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Reflections on Sirwiñakuy

by Rich Moreland, June 2017

From the movie source IMDb about Sirwiñakuy:

The story of an obsessive relationship between a young French woman and an older Bolivian man. Their unusual romance, like the country in which they live, is transforming, sometimes violent and difficult to understand.

*          *          *

Finally creating some time to watch Sirwiñakuy, a 2010 release from Pachamama Films, I recognized immediately it wasn’t supercharged like Dead But Dreaming, Olalla, Barbazul, or Justine, so my viewer “sleepwalking” kicked in after the first few minutes.

I did get through the opening Cafe scene where Luis (Jac Avila) picks up Anouk (Veronica Paintoux) after director Amy Hesketh has her Hitchcock moment. Not much here, I thought, other than a smidgen of a Bolivian street scene travelogue featuring a local hangout.

About an hour and forty minutes later it was over.

When I popped up Microsoft word on my computer to take a few quick notes to prepare for this “review,” I had nothing much to say.

Why?

Easy. I have “great expectations,” as Charles Dickens would say, for the innovative work of Amy Hesketh and Jac Avila but Sirwiñakuy didn’t deliver, or so it appeared.

But the truth did not lie within the film. My lack of appreciation for  Sirwiñakuy was rooted in my failure as a viewer. I didn’t pay attention to what was in front of me and I know better than that.

My “Oh Hum”

To put it another way, watching Sirwiñakuy reminded me of my university days when on rare occasions I snoozed in class. Whenever that happened, behavior modification was promptly needed so I’d go back to “the house” (yes, I was a frat boy, quite an admission in these days of fraternity vilification) for a nap. College is a waste if you can’t stay awake. My parental units were paying the bills and there were too many excellent profs at my school not to fully absorb what they had to say.

For Sirwiñakuy, a similar correction was in order. But in this case, it had nothing to do with physical or mental fatigue . . . or meeting someone else’s expectations, for that matter.

Here’s the real reason.

You see, Sirwiñakuy is Amy’s first film. It’s been around for a while. My mistake was looking at it from the perspective of a body of work that has matured over the years, a group of films I was very familiar with. That’s like taking a hall-of-fame player and analyzing his first game as a rookie. Appearances can be deceptive; conclusions unfair. I was moving in reverse gear with the movie, judging the past on the present.

Look at it this way. I watched Anouk get spanked, but I also remember Veronica Paintoux as Nahara the vampire in Dead, a spectacularly sexy portrayal on her part, and as the elegant Annabelle in Barbazul.

Anouk’s character just didn’t rev up my reviewer engine.

My first viewing sold Sirwiñakuy short and it doesn’t deserve my “oh-hum.” Just because the narrative lacks all those lovely whipping scenes so characteristic of Pachamama/Decadent Films, along with vampire angst, serial killers, female suffering, and theological tyranny (or rigmarole depending on the movie) that begs to be intellectualized, is in no way a takedown of this film.

So what I’ve written here is a process, not a review. Like an archeologist, I wanted to turn the soil on what Amy, Jac, and Veronica do so well in this film.

Rewind

So let’s rewind Sirwiñakuy, electrify our thinking cap, and get to work peeling away the layers that makeup the narrative.

What I’ve come to anticipate from Amy and Jac does not seem obvious at a Sirwiñakuy first glance. I repeat, at first glance, because everything is there, hiding under the covers, or to be more accurate, behind all those books and portraits from the past that lord over the action.

To delve into the narrative I returned to what shaped my literary education in grad school; I decided to study Sirwiñakuy . . and I mean go over everything in detail!

First, I read every review I could find. Some of them are pretty good and I suggest you google Sirwiñakuy and dive into them yourself. I don’t have a lot to add to what others much smarter than I have said about dramatic intent, imagery, machismo, action shots (taxi ride, taxi ride!) and the natural, always problematic, process of leaving childhood behind (observe the way Anouk randomly stuffs her stuff into her trolley cart and did I mention talking with her mouth full? I can hear my mother now).

Next, I devised a plan to watch the film again but in a different way to uncover its magic.

Ditch the Sound

I recalled what I adore most about Hollywood’s silent film era: faces, eyes and glances, gazing, nods, and expressive movement of hands, in particular. Actors in those days (think the Barrymores) had to emote with their entire physical and emotional consciousness because dialogue was limited to title cards. On screen presence was everything.

Unless the moviegoer was a lip reader, watching carefully to get the story through interpreting the actor, not the voice, was paramount. In other words, the viewer had to lean forward and not be satisfied with distant amusement as later became the habit when “Godzilla Eats Tokyo” in those silly 1950s Atomic Age B-pictures, for example.

Thankfully, silent era animation carried over into some of the great films of the 1930s: John and Lionel Barrymore, Greta Garbo, and Wallace Beery in Grand Hotel in 1932, then John, Lionel, and Wallace again in Dinner at Eight in 1933 and don’t hesitate to fast forward to 1950 and add Gloria Swanson in Sunset Bloulevard.

So, I went into silent movie mode. I turned off the sound (which means I gave up the music not something I would suggest because it is meaningful to the narrative) and relied on closed captioning . . .

. . . And just watched, every moment, every expression, every nuanced look and motion (notice how Anouk uses her eyes to show her annoyance with Luis whose own expression returns fire with quiet bullets of gentle criticism) . . .

I paused the film to study the scenes (love the old house, the eclectic furniture, and all the books) which led to my oft-repeated and inevitable question of “why is that there?” What is the director telling us? What are the actors communicating to each other and to the viewer?

Slowly in its slinky little way, Sirwiñakuy stared back at me with a wagging finger saying “Do you get it now?”

Yes, I do.

Based on its performance alone and the directing that breathes life into it, the film is gutsy. As for the story, it is pretty straight-forward. The complexity of the tale is “inside the characters,” Amy tells us in the commentary section of the DVD.

Creeping Up

Sleepwalking now conquered, what’s next?

The researcher/scholar in me wanted to find what Amy and Jac had to say about the production, so I went to the film again and tuned in on the commentary (for me, it’s like getting an interview).

What I found was verification of my thoughts on certain scenes: the shots of the portraits on the wall between smacks on Anouk’s butt, the Pieta that looms over the couple when Luis draws his bloody “pound of flesh” with the thorns on the red roses, and all those Freudian eating scenes (Bolivians must love their bread and Luis makes sandwiches that are precise and symmetrical in their contents!) just to name a few.

Viewing number three left me with several pages of handwritten notes. Sirwiñakuy is creeping up on me now complemented by Jac Avila, who in his usual graciousness supplied me with vital information about the film. I’ll cover that shortly.

As I indicated above, Amy and Jac have already established a very high bar for all their yet-to-come work. What is remarkable about Sirwiñakuy is in its cinematic expression, and, I might add, Amy’s tightly drawn story that uses quick transitions to keep the viewer engaged and the pace rolling along. There’s no dead time anywhere.

In fact, it is impossible for me to believe this is Amy’s first film. The characters and the scenes are interwoven with the skill of a master craftsman.

