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A Commentary on Monxa Mala: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, July 2019

In this installment of Monxa Mala, we’ll offer our analysis of the story. We’re getting literary here so to fully appreciate the visual impact of this drama, purchase the film from Vermeerworks.

Photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent Films and Jac Avila.

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Survival

Each woman in Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala is adept at self-preservation. Martina and Justa do it through silence. Barbara and Lucrecia use their sexuality. Both women identify with their abuser and become Enforcers to avoid the painful end of the whip.

Julia wants to please and coincidentally relishes her punishments meted out by the Father. Essentially, she’s a cultist who symbolizes the faithful sheep (worshipers) who never question. However, her allegiance also has a darker side. Julia is symbolic of both parties in the age-old struggle between the Church and the forces of Satan because she’s willing to dance with the Father, however he is disguised.

Leticia is an independent spirit and the Father is determined to crush her individuality, vowing to “expel those demons that mortify you.” Shackled and awaiting her chastisement, Leticia endures his sanctimonious judgment of her “transgressions” . . . reckless, conceited, proud, arrogant, defiant, unruly . . . just for a start.

As Leticia grimaces under the lash wielded by Lucrecia, the Father calmly tells her, “You are Eve. God’s sentence hangs over all your sex.”

It’s an age-old, time-worn accusation. If left to their own designs, women will disgrace and dishonor the Church. Their curse is the sexual urges they arouse in men, an intolerable situation that calls for action. The best way to stamp out carnal desire, according to the Father’s logic, is to act on it first and then delight in its destruction. In other words, discipline the messenger before disposing of her in a righteous way.

“The cross is a noble punishment,” the Father declares.

The Father sees women as pawns. As God’s representative, he is unsullied, giving him free rein to debase the novices for his personal gratification before justifiably torturing them. We see that with Barbara’s “problem.” It’s taken care of on the rack after she whispers that she might be carrying something of his.

Alive

Leticia’s single-mindedness and her strength are brought to light in the bedchamber where ointment is applied after her scourging. She says with grit, “I will leave this place . . . maybe broken up into pieces, but I’ll leave from here alive.”

Leticia’s pronouncement reverberates through the film as each novice/nun seeks a way to ameliorate her own situation.

The challenge for the viewer is to interpret what “leave alive” means. Is Jac Avila telling us that faith conquers death? Internal strength survives the pain of torture? Church oppression is never final?

Or, is Leticia offering us an undeniable feminist statement, thus transforming Monxa Mala into a feminist film? In other words, is paganism pro-woman because it flies in the face of Church patriarchy?

After all, some nuns get what they want, don’t they. . . ? Which brings us to the malleable Julia.

A Tidy Little Masochist

Julia is central to the film if one considers it to be a sadomasochistic horror tale with enough whipped backs and boobs to fascinate dedicated BDSMers. The novice is itching for her punishments and can mete out a bit of sadistic pleasure herself.

She uses the Father, seducing him in ways she knows will work. Julia confesses she is “a great sinner” who has “sinful thoughts about your Grace.” She fawns at his feet and extracts a kiss from him. The perfect toady. Important because another novice, the whipped Barbara, ends up on the wheel . . .

. . . and Lucrecia will endure the collar, then the rack.

By the way, when he kisses Julia, the Father pulls down her garment to bare her breasts, triggering her sexual excitement.

Julia’s conflation of pain and sex is well noted in the film. When Leticia’s bloody marks are being treated, Julia says, “Did it hurt very much?” Leticia replies, “You would have loved it.”

Later as Julia is being lashed by Barbara’s hand, Leticia walks in and watches with a half-smile. Julia closes her eyes in ecstasy and hardly flinches.

“Your dream becomes reality,” Leticia says with a degree of sarcasm.

“I’m doing my penance with humility,” Julia says softly, “but I don’t feel the pain.” She smiles with smug superiority.

Who is being manipulated here?

Julia is the masochistic delight of Monxa Mala so don’t miss her whipping scene on the ladder. She is arrogant in her own way when she says to the Father that it’s her turn “with the flagellum.” “My wish is to be whipped by your grace,” she declares, so there are no shackles or restraints. This is Julia’s fun and she gets another kiss for her submission.

The scene is back side/front side and a naked Stephanie Vargas is eye candy. We hope to see her in future films.

Beyond the Red Feline series, rarely has the Pachamama/Decadent library captured a better pure masochist on film.

By the way, Julia is a switch of sorts. Using the needle probe, she increases Leticia’s agony when she gets the chance. Just goes to show you that pain lovers can be feisty if the opportunity rises. The needle has a deeper meaning, however. Julia’s fascination with it is a thinly veiled comment on her own raging need for penetration of another sort.

Oh yes, there is something else this moment reveals. Competition and revenge festers among the women. During Julia’s earlier whipping, Leticia pokes her in the ribs with a nail used in crucifixion. Turnabout is fair play, is it not?

Various Sides of a Woman

Writer/director Jac Avila leaves the viewer to decide what the Father means when he references the “big lie” that is making its way around the monastery.

No matter how such a lie is interpreted, remember that each novice/nun in Monxa Mala represents a side of the human condition that is tested by it. Leticia is the rebel who is unrepentant while Julia is the cultist who refuses to question. Barbara is sexual lust and power personified, the opposite of Lucrecia whose pragmatism guides her actions.

Martina and Justa represent the old adage, “the less said, the better.” In Martina’s case, she solves problems. We see that when talk with the Father turns to performing abortions to rid the monastery of its recurring unspoken “problem.”  Lucrecia volunteered for one, Martina informs us.

It’s the big coverup that gets out of control. Except for Leticia who remains defiant and pays with a crown of thorns, the women have sold their souls to the Devil in a bargain driven by necessity. They have forfeited their choices.

