Tag Archives: Mila Joy

Le Marquis, Part Five: Mila

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

Le Marquis de la Croix is Mila Joya’s performance masterpiece and I asked Jac Avila to give us some insight into this talented actress.

My thanks to him for providing some of the photos in this final installment on the film.

*          *          *

In Praise of Mila

Le Marquis is Mila Joya’s film. It’s hard to imagine any other actress as Zynga, the gypsy. A lissom, statuesque girl with a body that begs to be displayed in all its glory, the native Bolivian is the perfect torture victim; she graces every scene with an eroticism that is never overtly intentional but commands every cinematic moment.

In bringing Zynga to the screen, Mila whimpers, cries out, and looks pleadingly at the marquis, all the while amusing his perversities. Her most talented feature is her eyes. The pain and desperation she projects through them equips her to excel in this type of role.

Pay particular attention to how Mila handles the humiliation of hunger. Wrists and ankles shackled, she slithers on the floor to nibble a scrap of bread her tormentor casually tosses aside in an arrogant gesture of contempt.

Mila fashions Zynga’s sadness into an image so imposing that the camera can’t stay away. Cinematographer  Miguel Inti Canedo’s lens absorbs the native Bolivian’s agony while celebrating her beauty in shots that offer frequent close-ups that place the viewer into the scene with her.

Developing the character of Zynga requires few lines of dialogue but a ton of emotion and suffering. Mila accomplishes both while physically coping with whippings that leave real marks on her flesh.

Minutes of filming are spent framing her contortions that become the overriding images of Le Marquis. As mentioned previously, they are the frozen moments that stamp the film with the high honor of pure artistic expression.

For the record, Mila’s story reminds me of an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Lana Turner, who at sixteen skipped school and headed to a local drugstore where the right person caught a glimpse of her.

It’s the stuff of legends, of course, revealing that the opportunity of discovery is never far away.

When I inquired about Mila as a performer for Pachamama Films, Jac Avila was most gracious in telling her story.

Here is part of it, so enjoy Mila Joya!

Young, Pretty, and Exotic

“There was a time when Amy (Hesketh) and I took very long walks, almost daily as a way to exercise,” Jac begins.

“We used to walk down to her therapist, an hour walk at a good and healthy pace, three days a week. The therapist used a Japanese method to help Amy with her back problems.”

The doctors, all specialists, shared a house for their offices, Jac remembers, and used the same receptionist. Unfortunately, one day she absconded with the business’s bank deposit and “left for parts unknown.”

Now shorthanded, the physicians hired another girl Jac describes as “younger, pretty, exotic and very shy.”

Here is where discovery offered its fortuitous self to Mila Joya.

Jac explains.

“I was writing a script then based on [Robert Louis Stevenson’s] Jekyll and Hyde. Doctor Jekyll in my version is a psychologist and, yes, he has a young, shy, receptionist, based on Mary Reilly, of course. I mentioned to Amy that the new receptionist was very much like the character in my script. I began to flesh out that character by observing Mila’s behavior while she was doing her job. Amy started observing her too.”

Small World

“A few weeks passed,” Jac says.

His habit was to sit with Amy during her treatments passing time in conversation with the therapist.

“At one point I decided to pick up on my reading instead and wait for Amy at the reception area, finally sinking my eyes in the gigantic De Sade collection I bought in a recent trip to New York,” he recalls.

The receptionist with a sultry allure and an unashamed elegance that filmmakers die for, took notice.

 

“Mila got curious. She asked what I was reading. I mentioned the book with a few descriptions of what the stories were about. She asked which of the stories was my favorite. I said Justine.

The receptionist was hooked.

“Days later she asked where I was from because all the time she saw me with Amy we were speaking in English,” Jac recalls. “I told her I was Bolivian. She was surprised, she was sure I was American.”

Mila inquired about Jac’s profession and found out he was a filmmaker, whereupon she wondered if she had seen any of his work. Sirwiñakuy had just been released and Jac mentioned it was currently playing a local cinema.

