Tag Archives: James Deen

Everything You Wanted to Be: A Review of Zero Tolerance’s “Shades of Scarlet”

by Rich Moreland, November 2014

shades of scarlet boxcover

 

With the explosion of “Fifty Shades of Grey” to the highly marketable “mommie porn” audience, adult film has been spinning its own version of the dominance/submission formula for a while now. Mostly, the result is a variety of BDSM lite shoots where a bit of flogging and a blindfold are standard fare. “Shades of Scarlet” moves past this fluff and turns up the heat a bit. The film’s BDSM scenes flavor an emerging adult genre I call “submission porn,” a cross between low-cal BDSM and Kink.com‘s harsher fare.

“Shades” introduces an erotic writer Roz Collins (Anthony Rosano) who responds to a fan email with a cell phone seduction that appears off beat. His image on-screen is strictly in profile, dark and foreboding with extreme facial closeups. Of course, that is not by accident.

Karlie Montana Photo courtesy of Officefantasy2.com

Karlie Montana
Photo courtesy of Officefantasy2.com

His fan, the bookwormish office worker Karlie Montana, delights in Collins’ creativity, especially his latest work, “Scarlet: When Passions Collide.” His books take her away from her mundane reality emphasized by the film’s Midwestern setting. As a result, she romanticizes Collins as “a man I could never meet” and Scarlet, as “as a girl I could never be.”

In their first conversation she says she could never do the things he writes about.

“Never or not yet?” he replies and the tone for the film is set.

Collins asks her if she would like to meet the characters in his book. “They’re real?” she asks. “They are now,” he says, and leaves instructions for her new adventure.

Giddy at first and then apprehensive, Karlie obeys, knowing that her fear of her desires is hovering over her. She will meet Collins’s kinky mind with the sex play of two couples: Mr. Pete and AJ Applegate, and Tommy Pistol and Romi Rain.

Two Visits

Entering a warehouse covered with street art, a stunned Karlie encounters Mr. Pete and the submissive AJ fully engaged in a BDSM scene. The scenario will be repeated later when she walks into a dungeon-like room in which Tommy and Romi are likewise playing. To emphasize their vulnerability, both women are blindfolded and subjected to whipping, cropping, paddling.

AJ Applegate Photo courtesy of Zero Tolerance

AJ Applegate
Photo courtesy of Zero Tolerance

In the first scene, the voyeuristic Karlie reaches into her panties; in the second, she fondles herself after being ordered to remove them. Mr. Pete and AJ transform Karlie’s expression from reticence to fascination; by the time Tommy and Romi’s sexual romp ends with the pop shot, she’s entranced.

Director Mike Quasar has constructed two dynamite sex scenes with just the right blend of bondage and hardcore sex. There’s smacking and spanking, lots of deep throating and vaginal penetration, but no anal because it is not a big seller in the couples market.

After watching Mr. Pete and AJ, Karlie inwardly confesses that she’s in love with Collins and is ready to engage him. However, before they can meet, he insists she must return to the warehouse and seek out a man called “Tommy.”

“I don’t remember that character,” she says.

“I haven’t written him yet,” Collins replies.

Collins knows Karlie is obedient; Tommy will test her will to submit.

At first Karlie winces as a suspended Romi receives her punishments. Before Tommy unshackles his submissive for sex, he confines Karlie to a jail-like cage to watch his raven-haired captive pleasured by her “master.”

Romi Rain Photo courtesy of romirain.com

Romi Rain
Photo courtesy of romirain.com

An educational moment for neophyte BDSMers occurs here. Tommy turns to Karlie and demands to know if she wants him to “hurt” Romi. She shakes her head. He then asks his caged guest if he should “go harder” with his playmate. Karlie is okay with that. In response, Pete and Romi lovingly kiss and Romi smiles appreciatively when the going gets rough, declaring she loves the pain because it intensifies her sexual response.

BDSMers separate emotional hurt from pain. Pain is enjoyable in an erotic sense. Hurting is never acceptable and Quasar makes that point here.

