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Evolved, A Commentary: Part One

by Rich Moreland, September 2017

Jacky St. James has ventured into a another film in her Emma Marx series.

Here is my review/analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, a New Sensations release under its Erotic Stories collection.

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The ancient Greeks believed the trilogy, a tale told in three parts, represented completeness. Academics interpret the trilogy’s interconnected dramas as a story arc which moves the main character through a change of some sort.

Jacky St. James refines this approach with her brilliantly crafted original Emma Marx series which follows Emma’s sexual and emotional development. In the end, she must overcome the tragic loss of her lover.

So what to make of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, essentially a fourth installment that broadens the narrative and, as it stands now, presents a myriad of possibilities going forward?

Simply put, Jacky is continuing Emma’s sexual growth, or what is best described as her maturity. The process is not dissimilar to the basic human experience developmental psychologists divide into stages, in this case, thirds: young, middle age, and old age. Emma’s progress, emotionally and sexually, has moved out of its adolescence and young adulthood into the earliest beginnings of a sexual middle age.

Is this fourth film the beginning of another trilogy? Possibly. Consider this: at first glance, Evolved is not better or worse than the original series; it is just different, a fresh story that in effect carries on the old story with all the ingredients to initiate a new trilogy of its own.

We already see the wheels beginning to turn as Emma moves her own desires away from submission into experiencing BDSM from the other side of the spectrum. Assuming the dominant role, Emma reaches out as teacher, mentor, and guru to a submissive whose understanding of the fetish is in its infancy, just as Mr. Frederick did for her.

The youthful BDSM neophyte Mariah is the beneficiary now and the future is filled with adventure.

But Jacky leaves us with a difficult question. Does a submissive pass through that state and wish to become a dominant? Is that a natural progression, or does a submissive play an elaborate game of becoming a “switch?”


This we do know. The reason Evolved is not an extension of the original series is the absence of Mr. Frederick materially, though he remains with Emma spiritually. Sadly, the on-screen dynamics created by Penny Pax as Emma and Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick cannot find a space in this film. However, Jacky astutely maintains their connection with an occasional flashback.

She also pursues their relationship in a unique way that shapes the story: Richie, as William Frederick, narrates the film from the grave, we assume.


Despite the missing Emma/William physical component to hold the story together, there are other chemistries that quickly fill the void.

First, Riley Reid as Nadia and Van Wylde as her husband Ray once again open the film’s sex scenes with a romp of their own. If their pairing continues into the future, Riley/Van scenes will become the stuff of porn legend. Going back to each of the previous films: the original, Boundaries, and Exposed, we see them sexually evolve as they deal with the demands of their marriage and the changes that brings.

Second, there’s the acting chemistry between Riley and Penny that is a mainstay in the trilogy. Their collaboration continues in this film and, it can be noted with assurance, Riley is a deft handler of dialogue and emotional expression. She has pace in her lines and in-character attitudes that move the narrative forward. Nadia retains her snarkiness, but also demonstrates a compassion that is underdeveloped in the first three films primarily due to her superficial interpretation of her suburban way of life.

Finally, there is the chemistry between Emma and Mariah (Violet Starr). Though not as pronounced as Nadia/Emma, it is still evident and predictably will grow should they be paired in another Emma film.

As Domme and sub, they are on the doorstep of becoming lovers, but for fans who want to relish that girl/girl action they’ll have to wait for another Emma installment. Always on her screenwriting toes, Jacky has cleverly laid the groundwork for that possibility.

The Sex Scenes

Working our way backwards through the sex scenes, the last one is beyond noteworthy. Penny is paired in a threesome with adult male superstars, Mickey Blue and John Strong.

The action includes anal, a DP, and light bondage. The adorable redhead is a solid veteran and can pull off any BDSM scene, no matter its intensity. What is more important to the story, however, is the reason for the sex. It sets the stage for Emma’s further development as a dominatrix because Evolved pronounces this scene as the final episode of her life as a submissive.

