play. In the flogging scene with Teal, Ryan holds her hand briefly as he applies the leather to her butt; Evan caresses Elexis after spanking her; kissing is evident throughout all the scenes, despite the presence of an accoutrement BDSMers adore, ball gags. Followers of bondage and discipline express themselves emotionally in ways not always understood by mainstream culture, reminding the viewer that in vanilla adult film intimacy is not always assured.

On a technical note, the film’s BDSM rigging comes via the talented John Wilkes of John Wilkes Photography. His handiwork is precise and clean, adding an artistic touch to the production.

Finally, the women are superb; each is at her trampy best. Chanel Preston demonstrates why she has been selected as a host for the upcoming 2014 AVN Awards. Allie Haze, who won two best actress awards in 2013, is the perfect choice for the sweet girl who wants to reform her boyfriend and Kimmy Olsen fills the straight sex bill to a tee. To balance a youthful Kimmy, veteran Elexis Monroe gets this reviewer’s vote for the hottest, filthiest close-ups during a sex scene ever. Powers makes the viewer want to dive in on the action.

When Part 2 arrives, perhaps Casey Calvert will turn in a performance that tops them all.

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The Bondage Game: A BDSM Trilogy

By Rich Moreland, September, 2012

 

A couple of years ago I spent a few minutes with Kink.com’s Peter Acworth at San Francisco’s old National Guard Armory where the BDSM fetish giant runs its websites. Acworth talked about a re-make of Pauline Reage’s 1955 novel, The Story of O. His idea sounded interesting, but who would play O, I asked, and how would he tell the story? Where Acworth is today with his idea is only a guess, but Ernest Greene’s trilogy on O’s evolution reveals unique answers to my question.

The Story of O is more than an erotic tale of a woman who acknowledges her obedience and masochism. Trained at Roissy, a remote location where girls are delivered for their initiation into BDSM, O becomes a willing participant in her own sexual slavery. She agrees to her submission, serving her lover, Renee, and his whims and fancies. Now she faces change. Renee takes O to the Paris apartment of Sir Stephen, his older half-brother, and departs. At this juncture in the storyline, Sir Stephen tells O she can have only one master and clarifies that he is now that man. She is to become his submissive, wear his brand inflicted by a burning iron, and become a predator for him, the Owl she symbolically portrays in the narrative’s final chapter.

But who or what is O’s real master? Ernest Greene provides a hint in the first film of his trilogy, O: The Power of Submission. Adhering to Reage’s plot, O is taken to the House for her initiation. Naked, she is fitted with a collar and ankle and wrists restraints. At this moment, Greene lets us in on his secret. O is adorned with a shoulder-length veil as she is presented for her flogging. Later in the film when Jackie, the fashion model Ray desires, is taken to the House and prepared for her first taste of the whip, she, too, wears one.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

What is the meaning of the veil? A message runs under the convoluted love triangle Greene creates between O, Ray, and Steven. Greene’s interpretation insists O’s story is about a “wedding,” not between or among people, but to a lifestyle. Greene illustrates the self-defeating nuisances of questionable relationships and the failures of actual marriage. O moves in and out her love affairs with Steven, leaving him for good in the last installment, and Ray’s marriage to Jackie collapses in the second film. Through it all, O’s commitment to BDSM is unquestioned. Her real identity lives within the lifestyle that intrigues and guides her, the master/slave relationship she has wed, and it overrides her interactions with the people she meets. The literary Sir Stephen and Greene’s cinematic Steven are conduits that serve O. Her willingness to respond to their BDSM impulses is what drives their desire for her. She in turn, uses them for her satisfaction.

With the House, and later the bondage club of the third film, Greene shows us a BDSM community that was an underworld experiment during Reage’s time. Greene’s O exists within a modernized BDSM arrangement of convenience, a continuous menu of choices offered for the pleasure and power she savors. Reage hints that O’s submission seduces her captors; Greene pushes that revelation out of the shadows and onto the screen.