Ah, Miss Veronica

A word is due about the captivatingly gorgeous Veronica Paintoux.

She and Amy hardly knew each other when she agreed to do the film. Make no mistake, Veronica is the heartbeat of Sirwiñakuy. Her willingness to do just about anything—I’m talking nude scenes here—to bring the narrative full circle deserves high praise.

Take the masturbation shower episode, for instance, that reveals Anouk’s intentions and drops a few hints about her developing relationship with Luis.

Is she trying to wash away her sexual pleasure or wantonly readying herself to live with this much older man?

Veronica’s talent keeps the viewer on edge, particularly in the scene when she leaves her old clothes in the hotel. It’s symbolic, of course, and almost borders on the hackneyed, but Veronica pulls it off. Anouk’s got a ton of courage now, but for what?

When she hits streets Anouk is naked underneath that awful 1960s topcoat fashion statement Luis bought for her. Her audacity reminds me of the bar scene from The Story of O when O settles gingerly onto the bar stool because there’s nothing between it and the bare flesh under her dress.

She’s blatantly erotic and submissive and coy at the same time.

Oh, let me note, Veronica Paintoux is as natural as her nudity. She wears minimal, if any, make-up which enhances that childlike state Amy wants to reinforce in Anouk’s character.

Toying with a Story

Here’s what Jac has to say about Veronica and Amy and Sirwiñakuy‘s evolution.

“Amy had a story she was toying with, set in France, which in one of our long walks I convinced her to adapt it to Bolivia. In the French version, the guy was French and the woman was American visiting Paris. In the Bolivian version, she made the guy Bolivian and the woman French.

“Amy wanted Veronica to play the woman, she felt that she would be great in that role, she saw her in Martyr (a 2002 production starring Carmen Paintoux) and she liked the chemistry and sexual tension we had in that film.

“It was obvious that I would play the guy, Monsieur Montez. That was the original title, by the way, Monsieur Montez. We opted for Sirwiñakuy when I explained to her the tradition here where a man ‘kidnaps’ a woman, takes her home and after trying out for some time they get married if the situation works.

“Amy liked the idea. A friend of mine is the composer of the title song and Heni, my Hungarian collaborator, now a PHD in anthropology, provided the background for the title.”

In listening to Jac, what I’ve always wondered about Amy Hesketh’s work came to mind again. How personal is the film to her? I have a feeling Amy wrote Sirwiñakuy as a narrative of her own erotic and sexual evolution. But that is only a guess.

Authentic

Finally, Sirwiñakuy caused a bit of a dustup in Bolivian theaters. Apparently they don’t like BDSM relationships there, too much machismo.

Understandable, but that’s not Sirwiñakuy’s message, so listen up.

The interactions between Luis and Anouk are accurate portrayals of what an authentic Dom/sub arrangement is (to suggest it is master/slave is laughably overblown). In other words, BDSM is an agreed upon sexual interplay within an existing relationship and that’s what the film tells its audience.

Nothing BDSM is twenty-four seven, but when everything heats up, it’s all about the power play moment at hand.

Anouk is an equal partner in their relationship at all times and proves it with her expressions, her eyes, and her moods. She even walks out to think things over.

Pay attention when she takes the whip away from Luis and remember the haircut game. It’s only symbolic because he backs off. Score one for feistiness. Who decides who is in control?

By the way, they sell whips at rural markets in Bolivia which in my view confounds the objections to the film. In the commentary section, Jac mentions whips were around in the society before the Spanish arrived and Amy interjects with a chuckle, “Where there is a whip, there is life, there is BDSM.”

What is not to love about her?

But remember, it’s all consensual.

By the way, Amy adds an adorable touch in the commentary section. She notes that Anouk violates protocol when she sits in “daddy’s” chair to read, behavior that is “not allowed.” Beautiful. Submissives love their daddies. Anouk is learning the ground rules . . . or perhaps she acted deliberately to bank on a “correction” some time later, a little fun with “daddy.”

Keep in mind Anouk is no fawning submissive, but she doesn’t go for the harsher treatment that turns on Anne Desclos’ (Pauline Réage) heroine in O. In fact, Anouk plays an ongoing “cat and mouse” game with Luis throughout the film, thus the wall-mounted drawing of a rodent that pushes back against the overstuffed cat in the apartment.

The little bugger is within full view, but just out of reach of his furry pursuer. BDSM negotiation is always on the table.

A final note for S/M fans . . . if you want to see Luis discipline Anouk with the whip, won’t happen. It’s merely suggested. But take heart, check out Amy and Jac’s later films (under the Pachamama label) for that visual delight. And, consider this. Maybe someday we’ll see their version of O come to the screen . . .

Anouk’s character, much like O’s, is a feminist statement . . . a woman in control. And why not? In my view, Amy Hesketh is a feminist filmmaker in this supposedly post-modern era. Is feminism passé? Perhaps. But after all, I was once a frat guy, so we all have a past, now don’t we?

 *          *          *

Here they are, the three that give Sirwiñakuy its reason to be.

Here’s the director at work:

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The Handkerchief Code

by Rich Moreland, June 2015

Mercy West is a performer in transition. At twenty-five the Oregonian knows the ropes (pun intended) for bondage modeling, but shooting hardcore is another matter. Now that “porn star” is on her agenda, what is pornography in her mind?

Sunny Day Photo courtesy of Sam-R.com

Sunny Day
Photo courtesy of Sam-R.com

Mercy’s adolescent years were spent in Tucson, Arizona. Like most teens, people watching at the mall and flirting with kids her age (only to “have it fail miserably,” she remembers) was part of the routine. Mercy was different in one respect. She dallied a bit with “the older crowd,” again not getting very far but establishing a preference for the age play that delights her now.

Her favorite hang outs were record stores and used book outlets where she often became a familiar face. Her curiosity developed a taste for art and photography, so sifting through book bins became an obsession.

“Different types of art and prints jump out at you and you’re just not sure why,” Mercy recalls. “Everybody has their own tastes. I just remember being fascinated by the human body.” Highly eroticized images swirled around a teenager’s interpretation of art and porn.

Darker Images

Book store time nurtured this budding fetish model.

“It made me think about how I wanted to express myself. I was drawn to images of sexuality, erotic images not necessarily in the context of porn . . . darker images of alternative sexuality and gender fluidity,” Mercy says.

House of Gord Artwork courtesy of House of Gord

House of Gord
Artwork courtesy of House of Gord

So what were these images? The late performance artist and masochist Bob Flanagan intrigued her as did the black and white illustrations of the House of Gord’s latex bondage, pony girls, and forniphilia which had a “more esoteric” flavor. “Classic male dom, female sub leather and rubber BDSM” were her favorites and a bondage elitism was emerging. “Kinksters are aware of Gord’s contributions but most BDSM light/Vanilla folks have no clue,” Mercy says.

Raised in a liberal home environment, Mercy didn’t see any of this “as naughty or shameful.” Instead, the images were “aesthetically pleasing . . . the bondage, the sadomasochism . . . the sort of power play that was involved in S&M really intrigued me even though I didn’t quite understand what was underneath it all.”