“She knew about the movie because her sister was friends with the make-up woman who worked in that movie,” Jac says.

But there was a surprise.

“Her sister actually met me once when she visited the set. Yes, I remembered her sister. Small world, I thought, this is meant to be. Mila also mentioned that she would love to work in movies.”

Jac was intrigued and invited Mila to meet with him and Amy to “talk about the possibility of a movie or two,” suggesting a minor role in one of the films they were currently shooting.

Nudity?

Mila later came to Jac’s house where the subject of nudity on camera was discussed. Was she game?

“She was hesitant,” Jac relates, “but she said she might. I also mentioned to her that she would need some training, she was ok with that.”

Of course, when it comes to the film business, money is a motivator!

“I asked her how much she was making at her job. She mentioned the amount and that she actually hated that job. I told her I could pay her twice as much just for her to train for the movie(s) and work for me in menial things, like running errands.”

So a deal was made and Mila took on all kinds of jobs.

“She was very happy with that'” Jac states. “I also told her that she needed an artistic name. I baptized her Mila Joya. She loved it.”

Mila Joins Amy

“Then something unusual happened,” Jac remembers. “We were offered some funds for a film I was thinking of doing about the Inquisition. We took the offer and I decided to do Maleficarum with Amy and Mila in the leading roles of lesbian lovers who are tortured by the inquisition.”

This meant that Jac and Amy had two films on their agenda for the close of December 2010: Barbazul and Maleficarum.

Since the filming duo had a schedule in hand, an available set, and a sensational newcomer in Mila Joya booked for both films, further possibilities sparked Jac’s thinking.

“We had the great dungeon location for Maleficarum so I told Amy we should shoot a third movie, based on De Sade, with me and Mila in the leading roles and with Amy as the director. I even had the title, Le Marquis de la Croix.


“So, Mila went from being a receptionist with a miserable salary, to become a leading actress in three movies where she plays complex characters who go through a lot of suffering and where she had to be naked most of the time, particularly in Maleficarum and Le Marquis,” Jac recalls.

Amusingly he adds, “She never played the shy receptionist I had in mind for her.”

Honing his new star’s on-screen potential came next and Jac offers that it took some time.

“Mila and I worked for a few months on her acting techniques as well as widening her comfort zone with the nudity and full torture aspect of our work.

“We had sessions where we would work out scenes from the Maleficarum and Barbazul scripts, just the two of us in the dark room I used in Fantom (a Red Feline Production) and with all the gadgets I had there.

“In a weird way, we became Mr. Hyde and Mary two hours a day, five days a week, until she was ready to play Francisca in Maleficarum, Soledad in Barbazul, and Zinga in Le Marquis de la Croix.

“The rest is history.”

Taking a Break

Finally, I’m interested to know what Mila’s future with Pachamama Films looks like now a few years later.

Jac updates us. She’s cast in Pygmalion (Bernard Shaw’s play) as the main character, Eliza. The film is yet to be released. Beyond that, everything is up in the air.

“What is next for her with the studio is in question,” he says, because her opportunities, not surprisingly, have expanded.

“Mila is cast in some TV ads, movies and most recently in a TV series. She’s not against the idea of working in other films with us; it’s just that she wants to take a break from the heavy torture and nudity for now,” Jac explains.

“She’s very much into art, drawing, and she loves tattoos. So she took lessons on how to make them and now she’s on her way of opening her own tattoo parlor,” he adds.

If you have not seen Ollala, do so and take a look at some of her ink.

Jac concludes his thoughts on Mila.

“I believe that maybe she wants to see if her acting alone will get her some attention, without the nudity. It’s not common here (Bolivia) to have nudity in films. We’re very unique in that sense.”

He goes on to say that Mila has made a name for herself in the “heavy films” he and Amy make and “wants to be in something different.”

Understandable, but the fans of Pachamama Films will miss her, I’m sure. In every sense of the word, this once shy receptionist is Jac Avila’s Pygmalion.

