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This volume re-evaluates theories of genre and spectatorship in light of a critic-defined tendency in recent art cinema, coined ‘extreme cinema’. In Genre Trouble and Extreme Cinema, Bordun argues that the films of Mexican director Carlos Reygadas and French director Catherine Breillat expand generic classifications. Bordun contends that their films make it apparent that genre is not established prior to the viewing of a work but is recollected and assembled by spectators in ways that matter for them in both personal and experiential terms. The author deploys contemporary film theories on the senses, both phenomenological and affect theory, and partakes in close readings of the films’ forms and narratives. The book thus adds to the present literature on extreme cinema and film theory, yet sets itself apart by fully deploying genre theory alongside the methodological and stylistic approaches of Stanley Cavell, Vivian Sobchack, Laura U. Marks, and Eugenie Brinkema.

There is a moment in The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2013) that has troubled me more than the rest of the film. In this scene which takes place in Adi’s car, Oppenheimer’s voice suddenly erupts from behind the camera to challenge some of the protagonist’s claims about murder, justice, and so on. This is a clear breach of the observational mode, thus I’m not sure I agree with Michael Meneghetti’s recent presentation at FSAC citing the film as purely observational (“The Perpetrator’s Scenario: Acts of Killing and Remorse in Contemporary Documentary,” June 2, 2015). The film perhaps sits uncomfortably among observational, participatory, and reflexive modes in what I would call a new mode of popular consumption documentary, albeit of the best sort. The question I want to ask is why it is only this one moment that the director breaks his silence, for he is addressed by the protagonists a number of times throughout the film.

It might be appropriate to attempt a guess and, if I’m correct, this adds a new dimension to documentary filmmaking that will clearly separate the auteurs from the average practitioner. It has to do with the ethics of documentary filmmaking and the question of when to intervene – my interest in the filmmaker’s intervention is not so much to save or rescue or allow subjects to withhold certain information, etc. An intervention, at the best of times, is meaningful when the filmmaker realizes his subjects’ performance for the camera has gone too far into the theatrical, the subject performing too much for the invisible audience. Oppenheimer allows Anwar his comical performances; something is revealed in his antics. When Adi begins to speak of his atrocities and the punishment he does not deserve, here Oppenheimer’s checks on his subject to establish the validity of Adi’s statements. The director states and restates Adi’s frightful remarks and challenges him on whether he truly believes them. I see here that Oppenheimer is aware of the extent that documentary subjects perform; Adi may have been acting tough for the camera, so Oppenheimer’s voice checks in with both his performer and the audience to mark the possible negative influence of the camera. Unfortunately Adi appears sincere about rejoicing in his past crimes.

Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus’s Hot Girls Wanted (2015) highlights my concern about filmmaker intervention. It turns Tressa Silguero’s life into a story of the camera. At the beginning of the film and of Tressa’s brief stint as a porn performer, she performs her enthusiasm for her new career. Her aspiring porn actresses all chime in at the same time – they are all happy with the freedom and money. (The men know better, of course, telling audiences that amateurs last a few weeks or months at best.) If we follow Tressa’s narrative arc closely, we need to ask the question of whether the shaming eye of the camera influenced her decision to leave the porn industry. On the one hand there is the camera that she performs for while at work and, on the other, there is the documentary camera that then films her performing at work. These two technologies, albeit the same, carry divergent moral implications (and thus Hot Girls Wanted is belittled for its moralizing qualities).

So, the documentary camera may produce a feeling of shame, a non-porn audience watching her not so shameful performances. At the beginning of her story, Tressa introduces us to Kendall, her new boyfriend who, at the time, was apparently fine with her career. Alas, the nice man has gotten everything he wants from Tressa, so he turns the tables and begins to shame her. There is no question about Kendall’s motives; there is no working together to get her out of porn (if she even wants it) or trying to better her status as a porn performer – rather, Kendall likens her to a sex worker and she simply backs down and out of his abuse by agreeing with him. The camera and the boyfriend shame her.

At the end of the film, Kendall and Tressa’s mother essentially confront and trap Tressa into quitting porn. She did not come to this resolution herself; Kendall, her mother, and camera stand as witnesses to her dirty and shameful career. This is the key sequence for the question of whether a filmmaker intervenes. We know that Kendall was once fine with her career and now switches gears; we know that mothers are troubling figures to deal with; we know the camera acts as a voyeur on her career as porn performer. Here, Bauer or Gradus should intervene and remind Kendall of his past promise, and remind Tressa and her mother that they are still being filmed – knowing the power of the camera, a voice should have suddenly erupted to check in with the subjects to bring out what really might be happening under the surface: Kendall is a manipulative man, the mother uses her tears to sway her daughter, and Tressa is too young and sensitive to rally a fight against Kendall’s patriarchy and an unethical approach to documentary cinema.

These two cases, The Act of Killing and Hot Girls Wanted, stand at opposite poles of filmmakers’ intervention; the one is a product of someone concerned with his subjects and the power of the camera, the other interested in drama and without a care for documentary performance and ethics.