Running across a variety of other publications where porn is high art enhanced her journey.

“Magazines like ‘Skin Two’ (a British publication) and ‘Modern Primitives’ were always super exciting finds and I treated them like precious gems, reading and rereading the articles, studying the clothing, toys and body art intensely.”

In fits and starts, an intelligent libertine was finding her future.

Pushing What it Means to be Sexual

Fashion Snapshot Photo courtesy of Mercy West

Fashion Snapshot
Photo courtesy of Mercy West

As comes to most of us, Mercy’s hormones kicked in around age twelve or thirteen. BDSM scenes gnawed at her sexuality; fetish became her thing. Fashion was not far behind. “I learned very quickly that people wore certain types of clothing as symbols and signs to others.”

In particular, the handkerchief code attracted her attention. Mercy recalls people “wearing spiked belts and having colored handkerchiefs hanging out of their back pocket.” (The code began in the gay community years ago and is generally, but not universally, accepted today. Left indicates a BDSM top; right a bottom.). Fashion blended with community and a kinkster’s education marched on.

Of course, what is pure alt often gets bastardized and commodified. “Some of the meaningless fashion in mainstream had been pulled from very meaningful fashion in some underground communities,” Mercy notes.

The code represented communication, openness and freedom, a symbol of being your own person this bondage disciple in the making could not absorb fast enough. Discovering that there were people who lived “a certain lifestyle or the S&M lifestyle 24/7” was pure elation.

Becoming Your Own Person Photo courtesy of San-R.com

Being Your Own Person
Photo courtesy of San-R.com

“What these people were doing was right for them. They were not devious or fucked up in any way. They weren’t causing harm to society,” Mercy declares with a smile. Coming out and “communicating their sexuality to their family . . Saying here, this is me, this is who I am” was natural and undeniable.

Lifestyle statements now mattered to Mercy, whether it be the S&M community or the complexities of the late Francesca Woodman that blurred artistic definitions with psychological statements spoken through the camera’s lens. She “pushed what it means to be a sexual human being,” Mercy says.

An Evolution

What drew Mercy to pornography? She is vague because it was more of an evolution than a moment. “Around the time my sexuality was coming to be I was really starting to think about what other people mean to me [in that way].”

story of o 2Porn didn’t help or hinder her development; rather it provided an understanding that she wasn’t alone with her feelings. Mercy references a trio of influences: Anne Rice novels, Pauline Reage’s The Story of O, and John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. She was intrigued by these works, she says, though at the time she did not profoundly understand them.

As her self-education continued, the bondage slut in Mercy remained muted. The teenage years passed. Interactions with other kids were normal with no “unhealthy obsessions.”

Though sexually active at a young age, Mercy insists porn was an avenue to it, not the reason for it. She was never “broken or scarred” from her interest in the erotic. “I was pretty stable and dealt with things all right. It was just my path and the way things were meant to go.”

So, what is porn to her?

Mercy points out that some people believe porn lacks “artistic intent” [and is] created solely to inspire sexual arousal,” serving no purpose other than “getting someone off.”

Getting off on a Paintoy shoot Photo courtesy of Paintoy.com

Coming Out of her Shell
Photo courtesy of Paintoy.com

“But that isn’t my definition. That isn’t what it means to me. I’ve used it as a tool to navigate my own sexuality.” Porn “can bring people out of their shells,” she insists, letting them “come to terms with things that they wouldn’t have been able to alone or with a partner.”

Is that a pro-porn cop-out or a level-headed assessment? Social scientists and historians agree that porn is a form of sex education. For some of us, it’s the only kind we’ll ever get and for Mercy it shaped a future.

Mercy’s “love of alternative sexuality, S&M and the fetish community translates into the real world” for her now. But she’s just getting started; a seismic shift in her sexual Richter Scale is occurring. She’s figured out that her personal happiness is more than “picking up a whip for a little while” after her day job. “That has led me to Paintoy and Intersec,” Mercy West says, where her shoots will delight BDSM fans who want to see this evolving star shackled and aroused for their entertainment.

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A Different Kind of Normal: Part Three

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

This is the final installment of my review of The Submission of Emma Marx. The film is wrapped in many layers, among them an overwhelming feminist statement.

Part of Her Training Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Are We Normal?
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

A Deliberate Process

“We’re not like normal people.”

Like women who long to start that conversation with lovers who seem distant, Emma Marx voices her doubts to the man who is refining her kinks.

Not that her BDSM education is for naught. Emma is learning the rules and William is a patient instructor.

Emma’s intitiation into bondage is tastefully handled by directors Jacky St. James and Eddie Powell. BDSMers who prefer total nudity with their “training films” will be disappointed with this part of the movie because Emma is being “broken in” slowly and with care. It’s not about displaying her body; she has deeper issues with her psychological barriers.

One provocative image occurs at this juncture in the film. As part of her training, Emma, clothed in a red dress, is taught to kneel inside the front door of William’s house with hands behind her back. Later in the story’s most dramatic moment, this submissive shot is re-visited with new purpose.

William directs all aspects of her education and woven into the harsher scenes of flogging are shots of him massaging her (BDSMers call it “aftercare’) and a brief shower episode artistically framed at a distance through the glass enclosed stall. She is on her knees cleansing him.

Likewise, preparing her for anal is a deliberate, loving process. In feminist-oriented pornography, anal sex is generally avoided because most women don’t like it and don’t care to see it. Emma Marx has another message: anal is also a kink once considered an exclusive male fantasy. Over the last two decades, it’s become a standard in adult productions and has gained wider acceptance among female viewers.

Like the protagonist in The Story of O, Emma Marx is moved gradually into anal. With William’s help, she applies the butt plugs she received as a gift to increase her physical capacity to accommodate him. When the anal scene arrives, it is without foreplay. No oral, just insertion and rhythm with lots of tenderness.  

The directors’ approach abandons formulaic gonzo porn’s oft used ATM (ass-to-mouth), a questionable sexual behavior for health reasons. Mixing oral and anal randomly and without care sends the wrong message. Sex should be fun, not risky.

By the way, the scene is pure Penny Pax. Though as Emma she must come across as reluctant to experiment with anal, Penny is no stranger to it. For female viewers, St. James and Powell communicate that with preparation, anal is enjoyable.  As for Penny, her passion and ecstasy is hinted in her voice and her face, but the flushing around her shoulders and chest reveal her authentic arousal.

 

Lying Awake at Night

In the office scene that accelerates the movie’s pace, Emma voices her fears that their relationship is not normal. William’s frustration reaches the breaking point. Knowing she is resistant to her true feelings and cannot act on her own to leave him, he unties her, gets her to her feet, and forces her down the stairs.

Submissively at his Desk Photo Courtesy of Jeff Koga

Submissively at his Desk
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Koga

The action tumbles down the steps and speaks for Emma’s world as it is crumbling. She is driven by her attraction to William and not the BDSM, denying what she feels inside. Dominated by her need for society’s approval, Emma struggles with the word “normal,” not yet understanding what he already knows. Normal has various meanings and is not always a reflection of what everyone tacitly agrees it should be.

