Porn stars can make for fascinating documentary subjects, and certainly there has been an uptick in the number of "mainstream" documentaries about porn in the last 15 years, such as Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, Inside Deep Throat, Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, The Girl Next Door, and 9 to 5: Days in Porn.
Dan Hunt's new documentary touches on the life of Buck Angel, a cigar-smoking, tattooed, pierced, muscle-bound guy whose films are popular with gay men, which is a little odd since he has a vagina. Born a female, Buck takes testosterone treatments and had surgery to remove his breasts, but never had "bottom surgery" to alter his genitalia. As shown in Hunt's film, Buck can be somewhat marginalized even within the porn world, where breasts and penises are usually the main attraction. But Buck refuses to accept the labels of "freak" and "oddity," trying to live as a role model for all people to be comfortable with their bodies, modified or unmodified.
During its brief 68 minutes, Mr. Angel explores Buck's current situation and history, with turns expected and unexpected. In his younger female days, Buck was a tomboy who got bad grades and had a difficult relationship with his dad. Shown in present-day interviews, Buck's parents seems happy for their son now, if still not completely able to wrap their heads around Buck's choices and point-of-view. After a stint as a model in the '80s gave the female Buck some serious spending cash, drug and alcohol addiction and a cutting habit followed. But, unlike it is in many melodramas, porn was not Buck's bottoming out. After he had his surgery, things started to turn around for Buck, and porn has given him enough fame to enable him to speak out on subjects like sexuality and heteronormativity, body image and self-acceptance, and even health and nutrition, both in public speaking engagements and on his website.
Buck's partner Elayne specializes in erotic piercing and is the author of The Piercing Bible. The two are shown living in Mexico with a number of dogs, having left the U.S. during George W. Bush's attempts to crack down on the porn business. They come across as a loving, supportive couple, who are surprisingly able to separate their work from their home life.
Apart from a late-film run-in with medical complications, due to the testosterone treatments, Mr. Angel is a little light on present-day drama. (This might account for the shortness of the film.) However, Buck Angel remains an intriguing and inspiring person with a fascinating story. Even if we might just be getting the Cliffs Notes version.
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