Choice is always in O’s hands. When the limo pulls up to the House in Submission, Ray, played by Tommy Gunn in the first two films, tells O (the bewitching Carmen Luvana) he is “glad” she agreed to come. Her response is pointed, almost a counter-punch, “Have I ever said anything else to you?” Carmen’s O projects a little cockiness with some indifference stirred in. Before her initiation begins, Ray asks O if she consents to “obey,” reminding her that the option to leave is open. O responds without hesitation, “I’ll stay.” But she does not repeat the word “obey,” cutting into the House’s control of her. Marie, the House’s owner, asks Ray if he ever whipped O. “Sometimes,” he replies. Turning to O, Marie wants to know if she enjoyed it. O repeats Ray’s “sometimes,” but with a nonchalant tone. She throws down the challenge, shifting the burden to Marie and Ray to pleasure her, not the other way round. Attached spreadeagled to a vertical frame, O is aroused by Maria’s application of the flogger, warming up O for the hot sex to follow. Carmen’s O shows off her talents with multiple partners, completing her initiation into the fold.

In conversation later with other house slaves, O discovers their breezy attitude is reflective of hers. Without their collective consent, there would be no House and no entertainment. Everything is voluntary. Greene sets the tone for the series in these early scenes and prepares the viewer for a revelation in the second film, The Surrender of O, where he cannot resist a little irony.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

In Surrender, Bree Olson’s O comes back to the house voluntarily and is surprised to learn that Marie runs the show and rewards are to be had.

“You mean we get paid?” O says with amazement.

Mika Tan’s Rita, a House girl, tells O that Marie lets the guys think their money dictates the action. O can’t believe they pony up cash for their privileges with the girls. The whole operation is a “profitable business for all of us,” Rita says, and reminds O that with her return she is now a House girl and “no one’s property” but her own.

Marie keeps a catalogue of the girls and their talents. Regina (played by the gorgeous Kayden Kross) reads to O what is written about her, “orgasms during punishment.” Rita implies that being a “very obedient good slave” has benefits. If her attitudes and talents are noteworthy, O has the freedom to “come and go” as she pleases and the next time she drops by she’ll find “a big fat wire transfer” in her bank account. Bree’s O is hesitant, but Regina is honest about the BDSM bordello. “It’s not like you can pretend to enjoy this sort of thing if you don’t. The masters think this is their club, we think of it as ours.” Rita chimes in amusingly, and “the attendants think it’s theirs.” The girls are playing the game for fun and profit, very much in control of their outcomes. Everyone is a winner.

With an attitude like that, is it any wonder the sex is spectacular.

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O’s ongoing personal journey is a search for emotional satisfaction framed within a fierce desire to hold onto her independence, a task more difficult than life at the House. Though Bree’s O will backslide in the second film, Carmen’s O reveals a shade of defiance. The game is played with her permission and by her rules. In Submission’s conclusion Carmen’s O faces down Steven, ably portrayed by popular veteran actor Evan Stone. He once captured her with his self-confidence but made the fatal mistake of revealing his weakness. She reacts to his sudden declaration of his love for her:

“I never expected you to say that and back then I wanted this more than anything, but right now it’s a lot more than what I want. I did everything you required me to and the only thing I needed in return was that you were different from all the others, stronger somehow.”

She gives back her O ring, the symbol of attachment to him, and delivers her parting shot, a damning statement that shapes the message of film three, The Truth About O:

“You fell in love with what you think you see and not what’s there. I won’t be back.”

In fact, she relents and does return to him in Surrender. Marie, played with wisdom and charm by Nina Hartley, mentors O throughout the trilogy. She is O’s trainer and counselor, offering O a feminist education that flowers in the final installment, Truth, when Marie compliments Bobbi Starr’s O as “the finest slave I’ve ever trained.” Finest does not mean most compliant, rather O is now the strongest and most willful.