William knows he has failed and slashes back at her doubts, telling Emma that continuing together is no good. He’s seen this show before. “You’ll lie awake at night, wondering if something is wrong with us because we’re different,” he shouts.

Emma Marx explores the dilemma many BDSMers face. What is the true passion, the person or the kink? In fact, kinksters sometimes will drop vanilla lovers because the fetish is a part of who they are and cannot be abandoned. This is Emma’s conflict. Is it William she wants and is she just playing along, like Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, to keep her lover, try to understand him, and remove her own kinks from the equation? Or, is the BDSM beginning to take hold inside her like O in The Story of O who can change lovers but keeps her whippings? And if it becomes strong enough, will Emma someday replace William with a tougher dominant, an act of independence?  

Emma is astonished and fearful. At the foot of the stairs she asks William to punish her for her doubts. She removes his belt and hands it to him. It’s a desperate act of bravado to forestall rejection. He complies, expressing his anger. But it’s brutality, not pleasure, and she quickly safewords with “red.” Their relationship is over. He can’t go on with her; she doesn’t get it.

In this scene, like the paddle in her office disciple earlier, the belt is not shown striking Emma because meaning is not tied up in the physicality of the punishment. It’s about bridging a mental abyss; the camera lets her facial expressions and the sounds of the instrument carry the action. Once again, Penny Pax is superlative as Emma. She is a treasure in adult film.

*       *       *       *       *

Emma resigns her position with William Frederick’s company and in a well-conceived overhead shot they pass on the stairs: she descending; he ascending. He is going to the privacy of his mountain top; she’s headed out to find another job.

Thoughts of What Could Be Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Thoughts of What Could Be
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Time is laboring on, the days pass. Working to pull off a successful wedding for Nadia, Emma is haunted by her thoughts of William.

Images of her efforts to forget float across the screen. In one, she sits on her bed, holding a butt plug as her mind drifts.

“Will happiness always elude me?” she says in a voice over.

On her big day, Nadia talks happiness and suggests that it lies within, confirming the inescapable Emma cannot shake. She has only one choice.  

Happiness in a Vanilla Wedding Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Happiness is a Vanilla Wedding for Nadia
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Penance and Purification

Emma must yield to her desires and return to the safety of William Frederick’s house, his galaxy of BDSM delights circling the Sun of acceptance.

Emma clarifies for herself what she has always known: she is not comfortable in her sister’s vanilla world. She now accepts that finding someone who shares her perversions “for a different kind of normal” defines happiness for what it is: universally sought and individually discovered.

But purification must come first and the final scene in its entirety does exactly that with an initial self-imposed ritual of penance. Emma returns to William, enters his front door and submissively falls to her knees with hands behind her as she was previously taught. She will wait an eternity if need be. Beside the door on the right is the sanctuary’s sentinel, the mirror and the plants repositioned now so that the stalks are leaning in unison, one above the other, toward Emma.

William sees her from the top of the stairs where he had previously bound and flogged her, but does not come to her. Not yet.

Hours later he descends, scoops up a sleeping Emma and carries her to the mountain top.

The music is spiritual and Handelesque.

All for her Pleasure Photo courtesy of New Sensations

All for her Pleasure
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Binding her spread-eagled to the bed, William welcomes her home in a sex scene that is focused entirely on her. He blindfolds her, gives her earplugs with music, and covers her body with sensation: hot wax, ice, and lots of oral.

Emma’s feet clench forcefully, she curls her toes and grasps the bed covers with her hands as if trying to rip an unseen life force from the fabric and absorb it into herself. Her cries and moans punctuate the energy of a sex scene that is a visual experience.

Emma becomes worthy in her own eyes and a disciple-like vision for William.

Though BDSMers might challenge the use of perversions to describe their kink, they surely will agree with the film’s belief that normality is in the eye of the beholder. However, Emma Marx delivers another message of what it means to be normal, the emerging power of the independent woman—a seeming contradiction to the BDSM submissive.

As the film closes on a sunny day, Emma receives a message from William to come to his house for another round of bondage play. Smiling, she is delighted and secure that she is now in a different normal. The moment is significant for what it does not tell the viewer. Emma Marx is not married and is not living with William. At this point, at least, she is unwilling to embrace her sister’s interpretation of normal. She remains her whole self, an undeniable feminist statement.

*        *        *        *        *

No adult film is perfect because sex, and in this case an accompanying fetish,  has no standard definition of how it should be presented. But The Submission of Emma Marx is pretty darn close. I could go over a short list of things I would have liked to have seen: at least one internal pop shot because most women viewers don’t care for facials (Emma gets a partial one at the end) and some more time devoted to BDSM training with total nudity to please the bondage and discipline crowd. But this is just quibbling.

Most important, I urge New Sensations to consider an Emma Marx series, though corralling Penny Pax and Richie Calhoun for another film is probably easier suggested than done.

Emma Marx is about the liberation of a woman and her soul accomplished through the seeming contradiction of consensual BDSM. As I pointed out previously, its intensity, drama, and pure emotion coupled with discipline and punishment makes this film a leader in the submission porn genre. It has a strong cast and one of porn’s best players, Penny Pax, a BDSM veteran who can act and be carried away with authentic orgasms. She communicates directly with the audience, persuading the viewer to step into the scene and sweep her up. I found myself concentrating on her every nuance, especially her eyes that seem to speak directly the viewer. That’s something rarely found in the commercialism of the porn industry that insists producers quickly get on with the next project.

The Submission of Emma Marx is art and sex combined into a narrative that moves the viewer. But what is the film really saying? Early in the story Emma tells William with a touch of haughtiness, “I may look submissive, but I can assure you I’m not.” Perhaps Emma Marx, who later admits that “deep down” in her “demented mind” she actually likes her punishments, lets us know that love is many layered with confounding emotions darting among our fantasies.

 

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Submission Pornography

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

Rarely do I publish a precursor to a film review, but this time it’s needed. Look for the movie’s full analysis soon.

The Submission of Emma Marx, an engaging film from New Sensations, is in the vanguard of a budding adult film genre. The movie establishes a style of pornography that is romantic and erotic with a hardcore kick of dominance and submission (D/s) that satisfies a woman’s desires.

Emma presents an updated take on an old theme that was once, by virtue of the delicacy of the female sex, considered to be exclusively a male fantasy. In a 1920s classic stag film called An English Tragedy, a jilted boyfriend captures his ex and ties her spreadeagled for his sexual thrills. It’s a revenge tale and she doesn’t have fun. A decade or so later, a terrified Fay Wray is bound between two pillars in a blockbuster known as King Kong. She’s a sacrificial offering the island natives string up for the big ape. The twist is the “beast” falls in love and gives his all for the “beauty” in a fatal plunge from the Empire State Building. Both films are love stories with strong bondage overtones.

In neither of these productions, one underground and the other legit, is the woman as victim expected to be sexually aroused.

