Category Archives: erotica

“UNDER THE RAIN”— Four Men

“UNDER THE RAIN”

Four Men

Amos Lassen

Four men occupy an old building in order to create an artistic project. Mike, the photographer, leads the group while the three other men who are models perform in a session that seems to move from the screenplay into  their lives. As the scene moves forward, Viktor, an artist will go on an impassioned trip through his feelings of doubt, fear and ambition, before climaxing into an erotic burst with the group. This is a story of will and perceptions that could easily reference us and our individual impressions of erotica.

Directed by Noel Alejandro, this is a quite explicit and subversive film that looks at art, career and ambition and I understand that it is autobiographical to a degree as it questions  the boundaries of obscenity and pornography.

It is as if director Alejandro is asking the audience how far he can go. He blends a silent rain, voiced metalinguistics and pure aesthetic erotica to share a story that is both problematic and relatable.

“Under the Rain” is explicit film, but far from porn. It explores erotica as an art form. Drawing on the director’s personal experiences and his perspective on art, ethics, obscenity, pornography, career and ambition, this is a surreal, moody, enigmatic, and arousing piece of work.

It stars Valentin Braun, Anteo Chara, Markus Reid, and Enki Babylon as four men immerse themselves an abandoned building for an art project. The boundaries between fiction and reality are blurred. We are not sure whether the conversations are scripted or real as doubts, fears, ambitions, and passions come to the fore and needs are satisfied. There’s plenty of explicit sex that feels authentic.

Alejandro says that a film, for me, is a journey within his own psychology and malice. The film is based on a concept that has been growing, modifying, and producing during the actual filming and editing.

 

 

 

 

THE BLUE FLOWER OF NOVALIS (“A rosa azul de Novalis”)—  A SAO PAULO LIFE

THE BLUE FLOWER OF NOVALIS (“A rosa azul de Novalis”) 

A SAO PAULO LIFE

Amos Lassen

“The Blue Flower of Novalis” begins with a closeup on its subject’s private parts (being polite here) and it is hard to separate the pornography from its conversational approach to its subject, Marcelo Diorio. This documentary integrates the most mundane and unconventional elements of this São Paulo resident’s life and beliefs to create an unforgettable and explicit portrait.

The lens is trained tight on Diorio as he shares his physical and emotional self in direct conversation with those behind the camera. Surreal re-enactments occasionally break this structure and the unintentional comedy se sometimes distracts but Diorio’s commitment to the form.

Diorio commands the camera’s gaze and is in control of his narrative. Most of his anecdotes and beliefs are expressed with complete self-assurance and faith. No facet of Diorio’s life is off limits. He speaks about incest, death, family, faith, and his HIV diagnosis.  He is nonchalant as he shares his fears and disappointments about living up to his homophobic family’s expectations. His charisma and candor can only keep our attention for so long. The last 20 minutes of the film become pornography and a shocking yet sensitive exploration of Diorio’s sexuality, spirituality, and reconciliation of the two.

“The Blue Flower of Novalis”  uses provocation to provide narrative momentum making this a film  that is not for everyone. Yet even with its structural flaws, it is an empathetic, non-judgmental portrait of a man disregarding taboos and mores in his search for truth.

“The asshole needs to be urgently introduced into the social and political realm,” reads the closing line of Gustavo Vinagre  and Rodrigo Carneiro’s directors’ statement about the film. It opens with an extreme closeup of the asshole and it is framed at a disorienting angle, swelling and contracting as if it were breathing.  We then hear verse recited from off-screen and then the film cuts to a full shot of a naked man  in a yoga plough pose, reading from a collection of Hilda Hilst poems with his rear pointing upwards. Marcelo, the poetry-reading yogi, is a co-author of the film and we never know if what we see is staged or spontaneous.

There are moments that totally depart from reality, such as when Marcelo talks about his brother’s death, the camera shows a funeral happening on the other side of his apartment, with four grieving family members gathered around the brother’s casket. Marcelo joins them and (his voice digitally made to reverberate as if he were speaking inside a church), says that in their youth he and his brother had an incestuous relationship. When the film then returns to him sitting exactly as he was before the camera went to the funeral, it is implied that the scene was in Marcelo’s head and we’re not sure of how much of his revelation was genuine and how much was just part of a performance.