In Surrender, Marie sympathizes with O’s emotional uncertainty and arranges a reunion with Steven. But, there is a lesson attached. Giving Bree’s O a key, in reality the key to her happiness, Marie tells O that she can return to Steven if she wishes. Marie also gives her a fabric inscribed with “freedom is deciding whose slave you want to be.” Marie continues, “You have to decide what part of your life is yours and [what] part you would have to surrender totally.” It is the teachable moment in Ernest Greene’s “The Education of O.” The underlying meaning of the entire series is equality and O emerges with her total personhood in tact when the final curtain falls on Bobbi’s O. Once again, Greene’s message is O’s dedication to the lifestyle as a master, not any one person within it. The bondage game is her pleasure and the tool she uses to find a master of her choice who can deliver it. In the language of the real world of BDSM, O is searching for a “service top,” a dominant who arouses her by responding to her needs.

Bree’s O reunites with Steven and promises she will never leave again unless he orders her to. But her promise borders on schoolgirl silliness because the plot is never fated to play out that way. In presenting herself to Steven for sex, O wears a short veil this time, suggestive of a modified version of the “marriage” depicted in Submission. Symbolically, she is renewing her vows with BDSM; Steven is the master du jour. Bree’s O presents a confusion of hope and uncertainty that is later resolved in Truth. Surrender winds down with an extended sex scene between Bree and Evan Stone, the most sensual in the trilogy and there are good ones throughout featuring some of the best talent in the business.

In closing Surrender, Steven presents O with a contract designed for a master/slave relationship but looks a lot like a business arrangement. With this turn of events, Greene sets up the third movie. O agrees to help Steven obtain “love slaves” to serve him and gets approval over their selection. O is free to do as she pleases once she satisfies her “boss.” Again Greene gives O choices, this time spelled out in a written partnership between lovers that strongly suggests equality. Does Bree’s O understand the implications of what she holds? Bobbi’s O steps out of the shadows to answer that question.

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            Pauline Reage’s O is a complex character and the actresses Greene selects to play her are reflections of this varied composition. Carmen’s O is defiant, independent, a reluctant submissive; Bree is submissive, compliant, and easily manipulated. She shows none of the hard edge that sometimes shapes Carmen’s performance. The flavor of Bree’s sex scenes are more BDSM leaning than Carmen’s but they cannot match Bobbi Starr for realism. Bobbi is one of the most powerful adult film actresses in the business and perfectly selected for the final film. (For fans wanting another Bobbi Starr fix, she also appears as a house girl in Surrender.)

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

Bobbi’s O is a different breed. She develops wisdom by the time the script progresses to Truth.  Strong-willed, mature, and ready to demonstrate an obedience that is more attuned to her wishes than to Steven’s, Bobbi’s O plays a game she knows she will win. Like Carmen’s O, she challenges Steven, now played by porn heartthrob James Deen, wanting to know what he thinking. Bobbi intellectualizes her version of O and produces the most powerful scene in the trilogy done via flashback. O is chatting with a new sub (played by Krissy Andrews) and recalls “it was a typical day at home” with Steven. The scene moves to his library.

“You are the only one who can satisfy me,” he says. With a smile, O replies that she would do anything to be owned by him. All seems mutually satisfying, but their body language suggests trouble.

Steven sits her on his desk and she touches his forehead. “What’s going on in there?” she asks, forcing a smile.

“It’s all become so easy for you, hasn’t it?” Steven says, deflecting her question. “Just when you think you have it, it turns out you don’t.” Trouble is brewing.

Steven is addressing his own anxieties and wants reassurance that O is still loyal to their relationship. He asks her to find another girl for their mutual enjoyment. “See if you know me as well as you think,” he says and they hug without a lot of feeling.

Steven takes her hand and she playfully pulls it away. This is the opening they both know is fated: an O replacement for Steven, an exit opportunity for her.

Are the “typical days” a telling message that boredom has set in, or an indication that O needs to continue her search for more stimulation and excitement? Will O now play at BDSM only when it amuses her? Ray (Michael Vegas in Truth), is available again, but she now regards him as an equal, running off with him for the pure adventure of it. Using Ray and providing Steven with another slave, Bobbi’s O manipulates the entire scenario. Marie’s “finest slave” remark unveils the consummate O. She is emotionally grown up.

