Archive for the “1999” Category


July 17, 2009
Netflix DVD
82 Minutes
Christine Fugate

From housewife to porn star.

A documentary about Stacy Valentine, a porn star from the late 90s. “Encouraged” by her husband, she sent nude photos of herself to a men’s magazine which printed them and then flew her to Mexico for a nude photoshoot with some Adonis. Upon her return to her small town in Oklahoma, she packed up her things, and left her husband and town behind to start her new life in Los Angeles.

There are a whole slew of documentaries like this, both full length, and as a part of HBO’s Real Sex or some other titillating cable series. Besides the obvious, the reason I continue to watch them is twofold: 1) are there really any well-adjusted, non-abused or addicted women who get into porn; and more importantly, 2) How does a porn actor or actress ever have a normal romantic relationship. Most of these kinds of documentaries try to answer both questions. PORN STAR: THE LEGEND OF RON JEREMY; WADD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN C. HOLMES; SEX: THE ANNABEL CHONG STORY; THINKING XXX all tried.

As to question 1, this film claims that while Stacy was adopted (gasp, so was I) and her father had a temper, she was never abused in any way. She also claims to love sex (as every porn star in recorded history has claimed) and be good at it. Although it’s easy to hide, her wholesomeness makes me believe that she has no drug addictions. In fact, she’s sort of a square.

As to question 2, that’s where this film is pretty well-done. At the beginning she’s interviewed on her bed and she says that if she’s horny, she goes to work and if she wants someone to talk to after work, she has her cats. But towards the end, she’s tried to start a relationship with another porn star, Julien (who I did recognize, the pool of men in the business being much smaller than the pool of women). They seem, dare I say, cute together. Both dumber than dirt, both look every bit the porn star they are. They talk about handholding being more intimate that intercourse, and how they don’t care if their work involves sex. There is a scene towards the end that could only happen in the adult business. For the first time, Stacy agrees to shoot a scene with Julian and another man. The other guy goes first and we zoom in on Julian as he watches the woman he claims to love having sweaty sex with another man. Though he knows that it’s just work, the look on his face is heartbreaking. He literally curls up in a fetal position with a pillow on his lap, unable to perform while his wife acts like she’s having the best sex of her life. They break up soon afterward, though he appears to really care about her.

Another angle this film tries to hit is Stacy’s complete lack of esteem about her body, which is a pretty important part of being a porn star. She got her first boob job soon after marriage and the film includes three pretty gross scenes of breast reduction, liposuction, and lip augmentation. She is never satisfied, thinks that she’s fat, and often laments that her co-stars won’t be aroused by her body. How weird for a person who is in the most exposed vocation on earth to be so unsure about how she looks.

Stacy seems like a nice enough young woman. Her mother is aware of her chosen profession and even accompanies her to the AVN awards in Vegas. When Stacy is shut out of the five categories she’s nominated for, you’d think her life were over. Equally upsetting to we the viewers, when she wins Star of the Year at a knockoff parallel Cannes Film Festival for porn, she can hardly contain her joy and rushes back to the hotel to call her mother back in Oklahoma “Mom, you are talking to the Best New Starlet of 1998!” Exactly how does a parent respond to such a call?

We watch her at conventions where men have no trouble just putting their hands on her, and we see her arrange a date with a rich fan. She comes back and throws the money in the air, just like in a Hollywood romance.

A post-script tells us that she left porn after four years and got a job as a “model recruiter” at Penthouse.

6.9 Metacritic
6.4 IMDB

Girl Next Door @ Amazon


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July 13, 2009
Netflix Roku
French / Italian / Russian
90 Minutes
Claire Denis [Chocolat]

Dreamy, beautiful story about the French Foreign Leigion in Djibouti. Mostly wordless, though sometimes with voiceover that doesn’t match what we see on screen. Excessive and oppressive routines for the soldiers who seem to need it for their psyches. Men from the world’s different cultures must learn to co-exist and work together through discipline. Directed by a woman, this might be the gayest straight film I’ve ever seen. The men are almost always photographed shirtless and sweaty, in tight shorts, doing manual labor or Tai Chi or cathesthenics. But how beautiful they are. On a dusty outpost far above the ocean, they seem to be training for a fight they’ll never have. Their leader, who seems to partake in every form of physical exertion his men are forced to, has them doing tasks with dubious military benefit. They break rocks and march through lava-like landscape. The plot is nearly non-existent, save for a superior who asks a grunt his name and background, which gets the leader angry (or is it jealous), which leads to a showdown between soldier and superior. Note to self: don’t talk back to guy in charge of unit.