We see that Marcelo has used performing as a means of survival in real life as well. He is intelligent and well read. He gets inspiration and solace from his cultural idols including  Novalis, Georges Bataille, Nina Simone, Maria Callas, Franz Kafka and uses that inspiration to deal with the intolerance he deals with as a queer HIV-positive man who grew up in a homophobic family. By giving him mastery over his own narrative, the film does not see him as a victim.

The opening shot offers an illustration of the invasive nature of cinéma vérité that is outrageous and extremely powerful.

“CAMP CHAOS”— Matthew Camp’s New Sexy Series

“Camp Chaos”

Matthew Camp’s New Sexy Series

Amos Lassen

Matthew Camp bring us a new series that opens with people having sex as a voiceover narrates what is going on.  “Camp Chaos” is both “a self-empowering makeover show” and a  raunchy fantasy.

In the first episode, we learn that real-life social media hottie Matthew Camp has set out to recreate some of his wildest sexual memories. We watch him video chat with a series of guys about their sexual desires until one shows up in real life to help Camp with his project. We then see a hardcore staging of the memory we’ve been hearing about throughout the episode. Camp looks at sexuality as both serious and playful.

Matthew Camp together with show creator Cory Krueckeberg give us something to look at and to think about. “I feel like it’s important as gay men that we exercise our right to want to have sex, to make content with it, and profit off it. It’s sort of a revolutionary act,” Matthew Camp says with an enticing grin. He pushes the boundaries of fantasy and reality in an explicit way in XXX-rated episodic journey starring Camp. He attempts to recreate several of his formative sexual encounters with boys he meets online and in his upstate New York apartment where while nude, he tends to his plants and plays his guitar. He paints in a jockstrap and masturbates in the living room. After Skyping with a few potential scene partners, Camp brings in a bearded San Francisco man and the two share intimacy and have a  carnal adventure. With beautiful cinematography and sweaty reenactments, director Cory Krueckeberg is able to capture the tender and sometimes funny and always authenticity of two people’s first sexual encounter.

On the internet Camp has more than 566,000 followers. It seems that this was his natural next move. We see him as a sexual animal and also as a gentle person. “Camp Chaos” is “a provocative meditation exploring formative sexual memories. The series takes on the form of a hybrid documentary/experimental film / art project. It uses explicit sex as part of the exploration of Matthew’s formative sexual memories.” Each episode is to cover a distinct sexual experience from Camp’s life. He first shares the story with viewers and then sets about recreating the encounter in explicit detail with a new partner. “The series blends reality and fantasy in a way that creates what feels like a true and authentic portrayal of Matthew Camp. What you see is what you get, Camp is truly and unapologetically himself.” He feels that it is “important as gay men that we exercise our right to want to have sex, to make content with it, and profit off it. It’s sort of a revolutionary act,” says Camp.

The series is also a time capsule of relationships and encounters are like in a post-online dating and social media world. “It is current, timely, real and treats sex the way millennials treat sex.”

 

“I’m Open to Anything” by William E. Jones— “Literary Porn And That’s a Good Thing

Jones, William E. “I’m Open to Anything”, We Heard You Like Books, 2019.

Literary Porn And That’s A Good Thing

Amos Lassen

When I first began reviewing about thirteen years ago, I was sent a good many copies of gay porn and I noticed that several writers tried to emulate classic literature with porn themes and this is so much different that out and out porn. It was as if a whole new genre came into being which I chose to refer to as literary porn, For the last few years, there were not many titles that I could refer to as literature that was also sexually and sensuously arousing. But then there was William E. Jones’ “I’m Open to Anything” and it is one of the most amazing books that I have read so far this year. It’s a little book with quite an explicit cover that is a perverse coming-of-age story that holds nothing back as it looks at Southern California in the late 1980s, a time before gentrification and when living Bohemian style was in vogue. Our narrator has come to California from the Midwest and does not have too much going for him.  He has a job in a video store (remember those?) in Los Angeles and he watches a lot of movies and he meets a lot of men who bring him into gay life by teaching him the sexual pleasures men can have together. One of the ways of pleasure that the learns is that of fisting.

As he meets more and more men, he realizes that many of them are immigrants who share the stories of their lives and their bodies with him. The story moves back and forth between sexual escapades and kink to stories of life and lust and how it was to come out before it was so easy to do so. William E. Jones is a master storyteller who will both arouse your libido and provoke your mind. There are books that we rush to turn pages to find out what happens next but this is a book that has you lingering on the page because turning it moves you closer to the end and you are enjoying the read so much that you want to drag it out.