Truth is set in the bondage club, not at the House, in effect moving the hard lessons of submission into O’s past. There is little need for Marie’s mentoring now; the older woman will assist O in her mission to find a playmate for Steven. When the new slave (played the sensuous Asa Akira) is secured, O returns her contract and takes off, leaving Steven to ponder what he had, lost, regained, and lost again, but through no fault of his own. Like the masked Owl at the end of Reage’s novel, Greene’s O remains an elusive mystery: those around her believe she is emotionally naked and seemingly leashed, but they are her prey, they fall victim to their desires for her. O’s soul is reserved for the mystical master of BDSM, however she chooses to greet him. Desire her, but don’t expect to control her because BDSM is the ultimate leveler of the human equation.

In the real world of adult film, Bobbi Starr and Nina Hartley are feminist soul mates. Both are iconic performers, a rare status for women in porn. Bobbi began as a BDSM submissive and later achieved director status with Evil Angel and Kink.com. Carmen and Bree are also superstars. Each woman has a different “feel” for their BDSM role, a good thing because their performances explore the different sides of Reage’s O, one of the most complex fictional characters in adult literature.

There are hints of a feminist attitude in the literary O that intrigue Greene. Reage’s character gets to “set the rules” and control the action especially when she is pursuing other women. O achieves a “complete sense of freedom” in the hunt and Reage tells the reader O is an “accomplice of both men and women” though the game is “not all that easy.” But as we have seen, the bondage game has an overlord and O is beholden to his erotic demands.

Ernest Greene never defines the perfect O because she exists only in the imagination. He does peek at the different ingredients that make her up and when he gets to Truth, Bobbi becomes the completed O. In the book and the series, O’s destination is not a place, it is a process: an ongoing refinement of BDSM pursued for its personal satisfaction. The characters she meets along the way are mere stopovers in her quest.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Ernest Greene presents a female-friendly POV in much of his work. In most of the sex scenes, he is cautious to pleasure women with lots of oral sex and the ever present Hitachi Magic Wand. Orgasms are aplenty. Greene is no stranger to safer sex, by the way; condoms and latex gloves appear regularly. Like all good directors, he gives his performers choice.

In each film, the sex assumes a different flavor. Submission sets the trend of equality in oral sex for women. In Truth, it is filmed beautifully. Female porn viewers are not fond of DPs and anal but Greene knows they are fan favorites for men, so he sprinkles them in to add spice to the story. Surrender has its gonzo moments with group sex featuring Kayden Kross and Ava Rose that is acrobatic at times. Truth has definite feminist overtones. Bobbi is a feminist gonzo girl and her threesome with James Deen and Asa Askira is terrific. Submission is Carmen’s baby. Now retired, her performance in the film is superlative. Bree Olson in Surrender matches Carmen’s beauty and enthusiasm. There are others who deserve comment, newcomer Jessie Andrews comes to mind in Truth. It’s often said that porn can’t survive without the girls, but Greene’s series is a reminder that super male vets like Tommy Gunn, and Evan Stone in the first two films, and James Deen and Michael Vegas in the third, are also important to sustain the action.

On a final note, true BDSM submissives are not that frequent in adult film. One who deserves mention is a favorite of mine, the sensuous Justine Joli. Her scene with Carmen in the first movie and her performance art with the always innovative Claire Adams in the third is a must see. If there is a single female performer whose BDSM submission can steal a scene, it is Justine.

 

*     *     *     *     *

There is so much more in Greene’s trilogy than there is space here. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, watching is recommended. Three decades ago skirting the feds was on every pornographer’s list so combining sex and bondage was a restriction the industry imposed on itself. It took some time for the industry to get more adventurous. But that’s the past and for BDSM lovers your time is now. Check out Greene’s trilogy and do the pictures in the order they were filmed, otherwise, the meaning and message gets confused.

I’m certain Ernest Greene is setting us up for another O film and I, for one, am ready to see it. Should Peter Acworth decide to make his film, I suggest he take a peek at Greene’s work before he ventures too far into his project. By the way, if Greene is open to suggestions for another film, consider pairing Nina and Bobbi as mentors for a new “Academy of O” where willing submissives are trained in BDSM as a sexual delight and a performance art. What possibilities would exist in that hideaway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Finest Slave I’ve Ever Trained

By Rich Moreland, June 2012

Note: Though I am not a film critic, I’ve tried my hand at it with this review. I confess that I enjoyed writing it because I found the picture’s storyline and the cleverness of the director to be refreshing. This is the final film in a trilogy of movies based on The Story of O.