*          *          *

For Mila Joya fans, here’s a parting image of her talent, one of those “frozen moments” that endear Pachamama film goers to the craft of Amy Hesketh and Jac Avila.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I Only See Darkness: Jac Avila’s Justine, Part Five

by Rich Moreland, December 2016

SPOILER ALERT! This last installment of Justine discusses the film’s ending, but only partially. For the final resolution watch the film.

Justine is available through Vermeerworks in a download format or in DVD for those who want their own home library.

All photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent Films.

*          *          *

To Know the Unknowable

As Justine moves to its final outcome, Juliette takes center stage and tells her sister about their past.

Her narrative takes place at the pillory but it is interwoven with scenes of Juliette inspecting the dungeon where she amusingly caresses the restraining ropes and turns the wheel of torture.

In an empowered moment feminists will admire, Juliette holds a flogger and pulls it taut.

ja75

“With the figure and age we both had, we could not die of hunger,” Juliette recalls. “These speeches horrified Justine. She declared she preferred death.”

And what of Juliette, a criminal at fourteen? She never looked back.

“Prosperity . . . soiled with crime and horrors” brought her to this moment, she says.

The triumph of vice looks down upon the humiliation of virtue.

ja26

Jac Avila uses Juliette’s cynicism to confront Justine’s faith as the curtain begins to descend.  It goes straight to the heart of the story, the pretense to know the unknowable.

Thirty-Nine

A redemptive moment in the bedroom prompts Justine’s promise to help Omphale escape (a vague reference to the novel when both were imprisoned in the monastery).

It’s all for naught, of course. Sade reveals that such promises are never carried out.

12240847_522309581276945_4857824440171031638_o

Justine is captured along with the other girls and the connection to the film’s opening scene is now complete.

ja92

Justine is sentenced, whipped, and pilloried.

ja22

The others receive their marks in kind . . .

justinemakingofday16_17091

. . . with Rosalie’s particularly graphic in a marvelously shot BDSM scene.

“Behold poor Rosalie. Born to be sacrificed. She will receive thirty-nine lashes of the whip,” Justine laments, addressing the camera once again.

Rodin is creating “his own version of the passion play with his daughter as the sacrifice,” she adds.

ja53

Thirty-nine is forty minus one, the number given Christ (forty was thought to bring death) and thirty-nine is three times the unlucky thirteen revisiting the number archetype we’ve already referenced.

Go back and check the opening scene, Justine passes out during her scourging following the thirty-ninth lash.

The Cross

After the march to the crucifixion site . . .

ja104

. . . the sacrificial victims are positioned on a tripod-like configuration (the number three again) that is actually a drying rack for animal hides typical of native cultures.

Rodin taunts Justine about the pain of the nails (in the novel he brands her as a whore) and looks proudly at his work for the benefit of the crowd.

ja112

Juliette approaches her sister.

“I will not share your pain . . . I will not take you down from your cross.”

ja105

In truth, Juliette cannot.

Justine is being punished for transgressions Sade, her literary creator, charged her with three centuries ago. In the novel when Rosalie is awaiting death at the hands of her father, Justine abandons her.

“I only thought of fleeing,” she says, though admitting that “leaving an innocent victim” to her fate was painful.

Grappling with her circumstances, Justine chooses self-preservation, preferring to “instantly set off on foot” to get away from the evil Rodin.

Her hand is in Rosalie’s murder as surely as if she were in that fatal room.

Now it’s pay back. Retribution.

Justine’s devotion to virtue has shortsighted her humanity allowing Jac Avila to brilliantly tie his film to Sade’s novel.

Our heroine will die with Rosalie . . . and with her devoted friend from the Sade’s monastery, Ophmale, whose skull Justine finds when she escapes the devilish monks.

ja106

Do You See Paradise?

As it happens, there is a final irony in this film that Sade would appreciate.

Justine’s death is a parody of Calvary . . . she is one of the criminals, an unwitting fate for the virtuous.

With unexpected compassion, Juliette promises Justine that perceived injustices (a satrical play on her name) will be punished demonstrating that virtue is often hidden within vice.