There is so much to take in here that I found myself rereading it immediately finish it the first time. Not only do I recommend it, I urge you to get a copy and let me know how this little book affects you. I have deliberately been vague about the plot because In want you to enjoy it as much as  did.

“Berlin to Bern” by Pierce Smith— Entrapped

Smith, Pierce. “Berlin to Bern”, ADC, 2019.

Entrapped

Amos Lassen

If you like steamy fiction. Then Pierce Smith’s “Berlin to Bern” is for you. Robin hurriedly boarded a train to go to his first ever job interview but he had no ticket. Rascal, the ticket inspector, offered him a place in a hidden compartment.  Rascal came for him when the other passengers on the train were asleep and then when Robin was sleeping in the embrace of Rascal there was a knock at the door.  Robin had no idea this night would never end while learning the true art of submission.

This is a contemporary gay romance with strong BDSM activities including bondage and discipline, dominance and submission  and sadism & masochism themes and it is very sexually explicit.  What began as a simple train ride became an excessively sexual adventure. “Berlin to Bern” is based on a real life experience and Pierce Smith has been able to capture a true BDSM experience for his readers that includes various types of kink including some that may shock the reader.

We see that Robin is curious about being dominated and when he says no, his body is says yes. By the time Robin leaves the train he’s had a good start with a new life he wants.
This was a very well written, surprising story and very erotic. Robin knew what he wanted— to be dominated. In this story he gets just that and we see that he wants more.  and loves and craves more.

The book is short but with a well-developed set of characters and plot line that could easily be developed into a full length novel. Smith has no trouble writing about BDSM and his ideas are clear and clever.

“TRANSIT”— An Existential Noir Film

“TRANSIT”

An Existential Noir Film

Amos Lassen

Christian Petzold’s existentialist noir “Transit” is one of the best films about World War II  even if it hinges on a suspension of disbelief that’ll be too far a stretch for some. The film is based on the author’s experience while escaping Nazi Germany for France and later to Mexico. Petzold restages the story in a blatantly anachronistic setting, a kind of historical “netherverse” that straddles the line between past and present.

George Weidel (Franz Rogowosky), an author, commits suicide in a French hotel, while escorting a North African refugee with a festering leg infection to Marseilles, one of the last remaining neutral zones from which one can safely flee to the Americas. Georg, a technician, takes Weidel’s final manuscript with him. Georg is without papers and it has been implied that he’s Jewish.

The screenplay reorients fascism along economic rather than ethnic lines, with the relationship between the two all but implied. For these characters, the inevitable occupation is a well-established fact; the word “Nazi” is never said aloud here. Georg’s original intent was to return Weidel’s manuscript for a small sum of money, but an opportunity avails itself to assume his identity and thus escape, so Georg readily takes the chance. The process of getting his transit visa approved means staying in Africa until he received it.

Georg is a classic existentialist antihero who is repeatedly seen facing enclosed doorways yet unable to smoothly pass through an open one when he gets the chance. He strikes up a relationship with a beautiful, sultry woman named Marie (Paula Beers), who keeps running into him as if in a dream. It turns out that she’s Weidel’s wife, unaware that her late husband is never coming back. The relationship first develops in struck poses and lingering glances—the war has made both Georg and Marie phantoms of their past selves, and their attempt to fall in love is the backbone of the plot as is Georg’s relationship with Driss (Lilien Batman), the young son of the late fugitive whom he escorted back to Marseilles. Slowly, Marie and Georg (who now goes by George) are able to inch closer and closer to safe passage. The film’s strongest critique of the 21st century is that while democracies are eroded by xenophobia and plutocracy, a bourgeois lifestyle is one of the last holdouts for a troubled conscience—as long as you can afford it. As viewers, the film invites us to trace our own speculative connections between the narrative and the contemporary rise in neo-Nazism and anti-refugee sentiment.

Georg’s rucksack is filled with the personal effects of a stranger, a manuscript for a novel, two letters from his estranged wife Marie, along with documents guaranteeing the dead man a Mexican visa. Georg’s honest plan upon arriving in Marseille, where thousands of refugees like him await means of escape, is to hand in Weidel’s papers at the Mexican consulate, in the hope that they’ll somehow reach his unwitting widow. But when the consul mistakes Georg for Weidel himself, offering him imminent safe passage to Mexico, he hesitates before assuming the writer’s identity.

