Tag Archives: Jacky St. James

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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Circular Evolution: Angie Rowntree, Part One

by Rich Moreland, October 2016

Ever since I began writing in adult film, I’ve learned that creativity is broadly defined. Many directors and performers like the all-sex, or gonzo approach to filmmaking where innovation revolves around positions, penetrations, and hot bodies.

On the other hand, my preference is the feature where plot, dialogue, and acting complement the sex. In my mind, telling a story sets the stage for the film’s carnal adventures by giving them meaning.

Along the way, I’ve talked with movie makers who feel the same way. One of them is Angie Rowntree of Sssh.com, a female-friendly adult website.

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angie rowntreeI first sat down with Angie at the 2016 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. At the time, I had reviewed her groundbreaking film, Gone, which in my opinion is the best adult film ever made. You can read the review here.

Recently we had the good fortune to talk about an emerging phenomenon in adult known as “crossing over.” Simply put, it means entering legitimate Hollywood while maintaining a porn identity.

Here is a sampling of our conversation.

A Legitimate Expressive Form

Is crossing over on rise?

Angie believes that “porn has become far more accepted, or at least tolerated, by the general public than it used to be,” a change she credits to the internet. Understandable, she says, since “porn’s prominence” has dominated “the commercial internet” since its earliest days.

“References to porn are now commonplace in pop culture and it’s a daily subject in mainstream news reporting and broadcast television,” Angie explains, citing “edgier” shows like “Game of Thrones, American Horror, Sons of Anarchy, and now HBO’s West World” as examples.

The feminist filmmaker maintains that most viewers see a “bright line” between HBO/Fox type entertainment that pushes boundaries and porn. Nevertheless, “the embrace of sexually explicit depictions by undeniably mainstream shows has certainly helped to legitimize sexualized content,” she adds.mv5bmjm5otq1mty5nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm3nzmxode-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_

The result is a huge step toward the acceptance of adult-like performances embedded within Hollywood narratives.

Agreed, but is there a generational influence at work here?

Youth does make a difference, Angie insists.

“To a lot of young people these days,” porn is “just another form of entertainment . . . to watch if you feel so inclined, like TV dramas, sports, or sticoms.”

Perhaps it is Millennials who are leveling the entertainment playing field and here’s why.

According to Angie, “the sense of shame long associated with watching porn is starting of dissipate,” which means porn is going through a “circular evolution.”

“As more of porn is made which bucks the traditional, typical male-dominated perspective, more people will accept it as a legitimate expressive form, leading to even more creative and innovative people coming into the industry.”

The result?  “A more diverse and variegated industry” will lead to improved content benefiting everyone from performer and filmmaker to the consumer.

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Viewed Differently

That leads us to the key question. Will porn ever be accepted as mainstream entertainment?

Angie hesitates to predict anything definite about that.

“I think porn will always be viewed differently from mainstream entertainment if for no other reason than people are going to continue to be conflicted in how they feel about sex. For something so central to our lives, humans sure seem to be uncomfortable with the subject of sex, let alone its depiction.”

As an afterthought, however, she hints that “always” and “forever” are not words to use when talking about porn.

“Back in the early nineties I never though I’d see porn become as accepted and tolerated as it has already become, so who knows what the future holds?”

Legally Acceptable

I’m not letting Angie get away without one more question.

Will the public accept hardcore sex if it’s integral to the story being told?

“I think there’s real merit to that notion, yes . . to a certain extent, at least,” she says, and mentions the 1979 film, Caligula.

mv5bmtyzmti0ndg3n15bml5banbnxkftztcwmtqznjmymq-_v1_“It was seen as one step more ‘legitimate’ than the hardcore porn movies being made around the same time.”

This legitimacy, she insists, emerged because the film “was perceived as a movie with hardcore sex in it as opposed to a porno with an unusual amount of dialogue.”

By the way, Caligula was made in the fading pre-video days of Porno Chic when adult films appeared in neighborhood theaters and emphasized a narrative with a semblance of acting.

The producer/director reminds us of an important change established in the 1970s concerning obscenity.

“Hardcore sex is more legally acceptable when it comes in the context of a story.”

That’s important because the court has to prove that the content and context of a film “lacks literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” she adds.

Of course, producers and directors can argue for a film’s merit, Angie insists, “if there is more going on within the story than just people having sex in several different positions.”

Well said.

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Our conversation with Angie Rowntree continues in the next post.