Throughout the film, the tension between the Father and Leticia becomes a psychological tug-of-war. He threatens, she resists. As the story moves into its later stages, Leticia becomes the omnipotent power of freedom that sees everything for what it is.

In the final scenes, only the Enforcers, Lucrecia and Barbara, remain on-screen. They are crucified and the Father penetrates them once again, this time symbolically with the needle probe.

Finally the stage is empty of its victims. The Father sits calmly, pleased with his cleansing of the holy order.  The Church is left naked and alone to wallow in its self-righteousness, or so it seems because there is more to this ending.

Some Final Comments

Unlike previous Jac Avila films, there is not much total nudity in Monxa Mala. For some viewers, this will be disappointing.

Only Barbara and Julia get down to complete exposure. The others rely on loin cloths when the action gets rough. From my experience writing in the film industry, directors rarely push actresses to nudity if they are not amenable to that. Respecting boundaries is paramount.

If you are a fan of a girl bound and bare, watch the scenes with Barbara on the wheel . . .

. . . and Julia on the ladder. They are worth the price of the film.

By the way, Daniela Borda and Simonne de la Riva are stars in the making. Both are “hot,” to use a sexually charged term, and their acting is quite good. Daniela has an earthiness and Simonne an air of sophistication that offer contrasting interpretations of what BDSM sexuality is about. Here’s hoping for more of both soon.

Also, Graciela Tamayo and Inces Copa represent a counter-balance to the Father’s debauchery. They are guiding figures whose presence reminds to viewer of the goodness that the Church offers.

As for Mila Joya, this reviewer admits he has an enduring affection for her portrayal of tortured victims in Pachamama/Decadent Films. She has a rich and sensuous resume to her name.

Mila is superb with a quiet, gentle demeanor and a willingness to suffer for her art. Not only is this demure sweetheart talented, but she fills the screen with a body to die for.

Don’t take my word for Mila’s commanding presence on-screen. Check out two previous Jac Avila films that feature her solitary suffering in the chamber of pain. They are Le Marquis de la Croix (reviewed on this blog: April 29-May 5, 2017) and her newest offering, Mila a la Croix.

In conclusion, no commentary on a Pachamama/Decadent production is complete without a final mention of Amy Hesketh. As referenced in Part One, she’s not cast in this film but her presence is evident in the story. And, of course, the whipping scenes carry her stamp. Amy is the standard for the visual feast that is Monxa Mala and deserves a special nod from all of us.

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After rigorous filming and lots of “torture,” the cast enjoys a well-deserved party. Congratulations on a cool and entertaining production!

 

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A Commentary on Monxa Mala: Part One

by Rich Moreland

In this first installment on Monxa Mala, we’ll set the stage for the film.

Photos are courtesy of Pachamama/Decadent films. The Inquisition drawing is from gregfallis.com.

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This latest Jac Avila niche creation celebrates the visual delights that enrich his fan base.  Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala is a variance of the earlier Maleficarum, also a Pachamama/Decadent Cinema offering that tells the story of persecuted lovers who are condemned as witches. Both productions focus on the Inquisition tortures carried out in the name of the Church some five hundred plus years ago.

Amy Hesketh, who appears in the original movie, serves as the executive producer for this update. Amy is not on-screen this time around and her absence is regretfully noted. On the other hand, Amy’s long-time filming compadre, Mila Joya, returns for a role in which she is less a victim, at least on the surface, than a reluctant whip-wielding punisher. More on that later.

Jac Avila is the writer and director of Monxa Mala, scoring another winner for the BDSM horror genre that is his specialty. With enough deviltry to make the story believable, he once again assumes the role of the torturer. What is particular about this film is that Jac is really “a director within a director.” His on-screen persona is commanding the nuns to satisfy his will just as off-camera he is moving the players around on the stage, so to speak.

Speaking of the nuns and novices, Monxa Mala introduces a talented group of female performers whose comeliness is a perfect fit for the dark evils of the dungeon. Their punishments will surely please BDSM aficionados.

Make no mistake, however, there’s more than just “tie ‘em an’ beat ‘em” to this movie. It has psychological implications that reach beyond sadomasochistic themes.

Let’s take an in-depth look at all of this beginning with the characters that occupy the story.

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The Players

Leticia (Simonne de la Riva): The Marquise’s daughter. She organizes a pagan feast that breaks “the sacred silence of the monastery” and is punished for her transgression.

Lucrecia (Mila Joya): The Enforcer. She is loyal to the Father. When he orders a scourging to “correct” a deviant novice, Lucrecia steps in to do his bidding.

Father Agustinus (Jac Avila): The “Mad Monk.” He sets it upon himself to “correct” novices to the holy order when they step out of line. The Father runs the underground dungeon show and loves the art of inflicting pain.

Barbara (Daniela Borda): The sexually-charged novice. She carries a prize the Father bequeathed to her, or rather inside her. Barbara desires to be the Enforcer and accommodates the Father for her own gain.

Julia (Stephanie Vargas): The masochist. Eager for the pain is this novice’s forte. Julia suffers the welts of humiliation with a smile while having a nasty sadistic streak of her own. When it comes to “getting off” on pain—be it receiving or giving—her favorite phrase is, “It’s my turn now.”

Martina (Graciela Tamayo): The quiet observer. Martina intercedes for the tortured souls under the Father’s wrath. But, as they say in politics and crime, she knows where the bodies are buried. “The walls are guarding secrets,” she says.

Justa (Inces Copa): The wrong nun in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because she is loyal to Leticia, she is more of a nuisance than the Father can endure.

The Images

Four images of importance dominate the film. First is the whipping post where the crucifixions are also carried out. It’s a Freudian phallic symbol and central to the male dominance of the dungeon. Leticia’s suffering while manacled to it is the main focus of the film. Later, Lucrecia also spends time there when her usefulness to the Father is finished.