But the unknowable always lingers.

“You must answer me something,” Juliette says, gazing up at virtue’s disgrace. “Do you see Paradise? Do you see Hell waiting for you?”

She emphasizes “hell” with dripping scorn that mocks the blood on her sister’s body.

Justine utters, “I only see darkness . . . “

So then, we ask, what is the fate of virtue? Perhaps nothing more than the pretense to know the unknowable.

ja108

Final Thoughts

Both the Marquis de Sade and Jac Avila question the central conundrum about God that has forever perplexed the faithful.

Is He merciful or simply whimsical?

Sade the atheist dismisses the argument altogether as illustrated when Justine is imprisoned in the monastery’s collection of tortured female flesh.

To make way for new girls, current ones are regularly discharged (murdered) but without any particular reason. Age, attractiveness, attitude, nothing seems to determine who is chosen and why.

Jac Avila has a larger, moral take on the question. To understand how he handles this deeper issue, view this thought provoking film and watch for what is not included here.

justinevidcaps01254603sm

Before we close, a word about the cast.

Amy Hesketh moves Justine’s character from Sade’s pathetic, clueless girl to an assertive woman who must deal with her fate. It is an admirable performance.

Cortney Willis is perfect for the haughty, arrogant, but sympathetic Juliette and Jac Avila artfully captures the indifferent Rodin, a scientist unmoved by the misery of those around him.

Mila Joya, a veteran of Pachamama/Decadent productions, and Beatriz Riveria have few lines but carry each scene with their interpretation of torture and suffering. Both women are exotic beauties who make luscious victims of Rodin’s evil ways.

ja109

Kudos to all.

*          *          *

Congratulations to Amy and Jac for another superb and highly recommended film . . .

11216240_10153157134477882_5941447722580919595_n

And to Amy, Mila, and Beatriz for braving chilly weather to bare it all for art!!

12346350_10154316731961840_7480486037916040957_n

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dead But Dreaming, Part 4: Horror or History?

by Rich Moreland, May 2016

jacIn reviewing Dead But Dreaming, I have taken a limited perspective. The film, however, is rich with unexplored layers of meaning that beg for further interpretation. That’s the true measure of art and a salute to director Jac Avila’s innovative work.

*          *          *

Crucifixion and Confrontation

Dead But Dreaming is a film of contrasts and parallels in a narrative driven by the ordeals of Aphrodisia and Moire.

They come from distant lands but their appearances are quite different. Moire’s fair complexion and reddish blonde hair is a counterpoint to Aphrodisia’s fiery exotic look framed by her black hair and paradoxically sad eyes.

As we’ve seen, both are sexually assaulted while bound. Aphrodisia responds with anger; whereas, a stoic Moire endures her trauma.

DBD00365718

On the other hand, both victims are visually eroticized when they are punished. Their differences lie in their humiliation, Moire’s being public, Aphrodisia’s the fate of a slave.

The story’s three crucifixions are also contrasting. Aphrodisia suffers a slave’s death on a cross; Moire is the victim of political persecution while Nahara faces an interrogation with a religious overtone (notice the wound in her side inflicted by a wooden crucifix).  Does vampirism feed off Christian mythology and is that what frightens the priest Ferenc so much?

DBDMakingOf9903

Though Moire is resigned to her fate, Aphrodisia and Nahara are angry. Nahara pulls at the chains securing her to a box-like metal frame in an underground cavern compliments of Ferenc’s mission to stamp out evil.

Speaking of the priest, he and Nahara trade confrontational stares throughout the film in a reminder of Dr. Van Helsing’s pursuit of Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel. In effect, they are mythological parallels in contrasting poses.

Who is Varna?

Varna, dressed in civilian clothes, meets Moire on the street with a less than astonished,  “You’re dead.” Moire’s now eternal state does not appear to surprise the former nun-in-training because she can no longer dismiss the supernatural.

463647_323430181049026_2101279728_o

Moire is concerned for Varna.