She talks about Gone, her Mindbrowse podcasts, and we’ll learn a little about acting and a female director’s approach to shooting.

Heavy hitters in the feminist line-up of porn makers. Kelly Holland, jessica drake, Angie Rowntree, Jacky St. James, Kelly Shibari. Photo courtesy of Angie Rowntree

Heavy hitters in the female strong line-up of porn makers. Love this photo!
Left to Right: Kelly Holland, (bartender in background),  jessica drake, Angie Rowntree, Madeline Blue, Jacky St. James, Kelly Shibari.
Photo courtesy of Angie Rowntree

 

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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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The Resolution of Emma Marx, Part One: The Black Wig

by Rich Moreland, March 2016

This is the first installment of  a three-part analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed. With this film, writer/director Jacky St. James finishes the trilogy that follows a BDSM submissive through her rite of passage into womanhood.

My thanks to New Sensations/Digital Sin for providing the watermarked photos. All other photos are credited where possible.

TheSubmissionOfEmmaMarx03Exposed_front

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Mythologists believe all stories contain archetypes, symbolic imagery that explains how we interpret the world around us. In other words, an archetype is something we inherently understand, the stuff of great literature, religious belief, and legend.

In the Emma Marx saga, storyteller and director Jacky St. James taps into a powerful archetype, the number three, the cornerstone of  an age-old concept known as birth, death, and rebirth. The final chapter, Exposed, is about Emma’s renewal and the conflicting emotions that bear witness to it.

Even the structure of the Emma series, the trilogy, embraces the triad concept.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo what does this mean? Simply this. The myth and its power over the human psyche is why Emma Marx stands alone in adult film. Compliment the narrative with superb acting captured by a haunting, brooding cinematography and Emma’s story takes its place among adult entertainment’s hall of fame offerings.

Let’s be honest. Emma Marx is already porn’s best in the “art” cinema genre (Cinekink are you listening?). Mute the hardcore into a smidgen of nudity and indie film accolades are but a screening away.

Fearless

The ancient Greeks honored the trilogy because it reinforced their idea of the hero who rises above the masses. Is Emma Marx a heroine? She is, but it is not of her own making, or so she believes. In the first two films, Mr. Frederick takes the formative clay that begins as a naïve girl, sees within it, and molds the Emma the viewer gets to know. He orchestrates the kinks that become her identity.

But she is not reprogrammed because BDSM is a product of her DNA. Frederick tells Emma, “This was in you before you met me. I could tell that the second I met you. It’ll still be a part of who you are forever.”

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Early in Exposed, Emma reflects on Mr. Frederick’s tutelage that guides her enlightenment.

“I was fearless. In fact, putting limits on my experiences had become more terrifying than taking risks.”

However, her journey is tumultuous and laced with misery and despair. Faced with “a profound sense of unhappiness,” Emma eventually engages another conductor to play her symphony. Her fetishized self must be rediscovered and retooled under a new BDSM guru.

Emma awaits transition before doorways in the film

Emma awaits her symbolic transitions to open before her

In the final episode, Emma suffers the pain of an emotional loss that inevitably precedes the mystical rebirth the ancients knew well. Mr. Frederick brought forth the original awakening that transformed a shy, introverted girl into an independent-minded adult. But a lingering childlike dependency remains, necessitating in a further renewal that will release Emma’s authentic, transcendental self.

The BDSM submissive tries to subdue, almost mute, her final reawakening, as the opening shots of the third film suggest with makeup brushes, heavy red lipstick, and an awful black wig. But the disguise is doomed to failure because Emma cannot be fully individuated (developed into a whole person, as psychologist Carl Jung puts it) while hiding behind a mask. The archetype of rebirth will not abide it.

Theme of Three

How does a director turn the transcendental elements of the human psyche into an adult film? Jacky St. James pulls it off with grace, power, and tough emotion. I might add that the cast is brilliant. Each performer is the embodiment of their character. The viewer is familiar with Nadia (Riley Reid), Ray (Van Wilde), William Frederick (Ritchie Calhoun), and, of course, Emma (Penny Pax).

Maturing into their roles, they grow together throughout the series. By the way, before you see the third episode, please watch the first two otherwise you’ll be walking in for the denouement of a well-crafted story you may not fully comprehend.