Second is the metal collar. Attached to the post, it immobilizes its victim, holding her in place for her punishment. The circular shape is a Freudian symbol for female genitalia, as is the wheel, of course, and a reminder that the Father controls the most intimate of female parts for his pleasure. When Leticia and Lucrecia endure their tribulations, the collar enforces their submission.

The third is the rack. Its has a depraved attraction for the Father who “treats” the condemned to its misery.

The last major image is the flaming kettle where the branding iron awaits the Father’s bidding. Leticia is its victim. Simply put, the kettle and its hot coals are the fires of Hell awaiting her, at least in the Father’s eyes.

The Back Story

By the Early Middle Ages, the Church’s patriarchal, anti-woman attitude dominated Europe. Though fighting heresy was their major thrust, churchmen had a history of torturing misguided nonbelievers condemned for dancing with the Devil. The abused victims were often the weaker sex vulnerable to Beelzebub’s seduction.

For some holy men, the Church’s tribunal, known as the Inquisition, turned a blind eye to its own sexual licentiousness and sadism that victimized many women. Such was the case with another Lucrecia, a 16th century Spanish girl whose dreams and imaginations were too much for the king. She was charged with heresy, imprisoned and tortured.

Another female was the virgin martyr Saint Leticia whose Spanish cult is celebrated through feasting. According to legend, Leticia was executed along with the virgin followers of St. Ursula in the Early Middle Ages. No surprise then that Leticia in this film is accused of promoting a pagan repast.

It’s worth mentioning that Inquisition tortures were often carried out by the civil authorities who were not subject to the control of the Church. Their barbarity comes from the Roman word for the savage, the non-citizen: the barbarian.

Notice that the novice in Monxa Mala who has not yet taken her vows remains outside of the holy order. Her name is Barbara and she wants to be an Enforcer.

In this film, the Father is a metaphor for the church and uses his dungeon devices to satisfy his personal sexual and sadistic urges. As for the women of Maleficarum II: Monxa Mala, there’s more than accusations of impiety at work here. They are victims of medieval sex trafficking by western civilization’s most stellar institution.

Of course, Maleficarum is a reference to witches and we’re left with the question of a cover-up. Who is the Devil in this story and are the nuns worshiping him?

A Note on the Production

The set for Monxa Mala is a modified version of the underground chamber that appears in other Jac Avila films. Because of its limited size, the stage gets crowded at times.

However, the cinematography is excellent and the camera is adept at placing everyone in the right position for each scene so that none of the visual impact of the story is lost.

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In Part Two, we’ll examine Monxa Mala as a sadomasochistic horror tale.

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The Passion of Isabel: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, November 2017

This is the second part of my review of The Passion of Isabel, a Red Feline film starring Beatriz Rivera as the victim and Jac Avila as her torturer, Torquemada.

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The Passion of Isabel sticks with its erotic theme throughout.

No Escape

For instance, food is important imagery. Torquemada teases Isabel with water to replenish her energy and eventually brings her rudimentary nourishment after he has kept her confined for two days. She’s offered an apple and a small loaf of bread, both highly sexualized symbols.

Eating is a Freudian symbol for sex. Isabel is capitulating to his sexual control over her. When he tempts her with the apple in an Adam and Eve reversal, Isabel looks into his eyes with submission in hers.

Torquemada leaves the apple so she can feed herself in an act that implies dependence and obedience. He controls his prisoner totally now and wants her strong enough to endure the abuse she will suffer. Taking the food from Isabel, Torquemada stands her up for the first round of punishment, the exquisite whipping scene mentioned in Part One of this review.

Other symbols enhance Isabel’s enslavement. During her second rape, Torquemada chokes her with the chains that keep her under his control. In BDSM play, restricting breathing during sex increases its orgasmic intensity for the masochist.

Is Isabel being taught to perversely enjoy her trials?

Another prominent image is the metallic collar which is prominent throughout the film before it is locked around Isabel’s neck. When it is on the floor on its side, the camera shoots the scene through it, framing the device with a double meaning. It represents Isabel’s manacles and its round opening is a clear statement that this is a highly sexualized film.

As a foreboding of her death, Torquemada hangs Isabel in another erotic act. He stretches out her neck with the chain attached to the collar, once again suppressing her breathing and intensifying her sexual experience as he takes control of her soul.

Notice the other circular object, the pressure belt, is secured around her waist and also acts as a metaphor for the female sex. Isabel’s youthful beauty is slowly strangling her as the collar and the belt act as opposing forces.

There is no escape. She suffers because she is desired.

Rack and Wheel

A ladder becomes a rack to stretch Isabel’s body in the proper manner prescribed by the Inquisition. As Isabel’s misery continues, close-ups of her face underscore looks of desperation and defeat.

Her whimpering increases as the intensity of her trials is ratcheted up, but she never screams or cries out. Even as the end nears, Isabel displays a fortitude that is commendable.

When the film returns to the circle motif, the scenes move to the breaking wheel, sometimes called the Catherine Wheel. Isabel’s whippings continue and to increase her humiliation, Torquemada confines her in two ways: on the rim of the wheel with her back arched and then spread-eagle on the spokes in a crucifixion position.

Beatriz Rivera deserves high praise when she is stretched on the rim. Because the weight of her body pulls her down, she is steadied by the rope around her upper body and between her legs (sensationally erotic since she is nude) while the camera captures her pain.

Though accustomed to acrobatic maneuvers to show the sex they are having, only top of the line adult actresses ever deal with such an unnatural position.

Torquemada asks, “Do you repent for your father’s death?”

Isabel remains defiant, smiling slightly and shaking her head with a “no, no.”

There’s more lashing, rape, and anguish before the film’s denouement.