Bobbi Starr as O
Courtesy of Adam&Eve Pictures

There is always a risk attached to intellectualizing porn. Industry people insist that adult film is merely a fantasy of acrobatic sex. However, occasionally a film comes along that reaches beyond the simple parameters of eroticizing our imagination and insists that we pay attention to its statement.

The BDSM literary genre is heating up these days with Fifty Shades of Grey capturing the “mommy porn” consumer. The master of gonzo BDSM, San Francisco’s Kink.com,offers visual delights in cyberspace for anyone fascinated by ways dominance and submission can be fashioned for hardcore lovers who like it rough. Between these polar positions, there is a middle ground where a blend of story, bondage, and sex resides.

Ernest Greene’s The Truth About O has come along at just the right time to fascinate the BDSM curious and fans of explicit sex who like their women to be contradictory to traditional porn. Greene’s girls like to do the dirty deed, but the sex is on their terms using bondage as their erotic trigger. His picture blends the right flavors to make BDSM sophisticated, at least in the adult film world.

Greene minimizes long-standing Porn Valley gonzo and Kink’s addictive heavy hitting. In doing so, he offers a more realistic BDSM product to a growing base in adult film: a female-friendly and couples audience. No surprise, Greene is married to Nina Hartley, a pro-sex feminist porn legend and the assistant director for the film. The dynamic Bobbi Starr plays O. She, like Hartley, is a self-proclaimed feminist. For those who don’t know, feminism in adult film is sex-positive and empowered far from the man-hating, hairy-legged, bra-burning sex-negative shenanigans of the 1970’s. And please note, though Hartley and Starr are industry icons of different generations, they are also two of the smartest and assertive women in the adult business.

How is a feminist-oriented film defined and how has Greene tapped into the women’s/couples’ market with his latest O movie?

First, female pleasure is the anchor; real orgasms are the linchpin. Greene extends male-female connections, giving time for the climatic waves to sweep over the female talent.

Female receptive oral is a filming highlight in this movie. Greene’s cinematography frames these shots to make the sex authentic. He divides the screen, situating the giver in the foreground while focusing on the actresses’ ecstasy in the background. Women want filmed sex that avoids the gonzo anatomy lesson, preferring the actress’s facial expression to receive equal billing with the sex being performed. The finest example occurs when Ray (Michael Vegas) pleasures slave Jillian, a role taken on by the irresistibly sweet Jessie Andrews whose natural breasts and tall physique capture the willowy girl image many porn watchers adore. Jillian’s build-up to pure rapture is a conflation of bliss and frenzy. Greene repeats the pattern in a scene between Danny Wylde and Asa Akira and in an interracial gem that features Nat Turner, whose gentleness belies his large stature, and the voluptuous Krissy Lynn.

Facials are rarely found in woman-friendly film. It’s not something women enjoy and there is no reason for it to be there. Of course, the pop shot is the moneymaker of porn; it’s the external placement of the internal reality. But the “getting off” can be deposited anywhere and Greene prefers other parts of the female body.

A criticism of porn is kissing. If it appears at all, it is passed off as a quick excuse for foreplay and lame exercise in affection, especially from males. Not the performers Greene books. James Deen, Danny Wylde, and Michael Vegas are sexy and sensuous, evidence that this picture hands equal status to men. In adult film, the characters (and the performers who play them) often lack their own personhood, what psychologists identify as their larger reality. A Greene movie insists that pleasure is a two-way street and is there for a reason, women have authentic sexual experiences and men are more than “dicks” in the corner. As a result, character development is a must and Greene’s actors emerge as people, not just bodies.

And of course, there is the Hitachi Magic Wand. Its handheld motor is indispensable in woman-friendly scenes, especially in bondage movies where it is often the delicious wrap-up for the female star. The “little hummer” always guarantees female pleasure and Greene employs it judiciously.