When I was dead but dreaming, Moire says, “I heard you,” referring to Varna’s promise to carry on her mission, and “I don’t want you to take my place.”

 Varna is warned. Stay out of the revolution because the whipping post awaits, and seek the church as a shield from Nahara, who has a talent for turning those who pray into prey.

DBD01235910-600x337

Wasted words because Varna is the independent woman celebrated by feminism. She makes her own decisions but will be forever hounded just as feminists have always suffered society’s condemnation.

As the film winds down, Varna  is seduced by Aphrodisia and ends up in the lair where earlier the vampires feasted on a local woman.

dead 8 in the lair

Rather than taste Varna’s virginity, Asa releases her in a nod to the next installment of Dead But Dreaming.

“She will lead us to Nahara,” he says to Aphrodisia.

dead 17

Unexpectedly, Varna shows up at the stable and wants to join Moire, who was anticipating Nahara’s arrival. The viewer learns that the Lamia was killed by Ferenc. But she cannot die, Moire says matter-of-factly, and we know what that means . . .

As they ride away, the Irish traveler warns Varna, “She will find us someday.” It’s a cat and mouse game playing out in vampire land.

So who is Varna?

 Throughout the film, this novice nun cannot look away, cannot confine herself to the safety of her cultural box because she sees perspectives beyond her own personal vision. She is the observer.

Simply put, Varna is us.

Budgets

Finally, Dead has endearing touches that make the film a pleasure.

Director Jac Avila cautions us to not go too far in willfully suspending our disbelief. Granted we are dealing with an indie film that suffers expected budgetary constraints that limit retakes. The upside of that inadvertently breaks the theatrical “fourth wall” by letting the viewer in on the game.

Here are a few really cool examples.

Though the sacrificial virgin in beginning (10,000 years ago) keeps her mouth closed, her metal braces are still visible. A close-up Moire’s feet at the whipping post reveals her pedicure. And in a vampire attack on a La Paz street, Aphrodisia loses one of her fake nails.

I love this stuff because nobody can waste a dollar in the indie business. If anything, it’s an artistic challenge Hollywood cannot appreciate.

Blue

I’m left with only one question. Why do the vampires have blue eyes?

dead 9 blue eyes

Is blue a dreaming state because it is peaceful? Or, is “vampire blue” sad and depressing?

I’ve got a theory. In the Bram Stoker tradition, vampires are condemned to come out at night and, of course, can never again inhale the light of day. So the undead must carry the blue sky in their eyes as a cruel joke; their dilated black pupils push aside the ever present, but forbidden, daytime to see at night.

Another take on the color suggests the “eternal light” of Church doctrine must always be vigilant. Hence the blue crucifix hanging on the church wall and the street scenes shot in a blue hue.

Vampire blue ready to feast

That First Bloody Bite

In closing, my congratulations to the entire production team of Dead. The cinematography is impressive and captures costumes and settings that are authentic representations of La Paz in 1805.

Dead’s pace is lively and the intercutting supremely done to bring the story together. Only once did I think the movie strained itself. The extended scene between Demetrius and Chrysis in Antioch tended to drag with a somewhat flat dialogue delivery. But in the overall scheme of things, that’s minor.

The Irish traveler descends the path with Nahara not far behind

The Irish traveler descends the path with Nahara not far behind

Incidentally, the opening credits offer a clever  indication that this film has a tale to tell. The motif is about travelers who are descending into something we do not yet know. Moire rides her horse down a path and is followed by the mysterious Nahara. When the scene shifts to Asa’s first appearance, he is going down a hill.

DBD00002712-600x337

Set up the viewer with a suggestion and Dead But Dreaming readies the audience for that first deliciously irresistible bloody bite into a terrific story.

Horror or History?

As I mentioned in the first post on this movie, I am venturing into new territory with this analysis. After repeated viewings, I’m reluctant to call Dead a horror film. It is more of a historical drama armed with a political message wrapped in a supernatural fantasy. Though I agree with Eric Antione who characterizes the movie as a “gothic adventure story,” I think it goes deeper than that. Much like Maleficarum, another Amy Hesketh film about victimization, Dead condemns a society that condemns women.