To complement the familiar faces, Exposed offers more characters to enrich the narrative. Ryan Diller who steps in as Michael Sullivan is a sensitive fit for the role. He shows up in the final hour of the film EMMA_MARX_03_HARD.02_02_49_21.Still118and becomes Emma’s guiding light, not an easy task for any performer because our heroine is drawn taut in her feelings. The reawakening that will push her forward must come from her own soul.

Even the sexual encounters carry the triad theme. Jacky St. James has grouped her characters accordingly. New to this version of Emma Marx are Samantha Hayes (Rebecca) and Aidra Fox (Joelle), two emerging industry stars. They are the additional play partners that entertain Mr. Frederick’s fantasies. His first romp with Rebecca is watched by his former submissive, Audrina (Sara Luvv). His final dip into carnality features a threesome with Emma and Joelle.

More on the literary implications of these episodes later.

As she has done throughout this adult classic, Jacky St. James has the opening sex scene feature Nadia and Ray to establish the story’s contrasting “normality.” But this time there is an unseen third person, their little one, Isabelle. Nadia is never totally comfortable with this fantasy set-up because she’s distracted by thoughts of the baby. It’s hard to let go sometimes, even for an hour of fun, when you are very suburban and middle-class.

Duality

Nadia and Emma remain a duality throughout the series; each is defined by the other. But does this duality include a mask for Nadia?

Contrasting sisters. Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Contrasting sisters.
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

We discover early in the series that Emma’s sister is consumed by her conventionality and its play-by-the-numbers expectations. It certainly fits her shallow self-absorption. In fact, one gets the feeling that her baby is just the next event programmed into a well-scripted socially acceptable life Nadia never challenges. It is evident, however, that she has learned some lessons from Emma about sexual fantasy. Nadia does agree to fool around with Ray’s sexual imagination, though her commitment to these make-believe dalliances is debatable.

On the other hand, Emma, emerging from her cocoon in the first film, faces another transition in Exposed.  Her mask, defined by the wig she wears in the opening shots of the third film, is ready to accompany her back into what she loves. But wigs and lipstick shout of denial and can never be satisfying. Just as she did when releasing her kinks in the first film, Emma now faces another hurdle in her growth, she must break through the pain that lies beneath the persona everyone sees.

Rebirth, in all its forms, is the story of the human condition because exposure is the final step to liberating the real self.

A moment of sisterly love between Nadia and Emma

A moment of sisterly love between Nadia and Emma

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The next post will explore the imagery that sets The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed apart from the run-of-the-mill porn fare.

Aidra Fox promotes Emma Three Photo by Jeff Koga

Aidra Fox promotes the trilogy with the first two films in hand.
Photo by Jeff Koga

 

 

 

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The Meaning of Consent: Directors

by Rich Moreland, February 2016

The series of posts on consent in the adult industry begins with the directors.

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Directors are the captains of the porn ship, so to speak. Everyone’s job on set is smooth sailing when the weather is good. . . until a disgruntled performer stirs turbulent waves that can wash over everyone’s day.

From a director perspective, coaxing anyone to go beyond their limits invites turmoil, such as speed dialing an agent to complain. If anyone walks, kill fees are offered to keep peace and the day is lost.

Though I’ve never seen this on any set I’ve visited, I’ve often observed models interacting with each other before their scenes. It’s not idle conversation. They are taking care of business, clarifying what they are good to go with and what they are not. It calms the waters.

Girlfriends Films

gfs logoThough directors have different levels of flexibility, they review the scene with talent before shooting commences and often work a camera themselves.

I queried two award-winners, the legendary Dan O’Connell and B Skow of Girlfriends Films, and got responses corroborated by performers who have worked for them.

Here’s Dan’s view. He shoots only girl/girl scenes, by the way.

“[Consent] has never been an issue on my sets. Everyone arrives knowing what is expected of them. We talk about the sex scene beforehand and go over each girl’s ‘don’ts.’ So nobody goes into the scene not knowing what to expect.

“I tell every girl that she can, should, and is encouraged to stop the scene if she wants to use the bathroom, consume water or discuss what’s going on. Nobody has ever stopped a scene except for water, to use the bathroom or blow her nose.”

Dan O'Connell reviews the scene with Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox

Dan O’Connell discusses the scene with Jorden Kennedy and Aidra Fox

B Skow sends a similar message.

“I never shoot scenes that push limits like the type that Kink.com or James Deen shoot, but I can tell you if I felt either performer was uncomfortable, I would stop shooting and make sure everyone respected each other’s boundaries and start shooting again if we all agreed.”