The opening sex scene featuring Nadia and Ray alluded to above, continues the tradition of the rocking hardcore action Riley Reid has cultivated to trademark her brand. Of note is how different their sex scenes are in the series. In the first film, the sex is premarital. In the second and third we see them married with fantasy/fetish play, and now they’re separated and into “hate sex,” as Nadia calls it.

Hilariously, she explains to Emma that it’s the best she’s ever had with more orgasms than ever before.

The result?

Director of Photography Eddie Powell and his compadre Paul Woodcrest capture gonzo elements within feature film sex that offers the best of both porn sub-genres. With a series of “fuck mes” and “oh my gods,” Riley calls on her all-sex roots to steam up the stage. Lots of liquid everywhere (we’re talking spit here) and facial close-ups (an Eddie Powell tradition) mark the dynamics of the every scene.

In fact, all the sex scenes have an important gonzo element that is not always considered appealing to porn viewers of the fairer sex. After the pop shot, each performer runs her fingers through the cum deposited on her body and licks it off with her lips.

This is a departure from the earlier Emma films, but reinforces Jacky St. James’ personal love of gonzo.

Incidentally, other than being finger-licking good, the pop shots are tame compared to what other filmmakers are doing. Facials are avoided to keep the female-friendly and feminist component of Evolved in tact.

Newcomer Violet Starr presents her all-sex talents with Damon Dice and Jay Smooth in two scenes that show why she was cast as Mariah. However, looking beyond her physical talents, the viewer should pay close attention to Violet’s acting. She reveals that once again Jacky St. James can uncover the best performers for her films.


Mariah is aloof with Emma early on before becoming angry later when she feels abandoned. Throw in some fawning that Emma sorts through easily and Violet’s performance is good stuff for anyone who appreciates a well-paced and entertaining story.

Truth be told, this twenty-year-old’s acting is fresh and perky and, as the narrator tells us in describing Mariah, “unabashed and unapologetic.”

Cinematic Touches

As usual, a Jacky St. James film is flavored with references and motifs that enliven the drama. Take, for example, the scene with Emma washing Mariah’s back as she sits in the tub. Mariah has just experienced her first real BDSM sex after an education in the psychological perspective of bondage.

The episode is an emotional replay of the bath tub scenes in the original trilogy where the submissive Emma is bathed and caressed by her dominant, Mr. Frederick.

An important motif in Evolved is Emma’s trunk. It contains her bondage paraphernalia and toys. In the opening scene, it is toted up the steps when she moves in with Nadia and down again at story’s end as she moves out. That’s symbolic because Emma’s time as a sub has reached its height and she passing that baton off to Mariah. Emma has metaphorically reestablished her submission before putting it away as she occupies, then leaves, Nadia’s house.

When Mariah rummages through the gear, Emma takes the opportunity to mention that there is a strong psychological component to BDSM.

“It’s not about the pain,” she says, “It’s about exercise and control and anticipation.”

Up until that moment, Mariah’s fetish sex is plastic handcuffs and some spanking that lights up the physical senses as illustrated in her first sex scene with a guy (Damon Dice) she’s picked up. She directs him to please her in her favorite role as a submissive. There is a feminist component on display here, of course, but the BDSM message is underdeveloped, as Emma will reveal to Mariah.

When Emma takes control of Mariah’s BDSM training, new feminist avenues are opened up and we see Jacky’s version of feminism upfront and personal. The feminist touch in porn is as cerebral as it is physical.

Eddie Powell and Paul Woodcrest contribute to this female-centric motif by focusing on whole body shots during the sex so as to not minimize the men. Also, they celebrate female satisfaction with facial close-ups of the women. What’s more, eye contact is vital in this film, recalling the emotionally gripping scene when Emma meets her new Dom in the last installment of the original trilogy.