Allegory

In the final crucifixion, Isabel is subjected to probes with sharp objects (the medieval test for witches) and the pressure belt to add to her torment. Torquemada nails her feet and hands and rotates the wheel so that Isabel goes from the upright Christ position to the upside-down configuration of St. Peter.

When the crown of thorns is placed on her head, there are two single branches pointing upward resembling the horns of Satan. It’s a comment that Isabel’s tribulations symbolize the fight against evil that reaches into eternity. Pay close attention when her eyes look upward.

Isabel’s stoicism soars to its heavenly heights at this point. Rightly or wrongly, she accepts the responsibility for the crime she stands accused of committing and understands her punishment.

One more observation is worthy of comment. The ball attached to the pressure belt is allegorical. The pre-Christain Atlas bears the weight of the world just as Christ takes on the sins of man.

Isabel has clearly moved from sinner to saint and as the film closes. A heartbeat is all we hear. It slows, becoming almost imperceptible into eternity with the message that death is a state of mind rather than a spiritual end.

Bea’s Triumph

In the first part of this review, I suggested that Beatriz Rivera learned her craft in the film Justine and has now matured into an artistic performer in The Passion of Isabel.

This juxtaposition of a sixteenth century story in a twenty-first century film is evident in Bea’s performance. First, she rises to fame as an erotic actress. Notice, however, that she parts with Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya when she trims and partially shaves her pubic area so the female sex is on-screen. She lets us know she’s a modern bondage star and a woman making her own statement of sexual liberation.

What’s more, the decision to leave in the stud in her nose and her single ear piercing establishes a contemporary identity. Throw in her tattoos that are only lightly covered with make-up (the one high on her back is not) and we have the kind of presentation that excites today’s BDSM aficionados.

What of Bea’s acting?  As mentioned in part one, her range of expressions are largely non-verbal which requires concentration and awareness of what the scene is asking of her. She is subtle in her message of suffering.

Not only that, but her whipping scenes are realistic. At no time does she appear as a caricature of a victim. The viewer can feel her pain and the lingering agony of her relentless torture.

For these reasons which move Beatriz Rivera as actress beyond her lovely nakedness, Red Feline fans are going to demand more from this Bolivian sweetheart. Her film presence is pure erotic pleasure marked by the whip.

Final Thought

In Part One of this review, I pointed out the difference between the three tortured women in Red Feline/Pachamama Productions I’ve reviewed.

Bea’s performance in Isabel clearly delineates how differently she handles the erotic role of the tortured female from Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya. Bea is not horror-oriented as is Amy. Her pain is internalized so that crying out and screaming is not reflective of how she portrays pain. Likewise, she is not the submissive and docile character that appeals to Mila. Bea is defiant and in many ways totally feminist.

The magic of a Jac Avila film library allows the viewer to choose and appreciate the different ways talented actresses approach their masochistic roles and the brutal situations they find themselves in.

As for Bea in  The Passion of Isabel, she yields in the end, but the viewer gets the feeling that her heart never really stops beating.

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A Jac Avila film rarely disappoints even the harshest critic. Yes, his work is not for everybody and the viewer must have a taste for the performance art the Red Feline/Pachamama studios present.

At no time are the actresses abused, but as Jac will tell anyone who will listen, shooting his films can be an arduous experience. The scenes are hard on the body and the psyche, but each performer values the opportunity to make her own artistic statement.

Keeping this in mind, our wholehearted thanks is extended to all the women who appear in Jac’s films, and particularly to Beatriz Rivera as Isabel, for enriching our film experience.

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The Passion of Isabel: Part One

by Rich Moreland, November 2017

Entering its eighteenth year of production, Red Feline Pictures (RFPIX) continues its mission to bring BDSM film to a niche audience fascinated by crucifixion themes hammered and nailed with religious imagery.

The films typically center on a single female and her suffering under an oppressive regime or doctrine, such as the Inquisition, or as a product of her own fertile and willing imagination.

The Passion of Isabel stars the incomparable Beatriz Rivera as the heroine and longtime Red Feline actor and director Jac Avila as Torquemada.

In addition to Isabel, all of the films mentioned in this review are available at Red Feline and have been reviewed on this blog. I encourage anyone who wishes to purchase The Passion of Isabel to read my analysis of the other movies to get a further flavor of the Red Feline/Pachamama Films product.

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The Passion of Isabel is set in early modern Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Age of Discovery promises the dawn of a new day that will challenge outdated belief systems.

However, for the youthful and beautiful Isabel, the old ways remain in place. Her father has arranged her marriage to an aristocratic friend named Torquemada and announces it publicly.

“Isabel is called to her father’s side at the high tower in a palace,” we are told, where she refuses the union, asserting that she will be her own woman and make her own choices.

“Enraged by this public humiliation, her father rushes to chastise her. To free herself from his grip, she pushes him, causing him to fall from the tower to his death. This dooms Isabel. For she is locked in a dungeon to await trial.

But there will not be any trial… Her fate now rests in the hands of Torquemada. And he has only one goal: Destroy the woman who humiliated and rejected him.”

If there is a single weakness in this film it is illustrated above. The viewer is not introduced to the story and instead is taken immediately to the dungeon where Isabel will suffer at the hands of Torquemada. To fill in the gap, I encourage everyone to read the entire description (parts of which I have quoted here) on the Red Feline website.

An introductory explanation during the opening credits would have helped set the scene, especially since the DVD is not packaged with a box cover that would include a brief synopsis.

But that is the only shortcoming in The Passion of Isabel. For BDSM fans who crave the vision of lovely female flesh resisting and succumbing to pain, this film fits the bill.

Your Body or Your Soul

The story opens with Isabel brought into the dungeon where she will face the judgement imposed on her by a deranged mind, her “crime” a mere excuse for unabated sadism and the sexual satisfaction it brings.