Worth watching alone for the photography and the final ten minutes which is either symbolic or literal, but is trippy either way. If you are a homosexual man, put this on the top of your Netflix Queue. You won’t be disappointed.


BEAU TRAVAIL is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 75. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE HURT LOCKER Discussion
• Break
• 27:52 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 28:30 BEAU TRAVAIL Discussion
• Break
• 36:00 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:09:43 Listener Feedback
• 1:15:47 Credits


9.1 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

Beau Travail @ Amazon


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June 15, 2009
Netflix DVD
86 Minutes
Gough Lewis

This one creates an internal struggle with me that I don’t usually experience. Say you knew a full-fledged feminist. Say she went to law school and then grad school at USC. Say she studied sexology and psychology and then changed her name and then entered the porno world to try and shake it up from the inside. She doesn’t claim to be damaged, she just wants to “take back porn” from all the men who are in control. Not only does she appear in some of it, she sets out to film herself having sex with 251 men in 10 hours or so. It’s not fulfilling sex, it’s in no way erotic sex, but it takes the essence of porn and distills it to a ridiculous degree. Nevermind that a gangbang is by far the most homoerotic genre of filmmaking. There is one woman and dozens of guys all in various states of arousal. It is barely straight. So back to Annabel, or Grace as her mother calls her. She had a sheltered upbringing in Singapore, moved to England, then moved to Los Angeles. She is also certifiably wacky. Sort of like all the real smart people you talk with who are working on a level you’re not privy to.

Her claims of being a well-adjusted woman crack a bit when we learn of a teenage rape and the coldness of being brought up in such a repressive place. This documentary does a really good job of showing us how friends from her former life react to her new life, and whether or not they know how she’s been earning a living lately.

The director commits the sin of entering a relationship with his subject, something that makes staging doc scenes seem like small potatoes. How can you objectively capture someone’s life if you’re falling for them?

Grace is a smart, tiny, attractive, smart girl, who took her talents into an arena few would pick. It is heartbreaking to see her agonize over telling her parents about her new life.

The DVD includes pretty good extras including the film festival circuit whereby she answers questions from the audience. She is combative, but intelligent.

This film wasn’t happy or in any way arousing, but if you’ve ever wondered what sends a woman into porn, this gives you one reason why.

3.7 Metacritic
5.6 IMDB

Sex – The Annabel Chong Story @ Amazon


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May 26, 2009
May 31, 2007
June 20, 2003
May 27, 2001
October 18, 2000
June 12, 2000
No Dialogue
45 Minutes
Drama / Romance / Short
Farhad Yawari

Lara…..Julia Brendler
Jakob…..Marco Hofschneider [Immortal Beloved]

At least the sixth time I’ve seen this short film about a girl in a mental institution who only feels free when she dreams she’s swimming with dolphins. Though a German production, there is no dialogue. This fact shocks my high school students to whom I give extra credit if they stay awake for its entire 45 minute running time. The music is sweet and complimentary, often providing a form of dialogue which may be more hardwired than spoken language. The colors are bright and important–the girl’s room is white, except for the blue (water) dress she wears and her beloved gold goldfish. I’m probably too close to this movie to objectively grade it. I fall for it hook, line, and sinker every time I see it. I love the girl dancing with the single drop of rain on her arm, I love the tender way the boy holds the shell up to her ear so she can hear the ocean, I love the drawing of the sea he gives her, I love how when she dances, the whole world dances along with her.

Who wouldn’t want to swim with the dolphins like Lara does?

Still the greatest 45 minute film I’ve ever seen.

Previously Written:
I swear I have to watch this every year or so just to remember what can be done with sound and images. This film fills me up with happiness. Still touching and beautiful.