Goodbye to Scarlet

The film’s final sex scenes are contrasts. Karlie gets a call from Collins informing her a package is arriving with clothes to wear for tonight’s appointment. As usual, she anticipates meeting with him but the time is not right, she learns.

Again in the warehouse, Karlie stands, blindfolded with a leash held by James Deen. This three-way scene will feature the sultry Skin Diamond, James’ submissive, who will become Karlie’s dominant. It’s training for Karlie who addresses James and Skin as “master” and “mistress,” thanking them for everything they do to her.

There’s mild to moderate flogging and cropping suitable for viewers who feel comfortable getting into BDSM. Interestingly, Karlie Montana’s bondage resume does not include Kink.com, whereas AJ, Skin, Tommy, and James have shot for the San Francisco studio several times. Yet, Karlie’s performance is convincing enough to pass the authentic Kink submissive test. That’s verisimilitude.

There are a variety of position changes to go with the usual porn fare: lots of oral sex to highlight the action featuring enthusiastic, top of the line performers. When the sex gets steamy, the bondage ingredients tend to be dropped, something which often happens with real life lovers experimenting with BDSM.

The next day at work, Karlie takes a call from Collins.

“How was your night?” he asks.

“Incredible, I never in a million years thought something like that would happen to me,” she says.

He tells her the time has come and she enthusiastically expects to meet with him. But first, he wants to know what her imagination tells her he looks like.

The significance of her journey is revealed. Karlie must engage reality through her fantasies, to find common ground with her fears so her sexuality can be released. After she describes a tall handsome man, Collins terminates the call with a good-bye to “Scarlet.” She politely corrects him with “Karlie,” but it is too late, her imagination has leapfrogged reality.

Karlie is given her dream man, a meeting set up by Collins who tells her “you get to be everything you ever wanted to be.” In a final phone call, Collins says a farewell to “Scarlet,” reminding Karlie that “this is where the story ends,” and, of course, her hoped for reality begins.

She enters the warehouse one more time.

The final sex scene with Derrick Pierce is Karlie’s awakening through restraint–leather cuffs, a blindfold, and bondage sex–put in motion by a voice she can never meet, a creator of characters that are not real. Though there are submissive elements, Derrick is gentle and romantic, fulfilling Karlie’s fantasies.

Karlie in Derrick's hands Photo courtesy of Zero Tolerance

Karlie in Derrick’s hands
Photo courtesy of RAI

The scene is uplifting with music that lends a dreamy quality to the sex. In fact, dreams are the closing image of a film that ends where it began, in the imagination of a sleepy office worker who puts down her copy of the Scarlet novel and drifts off, alone in her bed, into a bondage phantasmagoria.

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A Dirty Little Secret?

by Rich Moreland, August 2014

 

Recently, Assembly Bill 1576 requiring the use of protective barriers in adult film was tabled by the California State Senate. As a result, the adult industry will avoid further government oversight statewide except for Los Angeles County where a similar ordinance remains on the books.

The story of AB 1576’s demise as reported by XBIZ can be found here and Adult Video News’ version is referenced here.

The following commentary is about AB 1576’s unanticipated impact on the industry.

*          *          *          *          *

Casey Calvert sends the message. Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

Casey Calvert sends the message.
Photo courtesy of Casey Calvert

“Here’s the dirty little secret about porn production in California: it’s just work,” says Assemblyman Isadore Hall, whose effort to require condoms in adult film has just expired in a Senate committee.

The Honorable Mr. Hall confirms what everyone connected with the adult industry has known all along, porn people are entertainers who pick up a paycheck. Their job is hardly “a dirty little secret.”

What is missing from Assemblyman Halls’ sardonic comment is the acknowledgment that an effective industry wide blood testing protocol is already in place, and has been for years, to take care of what AB 1576 purports to address: worker safety. Adult entertainment can take care of its own and do it without burdening the taxpayers of a state rife with financial problems.