“Why do you have me here? You know I’m not guilty.” She questions.

Torquemada, who has no interest in consoling her, grabs Isabel behind the neck (which he does frequently in the film), and announces her father died disappointed that his gift to a friend turned into a “rebellious daughter” who needs to be chastised.

“He wanted you to be mine. You’re mine now and you’re going to pay for what you did to your father.”

Isabel is angry, telling him he knows it was not her fault.

Unmoved, Torquemada asks which is stronger, her body or her soul, then lets Isabel know both are now his.

From here the movie examines the miseries Torquemada inflicts on his victim. Among the whippings and rack and wheel tortures, there are the repeated simulated rapes.

Does this make Passion a horror story for an a mature audience? Perhaps, considering that most people may not want the kids to watch a naked woman abused and used. But, there is no hardcore sex and certainly no gore. This is not a slasher film.

So, what is it? For some viewers, Passion is soft porn (because of its nudity) marked with ordeals of pain. But that is hardly adequate. From my perspective, Passion is exactly what makes the Red Feline label popular: an outré, extravagant, and kinky art film with an undeniable erotic overlay.

The Erotic

Yet, what is erotic has as many variances as there are film fans. Having said that, it is too easy and grossly unfair to dismiss Red Feline productions like Martyr, Agent X, and Red Room as mindless female torture movies. Like Passion, they explore the psychological aspects of how we as a society view our sexuality, especially the masochistic/sadistic paradigm.

Over the years, the Red Feline label has matured in its technical presentation and Passion, at this point in time, has reached cinematic excellence. Visually, the viewer will be stunned by the clarity of the sadistic trials Isabel must endure.

What’s more, actress Beatriz Rivera has an overwhelming assignment in this film: show Isabel’s evolution from angry resistance to total submission. Torquemada breaks her so that she may reach her “understanding” in peace.

Because dialogue is sparse, Bea must reveal this transformation with her eyes, her expressions, her body positions, and her cries. In effect, they become the dialogue of surrender.

Bea’s gift is her ability to do this in a way that is steeped in our old friend, eroticism. Isabel is no passive whipping toy. She’s a fighter with whimpering her only concession to Torquemada’s abuse and asserts her feminist belief in her own sexual power. She may break in the end, but her torturer will work hard for his triumph.

Bea as Isabel bravely endures her pain to the excitement of the BDSM crowd. But that is only part of her appeal. She uses Isabel’s anguish to seduce even the most casual viewer. It’s a rare talent indeed.

Take, for example, the first whipping scene. Isabel’s arms are manacled in a crucifixion position and she growls at Torquemada, “Why are you doing this to me? Damn you, get off me.”

But for Isabel, from now on it’s all downhill and there will be no tears only quiet resistance that still flickers at the end.

By the way, this a fabulous scene. Beatriz Rivera’s body is exquisite, her nakedness enchanting. It is one of the best lashing sequences ever filmed by Red Feline or Pachamama Films, for that matter, and that includes the riveting work of Amy Hesketh whose filming resume is without equal in this kind of scene. That, believe me, is high praise and Bea should be proud of her performance in this segment for it alone is worth the price of the DVD.

The Victim Role Times Three

Beatriz Rivera appears in Justine, a Pachamama Film that also stars Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya who take the stage together in other films, among them Barbazul and Dead But Dreaming.

What is fascinating is how each of the actresses plays the victim role differently. Amy is horror oriented (Olalla, a vampire tale like Dead, is the best example). Her scenes carry a shock value that departs from pure eroticism because Amy believes in putting psychological terror on an equal footing with S/M for its own sake.

Amy in Olalla

Mila follows a different path. Despite a brief irascible moment as the vampire Aphrodisia in Dead, Mila is the docile submissive (for the non-torture version check out her role in Barbazul). Her suffering is preordained, it seems, and she is led to the slaughter with her gorgeous body abused and bloodied. Mila’s anguish is highlighted in both Maleficarum and Le Marquis de la Croix where she is sensationally pleasing to the sadistic eye.

Mila in Le Marquis de la Croix

Truth be told, Amy and Mila are luscious displays of female pulchritude. They are as alluring as any BDSM model in adult film and could go that route if they chose. But the question remains how to show the erotic side of sexy under the lash. Both can do that with their established reputations.

Mila and Amy in Maleficarum

Where, then, does this place Bea? Easy, the Bolivian beauty’s seductive and steamy on-camera persona challenges Amy and Mila for the camera’s eye. However, in Justine, she is learning her craft and keeps her presence under wraps. Understandable, I might add, considering that at times in the film she is overshadowed by Amy’s star power and Mila’s sultry victimization.

Bea in Justine

Plus, Bea is not totally nude, a downer for eager viewers who like their whipped women totally exposed and an indication of some hesitation on her part, at least in that film.

Incidentally, her introduction to the sadomasochistic genre of the Pachamama variety puts more emphasis on plot line than Red Feline so Bea had to demonstrate her acting skills from the get go. Not a simple task for a fresh face.

But hey, it’s a learning curve and that was her beginning. The Passion of Isabel has moved her forward in giant steps. Whereas Justine offers the viewer a taste of Beatriz Rivera, Isabel marches her onto center stage to carry the story on her shapely back, pun intended.

As Amy and Mila begin to explore other artistic avenues that may limit their futures in front of the camera, Beatriz Rivera is ready to step up to the plate, as they say in baseball, and hit a few homers of her own.

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A few comments on the technical aspects of the film are in order.

First, three cameras are used to record the scenes with a pace that is Hollywood worthy. Second, the technical quality (color and clarity) of the film is top notch. And third, in the movies timing is everything and Isabel’s suffering is highlighted by frozen imagery when the camera lingers on her beaten body after the torture has ended.