Previously written:
Surely the greatest 40 minute film in history. No dialogue. Beautiful music. Spectacular cinematography. This is not a nature film, but the story of a young woman in a mental institution who can only feel free when she dreams of swimming with dolphins. It is pure magic from start to finish. It is never slow. This was my fourth time watching and it effects me the same way each time. The colors are fabulous, the young woman (Julia Brendler) an absolute doll, and the feelings this film expresses do not require any character to speak. It’s on a Film Fest DVD which is well worth the price for this short alone.

6.4 IMDB

Film-Fest DVD – Issue 3 – Toronto @ Amazon


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April 11, 2009
99 Minutes — October 8, 1999
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]
Marie: Caroline Ducey [The Last Mistress]

Love Is Desolate. Romance Is Temporary. Sex Is Forever.

Frustrated by her partner’s refusal to make love to her, a schoolteacher embarks on a series of affairs.

A waif-like, semi-attractive woman watches her lover during a photo shoot. The man is pretending to be a matador and it’s obvious right away that he’s way more beautiful than she is. As they visit a cafe afterward he announces to her that their relationship is so deep now, that the very act of sex is unnecessary. Sex will dirty what they have, they are so above it. Sex is conventional and what they have is light-years beyond convention. She will not accept this, and with his approval, she is allowed to get her sexual needs met outside of that primary relationship.

Through voice-over, we know how much of a betrayal this is to her. She attempts to start lovemaking while in their all-white apartment, but he continues to concentrate on the TV while she concentrates on his body. She begs him to at least take his shirt off as she climbs into bed nude. He speaks with incredible dispassion about not wanting to be touched. She loses sleep over this, which is handy, because now she can go out at night and look for sex in nearby bars and cafes.

Her first contact is with a dense, but attractive man played by Italian pornstar Rocco Siffredi. He says his girlfriend recently died in a car crash, she mentions that she’s married. He continues the charade he’s always employed to get women, she makes herself even less available by telling a more strict truth. They drive around, makeout in a car, he asks for certain things to happen, she says “next time,” and then she heads off to her job as a teacher of grade-school children. She continuously wears white in this film.

The couple meet again later, and have a sex scene that is remarkable for both its explicitness and its complete lack of arousal for the audience. Siffredi was hired because he has certain physical attributes that are supposed to denote incredible masculinity, as well as having the “skill” to use that endowment on command, in front of a crew of filmmakers. That’s his body, in a state that we still rarely see in mainstream films. In post-release interviews, none of the participants have denied that actual sex took place in front of the camera. In other films, Breillat will dodge similar questions. “They never asked me if I actually killed someone in my films, why do they ask about real sex?”

While this sex is going on, Marie talks about the importance of sex to her, but again, with no passion whatsoever. It’s not clear if she even likes it very much. She is more upset at her partner’s lack of interest, than she seems to be in her missing orgasms.

Other couplings include a compelling S & M relationship with the principal of her school. This man, though old and not particularly attractive, claims to have bedded thousands of women. He listens, he talks with them, he gives them advice on literature and philosophy. Marie wants to explore giving up complete control to him. This leads to a scene that shows just how long it takes to have someone tied up to proper S & M specifications. She is gagged and becomes frightened, but not so much at the man, more at the feelings this surrender brings to her.

She is offered oral sex by a stranger in a stairway which doesn’t end well–or does it end exactly like it was supposed to.

Marie has a dream where a group of women are lying on beds with their lower halves through a little door. The upper half is bathed in white light and sensitive men are holding hands and nurturing. The other side is all red lights, lingerie, and naked aroused men taking turns with faceless bodies.

Marie becomes pregnant and through a too-explicit-for-me-to-watch childbirth, fulfills what she believes her body to be ultimately for.

Breillat again turns gender roles upside down, shows a woman on the prowl, makes no judgments about who she ends up with or what she ends up doing with these men. It shouldn’t be so revolutionary, but exactly how many directors in the world can show us the other side of the sexual coin like she can? I feel like I’ve completely drank the Kool-aid that Ms. Breillat has stirred for me. She’s not successful in everything she tries, but I’m so happy that she’s trying.