MV5BMTk5MDQyNzM4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzk2ODUxNw@@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_Speaking of  Maleficarum, two young women are tortured under the sadistic auspices of the Church because they don’t fit in. Amy and Mila Joy are innocent victims whipped, racked, and bloodied in realistic scenes. Yet, Maleficarum is not gratuitous violence. The film depicts the abuses society brings on those who drift away from the norm. Watch it with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in mind because Jac Avila’s script and Miller’s story are based on real accounts.

The dungeons of Maleficarum offer Amy and Mila with their nudity and their punishments as treats for the sadomasochistic crowd. Dead dances around the edges of that arena with the same erotic S/M theme that permeates Maleficarum. Does that position both films in a special genre of horror, history, and softcore porn? Perhaps, but that may be a stretch (no rack pun intended), so check out both films and decide for yourself.

What I do believe is what Dead But Dreaming does so well, replay the female oppression theme of Maleficarum with a more forceful feminist message.

*          *          *

AmyHeskethI hope to review another Amy Hesketh production. She is a breath of fresh air unknown to many film fans.

For my tastes, any performer who comments on her nudity with, “My body is my instrument so I’m going to use it,” is quietly telling us she is more than attractively packaged female flesh.

Amy Hesketh is smart, talented, and lusts after each scene she shoots.

Congrats on a great movie and here’s betting that there’s a Dead II in the works.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Dead But Dreaming, Part 2: Lamia

by Rich Moreland, May 2016

Joining Amy Hesketh in Dead But Dreaming is Bolivian Veronica Paintoux who began her career with Pachamama Films in the early 1990s and La Paz native Mila Joya is who has shot for the studio since 2010. She stars with Amy in Maleficarum, a film directed by Jac Avila.

These three provocative women, along with Claudia Moscoso as Varna, infuse feminism into the vampire landscape, giving Dead But Dreaming an empowered pro-woman statement.

Claudio Moscoso

Claudio Moscoso

*          *          *

Throughout recorded history, women have been captured, fought over, enslaved, and seduced for reproductive purposes. The result? Sexual commodification has always been at the core of being female.

Patriarchal attitudes have dominated all cultures with the Church in the Middle Ages western civilization’s strongest example. But women have fought back and in modern times this struggle has given rise to feminism.

In Dead But Dreaming, writer/director Jac Avila explores the feminist image as it is shaped through the recalcitrant female. She may appear submissive and trapped by her circumstances, but she is of her own mind.

Womanly Condition

Until the viewer meets Varna, the feminist tone of the narrative floats along under the radar. There are hints, of course, but the novice nun brings the issue front and center. Her uncle, Ferenc, is the local priest and when they meet in the church courtyard he mentions his suspicions.

There is a female vampire, a lamia, loose in the community. “The demon takes a beautiful shape to seduce young men,” he says.

Uncle and niece

Uncle and niece

The attempted sacrifice of a young virgin centuries ago visually intercuts their conversation because it reflects Varna’s circumstances. She is a modern sacrifice because her “womanly condition” demands that she choose between being a bride of Christ or man. To her, they are “sad choices.” The doubting nun-in-waiting wants a third option, to pursue her studies and write.

Ferenc admits with some pride that Varna has a “talent for deep thought,” not something the sexist church attitude concedes lightly. He does, however, want her to know about the tale of Lilith. This is the root of the female vampire and a lesson in obedience for all women.

Later when Varna meets the Irish traveler, another element is added to the feminist theme: rebellion against authority, something that Church and society believes should never clutter the female mind.

The replacement sacrifice

The replacement sacrifice

Time Portal

The scene shifts back to the virgin sacrifice. Suddenly her place is taken by a mysterious woman who materializes out of a stone portal.