B Skow

B Skow

Skow does mostly boy/girl work, shooting gonzo and features. In Dan’s case, his content is the vignette, a short story with a sexual theme. My reviews of their films, which are offered on DVD, can be found on this blog and my column at AINews.com.

The Feminist View

For a theater-oriented director like Jacky St. James, whose content is marketed by New Sensations/Digital Sin, her set is geared to bring out a performer’s acting ability.

Jacky says, “I don’t delve too deeply into what is required of a performer prior to a shoot unless I am tackling territory that might be challenging for them.”

She mentions The Submission of Emma Marx, an award-winning three-feature series she wrote and directed, as an example of establishing limits. Jacky wanted to make sure the star, Penny Pax, “was comfortable with each of the BDSM activities we were going to film.”

Jacky St. James

Jacky St. James

Overall,  the feminist director emphasizes, “I would never ask talent to do something that made them uncomfortable. Basically I set the precedence that they must be prepared and work hard…and I’ll help take care of the rest. I want to make their lives easy on set so that we can really focus on the most important components of the production, namely, nailing their characters.”

Gonzo on the Internet

Internet sites, natural vehicles for gonzo or all-sex shoots, aim to satisfy the sexual tastes of their online members. How does this influence limits?

To explore that question, I chatted with Billy Watson who directs for the DogFart Network, an interracial conglomerate of over twenty sites. He runs his own studio in LA and has a variety of sets available for his scenes.

dog fart logo

“Essentially, when someone walks into my studio, I always go over what’s expected and what I want and what I need,” Billy begins.

He uses licensed agents exclusively and relies on them to tell the girls what the shoot entails, “so they know what they are getting into when they come here.” He mentions gang bang and cuckholding scenes as examples.

While the girls are in the make-up chair, a feature of Billy’s studio complete with artist on hand, he reviews the scene coming up, everything from “the sex positions themselves to what names we can call them during the shoot.”

Responses that vary from “Oh, you can call me anything, I don’t care,” to “Don’t call me a bitch,” and everything in between. The same with on-screen behavior. The native Arizonan gives the following example, “Pull my hair, choke me, but don’t spit on me,” or “You can spit on me, but just don’t choke me. You can slap this part of my butt . . . whatever.”

For the DogFart people, it seems language is a sticking point. Occasionally in a gang bang scene the girl will explicitly state she does not want to be called a bitch. “Invariably somebody will actually slip,” Billy comments with a shrug.

Apologies immediately follow, “‘Oh my God, I didn’t mean to do that,'” and the shoot moves on.

A Tricky Thing

However, Billy runs into an issue most other directors don’t encounter.

Jim Talks Business Photo by Bill Knight

Billy Watson

“We show a lot of interracial porn and a lot of the members love it when the girls call the guys the n-word. This is a tricky thing because it goes both ways.”

Some male performers don’t mind. In fact it cranks up their engine. However others “won’t accept that kind of language.”

Has he had an incident that caused filming to stop?

“No, never. I’ve never had any kind of drama because we’re really careful not to violate anybody’s boundaries.”

Billy Watson checks member responses

Billy checks member responses

There are times, however, when “my boss says the members are looking for a really crazy, over-the-top scene.”

In those cases, Billy will book a girl with guys who are comfortable around the n-word. But that may not apply to all the male performers that day and the ones who don’t want such language directed at them will make their boundaries known.

In this reversal of the norm, it’s the men who feel violated.

Billy recalls a particular shoot that starred a model who was free with questionable language. It was a ten-man gang bang and getting all male talent on the same page had its issues.

“A couple of the black guys came up to me and said, ‘that girl’s not going to call me a n—‘ and she had to hold her tongue because I didn’t want the black guys to get upset with her.”

Gone Away

Performers have hinted to me in casual conversation that there are some directors who will look the other way when problems arise.

Bringing this up with Billy evokes an honest assessment.

“It depends on the producer and director and your crew. There’s still some people in this business who think the girls are kind of like chattel. Bring them in [and do what you want] because we’ll never shoot her again.”

However . . .

“A lot of those guys seemed to have gone away,” he remarks.

“The 2008 perfect storm killed a lot of those dudes. [That’s when] Brazzers perfected the tube site, basically the fine art of piracy. They all started off as search engine guys in the early 2000s and have gone on to all the things they’ve done to ruin this business.”

Or challenged it, for sure. But they may also have run off the worst of the lot when it comes to ignoring the performer.

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