“Serious films about sex are rare, but it’s perhaps unsurprising that French writer/director Breillat should have produced such an extraordinarily focused study, as she’s been making movies on the subject since 1976. This is her most ambitious and audacious work to date. The story itself is so simple, it has the clarity of a fable: bored, depressed and ‘dishonored’ by her lover Paul’s lack of physical interest in her, schoolteacher Marie (Ducey) embarks on a sexual odyssey. That’s it for the plot. Breillat’s interest is in her heroine’s psychology, and in her steady growth through transgression, experiment and self-analysis, however painful or potentially self-destructive the consequences may be. Entailing a kind of sentimental education, the film is distinguished by its cool refusal to judge or applaud Marie’s actions; Breillat simply observes and analyzes. Not that her aesthetic is ‘realist’. Marie’s philosophical/poetic voice-over, the inexorable linear progress of her actions, and the stark, subtly stylized interiors situate the film in the realm of metaphor. At the same time, however, the very frank physicality roots it in a world recognizably our own, while the gaze at erotic activity results not in titillation but in a contemplation of sexual congress as an outward manifestation of deeper, more complex needs. Indeed, while this is clearly ‘a woman’s film’ in its point of view, the cool, detached air of inquiry, the focus on paraphernalia and emotional sophistication recall Bunuel, Borowczyk and Oshima.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

“A movie that caused controversy because of its scenes of explicit sexual activity, some of which involved the well-endowed porn star Rocco Siffredi; otherwise it sis one of those films, typical of France, in which a woman’s search for sexual emancipation causes her to be abused by men. Finally, it becomes a twisted drama of revenge.” — ** Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“Notorious French film from writer-director Breillat about a woman who, rejected by her lover, goes on a sexual odyssey that leads her down some very strange paths. Novelty of sexual film from a woman’s point of view quickly wears off; it’s startlingly explicit but strangely un-erotic — and, more important, dull.” — *^ Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

*** Ebert
*** Berardinelli
4.9 Metacritic
5.2 IMDB

Romance @ Amazon


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December 11, 2008
Netflix DVD
France / Switzerland / Belgium / Luxembourg
80 Minutes — September 4, 1999
Drama / Romance
Frederic Fonteyne
Nathalie Baye [And The Band Played On; Venus Beauty Institute; Catch Me If You Can; Tell No One]
Sergi Lopez [To Die (Or Not); With A Friend Like Harry; Dirty Pretty Things; Pan’s Labyrinth]

An off-camera voice interviews a man and woman separately. They are discussing a past “relationship”. Relationship is in quotes because the definition of what they are as a couple is in a state of constant flux. While discussing this past fling, they both appear to be looking back with warm feelings.

The woman, Her (because they don’t exchange names), puts an ad in a sex magazine. The man, Him, actually put his copy of the magazine into a protective sleeve, which he displays with pride to the interviewer. “I guess I’m just a romantic, ” he declares. We know where this is going, don’t we? Two swingers meet up to have sex and then stop meeting up to have sex. But not so fast.

She mentions that there has always been a fantasy that she’s never been brave enough to ask past lovers. She puts it in the advertisement. He is not a casual reader of the magazine–in fact, he claims that this was the only time he responded to a personal ad. As so often happens when recalling something from years past (she has dyed her hair black and he has taken to wearing a goatee when we meet them in the present day), the details are fuzzy. He remembers sending a photo in response, she claims to have had no idea what he looked like.

They nervously meet at a cafe in Paris. There is small talk. There are few questions. She says, a bit too matter-of-factly “I’ve reserved a room down the street–is that okay?” He is excited by her assumption. She is drinking coffee and as she finishes to put on her coat, he orders a cognac, appearing to be in no particular hurry. She goes into some small talk about being young and wanting a lover who was hairy only to discover that she’d been “hoodwinked” when they turned out as hairless as the rest. She is not being cool. He is not being cool.

It needs to be mentioned here that the two leads are being played by Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez. Lopez is best known for the fantastic thriller WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY. He’s clearly middle-aged and looks like a French, poor-man’s George Clooney. Baye is one of those beautiful women who is allowed to grow older, but remain incredibly alluring and sexual, in role after role. She was recently seen as the lawyer in TELL NO ONE. I’ve just looked up her age and if correct, then she certainly wears her 51 years well on screen as a sexually alive, adventurous and frank woman. Someone Dan Savage would call “GGG.” Why American actresses are not afforded the same opportunity is incredibly annoying. Baye has entered her most erotic stage of life. It’s nice (not to mention exciting) to be able to watch it on film.