From California’s standpoint, money is the issue. Driving a multi-billion dollar industry underground or into the friendlier neighborhoods of Nevada, Florida, and New Hampshire (yes, it is legal to shoot porn in “The Granite State”) makes little sense. Enforcement of any protective barrier law demands more government spending, a difficult prospect in tough economic times, and increases unemployment as businesses move elsewhere.

Unfortunately, for LA county the expenditure already exists and state coffers are taking a hit anyway. Segments of the porn industry have vacated California as indicated by dwindling film permits.

Better Equipped

Having said that, only the naive are persuaded that the protective barrier fight is over. Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF) will carry on his private war with the industry. It’s a moral imperative for him just as it may be for Isadore Hall, though both claim performer safety is their concern, an astounding assertion since the public has traditionally cared little for people who make their living selling sexuality in any form.

But for now, the issue is tabled and it’s time to assess the benefits from an industry standpoint. Here’s a quick review.

A degree of political unity is emerging. In the condom debate, the Free Speech Coalition led a vanguard of concerned groups that stood against AB 1576. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Law Center, Project Inform of San Francisco, and the AIDS Project Los Angeles, are among the associations who voiced their opposition. And, the valuable support of the business oriented Valley Industry & Commerce Association cannot be overlooked. It has a stake in keeping porn dollars in the LA economy.

While this is a beginning, other longer term developments are taking shape.

The latex controversy has revealed that performers, always known for their renegade attitudes, can organize to express their opinions. The earliest, most primitive rumblings occurred in raucous protests before Measure B became law in LA county an election cycle ago. At the time, it was too little, too late and haphazard, at best. But as reality settled in and the battle moved to Sacramento, performer interest intensified. Stars like Chanel Preston, James Deen, Casey Calvert, Lorelei Lee, Jiz Lee, Nina Hartley, Annika Albright, Alex Chance, and others lobbied legislators.

Bottom line? Porn performers can advance their agenda and may have more political clout than they realize.

A performer organization, the nascent APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee), is emerging. Among APAC’s successes is Porn 101, a video educating talent about STDs. Porn people are sex workers foremost, just as Isadore Hall suggests, and where better to help than with health issues. As APAC grows, the political entanglement over condoms adds to its importance and performers are now better equipped to fight the next round.

In the meantime, two gutsy industry executives are creating their own political dust ups with AHF. First, Vivid’s Steven Hirsch has filed an appeal in the 9th U. S. Circuit Court involving the enforcement of Measure B. Second, Peter Acworth of Kink.com is taking on Michael Weinstein in a direct confrontation. In Acworth’s view, the company was unfairly fined over $78,000 for OSHA “violations” in San Francisco. When he moved some production to Las Vegas, AHF tailed him into town and initiated legal complaints over unprotected oral sex. “Baseless” is Acworth’s word for their accusation (this has gotten irritatingly personal) and Nevada, which envisions a porn biz financial windfall, is stepping around AHF for the moment.

At present, Peter Acworth is ahead in his fight; Steven Hirsch’s efforts remain in limbo.

So, where are we now? The condom push fell victim to state funding, the oft-cited reason for failures to increase government regulation. But, in this case, the aftermath is bringing together an industry willing to wrestle for its life. The message is awareness coupled with united action, ingredients for an effective voice in every political scrum.

Simply put, the porn world is not what it used to be. The people who are committed to adult entertainment understand that porn is a career and are better educated and more professional than ever before. They safeguard their working conditions and have a blood testing protocol to protect against STDs.

All the while, shooting scenes remains what they have always been. In this case, Isadore Hall is right on target, “it’s just work.”

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After posting Isadore Hall’s comment on porn and work, I decided to clarify that many performers enjoy their profession and believe it is an artistic expression that goes beyond making a living. With that in mind, I will quote awarding winning director Jacky St. James:

“Sex at work can feel very good, but at the end of the day, it’s still work. There do not have to be emotions involved…and having sex with a variety of people does not invalidate what you feel for your partner. Most of the long-term, stable relationships in adult are between two individuals that possess a strong sense of self and can see their profession for what it is – a job.”

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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.

*     *     *     *     *

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.

*   *   *   *   * 

            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.

 

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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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