“Chasing the Muse”
A Film Diary About Porn
The French filmmaker Jean-François Davy’s documentary is a kind of film diary about porn casting, art and taboos. This is a film that shocks with its direct language and visuals. We hear philosophical thoughts about desire and pleasure and while once this might have been quite shocking it does have the same bite that it once had. We do see a lot of naked women but there is really not much sex that appears on film. This made me wonder why I would want to watch a documentary about sex when I could easily just watch the sex itself somewhere else.
Unfortunately the people we see (including the director) are average. I did find this to be in any way sexually arousing but that is my opinion. Everything seed rather mechanical, cold and certainly not erotic. I really wanted to like this movie but it just did not do it for me. Yet there is another feature on the same DVD by the same director that I found much more enticing even though it was made in 1975.
“Exhibition” is a documentary on the 70’s French porn industry and I learned something right away— there are generally two kinds of porn documentaries–those that actually take an insightful look behind the scenes, and those that are just an excuse to show a lot of nudity and XXX porn footage. This is actually somewhere in between. It’s generously seasoned with porn footage, but there are also a lot of (fully-clothed) interviews, and they even talk to the owners of porn theaters, some typical porn customers as well as a guy who makes promotional billboards for porn movies although he claims never to have seen one. And of course they also talk to porn directors and (usually naked) porn performers. The most interesting are the males who all cheerfully admit to bisexuality and demonstrate how they can “get it up” on camera with or without female help. Like many of their 70’s male counterparts in America, the male actors actually have some talent beyond porn. One Italian actor comes in singing an operetta, sits down for a long, cheerful interview, arouses himself for the camera, calls a female co-star to finish him off and then dances with her!
The females come off less well. Some are neophytes without much to say while others admit they’re only in it for the money. Claudine Beccarie, who was quite famous at the time, comes off very badly as she insults her male co-stars on camera during their (attempted) sex scenes. Soon after this doc was made, she would turn vehemently against the porn industry (but you get the idea it’s only because it didn’t take her where she thought she should have gone). Generally though, both the performers and directors seem much less delusional about their careers than their counterparts in America did during the heady 70’s “porno chic” days.