Back to the plot. These two middle-agers, still attractive, well-read, witty conversationalists–do, indeed, head over to the hotel. The camera lingers on the procedure for checking into a hotel frequented by short-term guests. The clerk’s expression, the credit card transaction, the key exchange, the walk to the room. This is done slowly and deliberately. We arrive at their front door. They go in, but we are left in the hallway. The hallway is bathed in low-lighted red. There is natural light coming from below the door. But we don’t get to go in to see what happens. And that move becomes genius later on.

The two emerge out onto a crowded dusk Paris street. Not sure what to do to continue this “situation” and afraid that perhaps they’d be the only one wanting a second round, they are silent. They agree that, if interested, they will meet at the same cafe the following Thursday. She gets on the Metro, he into his car. They are not smiling, exactly, as they move away from each other, but they are certainly not ashamed of what just happened.

The next shot shows Her in the same cafe, finishing up a coffee, and getting ready to go. He clearly didn’t want to see her again, but then he shows up, a bit ruffled due to traffic. They have a bit more detailed conversation. They laugh a little more. To the interviewers she says, “there was no posturing, no trying to impress. We already knew each other sexually–the conversation was easy and much more honest.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously. So begins a regular meeting between these two people. Always at the same cafe and always leading to the same hotel, where by now the clerk can hand over a key much more quickly.

They recall this stage a bit differently, she says they met several times a week, he remembers it more like every other Thursday. The details are not important. What is important is how they go from a purely sexual, no-names-ages-occupations-needed casual hookup, to becoming de facto partners for each other. They get drinks and sometimes dinner afterwards. He never drives her home, and they never exchange information.

Can these two continue to meet for sex without falling in love?

One day, she changes everything, by nervously uttering, “let’s make love this time?” “What do you mean?” “The regular way” “You mean, missionary?” “No, I like to be on top, not exactly dominating, but in charge.” “OK,” he says. And this time as they head to the same hotel, they are giggling like teenagers. And this time we get to go into their room with them and see how it’s blue and white color is a happy backdrop. The scene is non-nude, but highly erotic. “Do you mind if I talk during?” she asks.

Something has clearly changed between them. And somehow between characters and we viewers.

This is one of the best portrayals of adult sexuality and love I’ve ever seen. Not Hollywood sex and love, but realistic. The way feelings can change in mid-sentence, the way people are brave with each other up until they can’t be anymore. She mentions that in the movies, sex is either heaven or hell, never in the middle. In life, there is a lot of sex in the middle. If you’ve ever stopped to realize that almost all onscreen sex scenes, including a couple’s first, begin with passionate kissing while clothes are torn off, acrobatic lovemaking with not a hint of clumsiness (no hair pulled, no heads bumped, no need to verbalize movement), a to-the-second mutual climax, followed by one of those bedsheets that goes up to his stomach, but also up to her shoulders.

We go to the movies to see people better looking than we are do things more exciting than we do, but I could do without another one of these by-the-numbers sex scenes.

This film has exactly two characters. They are flawed and perfect, like we are. They are trying to figure out how much of their hearts to give this relationship that started in the back pages of a porno magazine. Will they fall in love? Are they already in love? Will they say this to one another?

This is what an adult relationship film should be. Go see it.

6.7 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

An Affair of Love @ Amazon


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November 27, 2008
USA / Australia
105 Minutes — July 28, 1999
Action / Horror / Thriller
Renny Harlin [Die Hard 2; Cliffhanger]

Bigger. Smarter. Faster. Meaner.

Sharks with enhanced intelligence threaten the staff of an underwater research facility.

“Basically a B movie on steroids, this delivers all the expected, and more than familiar, thrills and spills, but lacks surprises” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

5.4 Metacritic
5.5 IMDB

Deep Blue Sea @ Amazon


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Written by Michael W. Cummins