The trickiest part for a female audience is anal, now a standard in its own right though overuse can make it a yawner in many movies. Greene limits his anal scenes because backdoor sex remains a debate among women. It is not personally pleasing for some, they don’t want to do it in their own lives and often see it as degrading. Yet, on-screen anal action has spawned a growing interest among others to experiment in their sex lives.

Feminist adult film directors tend to shy away from anal except with toys in some girl/girl scenes. Greene has compromised, striking a balance for those who want to see a girl’s rump penetrated and others who find it tiresomely repetitive.

That being said, an enthusiastic anal shoot is a welcome variance and Greene’s lead, Bobbi Starr, is a true analist who loves its eroticism. Greene obligingly gives her the go ahead. Two scenes in the film, one with Starr and Wylde and another with Akira and Deen, sparkle for posterior aficionados.

To Serve or Obey?

The film’s opening scene is in a bondage club, and Greene turns BDSM play into superb performance art featuring the incredibly sensuous Justine Joli and Claire Adams, Greene’s rigger for the production of O. Adams is a premier fem dom and Joli is the consummate sub whose winsome and sassy look is a reminder of San Francisco artist and adult film feminist Madison Young. A glorious example of Adams’ shibari rigging ability is on display with the opened legged suspension of Joli. It rivals the best of Young’s Femina Potens  “Art of Restraint” workshops which, incidentally, often feature both performers. Joli clearly relishes her submissiveness, giving “do me” looks to Adams who navigates the scene with the precision of a mechanic.

Performance Art with Justine Joli and Claire Adams.
Courtesy of Adam&Eve Pictures

Incidentally, Greene pays a subtle tribute to his northern neighbor, Kink.com. Marie (Nina Hartley), the owner of the bondage club, speaks briefly with Thomas (Danny Wylde), who has his “not really enslaved” submissive, Yvette (Asa Akira) on a leash. Thomas mentions that he found Yvette “at a party at the Armory” where a “fantastic scene with one of the upstairs girls” played out. Kink’s Upper Floor website and its house slaves are a recognized part of the BDSM porn genre. The Armory’s top floor facility often hosts live parties and offers its online viewers access to the events. In fact, most of Greene’s cast appears regularly at Kink’s edifice.

Thomas with his reluctant slave, Yvette
Courtesy of Adam&Eve Pictures

Listening closely to Marie’s words with Thomas, the viewer will hear a telling political message in the film. O, who is at Marie’s side, tells her at the opening of the movie, “I’ve not forgotten how to serve or obey,” an interesting statement coming from an owned slave. Marie introduces O to Thomas, referring to her as “the finest slave I ever trained.” In those few words, there is meaning that steps outside the film’s narrative. Nina Hartley is the consummate feminist in adult film, coming into porn in the days when feminism was a collective notion, a movement.  The public face of feminism excoriated adult film and Hartley fought accusations from “mainstream” feminists that porn debased women. In the story, Marie has “trained” O to serve and obey, but there is an interpretation here beyond the storyline of mistress and slave. Nina Hartley laid the feminist groundwork in filmed pornography, passing along her wisdom for later performers like Starr to find their own way. Bobbi Starr is a feminist who is individualistic in her approach, a modern update that has partly abandoned the collectivism of a unified political voice so familiar to Hartley. But Starr’s generation has clearly benefited from Hartley’s presence, becoming more outspoken because of it.

The storyline revolves around O’s master Steven, played by porn heartthrob James Deen, who wants to procure another woman for their sexual enjoyment, “a regular part time playmate,” as he puts it. O becomes Steven’s collaborator in his search while questioning her status with him, and as it turns out, her desire for him.

The pivotal sequence in the film is without sex. Steven is a lawyer whose aloofness is a challenge for O. He tells her she is the only one who can satisfy him. O responses with doubt. “Are you sure?” she says. O reminds Steven that she once told him, “I’d do anything to be owned by you,” though her words to Marie that she still remembers how to serve and obey clouds O’s declaration.

They briefly kiss with the affection and tedium characteristic of long-time lovers. O touches his forehead. “What’s going on in the there?” she asks, smiling though a little hesitant. Steven deflects her question. Interestingly, he does not chide her for asking it, though its very nature is an overstepping by a slave.