Dancing on the doorstep of the explicit sex era, naked women are tortured for male sophomoric jollies in sexploitation films like White Slaves of Chinatown (1964) and Love Camp 7 (1968). Referred to as roughies and kinkies, these movies are high camp soft core at its most brutal. Nary a girl has fun except when it comes to settling the score.

In 1975, a harsh BDSM tale hit the big screen, the film version of the French novel, The Story of O. Society’s proper decorum insisted that women were not to like this soft core fictional account of abuse for abuse’s sake, sexual slavery under the lash. But it, too, is a love story and O can always walk away. BDSMers call it consensuality, though Webster doesn’t recognize the term. Adult film responds the same year with a Gerard Damiano O knockoff called The Story of Joanna, a movie remembered more for the legendary Jamie Gillis than its combo of bondage (which is pretty tame) and sex. Incidentally, like O, Joanna (played by Terri Hall) emerges as the narrative’s strongest character.

Fast forward to the second decade of the twenty-first century and the print sensation, Fifty Shades of Grey. At long last, female desire is validated, albeit in a semi-desperate “must reform him” setting that finds excuses for the perverted male. Liking BDSM for its own sake, you see, is still troublesome. Nevertheless, Fifty jarred the submission door open for adult film. Women who previously did not buy into the dungeon of discipline and pain are now willing to take a second look at D/s sex in the name of love, sacrifice, and dark pleasure.

Though adult film’s road to the BDSM Land of Oz remains a slogging trek, the horizon is brightening. In this century, Porn Valley’s passable blindfolds and light floggings are now counterbalanced with a rough and tumble niche product from San Francisco’s internet giant, Kink.com. But where does this leave female viewers and couples who like a bit of romance with their soft corded flogger?

Enter a diminutive girl named Emma.

Emma Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Thoughtful in Her Pleasures
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Written from a hetero female standpoint, The Submission of Emma Marx introduces a woman’s take on romance with a powerfully kinky flavor. The movie experiments with the midway point between the psychological tension and passion of sex women embrace and the stark “beat and punish” fantasy of Kink.com.

This new type of porn succeeds with solid storytelling and creative directing. However, the vital ingredient is the female protagonist. She must be vulnerable, assertive, relish her discipline as a prelude to sex, have real orgasms, and never lose the power of her character, a tall order for any girl. This is where Emma Marx shines. The energetic Penny Pax, trained in BDSM performances at Kink.com, is an authentic star in a business that too often proclaims every girl a star. She is superlative in a beautiful narrative.

By the way, Emma Marx is not alone in its exploration of submission pornography. Smash Pictures’ Bound by Desire series adds its voice to the field. But for now, New Sensations leads the pack in this new genre with a finely crafted film that is as much art as it is steamy sex.

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Her Trampy Best

by Rich Moreland, June 2013

Note: The history of BDSM porn dates to the “porno chic” era. Films like The Story of Joanna (1975) and A Coming of Angels (1977) are classics featuring the late Jaime Gillis who liked his women submissive. Hardcore sex is blended with bondage to titillate viewers whose taste ran in that direction.

Onto the soft-core scene came the French film The Story of O in 1975, a dark tale of submission based the novel of the same name. The film addresses deeply hidden taboos within polite culture at the time.

From the mid-1980s through much of the 1990s, the feds cracked down on pornographers and the worry over violence and penetrative sex on-screen took center stage. When whips and floggers are the basis for a film of that era, their use is fairly light and explicit sex is avoided. The work of filmmakers like Fred Lincoln, Ernest Green, and Bruce Seven was seductive at that time, but tame compared with today’s new horizons in the BDSM adult genre.

The new century is moving to the ultimate— heavy fetish mixed with acrobatic hardcore sex. The standard now emanates from San Francisco’s Kink.com. But not everyone is into Kink’s extreme filming. Roughing up women in an atmosphere of apparent humiliation is not on everyone’s viewing guide, especially couples who share their porn interests with each other.

With the film Bound by Desire, Smash Pictures is tinkering with a new formula for romance and flogging, kisses and ball gags, all complimented with penetrative sex. Perfect for the couples market, it presents women expressing their desires and facing the contradictions within them. A bit of character development emerges and gives reasons for the on-screen sex, a rarity to today’s gonzo porn market. In short, the old adage “You always hurt the one you love,” cannot be more intimate!

Bound By Desire Front

*          *          *          *          *

Degrees of Commitment

In the opening scene of Bound by Desire, Part 1: A Leap of Faith, Elexis Monroe is preparing to receive the attentions of Evan Stone.

She’ll be tied face down on a bed, flogged, and caressed. All the while, a mounted camera that is part of the cast is across the room picking up the action.

Who are Elexis and Evan—husband and wife, horny neighbors, members of a bondage club?

Elexis at first appears uneasy. “Let’s just do it,” she says to Evan, dropping her robe. The action accelerates and Elexis’ guilt-ridden ecstasy, simultaneously intriguing and troubling her, peeks through. Her sex with Evan is anticipation stroked by nagging doubts. Is she having too much fun in something that is over-the-top kinky?

As the scene heats up, the camera moves to Elexis’ face. Her wantonness draws the viewer into the authenticity of a BDSM encounter while posing the question that lies at the heart of this provocative film. Is a BDSM relationship normal?

For Elexis and Evan, apparently it is. Their hard sex establishes the tone of submission that is the centrality of this film. It will play out in the lives of three women, each with varying degrees of commitment to the BDSM fetish.

Let’s Go Play

The BDSM lifestyle involves giving oneself over to the fetish. It’s never an easy decision. Though a master-slave relationship can be sweetly and sexually tantalizing, red flags of fear and weirdness flutter in minds of all BDSMers. After all, they dwell on the margins of cultural acceptability. What would the neighbors think if they found out?

First, there is Chanel Preston, eager for discipline, punishment, and rough sex. She is Evan Stone’s wife and from the outset it’s evident that she is powerful, dictating to those around her. Chanel’s kitchen conversation with her husband establishes that they are in this together. As the viewer will see later, Evan does his wife’s bidding, a seeming contradiction to her role as the submissive in their relationship, but not an unusual circumstance in the world of tops and bottoms.

The Controller Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

The Powerful
Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

Over dinner with Evan, Richie Calhoun, and Casey Calvert, Chanel is haughty and mocking toward Casey, the second woman in this story. Chanel tells the shy, reticent girl that it’s exciting to be shared with other men when your master insists. Chanel teasingly asks Casey if she has ever been dommed by Ryan Driller, a man who “collects” women to punish.

“No, I never subbed for him,” she responses quietly, as if under an interrogation.

To stir the atmosphere, Chanel takes charge of the table conversation for Casey’s benefit and her own ultimate pleasure. Evan takes the hint. Turning to Richie, who is sitting next to Casey, he says,

“Sir, do me the honor of beating my wife.”

Triumphant, Chanel responds enthusiastically, “Let’s go play!”

