In 10 Words or Less
Get to know Francois Sagat's sad story
Likes: Adult film documentaries
Dislikes: Gay porn
Hates: Getting depressed by documentaries
Upon learning about this film, I found it unusual that Sagat would be selected as a documentary subject. Of all the Street Fighter characters, you'd think that they'd first go with maybe Ryu or Ken, as the long-time stars of the series, or perhaps the mysterious Blanka, but instead the powerful Muay Thai fighter gets... (Ed. Note: please hold while I explain something to Francis.)
...Really? Are you sure? Ok. Apparently the Sagat who stars in this documentary is not the eyepatch-wearing fighting-game villain but rather Francois Sagat, the internationally popular gay porn star. Naturally, that makes for quite a different film, though there is certainly still a lot of in-close contact between shirtless muscular men.
Sagat isn't one of those mainstream porn stars, like a Jenna Jameson or a Ron Jeremy, for two good reasons. One is his native tongue, as he speaks French, and the other is his sexual orientation, which, if you haven't been paying attention, is a pretty big issue for a lot of people. If you're going to need the Supreme Court to settle an issue like marriage equality, you're going to have trouble breaking through as a professional gay-sex haver. But amongst his fans, Sagat is a pretty big deal, largely due to his massive build, massive endowment and good looks, but also because he's got something of a unique personality and background. Which is why he's got his own documentary, unlike all those other gay porn stars you know.
Right off the bat, when we first meet Sagat, he's presented like a sex god, done up like a glam gladiator, in sparkling, spiky armor, dancing for an appreciative audience. But as we get to know him a bit better, via his own stories and testimonials from people who have worked with him, including porn directors Chi Chi Larue and Bruce Labruce and actors Wilfred Knight, Dean Monroe and Ethan Anders, it becomes clear that he's a bit more complicated than your average porn star. Talking about how he got into porn, his artistic leanings and the loneliness and unhappiness he's long experienced, it's a pretty fascinating exploration of who he is, though that may be in part because when he speaks so philosophically in French it sounds something like a Truffaut film. When he discusses his younger years, including his hair loss (which resulted in a massive tattoo on his head), his view of masculinity and the mistreatment he experienced due to his effeminate nature, it's an intriguing story, though it does get a bit undercut by all the footage of him dancing around half- or fully naked.
At just 40 minutes, the film is exceedingly short, padded out by clips from performances and short films Sagat starred in, including him taking a shower and posing in costumes; and what could be rather interesting, including his thoughts about the challenges of being a male porn star (like the ways erections are brought about), the phenomenon of gay-for-pay, the wide world of "water sports" and his opinions on protection, are just briefly touched upon before quickly moving on. One wonders what the rush was, to get it all in under 40 minutes, and why all the dancing and fancy touches, like shots of Sagat with images of himself projected onto his own body, couldn't have been left out to get more about who he is into the movie.
The end result is interesting and looks creative and artistic, but perhaps his story's just not complex enough to have filled out a feature-length film. Perhaps instead, he could have been the centerpiece of a wider-ranging film on the gay-porn industry. Either way, the film did itself no favors as far as reaching a wider potential audience by including a great deal of hardcore gay porno footage, including full penetration and completion. Some simple editing could have allowed these clips to serve the same purpose without getting explicit, saving the harder material for an extended cut. This version may appeal to his fans, but the opportunity was there to introduce this man's story to many more.
The film arrives on a single DVD, which is packed in a standard keepcase. The disc features a static, anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the film and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English..
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks quite nice when it comes to the new footage shot for this film, or the short films it borrows from, while the archival footage and much of the adult film scenes look a touch rough. The overall level of fine detail is quite impressive for DVD (even if some scenes have a hazy, dreamlike quality, and the color is spot-on, with no issues with digital compression artifacts.
Delivered via a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, the audio, offering a mix of English and French, is quite good as well, keeping fine separation between the film's strong dance soundtrack and the dialogue of the participants. Some of the audio is a bit tinny, but it seems like more of an issue with the recording (which took place in what seems like a bathroom.) There's nothing dynamic about the mix, which keeps things center-balanced, but it is a documentary after all.
There's quite a good deal of bonus material included on this DVD, over 80 minutes in all, which can be viewed individually or as one large pile. Pretty much everything here is seen at one point in the film, but in the bonus content it's presented in it's complete form. It starts with an interview (4:13) with Sagat as he draws in his sketch book. A talented illustrator, he talks about how he started drawing and his technique, showing off one of his lesser-known aspects. There's more interview material with him in the 8:52 "The Silly Interview," which sees him answer a barrage of personal and personality questions, like what his favorite color is and his taste in guys. Though it's labelled as "silly" it gets a bit deep at times, especially when talking about his thoughts on love and happiness.
The biggest chunk of the extras is called "Private Videos" (35:20), which is made up of a variety of odd, disjointed clips, from him lounging around a hotel room naked and trying on a banana hammock to him dancing, pouring milk on his head and making out with a woman. Though a lot of it is focused on admiring his body or fetish play, two bits stand out, one a lengthy segment featuring him and a friend in clown and mime make-up and not much else, and the other involving tea, Pepperidge Farm cookies, licking a fridge and masturbating. Needless to say, Sagat comes off as quirky and artistic, and if you're not a fan of him or the male form, these are a test of your patience.
The remaining four featurettes (or short films) are essentially music videos showing off Sagat nude or mostly nude. "My Dolls" (13:56) features him in a few different skimpy costumes with full head masks (and would be too long and repetitive no matter what your interest in the person in the spotlight), while "The Shower" (10:41) spends its time ogling Sagat in, obviously, the shower. Meanwhile, "Projections" shows him nude, with various videos projected over him, and "Francois, as You Have Never Seen Him" (2:21) is just him working out. In watching them, they reminded me a lot of the old Playboy videos, which would put a beautiful woman in a situation and just let the camera capture every inch of her lovingly. Well, here's the gay version, starring Sagat (and he gets much better music than I remember from those Playboy videos.)
Also included is a trailer for the film, which is actually just the first few minutes of the movie.
The Bottom Line
For as interesting as Sagat is as a person, this documentary has a lot working against it, not the least of which, for most people, will be the large amount of hardcore gay porn footage included (most of which is gratuitous in terms of telling the story, even if his fans might enjoy it.) But even beyond that, it's a very short film, and the extras, which are mostly extensions of content in the film, don't add much more. If you don't have a big problem with gay porn though, there's an interesting story and a visually-appealing style of documentary, presented in fine quality. It's not going to be for everyone, but for those who will watch, it's worth a look.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.