“Transit” then launches into a tangle of reversals and ironies. Marseille is a world of shabby 21st-century architecture. This could as easily be the past, as viewed through a hall of mirrors, or an apocalyptic near-future, positioning the events on screen either as recontextualized history or timely cautionary tale.

Rogowski is perfectly cast as Georg, who is enigmatic and fascinating in equal measure. Though second-billed, Beer doesn’t really appear until the film’s second half and even then, her character seems to be observed from the outside. A little more time with her character and backstory would have been beneficial, especially because as one half of at least three possible romances, a lot of the pic’s only hinted at subplots rest on her.

“Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno” by Phil St. John— Another Look

St. John, Phil. “Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno”, CreateSpace, 2018.

Another Look

Amos Lassen

I rarely return to a book or a film that I have already reviewed but for some reason, I was not happy with the review I posted of Phil St. John’s “Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno” so I decided to reread the short novella and redo my review.

I enjoy gay porn, that you can find lots of reviews of porn sites here, as much as the next guy so when I received this book, the name Phil St. John was not new to me. I knew it was an alias and I knew some of the back-story—- Phil St. John, acted in gay adult movies while at film school in San Francisco. Later, in Manhattan’s East Village, he read scripts for United Artists by day while making porn loops for the Mob’s Times Square peep shows at night. His first porn blockbuster, “Getting It”, was distributed by Falcon Films. It had the largest cast of the day. St. John, aka Phil Tarley, is a member of the American Film Institute, and of the Photographic Arts Council, Los Angeles. He writes about contemporary art, pop culture, and photography and curates art shows in LA where he founded the biennial Round Hole Square Peg, an international survey of LGBTQ photography shown at Photo LA and The LA Art Show. His own personal political and ethnographic queer video is housed in The New York Public Library’s permanent collection and has been screened in film festivals and museums, including the American Film Institute and the Guggenheim Museum. In 2009, St. John was inducted into the Gay Porn Hall of Fame for his 25-year producing and directing career.

Tarley’s writing and photography have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, The WOW Report, the Advocate, Adult Video News, Spunk and American Photo Magazine. His second book, Crazy for Cuba: Notes from An Underground Traveler, is due to be published this fall 2018.

“Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno” is an action-adventure, sexually outrageous fiction filmmaking odyssey. However, let me clarify the word fiction here. Undoubtedly some of what you read here actually happened. Phil St. John takes his boyfriend and a porn star bottom to the land of the “big tops” to make two new tropical penis movies. They are to be shot back-to-back in the jungles near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Of course, this does not happen without any trouble and here is where the fun begins. We have knife fights, sexual intrigue, nervous breakdowns, tropical depressions, secret marijuana smuggling, and true love.

There is an authenticity to St. John’s prose and I believe that this is why he is so much fun to read.

“That magical triangulation, he’s got it; face, body and dick. He joins me for a drink, all smiles. A book about Franz Kafka sticks out of his jacket pocket.” And yes this is smutty but it is also intelligent.

The characters are a delight and before you know it you are either in love or in lust with them even though their flaws are obvious.

We see what happens on a porn shoot when the camera is both rolling and not rolling and the creativity it takes to make a porn film (Challenge me on that one). It might surprise you to learn that not all porn models are nice guys or cooperative while making a film. Yes, they have egos and each has a unique personality. You might be even more surprised to learn that many require not only reassurance but also drugs, alcohol, bribes, and lots of on the spot psychotherapy as well as creativity. St. John lets us into a world that others will not. This is a fun read that also raises the temperature.

“Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno” by Phil St. John— A Pornographer Speaks

St. John, Phil. “Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno”, CreateSpace, 2018.

A Pornographer Speaks

Amos Lassen

I must say that I enjoy gay porn as much as the next guy so when I received this book, the name Phil St. John was not new to me. I knew it was an alias and I knew some of the back-story—- Phil St. John, acted in gay adult movies while at film school in San Francisco. Later, in Manhattan’s East Village, he read scripts for United Artists by day while making porn loops for the Mob’s Times Square peep shows at night. His first porn blockbuster, “Getting It”, was distributed by Falcon Films. It had the largest cast of the day. St. John, aka Phil Tarley, is a member of the American Film Institute, and of the Photographic Arts Council, Los Angeles. He writes about contemporary art, pop culture, and photography and curates art shows in LA where he founded the biennial Round Hole Square Peg, an international survey of LGBTQ photography shown at Photo LA and The LA Art Show. His own personal political and ethnographic queer video is housed in The New York Public Library’s permanent collection and has been screened in film festivals and museums, including the American Film Institute and the Guggenheim Museum. In 2009, St. John was inducted into the Gay Porn Hall of Fame for his 25-year producing and directing career.