As the scene with Chanel cranks up, the punishment meted out is a BDSM delight. Evan binds his wife to the bed, applies a flogger to parts of her body, then pauses to watch Richie work on her with a riding crop. The red marks on Chanel blister the room with anticipation for the sex. Chanel’s oral performance on Richie is superb, and that’s for starters.

A licentious seductress who plays the males for her own pleasure, Chanel’s carnality feeds theirs. Her eyes exude raw sexuality. Like Elexis in the first sex scene, Chanel Preston is worth the price of this DVD.

Meek and Submissive

On the other hand, Casey’s situation plagues her with nagging uncertainty. Does she want the rough and tumble lifestyle with Richie? He’s collared her, an expression of affection among BDSMers, securing her devotion to do his bidding. Plans are validated that Casey is to be given to Richie’s friends so that they might sample what he experiences. But contradiction fills the air.

Meek and submissive, Casey is the perfect slave who is unconvinced of her part in her emotional bargain with Richie. An older and wiser Evan understands her emotional dilemma and knows how to heighten a woman’s sexual excitement. Sexuality is brain based, after all, and words fuel desire.

The Unconvinced Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

The Doubter
Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

“Do you like the attention you get from your master by doing exactly what he tells you?” Evan asks Casey in the hallway outside the dining room.

“Yes,” she responds softly. Her slightly stooped shoulders are an open book of submission.

“Women need discipline,” he tells her with a firm, quiet voice, knowing that words that offend most women, excite slave sluts.

Casey’s is uneasy. Haunted by visions of what she perceives “normal” to be, a loving vanilla courtship, she has doubts about life with Richie. How can she reconcile these contradictory feelings?

Casey turns to the one friend she believes can reinforce her ideas of romance, a head-over-heels in love Allie Haze, who is absorbed in changing her dominant boyfriend, Ryan Driller.

Vanilla Flavored Bondage?

Enter girl number three. Allie Haze is enjoying lots of rollicking sex in Bound by Desire—the ice cream scene (vanilla flavored, of course) is not to be missed—but there are growing hints that her lover has not yet thrown off his BDSM urges. To complicate Allie’s feelings, one of Ryan’s subs, Teal Conrad, is strapped to a St. Andrew’s Cross and flogged, while Allie, bound to a spanking bench in the scene, looks on. Once again director Powers focuses on the expressions of both women. Watching Teal flinch under the flogger’s impact, Allie is not sure she’s reformed Ryan, or that she personally has parted ways with BDSM’s haunting allure.

The Reformer Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

The Reformer
Photo Courtesy of Smash Pictures

To reinforce the cottage-in-the-country romance Casey thinks she wants, director Powers introduces Kimmy Olsen and Danny Wylde who perform run-of-the-mill boy/girl sex. Though not the hottest in the film, the scene does drive home the definition of “normal” and serves to move the story forward. By the way, Kimmy is cute as a button, pleasant on the eyes, and orally talented to boot.

The drama is now in focus. Casey’s thoughts drift into the wonderland of love that supposedly defines what a woman wants. But does it work for every woman? And, is it really for her?

Two Sexual Worlds

In a beautifully directed masturbation scene, Jim Powers captures the essence of Bound by Desire. Up to her neck in water, Casey relaxes in a bathtub and pleasures herself. As her arousal increases, Casey’s hips and body rise slowly above the waterline. This is a symbolic rebirth reminiscent of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, a goddess emerging from the sea. Casey’s sexuality is “cumming” out again from the watery womb of its original being. This time she is destined to be swept into the whirlpool of dominance and submission where all is not what it seems to be.

This episode also speaks for the film’s women. They are re-energizing their own sexual experiences. Chanel relishes her journey; Allie believes she has found her way, while Casey takes hesitating steps.

Using her nasty submissiveness as female empowerment, Chanel calls the shots with Evan, getting what she wants. Allie’s gushing relationship with Ryan, fueled by school girl love, is headed for a BDSM train wreck she thinks she can negotiate. Casey’s doubts and fears conflict with her desires. She wants the love and trust she believes Allie has found. Unnerved by the prospect of being whored out by Richie and equally hesitant around Chanel, the conflicted Casey is drawn to both like a moth to light.

How best to cope? Pleasure yourself and prepare. As the film’s centerpiece, Casey symbolically teeters between two sexual worlds, vanilla and fetish, knowing that the latter’s seductive powers will likely win out.

Part Two will tell that tale. Will Allie, who is farthest from the BDSM fold, be secured into the fetish? Will Casey join Chanel’s commitment to submissive pleasures? And the camera, the sentinel that captures every encounter, what is it all about? Who is filming these scenes, an underground cult of sadists and masochists, the neighbors next door indulging their passions, or a curious Evan and Chanel?

Final Thoughts

The BDSM scenes presented in Bound by Desire include the interpersonal affections that BDSMers revere in their play. In the flogging scene with Teal, Ryan holds her hand briefly as he applies the leather to her butt; Evan caresses Elexis after spanking her; kissing is evident throughout all the scenes, despite the presence of an accoutrement BDSMers adore, ball gags. Followers of bondage and discipline express themselves emotionally in ways not always understood by mainstream culture, reminding the viewer that in vanilla adult film intimacy is not always assured.

On a technical note, the film’s BDSM rigging comes via the talented John Wilkes of John Wilkes Photography. His handiwork is precise and clean, adding an artistic touch to the production.

Finally, the women are superb; each is at her trampy best. Chanel Preston demonstrates why she has been selected as a host for the upcoming 2014 AVN Awards. Allie Haze, who won two best actress awards in 2013, is the perfect choice for the sweet girl who wants to reform her boyfriend and Kimmy Olsen fills the straight sex bill to a tee. To balance a youthful Kimmy, veteran Elexis Monroe gets this reviewer’s vote for the hottest, filthiest close-ups during a sex scene ever. Powers makes the viewer want to dive in on the action.

When Part 2 arrives, perhaps Casey Calvert will turn in a performance that tops them all.

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The Bondage Game: A BDSM Trilogy

By Rich Moreland, September, 2012

 

A couple of years ago I spent a few minutes with Kink.com’s Peter Acworth at San Francisco’s old National Guard Armory where the BDSM fetish giant runs its websites. Acworth talked about a re-make of Pauline Reage’s 1955 novel, The Story of O. His idea sounded interesting, but who would play O, I asked, and how would he tell the story? Where Acworth is today with his idea is only a guess, but Ernest Greene’s trilogy on O’s evolution reveals unique answers to my question.

The Story of O is more than an erotic tale of a woman who acknowledges her obedience and masochism. Trained at Roissy, a remote location where girls are delivered for their initiation into BDSM, O becomes a willing participant in her own sexual slavery. She agrees to her submission, serving her lover, Renee, and his whims and fancies. Now she faces change. Renee takes O to the Paris apartment of Sir Stephen, his older half-brother, and departs. At this juncture in the storyline, Sir Stephen tells O she can have only one master and clarifies that he is now that man. She is to become his submissive, wear his brand inflicted by a burning iron, and become a predator for him, the Owl she symbolically portrays in the narrative’s final chapter.