As for symbolism, notice the St. Andrew’s Cross print on the wall of Mariah’s bedroom. That traditional BDSM symbol is revisited at the end of the film where eye contact once again solidifies relationships.

*          *          *

In Part Two of this commentary, we’ll briefly consider Jacky St. James’ message presented in Evolved.

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The Resolution of Emma Marx, Part One: The Black Wig

by Rich Moreland, March 2016

This is the first installment of  a three-part analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed. With this film, writer/director Jacky St. James finishes the trilogy that follows a BDSM submissive through her rite of passage into womanhood.

My thanks to New Sensations/Digital Sin for providing the watermarked photos. All other photos are credited where possible.


*           *          *

Mythologists believe all stories contain archetypes, symbolic imagery that explains how we interpret the world around us. In other words, an archetype is something we inherently understand, the stuff of great literature, religious belief, and legend.

In the Emma Marx saga, storyteller and director Jacky St. James taps into a powerful archetype, the number three, the cornerstone of  an age-old concept known as birth, death, and rebirth. The final chapter, Exposed, is about Emma’s renewal and the conflicting emotions that bear witness to it.

Even the structure of the Emma series, the trilogy, embraces the triad concept.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo what does this mean? Simply this. The myth and its power over the human psyche is why Emma Marx stands alone in adult film. Compliment the narrative with superb acting captured by a haunting, brooding cinematography and Emma’s story takes its place among adult entertainment’s hall of fame offerings.

Let’s be honest. Emma Marx is already porn’s best in the “art” cinema genre (Cinekink are you listening?). Mute the hardcore into a smidgen of nudity and indie film accolades are but a screening away.


The ancient Greeks honored the trilogy because it reinforced their idea of the hero who rises above the masses. Is Emma Marx a heroine? She is, but it is not of her own making, or so she believes. In the first two films, Mr. Frederick takes the formative clay that begins as a naïve girl, sees within it, and molds the Emma the viewer gets to know. He orchestrates the kinks that become her identity.

But she is not reprogrammed because BDSM is a product of her DNA. Frederick tells Emma, “This was in you before you met me. I could tell that the second I met you. It’ll still be a part of who you are forever.”


Early in Exposed, Emma reflects on Mr. Frederick’s tutelage that guides her enlightenment.

“I was fearless. In fact, putting limits on my experiences had become more terrifying than taking risks.”

However, her journey is tumultuous and laced with misery and despair. Faced with “a profound sense of unhappiness,” Emma eventually engages another conductor to play her symphony. Her fetishized self must be rediscovered and retooled under a new BDSM guru.

Emma awaits transition before doorways in the film

Emma awaits her symbolic transitions to open before her

In the final episode, Emma suffers the pain of an emotional loss that inevitably precedes the mystical rebirth the ancients knew well. Mr. Frederick brought forth the original awakening that transformed a shy, introverted girl into an independent-minded adult. But a lingering childlike dependency remains, necessitating in a further renewal that will release Emma’s authentic, transcendental self.

The BDSM submissive tries to subdue, almost mute, her final reawakening, as the opening shots of the third film suggest with makeup brushes, heavy red lipstick, and an awful black wig. But the disguise is doomed to failure because Emma cannot be fully individuated (developed into a whole person, as psychologist Carl Jung puts it) while hiding behind a mask. The archetype of rebirth will not abide it.

Theme of Three

How does a director turn the transcendental elements of the human psyche into an adult film? Jacky St. James pulls it off with grace, power, and tough emotion. I might add that the cast is brilliant. Each performer is the embodiment of their character. The viewer is familiar with Nadia (Riley Reid), Ray (Van Wilde), William Frederick (Ritchie Calhoun), and, of course, Emma (Penny Pax).

Maturing into their roles, they grow together throughout the series. By the way, before you see the third episode, please watch the first two otherwise you’ll be walking in for the denouement of a well-crafted story you may not fully comprehend.