Tarley’s writing and photography have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, The WOW Report, the Advocate, Adult Video News, Spunk and American Photo Magazine. His second book, Crazy for Cuba: Notes from An Underground Traveler, is due to be published this fall 2018.

“Diary of a Puerto Rican Porno” is an action-adventure, sexually outrageous fiction filmmaking odyssey. However, let me clarify the word fiction here. Undoubtedly some of what you read here actually happened. Phil St. John takes his boyfriend and a porn star bottom to the land of the “big tops” to make two new tropical penis movies. They are to be shot back-to-back in the jungles near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Of curse, this does not happen without any trouble. We have knife fights, sexual intrigue, nervous breakdowns, tropical depressions, secret marijuana smuggling, and true love.

I must say that St. John is authentic in his writing and that is what makes him so much fun to read. As absurd as a situation is, it could have happened. Now this is smut but it is tasteful or shall we say what I call literary erotica. The characters make you fall in love and in lust with them and as flawed as they are, is the scene filled with smut. (You have to love it). We see what happens when the camera is both rolling and not rolling and the creativity it takes to make a porn film (Challenge me on that one).

You might be surprised to learn that not all porn models are nice guys or cooperative while making a film. Yes, they have egos and each has a unique personality. You might be even more surprised to learn that many require not only reassurance but also drugs, alcohol, bribes, and lots of on the spot psychotherapy as well as creativity. St. John lets us into a world that others will not. This is a fun read although I am not sure it qualifies as literature.

“THE SEED”— Escape to the Woods

“THE SEED”

Escape to the Woods

Amos Lassen

Noel Alejandro is an independent  and alternative adult film director who has erased the line between art and porn. His films are filled with stunning male erotica and his work is avant-garde. He has been acclaimed for r his body of work  to date and there is still more to come.

Gaspar wants to escape the craziness of urban life and decides to go for a hike and a swim in the lake. He goes to the city park just as another hunk is entering the grove where sex often takes place. The locals refer to it as the “woody oasis where sex is a matter of nature”. Gaspar sees Sebastian emerging from the water Sebastian shows Gaspar how “a simple thought can grow like a seed and become a desire.”

“In the Ring” by James Lear— Corruption, Power and Passion

Lear, James. “In the Ring: A Dan Stagg Novel”, Cleis Press, 2018.

Corruption, Power and Passion

Amos Lassen

Most of you know that I do not read much erotica but I never miss a James Lear tale because he rises over what I call “trashy porn. Lear writes literary smut. Not only does he arouse the reader sexually but also literarily so if you have not read him than I suggest you do. “In the Ring” is a volume in his Dan Stagg series and here Stagg becomes involved in a world of concealed identities, double agents (some of whom are quite beautiful) and as the tile of this review says corruption, power, and passion.

The world thinks that Stagg is dead having been killed in Baghdad by a bomb. Now with a new identity and high-tech gadgets, our tough Marine officer goes deep undercover (and under covers) to penetrate an extreme right-wing group of terrorists. While he is on loan from the CIA and MI6, Stagg goes to England to investigate a corrupt boxing promoter and “his stable of vulnerable, sexually compliant, young athletes.” Stagg has no idea yet of what fun and muscle awaits him.

Using the disguise of a martial arts instructor, Stagg is soon drawn into a dark world of blackmail, prostitution, and pornography; a world where sex and money are always available. He needs to be able to hide who he really is to fulfill the mission. On the other hand he might find this to be a new life if he works for Alan Vaughan, the mastermind behind this terrorist plot.

The more involved Stagg becomes the greater the erotic, romantic and deadly adventures become his. He actually faces the politics and the criminal activity that lies beneath the seductive cover of the life he is forced to pursue. It does not seem to be a bad life at all but he needs a good deal of willpower to keep him from drowning in it.

James Lear really knows how to tell a story and he knows just how much erotica is necessary to keep us reading.