But who or what is O’s real master? Ernest Greene provides a hint in the first film of his trilogy, O: The Power of Submission. Adhering to Reage’s plot, O is taken to the House for her initiation. Naked, she is fitted with a collar and ankle and wrists restraints. At this moment, Greene lets us in on his secret. O is adorned with a shoulder-length veil as she is presented for her flogging. Later in the film when Jackie, the fashion model Ray desires, is taken to the House and prepared for her first taste of the whip, she, too, wears one.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

What is the meaning of the veil? A message runs under the convoluted love triangle Greene creates between O, Ray, and Steven. Greene’s interpretation insists O’s story is about a “wedding,” not between or among people, but to a lifestyle. Greene illustrates the self-defeating nuisances of questionable relationships and the failures of actual marriage. O moves in and out her love affairs with Steven, leaving him for good in the last installment, and Ray’s marriage to Jackie collapses in the second film. Through it all, O’s commitment to BDSM is unquestioned. Her real identity lives within the lifestyle that intrigues and guides her, the master/slave relationship she has wed, and it overrides her interactions with the people she meets. The literary Sir Stephen and Greene’s cinematic Steven are conduits that serve O. Her willingness to respond to their BDSM impulses is what drives their desire for her. She in turn, uses them for her satisfaction.

With the House, and later the bondage club of the third film, Greene shows us a BDSM community that was an underworld experiment during Reage’s time. Greene’s O exists within a modernized BDSM arrangement of convenience, a continuous menu of choices offered for the pleasure and power she savors. Reage hints that O’s submission seduces her captors; Greene pushes that revelation out of the shadows and onto the screen.

Choice is always in O’s hands. When the limo pulls up to the House in Submission, Ray, played by Tommy Gunn in the first two films, tells O (the bewitching Carmen Luvana) he is “glad” she agreed to come. Her response is pointed, almost a counter-punch, “Have I ever said anything else to you?” Carmen’s O projects a little cockiness with some indifference stirred in. Before her initiation begins, Ray asks O if she consents to “obey,” reminding her that the option to leave is open. O responds without hesitation, “I’ll stay.” But she does not repeat the word “obey,” cutting into the House’s control of her. Marie, the House’s owner, asks Ray if he ever whipped O. “Sometimes,” he replies. Turning to O, Marie wants to know if she enjoyed it. O repeats Ray’s “sometimes,” but with a nonchalant tone. She throws down the challenge, shifting the burden to Marie and Ray to pleasure her, not the other way round. Attached spreadeagled to a vertical frame, O is aroused by Maria’s application of the flogger, warming up O for the hot sex to follow. Carmen’s O shows off her talents with multiple partners, completing her initiation into the fold.

In conversation later with other house slaves, O discovers their breezy attitude is reflective of hers. Without their collective consent, there would be no House and no entertainment. Everything is voluntary. Greene sets the tone for the series in these early scenes and prepares the viewer for a revelation in the second film, The Surrender of O, where he cannot resist a little irony.

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

In Surrender, Bree Olson’s O comes back to the house voluntarily and is surprised to learn that Marie runs the show and rewards are to be had.

“You mean we get paid?” O says with amazement.

Mika Tan’s Rita, a House girl, tells O that Marie lets the guys think their money dictates the action. O can’t believe they pony up cash for their privileges with the girls. The whole operation is a “profitable business for all of us,” Rita says, and reminds O that with her return she is now a House girl and “no one’s property” but her own.

Marie keeps a catalogue of the girls and their talents. Regina (played by the gorgeous Kayden Kross) reads to O what is written about her, “orgasms during punishment.” Rita implies that being a “very obedient good slave” has benefits. If her attitudes and talents are noteworthy, O has the freedom to “come and go” as she pleases and the next time she drops by she’ll find “a big fat wire transfer” in her bank account. Bree’s O is hesitant, but Regina is honest about the BDSM bordello. “It’s not like you can pretend to enjoy this sort of thing if you don’t. The masters think this is their club, we think of it as ours.” Rita chimes in amusingly, and “the attendants think it’s theirs.” The girls are playing the game for fun and profit, very much in control of their outcomes. Everyone is a winner.

With an attitude like that, is it any wonder the sex is spectacular.

*     *     *     *     *

O’s ongoing personal journey is a search for emotional satisfaction framed within a fierce desire to hold onto her independence, a task more difficult than life at the House. Though Bree’s O will backslide in the second film, Carmen’s O reveals a shade of defiance. The game is played with her permission and by her rules. In Submission’s conclusion Carmen’s O faces down Steven, ably portrayed by popular veteran actor Evan Stone. He once captured her with his self-confidence but made the fatal mistake of revealing his weakness. She reacts to his sudden declaration of his love for her:

“I never expected you to say that and back then I wanted this more than anything, but right now it’s a lot more than what I want. I did everything you required me to and the only thing I needed in return was that you were different from all the others, stronger somehow.”

She gives back her O ring, the symbol of attachment to him, and delivers her parting shot, a damning statement that shapes the message of film three, The Truth About O:

“You fell in love with what you think you see and not what’s there. I won’t be back.”

In fact, she relents and does return to him in Surrender. Marie, played with wisdom and charm by Nina Hartley, mentors O throughout the trilogy. She is O’s trainer and counselor, offering O a feminist education that flowers in the final installment, Truth, when Marie compliments Bobbi Starr’s O as “the finest slave I’ve ever trained.” Finest does not mean most compliant, rather O is now the strongest and most willful.

In Surrender, Marie sympathizes with O’s emotional uncertainty and arranges a reunion with Steven. But, there is a lesson attached. Giving Bree’s O a key, in reality the key to her happiness, Marie tells O that she can return to Steven if she wishes. Marie also gives her a fabric inscribed with “freedom is deciding whose slave you want to be.” Marie continues, “You have to decide what part of your life is yours and [what] part you would have to surrender totally.” It is the teachable moment in Ernest Greene’s “The Education of O.” The underlying meaning of the entire series is equality and O emerges with her total personhood in tact when the final curtain falls on Bobbi’s O. Once again, Greene’s message is O’s dedication to the lifestyle as a master, not any one person within it. The bondage game is her pleasure and the tool she uses to find a master of her choice who can deliver it. In the language of the real world of BDSM, O is searching for a “service top,” a dominant who arouses her by responding to her needs.

Bree’s O reunites with Steven and promises she will never leave again unless he orders her to. But her promise borders on schoolgirl silliness because the plot is never fated to play out that way. In presenting herself to Steven for sex, O wears a short veil this time, suggestive of a modified version of the “marriage” depicted in Submission. Symbolically, she is renewing her vows with BDSM; Steven is the master du jour. Bree’s O presents a confusion of hope and uncertainty that is later resolved in Truth. Surrender winds down with an extended sex scene between Bree and Evan Stone, the most sensual in the trilogy and there are good ones throughout featuring some of the best talent in the business.