To complement the familiar faces, Exposed offers more characters to enrich the narrative. Ryan Diller who steps in as Michael Sullivan is a sensitive fit for the role. He shows up in the final hour of the film EMMA_MARX_03_HARD.02_02_49_21.Still118and becomes Emma’s guiding light, not an easy task for any performer because our heroine is drawn taut in her feelings. The reawakening that will push her forward must come from her own soul.

Even the sexual encounters carry the triad theme. Jacky St. James has grouped her characters accordingly. New to this version of Emma Marx are Samantha Hayes (Rebecca) and Aidra Fox (Joelle), two emerging industry stars. They are the additional play partners that entertain Mr. Frederick’s fantasies. His first romp with Rebecca is watched by his former submissive, Audrina (Sara Luvv). His final dip into carnality features a threesome with Emma and Joelle.

More on the literary implications of these episodes later.

As she has done throughout this adult classic, Jacky St. James has the opening sex scene feature Nadia and Ray to establish the story’s contrasting “normality.” But this time there is an unseen third person, their little one, Isabelle. Nadia is never totally comfortable with this fantasy set-up because she’s distracted by thoughts of the baby. It’s hard to let go sometimes, even for an hour of fun, when you are very suburban and middle-class.


Nadia and Emma remain a duality throughout the series; each is defined by the other. But does this duality include a mask for Nadia?

Contrasting sisters. Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

Contrasting sisters.
Photo courtesy of Eddie Powell

We discover early in the series that Emma’s sister is consumed by her conventionality and its play-by-the-numbers expectations. It certainly fits her shallow self-absorption. In fact, one gets the feeling that her baby is just the next event programmed into a well-scripted socially acceptable life Nadia never challenges. It is evident, however, that she has learned some lessons from Emma about sexual fantasy. Nadia does agree to fool around with Ray’s sexual imagination, though her commitment to these make-believe dalliances is debatable.

On the other hand, Emma, emerging from her cocoon in the first film, faces another transition in Exposed.  Her mask, defined by the wig she wears in the opening shots of the third film, is ready to accompany her back into what she loves. But wigs and lipstick shout of denial and can never be satisfying. Just as she did when releasing her kinks in the first film, Emma now faces another hurdle in her growth, she must break through the pain that lies beneath the persona everyone sees.

Rebirth, in all its forms, is the story of the human condition because exposure is the final step to liberating the real self.

A moment of sisterly love between Nadia and Emma

A moment of sisterly love between Nadia and Emma

*          *          *

The next post will explore the imagery that sets The Submission of Emma Marx: Exposed apart from the run-of-the-mill porn fare.

Aidra Fox promotes Emma Three Photo by Jeff Koga

Aidra Fox promotes the trilogy with the first two films in hand.
Photo by Jeff Koga




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Why Can’t We Have It All? Part One

by Rich Moreland, March 2015


The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries is Jacky St. James’ sequel to her award-winning masterpiece, The Submission of Emma Marx which I had the pleasure to review in three parts here in August 2013. With cinematic partner Eddie Powell, St. James now boldly continues Emma’s odyssey.

Before moving into the film, it’s worth mentioning that sequels are financial risks. Though supportive of her project, New Sensations President Scott Taylor was cautious. “Sequels often flop.” St. James remembers him telling her. “They don’t sell as well. They seldom find that magic of the original.”

Perhaps, but in the case of Boundaries it is every bit as good as it’s older sister and I encourage watching the first film before enjoying the second. If not, the viewer will feel like a late arriving movie goer who takes a seat half way through a story with no understanding of its origin.

Boundaries‘ success is complemented by the reassembled cast. Penny Pax reprises her role as Emma, as does Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick. Though porn flirts with the edges of mainstream Hollywood, both players remind us its acting can be every bit as good. Pax is learning her trade, building a resume that separates her from adult’s usual “just give me the sex and don’t ask if I can act.” No doubt St. James’ directing is a crucial factor in the diminutive model’s professional evolution.

