Category Archives: erotica

“THE ACROBAT”  (L’Acrobate)— A Hook Up

“THE ACROBAT”  (L’Acrobate)

A Hook Up

Amos Lassen

Canadian writer-director Rodrique Jean’s “Acrobat (L’Acrobate)” shocks us with scenes of graphic sex and BDSM. Set in Montreal amid the endless construction of a hi-rise apartment, depressed businessman Christophe (Sébastien Ricard) meets an angst-filled, disabled squatter Micha (Yury Paulau). They hook up but they never exchange names even when former acrobat Micha moves in. Both men are keeping secrets, and both let go of their dark anguish/despair on one another via sado-masochistic sex.

I am quite sure that those unaccustomed to so much sex will not like this film but it is quite an elegant, visceral film that is quite brave.  We see erections, fellatio, masturbation and penetration. It is the particular approach of a filmmaker, that makes this so interesting.

In this ghostly space of a multi-story building still under construction, towers of a cold, distant downtown Montreal, bring together a humanity that seeks and never finds itself. Prevailing morality totally disappears and this is the vision of a Rodrigue Jean. It is radical and its exacerbated jeopardy in terms of male homosexuality in Quebec cinema is finally on display.

Sébastien Ricard with a white ghost-face at first transforms his facial appearance into something more assertive and warmly human once sex takes place. Yuri Paulau walks in through the front door and submits his athletic-acrobat body even when he is on crutches. Between too much or not enough, Rodrigue Jean offers his own moral about urban solitude.

Every 20 or so minutes, there is sex and not love. This is about the differences between being out-of-control and in-control in an in-and-out-of-control situation…”where the dominated is in the dominion of the dominator…but, not at his mercy…indeed, the complexity of the situation is far from clear…it’s the submissive who’s righting the wrongs and re-writing the rules. Having lost everything, he’s calling all the shots…self-esteem may be the only things he has left and that’s about to go tits up…or, is it?”

 For some, [sexual] humiliation is the ultimate expression of self-worth yet we wonder why some people want to be humiliated. Who really has the power in these situations? We see a fascinating power struggle that is artful and pornographic. It is uncomfortable to watch because we are aroused by what we see.

There are two interesting stories (although neither are fully fleshed)  and time seems to be wasted on unnecessary cityscapes and acrobatic sequences that do nothing to propel their stories forward. Still, this disconnection may have been the director’s intention…these men connect [only] physically.

Th e film is beautifully shot film and it is challenging but it takes a while to become involved. There are many gaps in the plot for us to possibly work out what is going through the minds of these two very complicated men where sex is merely a release for all their internalized rage.

The sexual explicitness doesn’t mean “The Acrobat” should be dismissed as pornography since this is a tale of anger and resentment that must find some outlet.

“Hot Rods” by Greg Scarnici— A Parody of Disco-Era Gay Porn

Scarnici, Greg. “Hot Rods”, Greg Scarnici, 2020.

A Parody of Disco-Era Gay Porn

Amos Lassen

Comedian Greg Scarnici’s “Hot Rods” is a parody of vintage gay porno magazines complete with hot hairy dudes, feathered hair, tube socks, and laughably bad writing. It features actual porn stars Alex Mecum, Stephen Harte. as well as actors and performers from the New York theatre and arts scene. The photos were shot on location in Fire Island.

“’Hot Rods’ is simultaneously filthy, hilarious, brilliant and beautiful.  A gorgeously shot series of insane, unabashed fantasies and a horny, trashtastic throwback to those rancidly written books we hid under our beds before online porn.”

The book features feathered hair, mustaches, beards, speedos, un-manscaped torsos and horribly written erotic stories. Scarnici says,  “I decided to recreate a vintage gay porn magazine here on Fire Island because I came across a few 70’s porn magazines at a thrift store a few years ago and they inspired me on so many levels.” Scarnici told me. “The men all had lean, natural, un-manscaped torsos, the books were so over-designed and the stories were terribly written. Since I live on Fire Island all summer long, I thought it would be fun to recreate one of these magazines using vintage clothes and toupees with some performer friends of mine. The book came together over the course of last summer, and includes five different scenes set in classic Fire Island settings like the Meat Rack and the Belvedere Hotel.”

Gay porn from the ’70s was a lot more down to earth than the porn we have today. There was no manscaping — just natural, hairy physiques on lean men who weren’t overly worked-out. Many had beards or mustaches and shaggy, uncombed hair. The men were a lot more relatable than the perfect models we see today. These are the kinds of guys you’ll find throughout the 100 pages of “Hot Rods.

Scarnici’s parody titillates with sexy photos of muscle hunks in various ‘classic gay porn predicaments,’ and the stories are filled with humor that is satirical and tongue-in-cheek. They all take on the horribly written erotica that was the rule for those early porn magazines. Back then, grammar was terrible, the writer always seemed to fixate on odd things and there was always an undercurrent of internalized homophobia in many of the stories. Scarnici tried to capture all of that mess in the ‘stories’ here.

In “Daddy and Drifter,” a horny guy heads to the beach looking for action and finds it right on the sand. In “New Routine,” two guys get a real workout in the gym after one spots the other on the weight bench. Other stories feature a couple enjoying a lazy day at home, spent having sex on all the furniture; tricking in Fire Island’s Meat Rack; and a leather-clad bathroom hookup.

“Hot Rods” is available for purchase on Scarnici’s site, gregscarnici.com, for a cool $25 (U.S. shipping included). Amazon found it went against “community standards,” so Scarnici decided to self-publish and sell it himself.

“Texas Crude: Stories” by Thomas Kearns— Sordid Passions, Literary Porn

Kearnes, Thomas. “Texas Crude: Stories”, Lethe Press, 2019.

Sordid Passions, Literary Porn

Amos Lassen

Thomas Kearnes’s collection of short stories, “Texas Crude” is quite bold and transgressive. Our characters here are fueled by alcohol and drugs in an atmosphere where maturity is eschewed. The landscape is one of roadside bars and western vistas populated with men looking for sexual release with other men or just plain rest.

Loaded with “smut” and “camp”, we still see humanity but of a different kind and that is man was not meant to be alone. Here the men want to give themselves to each other and sometimes that comes only with the help of crystal meth. Love, if it is indeed love, comes uneasily or not at all. It all seems to be for the pursuit of happiness, be at momentary or long range.

This is erotica and therefore should not shock yet it still manages to do so. The prose is compelling reading and I found myself turning pages quickly thinking that no one should know that I read porn. But there is also what I call “literary porn” and that is what I think “Texas Crude” is.

When we begin to read the early stories, we meet unsavory, unlikeable characters who are shallow and totally pretentious. The men are blue-collar, young, white Texans whose only goals are sexual. But that changes about halfway-through and once into the collection, I find myself really into the action. Here is a book where the men all seem to be transgressive yet with sense and desires. The writing becomes very candid and the stories become very interesting. Living on the edge characters are not for everyone.

 

“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.