3:30-5:15 PM –– Session Three: Insatiable Appetites (WHC 208)

Moderator: Name TBD, Title TBD, Yale University

Marco Bohr (Loughborough University): “Tampopo: Food, Hedonism and Decadence in Japan’s Bubble Economy”

Michael Turcios (University of Southern California): “The Appetite to Consume ‘Otherness’ in the French Colonial Cinema of Claire Denis”

Fareed Ben-Youssef (University of California, Berkeley): “‘Attendez la Crème!’: Food and Cultural Trauma in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained”

Troy Bordun (Trent University): “Porn in the Art Gallery: Aesthetics and Sensory Disciplining”

Abstract:

Porn in the Art Gallery: Aesthetics and Sensory Disciplining

I contend that before precise acts are represented onscreen, porn aesthetics presupposes a user who wants to control but not necessarily master the materials under his gaze. Porn users actively engage with images and video and simultaneously require an abandonment of that activity to experience visual and bodily pleasure (Paasonen 2011; 2013). If we presume the “pornification” of modern culture (Paasonen, Nikunen and Saarenmaa 2007), which includes at the very least a general familiarity with the phenomenon of pornography, contemporary spectators are ready for a gallery of porn, more so than spectators from earlier decades. Curatorship of an exhibition of pornography should therefore provide active and passive modes of interactivity for its participants, i.e., contain materials that command physical grabbing and perceptual touching to thereby cultivate some degree of sexual abandon.

In late August, 2014, I curated a small exhibition entitled Stags, Sexploitation, and Hard Core: Moving Image Pornography up to 1972 at an artist-run center in Peterborough, ON. I think the unusual setting for pornography offers me a chance to consider the genre’s aesthetics, as claimed above, and spectators’ relationship to disciplining spaces. For the exhibition I decided upon a number of films to play simultaneously throughout the gallery and designed panels composed of stills, promotional materials, and text. The purpose of the exhibition was to bring a small portion of pornography’s history to the public. Additionally, on the introductory panel, I suggested that pornography aims at eliciting bodily sensations from its spectators. I wrote that arousal, laughter, shock, surprise, and awkwardness were as valuable responses as critical (dis)interest. Through observation of visitors and reading anonymous surveys about their experiences, I discovered that the organization and architecture of the gallery maintained a critical distance between spectators and materials, as in a conventional gallery (Williams 1995; Dennis 2009), despite my efforts to produce the opposite effect.

Eye Candy: Yale Graduate Film Conference 2015

Eye Candy: Consuming Moving Images at the Cinema and Beyond”

Conference Program

All events are at the Whitney Humanities Center (WHC), 53 Wall Street. All events are free and open to the public.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13
4:30-5:30 PM –– Registration (WHC 208)

5:30-6:30 PM –– Keynote Address (WHC Main Auditorium)

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University: “The Cops and the Commons: Life, Love and Value After Ferguson”

6:30-7:30 PM –– Reception (WHC 108)

7:30-8:45 PM –– Special Screening: Daisies (1966, 35mm print, 74 min.) (WHC Main Auditorium): Introduction by Ila Tyagi

Screening generously co-sponsored by the Yale Film Study Center, the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures, and the Department of Art History.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14

9:00-10:00 AM –– Late Registration and Light Breakfast (WHC 208)

10:00-10:05 AM –– Opening Remarks (WHC 208)
Swagato Chakravorty and Regina Karl

10:05-11:45 AM –– Session One: Auteurs and their…

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Video: Stags, Sexploitation, and Hard Core

The link to the above video is a teaser for an exhibition I am curating on pornography up to 1972.

Thursday, August 28th – Saturday, August 30th, 12pm-6pm

Artspace, 378 Aylmer Street North, Peterborough, ON

vlcsnap-2014-07-21-21h55m04s154The 1920s was a booming decade for moving-image pornography. 10 to 20 minute films were shot and then screened at stags, thus the name, stag films. Oftentimes the players in these shorts were prostitutes and their johns, or filmmakers and their friends – the films are therefore made anonymously. What is interesting about them is the lack of differentiation between the sexual act as such, real penetration for instance, and the performance of sexual acts. We see in a number of these films that men do not get erections or cannot remain erect for the duration of the shoot. What mattered most, it seems, is sex in any shape or form; or, put differently, the reality and/or the illusion of persons doing things otherwise private. At times the mise-en-scene was elaborate – nuns, teachers – while at others a man “picks up” a woman and has sex. But even in this latter case some kind of narrative unfolds. Even anonymous sex, shot and performed for the enjoyment of a group of men, needs a story. The clips are edited from The Good Old Naughty Days, available from Strand Releasing.

vlcsnap-2014-07-27-17h22m36s227

Swedish Marriage Manual, aka Language of Love

The period from about 1956 to 1972 offered a number of soft-core pictures to the public. These films, from The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959) to Swedish Marriage Manual (1968) and many European art films, were generally accessible. While sex was implied or, in the case of some art films, not shown with maximum visibility (as Linda Williams calls it), simple displays of nudity saturated the big screen. Even in films such as Sweetback (1971), the simulated sex is boring – Sweetback doesn’t dare use his sweetback too quickly. Stag films, even when obviously faking the sexual act, were energetic. There was something about the projection of movement that was, in itself, fascinating to watch.

Boys in the Sand

Boys in the Sand

In the early 1970s, films such as Mona (1970), Boys in the Sand (1971), Deep Throat (1972), and Behind the Green Door (1972) brought hard core sex to the screens. Explicit cinematic sex finally became a commodity in its own right, and in the case of Deep Throat, men and women began to take an interest. However, Deep Throat tried to downplay its explicitness with humor while the interracial and orgiastic Green Door used special effects and a hypnotizing score to bring sex into the realm of art.

Pornography today is a far departure from any works of the prior decades. Or, if we prefer, contemporary pornography has taken something from each of the three periods identified: the vigor and energy of the stags; the beautiful bodies of sexploitation flicks; and the explicitness and maximum visibility of 1970s hard core.

Video: Stags, Sexploitation, and Hard Core