Jacky, Penny and Richie.  Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Jacky, Penny and Richie.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Riley Reid is perfect as Nadia and Van Wylde likewise as Ray. Their roles are not an easy sell because Reid and Wylde must come across as a vanilla “cookie cutter suburban couple” snug and homey in their conventionality.

In making the film, St. James confesses that “staying true to Emma and her sexual journey” could not be compromised. The result is Emma as a complexity that intrigues the viewer on various levels. I can imagine that her shadow seductively passes through the corridors of St. James’ mind just as she does in the film’s opening credits and its denouement.

Conceding that her “screenplays hold very deeply personal connections to experiences I’ve had or people I’ve known,” Jacky St. James faces a near impossible task with Boundaries, write a flawless script that moves Emma along bit by bit while confronting the viewer with unsettling issues. The question that captures the film’s raison d’être and St. James’ good storytelling is simple: Does sexual and emotional turbulence reach a satisfactory resolution that spells the end of the story?

Or, is there room for Emma redux, part three?

One thing is evident, Boundaries’ tightly written script is worthy of industry accolades. Indeed, it is as close to impeccable as an adult film can be.

Part of News Sensation’s Erotic Stories line, this second Emma Marx falls into the couples porn genre, yet it is sexually groundbreaking for a date night film. The carnal scenes are integral to the story; nothing is thrown together or gratuitous. Some of the action, however, directly challenges the formula for what the industry touts as comfortable for lovers. But more on that later.

Just Drawing Lines

Emma Marx and Nadia are sisters whose relationship is close considering their sexualities are anything but. In the first Emma Marx, Nadia and Ray “silently judged” Emma’s fetishes. Now they are outspoken, letting her know of “their aversion” to BDSM.

Is this progress?

Over a bland vegan dinner she believes is suitable for everyone (one size fits all, if you will), Nadia announces she doesn’t understand why being tied up and spanked is not abuse. Deprecating BDSM kinkiness with her sappy smile and haughty attitude, Nadia tacitly reinforces her normalized sexuality in a way only modern moralists can appreciate. When Emma mentions consensuality, she is ignored. In an amusing moment, Ray condemns suspension and cattle prods while disgustingly holding a fork with two pieces of the vegan mystery food hanging from it. The real torture in this scene is inflicted on Ray.

But, apparently the happily married duo is not opposed to a little experimentation.

With the superficiality of a Valley Girl who thinks a sip of wine makes her a connoisseur, Nadia announces to Emma the next morning, “Ray and I totally tried BDSM last night and I’m totally a sub.” Kudos to Emma for respecting her sister’s asinine interpretation of sexual enlightenment.

Jacky setting up the scene for Riley and Van Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Jacky setting up the scene for Riley and Van. Blurred flowers framed on the wall.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Here’s the story. In the film’s first sex scene with Nadia and Ray, a blindfold is about as deviant as they get. (She does ask him if she can call him “master” in a laughable attempt to identify with what Emma authenticates.) Having now seen the light while not being able to see, Nadia tells Emma she “completely” understands what a BDSM relationship is all about.

Incidentally, the sex is classic Riley Reid, who is an industry gem. Considering it’s a script-driven vanilla encounter–necessary to set up Emma’s future sexual experimentation–Riley’s smile, spirit, and energy carry the show. On the wall bedside the bed is a black and white photo of two flowers that lord over the sex in front of it. The flowers are blurred, an important image for this film.

Blindfold in place, ready to shoot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Blindfold in place, ready to shoot.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Later when the sisters are in the gym, understanding suddenly vanishes. As she gives the elliptical machine a workout, Nadia is clearly irritated. “Trying BDSM was the biggest mistake of my life.” Now Ray wants a three-some, but Nadia slammed the door on that idea, proclaiming that men put women in “sexual situations solely for their benefit.”

