by Rich Moreland, March 2017
Jacky St. James is considered the leading feminist filmmaker in the adult industry today. As always her screenplays are Hollywood ready and Jacky’s latest feature, Darker Side of Desire, is no exception.
In this two-part review/analysis we’ll look at what makes this film a top-of-the-line production for couples and fetish lovers.
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Never for its Own Sake
After a successful run at New Sensations, Jacky St. James has taken her talent for storytelling to Mile High Media and its couples-oriented romance brand, Sweet Sinner.
The transition has already produced a winner, Darker Side of Desire, a feature film that once again cultivates a space for female-friendly BDSM. Jacky fans will remember her preeminent mark on the adult industry, the Emma Marx series reviewed on this blog in August 2013, March 2015, and April 2016.
Though reflective of the Emma Marx concept, Darker Side is a much different film. Here’s why.
In Emma’s story, BDSM is a learned sexual behavior that taps into the dominant/submission paradigm that exists to some degree in everyone. After all, what schoolgirl hasn’t had her hair pulled by that obnoxious boy in third grade? Flirtatious aggression is part of an instinctive primordial mating ritual psychologists tell us, though the kiddies are too young to get the picture.
Darker Side further explores BDSM as a preprogrammed behavior (it’s in our DNA, so to speak) that is clearly recognized by some of its adherents. In other words, no learning is required because “it turns me on, but I don’t know why.”
In that respect, the film is not Emma Marx, but is complementary of its message that submission is a legitimate sexuality that is part of a broader array of erotic behaviors.
And there is another difference worthy of note. While the many sex scenes in the Emma Marx series are BDSM exploratory, the scenes in Darker Side are a progression of how each woman in the story handles her inborn desires.
Emma normalizes a sexual fetish; the women of Darker Side don’t have that problem. For them, the fetish is already their normal.
Having said that, Jacky St. James’ philosophy that the storyline drives the sex is never more evident than in Darker Side. In other words, the sex informs character development, moves the narrative forward, and is never there for its own sake.
Simply put, Darker Side of Desire is sharp in plot and cinematography. For newbies to the bondage fetish who know what they want, the film is BDSM 101.
Natalie (Cassidy Klein) is haunted by a recurring dream of bondage sex. Vanilla in her lovemaking with new boyfriend Bryce (Mickey Mod), Natalie’s inner hunger to experience her fetish gnaws at her. The film moves her to a resolution that is set up by a progression of sex scenes skillfully placed within the narrative.
To get us there, Darker Side’s other characters come into play. We have Natalie’s friends and roommates Sydney (Gia Paige) and Robyn (Riley Nixon).
The men are Sydney’s past lover Alex (James Deen) and Robyn’s boyfriend Mike (Michael Vegas). The dream sequence features Cherie Deville as the submissive and Tommy Pistol as her dominant.
So how does the sex tell the story?
The first scene is Natalie and Bryce in a vanilla romp of raging endorphins that floods the new lovers. As Natalie says in voice over, their relationship is a “whirlwind of romance and excitement.”
“You’re happy being out of control,” she declares.
The palette Jacky St. James and cinematographer Hank Hoffman present in the scene is top quality filmmaking. Mickey is a man of color so blending his darker tone with Cassidy’s paler one yields a visual perspective steeped in shades of brown, rust, auburn, and maroon. The sofa, candles, and the painting on the wall compose a pastel montage that flavors the romance.
Later, the palette reappears when Bryce and Natalie are playing pool (cues, balls, and pockets are Freudian symbols in this scene). The table felt and Natalie’s dress are shades of reddish-brown with a darker desert tone that is fitting, by the way, because their relationship may become arid if kinky erotic urges are ignored.
Next we have Natalie’s dream that composes the second sex scene. It delves into her psyche and its hidden affection for BDSM.
A spider web of chains is suspended between the camera and the imaginary players caught up in a tangle of bondage desires.
Denial, a subtle Jacky St. James theme, takes over as Tommy tempts and taunts Cherie throughout the entire scene. He calls her his “submissive little slut” and she responds, “Please sir, I want it so bad!”
With “I said beg for it!” Tommy spanks Cherie, whose coy smile reveals her submission pleasure.
Of course for the dreaming Natalie, the spider web is intimidating, a chilling look at the dichotomy of fetish sex: scary yet tempting, watching others while fearful of taking the step yourself.
Later, roommate Sydney tells Natalie of a past lover Alex and their bondage hook-ups. The next sex scene between the two serves, along with the dream sequence, as fetish counterpoints to Natalie and Bryce’s vanilla theme.
The question of female degradation versus feminism’s empowerment is illustrated by the fourth scene. It’s a sexcapade between Robyn (Riley Nixon) and her boyfriend Mike (Michael Vegas), a playtime sprinkled with humor that tests traditional feminist sexual politics.
More on this in Part Two.
The final sex scene is Natalie and Bryce revisited. Now they’ve negotiated their mutual turn-on, the kink hidden within that finds the best of all outlets: a like-thinking lover.
So how does the movie take us through the BDSM experience as a feminist message?
That’s the question for Part Two of this review.
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Darker Side of Desire can be purchased from Mile High Media here.
To watch the “not safe for work” trailer, click here.
. . . And for twitter fans, here’s your bread and butter: @milehighmovies @sweetsinnerxxx @jackystjames