Its a cinematic moment Jac Avila has perfected that enriches the artistic vision of Red Feline and Pachamama films. The film’s message is transformed into a museum painting.

In my view, for these reasons alone The Passion of Isabel has to be the best Red Feline picture made so far.

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Le Marquis, Part One: The Museum

by Rich Moreland, April 2017

Le Marquis de la Croix is a film by Amy Hesketh that features Jac Avila and Mila Joya. It is available for download or on DVD from Vermeerworks.

This is the first of a five-part series on the film and combines a review with commentary from  Amy and Jac. The final post is exclusive to Mila Joya, the star of the film.

Le Marquis is another provocative work from the collaboration of Amy and Jac. I highly recommend it.

All photos are courtesy of Pachamama Films.

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The Story

The wealthy marquis, sentenced to his prison confines (luxurious as they are), writes lurid accounts of his sexual imaginations. Fortunately for his perverse addictions, an occasional condemned female criminal is brought to him for a price.

Such is the case with Zynga, a gypsy girl sentenced to death, as the marquis tells us, for “three crimes: murder, theft, and arson” (borrowed incidentally from the Marquis de Sade’s 1791 novel, Justine).

The film explores the tortures Zynga endures and her eventual demise. The story is presented as a narration extracted from the marquis’ writings in his cell. As he completes one torment and plans the next, the aristocrat returns to his desk to record his thoughts and lets the viewer into his mind via voice over.

The bound and naked Zynga is the consistent background image and the main motif throughout the film.

Strikingly Innovation

Le Marquis de la Croix is a literary fantasy that operates on different levels. On the surface, it has definite appeal to the BDSM community. Heavily sadomasochistic, the whippings and rack scenes are about as exciting as a bondage film gets. It is realism personified.

The film does, however, offer more. There is an engaging political and religious message that is as appropriate today as it was in Sade’s time, the 18th century setting of the narrative.

Told with a modern flavor, the story also hints at the erotic fascinations of a modern tourist who seeks out a museum then confronts her own sexual fantasies in an ending that, as they like to say in commercial media, is priceless.

Clearly, the American tourist lets us know that whims of the Marquis de Sade are more accepted today than ever before and perhaps more fascinating.

As you might have deduced, the film is a story told concurrently by a contemporary museum guide and the marquis’ pen. Whose imagination brings the story to life is always in question as we work through the film.

Clever, strikingly innovative, and beautify filmed, Le Marquis de la Croix highlights the emergence of Mila Joya as an actress. Though she has few lines that are often blunted by the pain of torture, her performance is exemplary.

The native Bolivian uses her physical expression, particularly her eyes, to tempt, seduce, and react to her torturer, who struggles against his own sexual arousal to complete his self-appointed task.

Jac Avila is the story’s creator; Amy Hesketh the film’s director. The pair also produced the film while Miguel Inti Canedo serves as the chief cinematographer. His image making is exceptional. By that I mean this: any number of stills he took could have easily served as the box cover for packaging the movie.

A final caveat before we look into Le Marquis: there is a commentary section available on the DVD that features Amy and Jac. As noted in the intro above, I have referenced their remarks where appropriate in this series of posts.

Back Streets

Le Marquis opens with an American tourist (Amy Hesketh) checking her guidebook for an out-of-the-way museum in the back streets of a contemporary South American city.

Locating her destination, she descends a stairway into an underground cavern that looks much like a dungeon which of course it was centuries ago.

The museum guide (Eric Calancha) is talking with a couple (Jac Avila and Mila Joya) and welcomes the tourist to the group.

He references a cordoned off area that was the Marquis’ cell. The tourist is wide-eyed and fascinated; the couple, probably on an afternoon date, appears mildly interested and, at times, the girl seems cautious, restrained, and perhaps a bit uneasy (setting the viewer up for her transition into the film).

As the guide talks, the camera moves into the cell and the marquis becomes animated but in whose mind–ours, the guide, the couple, or the tourist?–we don’t know.

In period dress, he is writing at his desk, candles provide the light throughout his expansive environs where the film takes place.

The Gypsy

As the guide explains, the nobleman was imprisoned and “because of his wealth, he could buy women . . .”

Brought in by a paid confederate (the second role for Eric Calancha), a gagged and manacled girl appears behind the marquis . . .

“. . . Women who were condemned to die. There was a person who brought him women in exchange for a sum,” the guide says.

The marquis in over voice brings the story into focus.  “There are no limits to what I can purchase. Zynga the gypsy . . . was sold to me bound in chains full of fear, hunger and rage.”

The marquis (Jac Avila) drops a small bag of coins in the confederate’s hand and Zynga (Mila Joya) is offered a chance to avoid the guillotine.

But as the money predicts, she will receive a proper scourging and crucifixion for her decision in a political mockery of the Christian faith.

Next we will look at the images and themes of this extraordinary production.

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You can follow Jac Avila:

 

And Amy Hesketh:

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Amy Hesketh, Part One: A Jungian Dream

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

Over the last year I’ve developed an interest in the films of Amy Hesketh, an independent producer, director, and actor, whose work is gaining notice.

Until recently, finding an opportunity to talk with this artistically innovative thirty-something was elusive. Not only is Amy making movies, she is also pursuing her MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) and teaching as an adjunct professor of film.

Needless to say, I’m grateful for the time she extended to me.

This is the first of two posts about our conversation.

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Power Plays

Before we get into her film, Barbazul, I ask Amy how she selects the topics for her productions.

With a chuckle, she tells me it’s whatever she finds interesting.

sirwinakuy0012-300x389Sirwinakuy, the first film I directed, was a story I started writing about fourteen years ago. I was living in Paris at the time and kind of pieced it together from a bunch of different people and relationships I observed.”

