Sunday, July 12, 2009

NY Times reports that porn movies have no plots: Stop the presses!

The New York Times is notoriously clueless when it comes to popular culture, but this is an all-time high. On July 7th, an article on the front page of the Business section (below the fold, to be sure, but front page nonetheless) declared that dirty movies don't offer much in the way of "narrative arcs." Say it ain't so!

Okay, I exaggerate the extent of the Times' obliviousness. Reporter Matt Richtel goes on to say that only three years ago, industry leaders like Vivid Entertainment were making feature-length erotic films with plot, while today almost half of their productions are just strings of hardcore sex scenes. Fair enough, I suppose, if you define plot very, very loosely. Even Vivid's Pirates, hailed as an adult-movie groundbreaker for its lavish production design and cheeky tale (born of the longtime industry practice of making movies, um.... inspired by mainstream hits) of warring pirates can't be said to have anything resembling narrative arcs. Actress Savanna Samson (Natalie Oliveros) is quoted lamenting that she "used to have dialogue," and recalling the days when she prepared assiduously for her roles in movies like Flasher because she took her acting seriously.

The fact is, if you want your porn with real plot you have to go back to the '70s, when much of the adult-movie community seriously believed that in the future, the line dividing smut and "real movies" would vanish, and that mainstream movie stars would do hardcore scenes when appropriate to the plot. Nearly 40 years later, explicit sex scenes have made their way into serious-minded movies like Leos Carax's Pola X (1999), Virginie Despentes' Baise-Moi (2000), Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (2004), Catherine Breillat's Romance (1999) and Anatomy of Hell (2004), both starring Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi, and Vincent Gallo's polarizing The Brown Bunny (2003). But you can't really call them mainstream, and the best Hollywood has come up with is the NC-17 rated Showgirls (1995), an instant camp classic.

On another note, the Times seems to love Savanna Samson. In addition to this piece, she was singled out in a report about the 2006 AVN Awards (which also discusses Pirates) and quoted in a 2007 piece about the problem with high-def porn (both by Richtel), the subject of a 2006 feature called Naked Came the Vintner, about her efforts to get into the winemaking business, and spotlighted in a 2005 piece article about Vivid's do-over of The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), in which Samson co-starred with Jenna Jameson. Ironically, Samson admits to having fast-forforwarded through the original because there was so much dialogue.

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