Emma’s hint that Ray might want to expand Nadia’s horizons falls flat. “Men do that,” a fired up Nadia says. “They pretend it’s all about you and it’s really about them. They wait for the moment you say, ‘yes,’ and they push your limits.” Annoyed with Emma’s suggestion that Ray wouldn’t cheat, Nadia digs in. “I’m just drawing lines.”

But doesn’t everybody?

Open to New Experiences

Nadia’s indignation spurs Emma to confront her own crisis. Mr. Frederick has presented her with a new contract which she reads line by line in an earlier scene. It is a quest for “Why can’t we have it all?”

Preparing for an office shot. Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

Preparing for an office shot.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Koga

When she reviews the contract, equality and symmetry are visually emphasized to reflect the supposed state of their relationship. Emma is sitting on a long desk with her legs extended to a Mr. Frederick who massages her feet. The shot has perfect balance regarding the desk: two half full glasses of red wine on each end and a pair of tall plants in floor urns on either side of it. In the background, French doors halve the scene like the entrance into a Georgian manor.

As this segment progresses, brief glimpses of Emma and Mr. Frederick’s encounters are revealed as she goes through the contract.

In one, symmetry is repeated when she talks about training. It is a shot of interior French doors at the end of a hall. Framed prints are on opposite walls to balance the scene. Mr. Frederick leads Emma from left to right across the screen, moving her symbolically from an old definition of her sexuality to a new experience.

“I will not just play the role,” Emma says in reference to being a submissive, “I will become the role.”

When she is bound to pillars in the kitchen a la Fay Wray in King Kong, Emma says, “my body is his to do with as he pleases.”

The Kitchen Pillars. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

The Kitchen Pillars with Eddie Powell in the background.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Incidentally, in the provision having to do with enjoying her orgasms, there is a quick flash of them having sex in a hallway that doglegs to the right, an image that is revisited later.

When Emma gets to the item that involves having sex with other people, she balks. Tense and unsure, she asks if he is bored with her, that fatal relationship blow everyone fears.

This moment sets up the rest of the film. Mr. Frederick orders her to stand up, face him, and masturbate while thinking about someone who sexually arouses her. With eyes closed, she confesses it is Shane (Logan Pierce), the new guy in the office. Emma loses her bearings in a rush of endorphins and says, “I wonder if he’d like me.” Projecting her sexual preferences into Shane, Emma says he’d be down and dirty and insist on violating her with anal.

Logan Pierce Photo courtesy of 101Modeling.

Logan Pierce
Photo courtesy of 101Modeling.

It’s the opening Frederick wants and sex scene number two begins with anal its focal point, a clear break from the couples’ porn formula. To emphasize this shift, Eddie Powell moves his camera over Richie Calhoun’s shoulder to get the standard male masturbatory gonzo shot of a kneeling Penny Pax, mouth at work and adoring eyes looking upward.

St. James and Powell have a dual purpose with this scene. For story purposes, Emma’s exploration is picking up steam, but on another level, they are forging a new path in romance porn. The bondage remains light, adhering to the submission pornography genre popular in today’s market, but the sex is edgier.

Several questions in the film are present here. Mr. Frederick claims he is turned on by Emma’s self discovery, but is he engaging in his own fantasy of whoring out Emma and role playing Shane? In her mind, is Emma mocking her sister, knowing Nadia would never be this unconventional? Or does this exercise add to the unpredictability of Emma relationship that keeps it from getting stale?

There is a deeper question. Is Mr. Frederick gently and firmly nudging Emma forward or is he applying subtle pressure with the bet that Emma’s devotion will give him carte blanche to ratchet up his demands?

Or perhaps what Frederick tells her is straightforward and eerily true. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I just want you to be open to new experiences.”

Mr. Frederick and Emma exploring. Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

Mr. Frederick and Emma exploring.
Photo courtesy of Jacky St. James

At any rate, as Mr. Frederick anally penetrates his submissive, Emma sees and feels the new guy in her imagination. Before the pop, she begs, “Cum on me please, Shane.” Is Emma transitioning to a new experience or enjoying a healthy fantasy?