The film centers on a young woman (Veronica Paintoux) who develops a dominant/submissive relationship with an older man (Jac Avila).

Amy imagines her stories “as a Jungian dream in the sense that I am all of the characters,” she explains, much like children who “play act and envision different kinds of scenarios.” In other words, role-playing teaches children about relationships.

Drama serves the same purpose.

She is “intrigued” by certain types of human interaction, especially “power play relationships, dispossession versus repossession, things like that,” Amy says.

These scenarios are the underpinnings of her film adaptations of literature and her original screenplays.

Of course, power play interactions are the traditional erotic foundation BDSM relationships and I suggest that because her films have a BDSM component, they can be defined as erotic horror. Amy is not so sure.

“A lot of people tend to emphasize the erotic element in my films but they are not about that,” she insists. “They’re a visual metaphor for power play and vulnerability because I feel like erotic horror is privileging the erotic over anything else.”

To support her assertion, Amy notes that Sirwinakuy can be interpreted different ways. It may be seen as “a romantic comedy or a drama” and also as “psychological horror.”

Terrifying and Sexy

I bring up Ollala and Barbazul.

“They are both about power play relationships, the pain of individuality in the face of society” though each film explores the theme “in different ways,” she mentions.

barbazulposter2-300x389That takes us to Barbazul which Amy adapted from the French fairy tale, “Bluebeard.”

There’s a certain shift in perspective in the film that I wanted play around with,” Amy begins. “I wanted it to be a mirror for the audience to project their emotions onto Barbazul (Bluebeard) and think, ‘This guy’s a psychopath,” while simultaneously empathizing with him.

“I want people [to] take stock of how they actually react to situations of rejection [and] the idea of putting one’s own needs before that of the relationship,” Amy explains.

She recalls reading Charles Perrault’s story as a child.

“It was terribly exciting and terrifying and sexy so I wanted that to come out in the film as well.”

The Extra Dress

Looking further into Barbazul, I’m wondering why Amy kills off Soledad (played by Mila Joya), who was destined to become Bluebeard’s next wife.

“She needed to die,” Amy says, and that happens at “the hands of the sister, assisted by Barbazul.”

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The story examines the rivalry that can emerge between women, in this case, “mother and daughter when the daughter reaches maturity. They become rivals in a sense that puts a strain on the relationship.” Amy explains.

In the Barbazul adaptation, Soledad helps to raise her sister, in effect taking the place of their mother. Conflicts develop and the psychological aspect of the story steps forward. Soledad’s sister pushes Soledad aside and wins the affections of Bluebeard.

Amy elaborates.

barbazul00100316“The sister takes Soledad into herself by replacing her. She sees Soledad as someone who will never actually become something. Her [Soledad’s] concerns are not for the self, they’re for making decisions based on the expectations and obligations of society that are more than what she wants. Who knows what she wants in life.”

In Perrault’s original narrative, Bluebeard accumulates the carcasses of his dead wives in a secret, locked room. Bodies didn’t work for Amy’s cinematic tastes. Instead she settled on the symbolic representation of dresses hung on a rack in Barbazul’s plantation office.

“I’m terribly logic based so I figured a room of bloody corpses would be absolutely disgusting, smelly, and I felt like Walter [Barbazul’s fastidious butler] would have a problem with it.”

Also, there is Barbzul himself, who is a very precise guy.

Amy continues. “I felt like he would have a representation of [his murdered wives] because Barbazul was someone who took care of things. When he put them [the bodies] in the ground he was burying [his] frustration.”

Amy mentions that her modern interpretation of the story focuses on the psychological, something Perrault intuitively understood in an age that predated the social sciences.

“Yes, he would keep a trophy like many psychopaths do. Barbazul is someone who wants to suppress that frustration and rejection and move on with a clean slate every time with a new woman.”

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I comment that in the office there is an extra dress, guessing it is the one that is set aside for Soledad.

Amy liked that explanation, but the truth is much more revealing.

“The real story is there was another actress” slated to play one of the Barbazul’s women, she says.

Unfortunately the performer had “diva” problems.

“She was quite abusive. She threw a tirade at me. I tried a couple of times to talk to her about it, calmly.” Amy remembers, but things didn’t work out.  The frustrated director had no alternative but to write the girl out of the film.

The Erotic Writer

So, one actress was dropped while another role, that of Jane, one of Barbazul’s victims, remained vacant.

Amy decided to put herself in front of the camera this time because she didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone to take on Jane’s part.

Here’s the story accentuated with an amusing prelim.

“She [Jane] is supposed to be this sexually aggressive character. I wanted to have [her] smoke.”

Amy aesthetically appreciates the iconoclastic French new wave films of decades ago and the “clouds of smoke” that permeate them. From her filmmaker’s perspective smoking comes across as “pretty and sexy” when the lighting sets the tone of the scene. It fit Jane’s mood perfectly.

“I’m giving signifiers to her subtext because she writes erotic literature.”

That makes sense, but Amy had a problem.

“I don’t smoke so it was awful,” she laughs. “It made me sick but it looks really cool on film.”

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Understandable, but what persuaded Amy to be her own last-minute recruit wasn’t the cigarettes, or more precisely, cigarillos.

“I never actually intended to play that character. I didn’t want to.” Her intention was only to direct the film, but the best laid plans can get gummed up.

There was a problem. The script required Jane’s corpse to be buried.

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“I realized it would be very difficult to ask someone to be out in the cold, naked, rolled up into plastic like a burrito. I don’t feel confident asking someone to do that. I did kind of shop around a little bit but none of the actresses I knew were willing to do it.”

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That’s understandable, so director became actress.

“When I was rolled up in plastic, I couldn’t actually breathe. I realized that it was a really a good idea not to ask someone to do this because I would be sued.”