Instead, Steven reveals his weakness for her. “It’s all become so easy for you, hasn’t it?” He says dryly and sits her on his desk as if she were a child. She forces a smile and the viewer senses this D/s relationship has control issues.

As if to ground O’s wandering and troubled vibes, Steven predicts Greene’s film. “Just when you think you have it,” he says, “it turns out you don’t.” He touches the “O” ring she wears on her right hand and she pulls her hand away, a gesture that is a cross between playfulness and uncertainty.

That’s what the “truth’ of this film is all about.

Seeing Their Dreams, Not Yours

Ernest Greene learned his BDSM film trade back to the days of director Bruce Seven. Fem doms like Bionca and Alexis Payne with a host of submissive beauties, Aja, and Lia Barron coming immediately to mind, graced Seven’s work. In those times, the right wing Meese Commission sent a harassment message to the industry. Too much “spank” could spark interest from the feds and penetrative sex in bondage was verboten. BDSM filming took the safest avenue, concentrating on girl/girl shoots. Remembering those troubled years, Greene reconfigures BDSM in a way that is a bit softer than current online fare. He adds penetrative sex (there never were any legal restrictions on it in bondage filming, by the way), but with sensitive males who respond to a woman’s desires, thus turning his female talent from object to subject. Greene does not ignore gonzo fans, however. He expends footage on the oft-repeated bound girl, on her knees and blowing away. Starr, Lynn, and Andrews display their oral techniques with vigor, not to mention Akira in the climatic sex scene with Deen.

The second disc in the DVD package contains interview material. Greene discusses the evolution of O in his film series. She has gone from defining her desire to becoming a more self-confident woman. The real “truth” about O is her character development. Greene points out that the cultural context of BDSM has moved forward since the publication of Pauline Reage’s original The Story of O almost sixty years ago. The BDSM community is no longer closeted; today’s D/s and BDSM relationships have evolved and can be read in different ways, thus vacating the deviancy label once hung on bondage and discipline. That women are enjoying BDSM possibilities and variances is evident with the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

In his film work, Greene extends permission to O to explore a diversified eroticism. She expresses her desire for a variety of lovers so that she may individualize her sexual expression. Choosing Bobbi Starr as his lead and giving Nina Hartley space as assistant director assures that a sex-positive feminist element is an honored message in the movie. By the way, acting and dialogue in pornography can remind the viewer of Frankenstein’s monster stepping on eggs. If he doesn’t crush them with his plodding, he will clumsily try to avoid touching them at all. Hartley and Starr are exceptions. Starr, in particular, can act and delivers dialogue well; she is a pro and makes her parts in the script more natural than is normally seen in porn.

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The film’s final scene highlights the return of the contract O once signed with Steven. New slave Yvette, whom O has procured for her master, brings the sealed envelope to him. He instructs her to open it. Hesitant, Yvette asks, “Are you sure?” not knowing the proper protocol with him yet. Steven rebukes her, pointing out that a slave does not question her master. Yvette quickly apologizes; apparently unaware that it’s a rule Steven does not apply universally.

Greene adds a clever twist here. O is off to the “Mysteries of the Orient” with Steven’s brother while leaving her now former master with an Asian slave. Will Yvette be a reminder for Steven of where O is now in her larger reality and the decisions she has made? Will O return? Perhaps none of these questions matter in the end, as the contract O signed was on her terms, not Steven’s. But Greene, the astute director that he is, leaves the viewer with a tantalizing thought. Is there another O film in the works?

Steven’s earlier words to O that it’s likely you never quite have what you believe you do, reflect on the totality of O, BDSM, and the state of human sexuality. That is surely the message at film’s end when Greene reminds his audience that submissives are free to walk away in today’s D/s world.

But a final thought is added.

“No one will ever know the truth about you,” Steven muses, thinking of O. “They look at you and see their dreams, not yours.” O transcends the object of desire; she is the huntress for her own erotic satisfaction, using a beguiling submissiveness as one of the arrows in her quiver. That she has choices is the greater message of feminism and BDSM in pornography today.

 

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