Talking porn with porn stars
With Aroused, photographer Deborah Anderson takes advantage of a nude, fine-art shoot with 16 porn stars to conduct interviews getting more in-depth with them. Avoiding any of their work to start, so she approaches the women with no preconceptions outside of their known profession, she chats with them while they are in hair and make-up, shoots them in the buff for her book, and then follows up with a bit of post-shoot discussion. Mixing them all together via topics and themes, you get a decent array of participants, from big names with cross-over appeal, like Jesse Jane, Belladonna and Lisa Ann (of Sarah Palin parody porn infamy), to lesser-known performers, like April O'neil and Brooklyn Lee.
Through the interviews, Anderson paints a picture of the women's backgrounds, their work in porn, their views on sex and their thoughts on the industry, including negative experiences they've had. Though many fall hard into a number of porn industry cliches, like absentee fathers and heavily religious upbringings, many profess to just enjoy sex and money. The most interesting chat though has to be between Anderson and adult-film agent Fran Amidor, who is blunt and insightful about the industry, never sugar-coating the business' unseemly elements, and the reality that the young girls entering porn today are mainly hungry for attention more than anything else, perhaps making Facebook, Twitter and Instagram gateway drugs for adult films. Her inclusion raises the bar tremendously when it comes to learning anything about this field.
An artist by trade, Anderson makes this film gorgeous to watch, shooting the first half in moody black-and-white, which lends an authenticity to the behind-the-scenes footage and makes the nude modeling a dramatic affair. Once the photos are shot though, the film changes to soft color, as we get up-close and personal with the actresses as they lay around and talk about their work. It has the feel of a round of "pillow talk" following a session of lovemaking, and the switch to color helps define these segments. Though never leering when it comes to showing off the women's bodies, the camera takes on a definite sense of voyeurism, lingering on a curve here, a nipple there, letting the voice becomes a bit disembodied, as if we're ignoring what she's saying to check out her physical beauty. It may not jive with the feminism-focused quotes found throughout the movie, but it certainly makes for a work of art to behold.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is surprisingly nuanced for a film that's mainly about talking, with the center channel holding all the dialogue, and the two side front channels holding some voice echo, as well as a frequent subtle score and some bleed-over sound effects like a hair dryer. The rear speakers get some work when the score steps up, but for the most part the surrounds are just softly present.
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