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Darker Side of Desire: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

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

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

All photos and images are courtesy of Mile High Media.

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A Balanced Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacky St. James casts the best of them.

Sexual Maturity

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Game

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney leaves abruptly. How do you spell tension?

Raising the Bar

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

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

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

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

They talked about everything.

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

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

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

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

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

You’re Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside the Self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Darker Side of Desire: Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

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

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

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Never for its Own Sake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hidden Affection

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

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

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

So how does the sex tell the story?

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

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

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

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

Spider Web

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

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

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

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

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

Counterpoints

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

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

More on this in Part Two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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