Judge Brett Cullum Brazillian waxes poetic.
Pornography for the eggheads.
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is a celebrated photographer (and sometimes film maker) who created a sensation in 2004 with his portraits of pornographic celebrities called XXX. The conceit was that he took two pictures of each adult film star, one clothed and one in the buff. The portraits were shot in the exact same poses, echoing classical masters who often painted two versions of their models. The naked ones featured full make-up, so they appeared as they do in their videos. The revelation was in the casual portrait which showed men and women in their normal clothes, relaxed and comfortable—because strangely enough, the porn actors looked more naked as themselves than when they were giving the camera the full monty. The portraits were published in a large coffee table size book with essays by pop critics to accompany the pictures. Now along comes the DVD Thinking XXX which features documentary footage of the sessions, interviews with the stars, and celebrity interviews with people like John Waters and Gore Vidal on what porn means to them. It was first aired as a 43-minute HBO documentary, but now is presented in a 60-minute form for DVD. It also features an unprecedented three hours of extracted footage, and a glimpse at shots that didn't make it in to the book. Welcome to porn heaven!
The featured porn stars include:
The documentary follows the portrait shoot, and allows the stars to talk about their experiences and thoughts on the industry. It flows very well, as the subjects are collaged together to go back and forth on similar themes. The stars talk from experience, and the pop culture critics spin the academic viewpoint. Everyone comes off as intelligent, well adjusted, and proud of what they do. Don't expect any cautionary tales; these are professionals who handle themselves well. Who knew porn stars were so smart, or that smart people loved porn so much? This is a business, and these are not lost souls who turned to this industry out of desperation. It's important to note that Timothy Greenfield-Sanders only chose successful bona fide stars, so no victims are allowed. His cadre of flesh icons are at the top of the industry, and coveted by millions.
Conservatives and moralists would have you believe the porn industry is a hideous monster that creates cretins and fools. It certainly has a well-deserved reputation for having a dark side, but the stars of Thinking XXX prove it is an industry where the young and hung can find success and run a business. These people are frighteningly sincere, normal types who just happen to make a living bumping uglies for the world to watch. Yet they dream, thrive, and aspire to build lives just like anyone else. I was shocked at their elaborate, tastefully decorated homes, well appointed cars, and demure fashion sense away from the porn set. The brilliance of what Timothy Greenfield-Sanders has done is that he's challenged our notions of glamour. He's pierced the veil of a dirty industry to show a silver lining where underground celebrities show they belong up there with the ones we pay $8.50 or more to see on the big screen. Porn makes more money than traditional cinema in gross profit, sells more units at higher prices, and is an industry ruled by women who are paid much more highly than their male counterparts. It's an amazon kingdom where people like Jenna Jameson call the shots, and Ron Jeremy has to be approved by his female partner before he makes it on to the screen.
The transfer is straightforward. The feature was broadcast on HBO first, and is in a fullscreen traditional television aspect ratio. Be sure to adjust your widescreen sets, or sexual organs may appear grotesquely stretched to unbelievable proportions. It's clear, but not amazingly so. Whoever filmed the footage wanted a soft focus to the proceedings which adds to the romantic vision of pornography as legitimate and glamorous. The well chosen soundtrack comes thumping at you from only two speakers, so nothing to fill your room except dialogue and some vintage Velvet Underground songs. With this much flesh on display, you'll hardly notice.
The extra features on this disc are amazing, and as well executed as the feature itself. The additional footage comes in thirty chapters accessible by each star's name. So if you only want to hear from Jenna Jameson you can do that, and skip all the rest. The only problem is there is no "play all" selection, so you can't watch the two hours of extra footage as a feature unto itself. Each star gets to speak uninterrupted, and in depth about their personal experiences. There is another hour of extra footage with people like Karen Finley, and the other pop culture critics. Everyone has a lot more to say about pornography, and it's a breathtaking four hours of discussion about the sex industry. On top of all this there is also footage showing gallery openings for the XXX show from setup to star-studded arrivals in both NYC and LA. You won't believe the movie stars who show up to gush over the porn stars. It's amazing to see Ben Stiller get excited to meet Nina Hartley, or Mickey Rourke and Oliver Stone bashfully ask for an autograph from a porn star who asks "Now what's your name and how do you spell that?." Then there is the extensive photo gallery on top of everything else. You'll find yourself XXXhausted in a good way with this DVD.
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