After a stake is driven through the victim’s heart, the chieftain (Jac Avila) drinks her blood. When he extracts the stake, the fiend rises and returns the favor. Thus the tribal leader is reborn as Asa who will become part of the vampire family feud that infuses the narrative.

The undead victim, now known as Nahara, flees to the time portal only to find there is no escape. Once clad in white, the seminude and bloodied Nahara has gone from purity to evil. Like Eve driven from the Garden, she must wander.

DBD00290200

To underscore the pre-Christian birth of vampires, Nahara later appears before Ferenc standing in front of a stone cross. It has no adverse effect on her, Bram Stoker notwithstanding. In Dead But Dreaming, vampires sweep away the oppressive church dogma.  Through asserting the female voice, today’s modern feminists do likewise in a male-dominated world that still minimizes women.

Breaking the Rules too Easily

Another scene shift takes the viewer to La Paz and Asa’s underground lair.

He stays away from the sun (a concession to Stoker) and carries a staff with a large tooth-like object on its end.

dead 15

The back story of this segment moves to Antioch in 57 BC where the slave Aphrodisia is blamed for a lost mirror. In the presence of a congenial group of her mistress’s friends, she is flogged and then crucified.

DBDMakingOfAle0449

As mentioned  previously, Asa is present and turns her into a vampire as she dies on the cross.

In his lair, Asa suggests to Aphrodisia (who is now his personal aphrodisiac) that she still holds a grudge from centuries ago. She retorts that no one helped her, but the vampire lord is disinterested in her complaining. Traveling is on his agenda, he says, which means she’ll have to be put to sleep.

467198_332799253445452_1618416711_oAhprodisia pleads, “I don’t want to be dead but dreaming so long again.”

It’s an angry comment on the condition of women through the ages. Asa’s patriarchal response is unsympathetic. It’s time for a lesson in obedience.

Pushing her away with his staff, Asa chains Aphrodisia to the wall and flogs her in a scene that BDSMers will love. She breaks the rules too easily, he shouts. Aphrodisia writhes; her raging eyes glare at him with desire. Quick sharp breaths intensify her lust, underscoring that sadomasochism ignites vampire love.

DBD00392616-600x337

When Asa plunges his pointed staff into the flesh above both of her breasts, their sexual playtime begins. Burning with fury, Aphrodisia’s eyes turn red and bleed as a woman might under those circumstances.

The scene is female rage at oppression and parallels Moire’s jail cell rape we’ll discuss in the next post.

To Be on Top, at least Once

Asa releases Aphrodisia and lays her on the floor then moves on top of her to suck the blood from the piercings he made. In an act of rebellion, Aphrodisia suddenly reverses positions and straddles him by sitting on his chest.

This is one of Dead’s pivotal moments because it was Lilith who demanded to be on top in an assertion of her feminism. Aphrodisia’s statement of sexual control yields a concession. Asa will not put her to sleep and mute her again.

*          *          *

Next we’ll look at the sad fate of Moire and another of the film’s defining moments, her scourging, execution, and rebirth.

Amy Hesketh in a calm moment before Moire's public humiliation

Still dressed, Amy Hesketh is calm and collected as the set is ready for Moire’s public humiliation. It will be Amy at her most intense in a moving performance.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dead But Dreaming, Part 1: Blood and Desire

by Rich Moreland, May 2016

This is my first attempt to deconstruct a film outside the adult genre. I happened across producer/director/actress Amy Hesketh’s work and decided to give one of her recent films, Dead But Dreaming, a go.

Amy is a ground breaker, portraying the archetypal innocent victim with an honest, understated talent for eroticizing her peril.

I don’t use a rating system for the films I review, but if I did this movie would be a five-star winner. It’s that good.

SPOILER ALERT: If you’d rather not know what happens in this film, stop now and go play on twitter!

dead 11

 

Succubi

Dead But Dreaming is a vampire tale. It has a feminist underpinning that slashes religious and political conservatism while skewering the belief that a woman’s place is under the male thumb.

The back story begins with Lilith, Adam’s first wife. A priest named Ferenc explains to his niece, convent novice Varna, that Lilith refused to submit to Adam and was replaced by the more docile Eve.