In closing Surrender, Steven presents O with a contract designed for a master/slave relationship but looks a lot like a business arrangement. With this turn of events, Greene sets up the third movie. O agrees to help Steven obtain “love slaves” to serve him and gets approval over their selection. O is free to do as she pleases once she satisfies her “boss.” Again Greene gives O choices, this time spelled out in a written partnership between lovers that strongly suggests equality. Does Bree’s O understand the implications of what she holds? Bobbi’s O steps out of the shadows to answer that question.

*   *   *   *   * 

            Pauline Reage’s O is a complex character and the actresses Greene selects to play her are reflections of this varied composition. Carmen’s O is defiant, independent, a reluctant submissive; Bree is submissive, compliant, and easily manipulated. She shows none of the hard edge that sometimes shapes Carmen’s performance. The flavor of Bree’s sex scenes are more BDSM leaning than Carmen’s but they cannot match Bobbi Starr for realism. Bobbi is one of the most powerful adult film actresses in the business and perfectly selected for the final film. (For fans wanting another Bobbi Starr fix, she also appears as a house girl in Surrender.)

Courtesy of Adam & Eve Productions

Bobbi’s O is a different breed. She develops wisdom by the time the script progresses to Truth.  Strong-willed, mature, and ready to demonstrate an obedience that is more attuned to her wishes than to Steven’s, Bobbi’s O plays a game she knows she will win. Like Carmen’s O, she challenges Steven, now played by porn heartthrob James Deen, wanting to know what he thinking. Bobbi intellectualizes her version of O and produces the most powerful scene in the trilogy done via flashback. O is chatting with a new sub (played by Krissy Andrews) and recalls “it was a typical day at home” with Steven. The scene moves to his library.

“You are the only one who can satisfy me,” he says. With a smile, O replies that she would do anything to be owned by him. All seems mutually satisfying, but their body language suggests trouble.

Steven sits her on his desk and she touches his forehead. “What’s going on in there?” she asks, forcing a smile.

“It’s all become so easy for you, hasn’t it?” Steven says, deflecting her question. “Just when you think you have it, it turns out you don’t.” Trouble is brewing.

Steven is addressing his own anxieties and wants reassurance that O is still loyal to their relationship. He asks her to find another girl for their mutual enjoyment. “See if you know me as well as you think,” he says and they hug without a lot of feeling.

Steven takes her hand and she playfully pulls it away. This is the opening they both know is fated: an O replacement for Steven, an exit opportunity for her.

Are the “typical days” a telling message that boredom has set in, or an indication that O needs to continue her search for more stimulation and excitement? Will O now play at BDSM only when it amuses her? Ray (Michael Vegas in Truth), is available again, but she now regards him as an equal, running off with him for the pure adventure of it. Using Ray and providing Steven with another slave, Bobbi’s O manipulates the entire scenario. Marie’s “finest slave” remark unveils the consummate O. She is emotionally grown up.

Truth is set in the bondage club, not at the House, in effect moving the hard lessons of submission into O’s past. There is little need for Marie’s mentoring now; the older woman will assist O in her mission to find a playmate for Steven. When the new slave (played the sensuous Asa Akira) is secured, O returns her contract and takes off, leaving Steven to ponder what he had, lost, regained, and lost again, but through no fault of his own. Like the masked Owl at the end of Reage’s novel, Greene’s O remains an elusive mystery: those around her believe she is emotionally naked and seemingly leashed, but they are her prey, they fall victim to their desires for her. O’s soul is reserved for the mystical master of BDSM, however she chooses to greet him. Desire her, but don’t expect to control her because BDSM is the ultimate leveler of the human equation.

In the real world of adult film, Bobbi Starr and Nina Hartley are feminist soul mates. Both are iconic performers, a rare status for women in porn. Bobbi began as a BDSM submissive and later achieved director status with Evil Angel and Kink.com. Carmen and Bree are also superstars. Each woman has a different “feel” for their BDSM role, a good thing because their performances explore the different sides of Reage’s O, one of the most complex fictional characters in adult literature.

There are hints of a feminist attitude in the literary O that intrigue Greene. Reage’s character gets to “set the rules” and control the action especially when she is pursuing other women. O achieves a “complete sense of freedom” in the hunt and Reage tells the reader O is an “accomplice of both men and women” though the game is “not all that easy.” But as we have seen, the bondage game has an overlord and O is beholden to his erotic demands.

Ernest Greene never defines the perfect O because she exists only in the imagination. He does peek at the different ingredients that make her up and when he gets to Truth, Bobbi becomes the completed O. In the book and the series, O’s destination is not a place, it is a process: an ongoing refinement of BDSM pursued for its personal satisfaction. The characters she meets along the way are mere stopovers in her quest.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Ernest Greene presents a female-friendly POV in much of his work. In most of the sex scenes, he is cautious to pleasure women with lots of oral sex and the ever present Hitachi Magic Wand. Orgasms are aplenty. Greene is no stranger to safer sex, by the way; condoms and latex gloves appear regularly. Like all good directors, he gives his performers choice.

In each film, the sex assumes a different flavor. Submission sets the trend of equality in oral sex for women. In Truth, it is filmed beautifully. Female porn viewers are not fond of DPs and anal but Greene knows they are fan favorites for men, so he sprinkles them in to add spice to the story. Surrender has its gonzo moments with group sex featuring Kayden Kross and Ava Rose that is acrobatic at times. Truth has definite feminist overtones. Bobbi is a feminist gonzo girl and her threesome with James Deen and Asa Askira is terrific. Submission is Carmen’s baby. Now retired, her performance in the film is superlative. Bree Olson in Surrender matches Carmen’s beauty and enthusiasm. There are others who deserve comment, newcomer Jessie Andrews comes to mind in Truth. It’s often said that porn can’t survive without the girls, but Greene’s series is a reminder that super male vets like Tommy Gunn, and Evan Stone in the first two films, and James Deen and Michael Vegas in the third, are also important to sustain the action.

On a final note, true BDSM submissives are not that frequent in adult film. One who deserves mention is a favorite of mine, the sensuous Justine Joli. Her scene with Carmen in the first movie and her performance art with the always innovative Claire Adams in the third is a must see. If there is a single female performer whose BDSM submission can steal a scene, it is Justine.

 

*     *     *     *     *

There is so much more in Greene’s trilogy than there is space here. For anyone unfamiliar with the series, watching is recommended. Three decades ago skirting the feds was on every pornographer’s list so combining sex and bondage was a restriction the industry imposed on itself. It took some time for the industry to get more adventurous. But that’s the past and for BDSM lovers your time is now. Check out Greene’s trilogy and do the pictures in the order they were filmed, otherwise, the meaning and message gets confused.

I’m certain Ernest Greene is setting us up for another O film and I, for one, am ready to see it. Should Peter Acworth decide to make his film, I suggest he take a peek at Greene’s work before he ventures too far into his project. By the way, if Greene is open to suggestions for another film, consider pairing Nina and Bobbi as mentors for a new “Academy of O” where willing submissives are trained in BDSM as a sexual delight and a performance art. What possibilities would exist in that hideaway?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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