Whatever St. James’ intention, the scene explores the emotional complexities of BDSM characteristic of submission pornography, or what might be called in today’s culture, bondage chic. For raw sexuality, it steps beyond the inanity of Fifty Shades while pulling up way short of the hardcore fetish elements found on many extreme internet tube sites.


Back in the gym the options posed for both Nadia and Emma are carefully defined. As the camera moves in on Emma’s treadmill next to Nadia’s elliptical, it floats past a rack of dumbbells that illustrate the choices available to each woman.

The top row contains two smaller dumbbells, both round and equal in size, with a exercise baton nestled in the juncture between them. This is Emma’s next possibility. Both weights are side by side and sexually open with the option of welcoming in a third person. In the same row, but to the far right, are two larger six-sided dumbbells of equal size representing Nadia’s view of her marriage, closed off and solid, or so she hopes.

Should either woman choose an unequal relationship, open or closed, in which her stature is diminished , the options are on the bottom row. Two round dumbbells and two six-sided ones, with the larger dominant one snuggled next to the smaller. Curiously, off to the right of the closed dumbbells is a single and smaller six-sided one, perhaps it is Ray’s suggestion that so infuriated Nadia and her no nonsense answer.

Where will all this drama leave Emma?


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A Different Kind of Normal: Part One

by Rich Moreland, August, 2013

Because of its complexity, The Submission of Emma Marx cannot be satisfactorily reviewed in blog format in one sitting. Consequently, it will appear in segments. This is the first.


“I don’t think controlling someone liberates them.” Bespectacled graduate student Emma Marx is sitting in the office of entrepreneur, William Frederick.

“Do you think you are liberated?” he questions with a shade of annoyance.

Emma Marx Photo courtesy of New Sensations

Emma Marx
Photo courtesy of New Sensations

“I’m very liberated,” she responds, though her expression cannot conceal doubt and a feeling she has violated a tacitly understood boundary in this conversation. Sensing the interview is winding down, Emma apologizes for her impudence. “I hope I didn’t offend you. I’m not usually one for self-restraint.”

“That’s too bad.” He is unemotional and aloof.

She rises to go, politely offering her hand as a “thank you.” Touching it, Mr. Frederick says nonchalantly, “You are absolutely breathtaking.”

*        *         *        *        *

Thus begins Emma’s journey to reconcile her attraction to a man whose allure will redefine her vision of normal with an acceptance of that normal. Along the way, she will abandon her illusions of self-control, face questions that challenge her concept of sexual deviancy, and find carnal pleasures within herself she never knew existed.

Vanilla Counterpoint

New Sensations’ The Submission of Emma Marx is written and directed from a female, dare I say feminist, point of view. A woman’s desires and search for happiness are its focus and the star, Penny Pax, offers up a performance that is superlative. The director’s chair is dually occupied by the film’s author, Jacky St. James, and Eddie Powell. Together the imagery they create is memorable, deeply symbolic, and the best example of submission pornography out there today.

The movie opens with a sex scene that is standard Porn Valley vanilla featuring Emma’s sister, Nadia (played beautifully by Riley Reid) and her fiancé, Ray (Van Wylde). Nadia is petulant, self-centered, and bossy. Her personality and her sexuality are counterpoints to Emma.

Riley and Van sparkle in their sexual show. Using fluid camera work, St. James and Powell establish the film’s ground rules with these opening shots. The larger realities of Nadia and Ray are presented with cinematic gusto. The sex, playfully shot among rose pedals, features both bodies equally displayed in their erotic presence. In other words, the penetration shots are only part of the sex, not the sex itself, a theme that carries the film.