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Her efforts paid off and Barbazul became a notable and beautifully shot film.

Next we’ll ask Amy about the nudity and the use of color in her productions.

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For the Barbazul trailer from Vermeerworks, the distributor of the film, click here.

For the YouTube trailer, click here.

 

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The Women of Justine: Part Two

by Rich Moreland, March 2017

In this second post on the interviews with Jac Avila, Mila Joya, and Beatriz Rivera, the challenges they encountered in performing in Justine are explored.

My thanks are extended to Pachamama/Decadent films for providing the many screen shots used in all of my posts on Justine.

For those interested in my review of the film, check the blog archives for December, 2016.

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Ethics

Jac Avila faced a not-so-common hurdle in making Justine. “It’s always a challenge to direct [a film], but to act and direct at the same time makes things a lot more difficult,” he says.

But there is another concern the average viewer rarely considers: the ethical demands a director faces when shooting torture scenes.

This happened with Justine which imposed a stressful decision on Jac Avila.

“Asking the leading ladies to engage in terrible acts,” he remarks, required him to “direct the film as Rodin,” the sadist, not as his real self, that of artist and filmmaker.

The result? Ethical issues forced their way into his thinking.

“As a director and human being, you have to be very careful when they [the performers] are subjected to all kinds of evil deeds, like torture, but you can’t show that concern as an actor. In fact, you have to show that you are relishing your evil doings. That was the most difficult part for me, how to be a gentleman, a scholar, a respected director while subjecting my leading actresses to unspeakable acts and enjoy it all as Rodin.”

 

Trust and Experience

From her perspective, Beatriz Rivera had to deal with adjustments during filming that were not unexpected, but stressful nevertheless.

“The most challenging [aspect] for me was to think as Omphale and not as Beatriz.

“[Being] naked takes you away from your character, especially when there are others around like the extras and crew,” Bea says. “It’s hard to be naked in front of a lot of people, so getting back to the character in those conditions was the challenging part.”

But there’s also the torture element.

“During the tortures the most difficult part was to be bound, defenceless. That was the hard part, but there was a lot of trust too, that made it easier.”

Mila Joya reflects on her experience shooting these types of movies. For those who don’t know, she is the condemned and flogged gypsy in Le Marquis de la Croix, an eternally tortured vampire in Dead But Dreaming, and the agony-ridden Maria Francisca, who along with Amy Hesketh’s Mariana, is whipped, racked, and crucified in Maleficarum.

“The whole movie is one big challenge, but for me it wasn’t that difficult because I had similar experiences like in Maleficarum. So the challenge for me was to create a different character, not similar to any other in previous movies,” Mila comments.

And, so she does. In Dead she’s the angry vampire trapped for centuries in sexual submission; in Maleficarum, Mila is a wronged and tragic figure caught in a period of Protestant/Catholic conflict. Both are much different from the doomed Rosalie of Justine, a victim of incest and sacrifice.

Speaking of crucifixions, by the way, Justine ends with a spectacular one in which Mila as Rosalie wears a crown of thorns.

 

The Closed Group

My question about how performers influence each other on-set produced three different views.

Bea offers this point. “The way others play the characters give you a cue as to how to react to them, that helps. We helped each other. For instance to be comfortable enough to ask your torturer to hit you harder with the whip, to feel it more, that helped me to play the character [of Omphale].”

Mila, a veteran of the Pachamama/Decadent Films troupe, believes “the closed group of the three of us” produced the energy to move the film forward.

“All three [roles and actresses] were very different. That had an influence in how I played my character. Not everything is in the script so there are reactions to actions and sometimes you surprise yourself with your reactions to the others. The director influenced one way, with his instructions, but as an actor he had a different influence, especially in how I had to react to him as my father and lover,” Mila asserts.

As expected, Jac lends his director/actor persona to the question.

“There’s always the influence of the others in how you perform your role and you have to be prepared [in turn] to influence [them].”

But such a forthright statement comes with a caution.

“I used the opportunity of being the dominating character to direct the actors in the ways I wanted them to perform while being painfully aware of how their reactions to my actions were causing the scene to go in a different direction than originally intended,” he admits.

“That’s always a very interesting thing to experience. How the story follows a road that was not planned at all, in an organic kind of way.”

Independent

My final thought is about independent film. Pachamama/Decadent Films is an indie company with committed, high-energy people.

What are the advantages and drawbacks to shooting an indie product?

Mila and Bea mirror each other’s thoughts in that they are of Bolivian origin and not products of the Hollywood scene.

“I can’t say anything about that. In Bolivia all movie making is independent, so I wouldn’t know. But there’s more freedom in independent cinema,” Mila predictably answers.

“Independent films use different subjects, unlike Hollywood that does a lot of the same adventures, the same romances, the same fantasies. So there’s magic in independent cinema. However, only independent films are made in Bolivia so I would not know of disadvantages.” Bea comments.

Jac proclaims that independent filming provides the freedom to shoot as he personally desires unencumbered by studio heads and the people with backing money known as producers . . . which brings up the main drawback of indie projects.

There’s never enough money, Jac says, which means “there’s a lot of compromising on the way to the end of production. Nothing is exactly how you envision it because you don’t have the cash to do what you originally wrote and conceived. You depend on what your available resources give you.”

But he hastily adds, “That, in turn, becomes an advantage, because it challenges you to be extremely creative.”

Finally, don’t forget that indie film requires everyone be on board to help with the production.

For a last word on Justine, Jac Avila reminds us once again that the story is a parody of a parody and that means filming can be a lot of fun.

Looks like Amy is hatching a plan with a little mirth of her own in mind!

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In the next two posts we’ll talk with Amy Hesketh about her views on filmmaking, directing and her psychological take on suffering . . . not to mention the easily perceived sadomasochist elements that drive a part of her fan base.

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