Pornography: A Thriller (2009)

Description (from pornographyathriller.com):
Set in the world of gay adult entertainment, Pornography: A Thriller weaves together three different but curiously related stories centering on the mysterious disappearance of quintessential “boy-next-door” porn star Mark Anton.

Major Cast:
Matthew Montgomery as Michael Castigan, Pete Scherer as Matt Stevens, Jared Grey as Mark Anton, Walter Delmar as William/Jason

Written and Directed by David Kittredge

PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER is what it sounds like it is, a thriller set in the world of (gay) pornography.  I should not need to reiterate this, but I will just in case some one isn’t pay attention to that last sentence: this movie takes place in and around the world of gay pornography.  So if you can’t stomach seeing two dudes kissing, or can’t deal with simulated gay sex, or will completely freak out if you see a penis on screen, you might as well stop reading this review right now and move on to something else; if either you are open-minded, or that’s your thing, then continue.

I don’t want people to think that this is a gay porn, because it’s not, the film just is concerning a porn actor’s disappearance and the weirdness surrounding it.  The film is no more hardcore than BOOGIE NIGHTS, though if it were to be submitted t the MPAA I’m 100% sure it would be rated NC-17.  Why?  Because the MPAA has a serious issue with any sort of sexuality that is not “normal” or “puritan” so therefore any guy-on-guy (or girl-on-girl for that matter) love does not sit well with them.  For some examples of what I’m talking about, see the great documentary THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED.  I personally did not feel that this move was any worse than most R rated films dealing with sex… nothing is ever shown graphically – there’s no penetration, or anything along the lines of THE BROWN BUNNY (and yes, I know that movie is NC-17) going on – and there is only one real full frontal shot in the whole flick (with a few other quick flashes).  Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, on to the movie.

P:AT deals with the disappearance of Mark Anton, who got into porn in the mid-90’s, and then dropped out to pursue his work as a photographer.  His sleazy porn producer (is there any other kind? At least, in movies about porn?) offers him a chance to make a bunch of money for an interview with a fan.  No sex, no anything, just sit and talk and get paid.  He decides to take the chance, and surprise surprise, not everything is as it seems to be.  The story then picks up with Michael Castigan, a modern New York author who is writing a book about the world of gay porn, and in doing so becomes involved with Mark’s tale.  Then, with a little weirdness involved, the story moves to L.A. to current porn star Matt Stevens, who has “dreamed” Mark Anton’s story and decided that a porn thriller (ah, it all comes full circle, all the way back to the title even) based on the mysterious former star will be his directorial debut.

At first I did not click on the fact that each act of the story was following a different character, and when the story shifted from Mark to Michael, I scribbled “intro w/Mark too long” in my notebook.  When act 3 hit, and the story again shifted to Matt, I then realized that Mark wasn’t a long intro, but actually the first act of the story. P:AT is a very well written and very well constructed film.  By that I mean not only is the dialogue good and believable, but the story’s twists and turns never go off track.  There is interaction between the three leads in strange ways, but it never felt too contrived.

Actually, P:AT reminded me a bit of MULHOLLAND DRIVE and LOST HIGHWAY… except for the fact that with P:AT I could later trace back the connections.  I’ve seen Lynch’s films many times and there’s still lots I’m completely confused about. P:AT had the weird story arcs and off-beat character connections to be reminiscent of those Lynch films; differing from Lynch, in the end P:AT (mostly) made sense.  While it left me with a few unanswered questions, I think I mostly understood what happened, though I may not have understood how it all happened.  And not understanding it ALL is good, in my opinion, because I’d much rather see a flick where I was intrigued but a little confused, rather than a flick that spoon-fed me pages of exposition and then wrapped everything up neatly just before the feel-good end. P:AT did not cop out to that.

P:AT has a lot of good things going for it.  The aforementioned writing is very solid, and the plot/story is intriguing.  The acting is good all around, from the three leads, to the minor characters, to the menacing Figure (but truthfully the equation “hulking guy + creepy mask + no dialogue = menacing bad guy” almost always works… that’s why we have Leatherface and Jason and Michael Myers and they can be scary for years in a variety of contrived situations) everyone put in good work on this picture.  The direction is also solid; the camera angles and composition are varied enough to keep it interesting to the eye without becoming Mtv.  Even the lighting, often a sore spot in low-budget film, was well done… in fact, many set-ups reminded me of SUSPIRIA, which is rarely a bad thing.

There were a few places I felt P:AT could have been better.  I don’t know if it was my set-up, but the sound levels seemed off in a lot of places.  I found often that the music was too loud, the dialogue too soft, and I had to compensate by constantly adjusting the volume.  Also, the video quality seemed varied – I don’t know if it was shot on multiple types of cameras, but at some points in the movie it looked like “film” while other shots looked more like “video.”  And I do realize that some of it is supposed to look like video, that’s not what I’m talking about.  Along those same lines, the mid-90’s Mark Anton porn looked too neat – it did not feel like what was being watched was a 15 year-old VHS tape.  There were also a few scenes that would have benefited from a larger cast of extras, and some establishing shots.  Also, the film felt 15 – 20 minutes too long; however, as I say that, I can’t think of what I would have cut if I were the director… maybe just some over all trimming and pruning would have helped.  In the grand scheme of things, all of these complaints are minor compared to the overall feeling of the film.

Overall, P:AT was a well-constructed, well-executed film.  The story drew me in, the twists threw me off, and it never felt like the film was going out of its way to explain its self, which I appreciate. P:AT may not find a great audience outside of the gay community, but I hope that any of my readers who are still reading after my opening paragraph will take the time to give it a chance.  The thriller is a genre not often explored in the low-budget film world, because unlike horror a thriller takes a lot more finesse to get to where its going – you can’t just throw a bucket of blood on someone and make them scream… you have to slowly build up to the moment, then strap them to a gurney. P:AT takes the time, and the intelligence, to get to that white room and that empty gurney, and then P:AT straps you in.

Overall 7 / 10

PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1144811/

PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER for sale: http://pornographyathriller.com/see-film.php

PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER is also available for instant streaming on Netflix.

PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER site: http://www.pornographyathriller.com

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