Nadia and Ray Photo Courtesy of New Sensations

Nadia and Ray
Photo Courtesy of New Sensations

By the way, Emma Marks is not gonzo decorated with heavy doses of gynecological close-ups. In this scene, the focus is on Nadia’s pleasure, her engagement ring is visible as most of the action is shot from her left, and there’s lots of oral to satisfy her. Incidentally, the directors’ collective vision is summarized in a brief moment. Nadia is in reverse cowgirl with the camera shooting from in front of the bed’s footboard. Her enjoyment is emphasized strictly with her upper body and facial expression. Penetration is obscured, as is her lover; only a woman’s pleasure is on display.

Nadia and Ray represent sexuality as it is socially prescribed, albeit tainted with the relationship drama that spices the mundane in a social media age. Later they will furtively discuss the deviancy of Emma’s apparent degeneration into BDSM play. Nadia picks up on her sister’s red butt; Ray notices rope marks on her wrists. As snoopy and self-satisfied as they are, without them Emma’s journey lacks definition.

Hopelessly Detached

Admitting in a voice over that she is “hopelessly detached” when it comes to love, Emma feels little joy for her sister’s upcoming wedding and gets on with her life working around Ray and Nadia’s constant bickering. A lifetime union may be their destination, but arguing is its counterpoint.

Emma is old school in a youthful package, solid and thoughtful with a “textbook perfect life,” she claims. When she reports to Mr. Frederick’s office for the interview, she is prepared with a small notebook, a pen, and a valise which she will hold against her chest for protection when her feelings of apprehension and uncertainty confront her.

While waiting to see Frederick (played by Richie Calhoun in his subdued style), Emma sits in front of the stairwell to his office. There are two white chairs. The one to Emma’s right is empty and dominates the shot. Emma sits pigeon-toed with the valise open in her lap. She is meek and malleable, a vision that is reinforced when Frederick’s secretary steps into the scene from stage left. She is near the camera and her legs and skirt dwarf Emma, who looks at her with the trepidation of a school girl outside the principal’s office.

The empty chair is symbolic. Emma’s existence craves emotional connections. William Frederick, whose adoration for Emma will pull her out of her self-confined world, requires patience. As is later replayed in the hallway of his home, Emma will have to wait for his arrival . . . and his affection . . . to become worthy in her own eyes of happiness for Emma is dominated by self-loathing. “I ran from myself and the fears and judgments that plagued me all of my adult life,” she will say later when she no longer needs outside validation to find her dreams. The vacant chair is awaiting Emma’s rebirth.

This reviewer offers special kudos to Penny Pax who, of course, is Emma. She narrates the story in the voice over that walks the viewer through Emma’s maturation. Penny’s dialogue delivery is superb and her facial expressions reveal Emma’s inner self with clarity. Not to be ignored are Penny’s sexual skills, after all this is a porn film. The story drives the sex which in turn completes the narrative and develops the characters. When the sex occurs, it is hard-hitting and locks the viewer in on the action. Penny Pax gives an unbelievable and emotional performance.

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Leaving Frederick’s office, Emma is joyous, relishing his “breathtaking” comment and realizing she has an undeniable attraction to him. She plays out her fantasies in the privacy of masturbation, her self-limiting sexual performances. In two beautifully shot scenes, Emma substitutes real intimacy for the counterpoint of self-pleasure, something Frederick intuitively understands, as we shall see.

In the first masturbation scene, Emma lies on her belly fingering herself, but it is suggested, not overt. The second swirls around a phone call from Frederick. During the conversation, an aroused Emma feebly attempts to hold her ground in their verbal sparring. She pleasures herself again, genitalia under the covers, with the camera flashing back to the call while her face is etched in ecstasy. The key image in both shoots is her glasses. She has set them aside on the bed cover, proof that Frederick who “leaves your head spinning,” she acknowledges, has indeed stripped her of her defenses and started her on an odyssey to find the real Emma Marx.

Coming next is Emma’s first experience with new kind of love, a binding obligation . . .

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