Porn TheatreReviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 06/02/03 17:45:17
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2003 SEATTLE FILM FESTIVAL: They left in droves. First the old people, who thought since it was French they’d like it no matter what. Then the guys started for the exits, realizing that, despite the title, they weren’t going to see many titties on display. That left the women, the weirdos, and the critics (though those last two groups could well be one and the same). Porn Theater is the story of a day in the life of a Parisian erotic movie house, which in the USA would mean plenty of hookers and men playing pocket billiards, but in France means transvestites, men giving other men blow jobs in the corner, and plenty of husbands experimenting with other husbands. Yes, not content with having urinals in the street, the French also seem to enjoy cockfights in the porno house. This is their story.Or rather, this is them doing what they do, since there isn’t a lot of story to work with here. An aging gay regular who longs for the days when the boys would come to him (director Jacques Nolot) fancies a little with the cinema’s new young (straight) projectionist. He in turn wants to slip his French Stick to the owner of the theater, a middle aged Italian woman (Vittoria Scognamiglio). She’d prefer to get some from the aging gay regular. So how can they all be happy?
Well, it doesn’t really matter how, at least until the last ten minutes of the film, since these are only a handful of the 20+ speaking characters who get screen time in this film. What does matter is that this is the kind of film that will have Middle America freaking out, pouring champagne into the streets and burning copies of Paris Match (not that they don’t already do that, but…). From the first moment you see a transvestite get down on his/her knees and commence giving oral sex to a middle-aged businessman, you’ll be gobsmacked. Porn Theater holds nothing back, packing more shots of men jerking themselves off into 88 minutes than any film in history. They’re everywhere – foreground, background, implied, displayed, young, old, outwardly gay, inwardly gay, and ‘not gay but really aroused and happy to get someone in a dress to finish him off’.
And to that end, it’s a hell of a brave film, but beyond the shock, there is a lot of humor in Porn Theater, and plenty to think about. This sub-culture of guys who don’t necessarily like guys but like getting blown and have nobody to blow them isn’t a strictly French thing – take a look at the public restrooms at your local park or the train station and you’ll know what I mean. So what drives these guys to seek relief, even if it comes from someone they’re not attracted to in the slightest? What does it say about us that we value getting blown more than fidelity, reputation, even our health? And why can’t we get it at home?
I really enjoyed Porn Theater, despite being disgusted by it several times, because it woke me up, didn’t hold back and forced audience members to make a choice – do you walk out and peg yourself as a prude, or do you stay and take it and get over it and find the story in amongst it? Personally, as people stood up and walked out I found myself judging them as harshly as perhaps they’d have judged me for staying, or the director for making the film. It’s the new century, people, people have oral sex, get over it. I mean, if you go to a film called Porn Theater, what do you expect? Fluffy bunnies?
This isn't a perfect film by any stretch. At times it drags as you watch more and more of the same thing going on, blowjob, blowjob, blowjob, and if you took away all of the non-story elements you'd be left with about three minutes of actual footage, but whether these things becomes enough to stop you from enjoying the movie depends on your mindset.Brave stuff, well made, and an experience that will either disgust you or make you think. Take a chance.
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