The Priest

Jorge Ortiz as The Priest

Actually, the Lilith myth originated in pre-Christian Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and entered Hebrew text in the sixth century BCE.

In Greek mythology, Lilith becomes the Lamia, eater of children and concubine of Zeus. Later she appears in European folklore as the succubi, the seducer of men. Thus we see female vampires in nineteenth century La Paz feasting on the city’s young lads which is Ferenc’s explanation for the mysterious murders that have come to town.

dead 16

Incidentally, Bram Stoker’s 1898 novel Dracula weaves into vampire lore the blood, sex, and death theme we see in Dead. The Irish author’s Victorian rendition establishes the vampire tropes we’ve grown accustomed to, such as recoiling from daylight and crucifixes. For its part, Dead gives a subtle nod to Stoker Moire, who is also Irish.

Considering that the Lamia pre-date Christianity, director Jac Avila scraps some of the typical expectations. For example, Nahara can flit around in sunlight and travel as she pleases. What’s more, the vampires of Dead skirt any retribution from Christianity, though Ferenc does manage to impale Nahara with a crucifix to slow her down.

By the way, producer Amy Hesketh pays tribute to Stoker with “blood is about life force and desire.” Her words underscore the erotic theme of Dead played out magnificently with nudity and sadism. Best of all, the film is a collective love affair for the viewer. Actresses Veronica Paintoux, Mila Joya, and especially Amy Hesketh, are irresistible. As simultaneous victims and empowered women, they exude a delicious sexuality that becomes the narrative.

Veronica Paintoux as Nahara

Veronica Paintoux as Nahara

Faraway Lands

Writer/director Jac Avila wraps Dead around the mystical archetype of three. There are a trio of female vampires: Nahara (Paintoux), Aphrodisia (Joya), and Moire (Hesketh) and three historical settings to weave the story.

Each time period is a part of the puzzle the viewer assembles along the way.

The tribal chieftain (Jac Avila) embraces Nahara

The tribal chieftain (Jac Avila) embraces Nahara

The first deals with the tribal “birth” of Nahara, a visitor from a “faraway land” who finds passage through a time portal. Moire will metaphorically do the same in 1805, the far off land being Catholic Ireland.

The second is Antioch in 57 BCE. The characters in this setting are Greek, though the power of the coming Roman Empire is on their doorstep. The second vampire, Aphrodisia, is born out of the Roman tradition of slave crucifixion.

In Antioch

The slave Aphrodisia offers fruit to visitors

When we arrive at the film’s present time, La Paz is a part of Upper Peru. The Bolivian War of Independence is a few years away but the rebels are organizing. The Irish traveler, Moire O’Higgins, who plans to help the freedom fighters build their arsenal, will suffer a scourging and death that links her to Aphrodisia’s Roman punishment.

Amy Hesketh is the Irish Traveler

Amy Hesketh is the Irish Traveler

Speaking of crucifixion, there are three, one for each female vampire.

Finally, the central male vampire, Asa (played by Avila) encompasses three distinct roles. He is the tribal leader in prehistoric times and the visitor who will suck the blood of the slave Aphrodisia while she is on the cross.

Waiting for Asa

Waiting for Asa

Most important, however, is 1805 La Paz where Asa is a vampire lord in pursuit of, and being pursued by, Nahara in what looks like a family feud. Their maneuverings become the central theme of the story.

Finally, as referenced above, the past and present in Dead are interspersed with scenes from the various time periods. As the film moves forward, the intercutting can appear befuddling, but with close attention the sub-narratives skillfully come together.

Mila Joya as Aphrodisia

Mila Joya as Aphrodisia

The next post explores the film’s feminism theme.

*          *        *

Dead But Dreaming is an indie production from Pachamama Films and distributed through Vermeerworks. It is available for online streaming or DVD purchase.

Producer Amy Hesketh with script in hand

Producer Amy Hesketh with script in hand and cast member close by

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized