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Talking porn with porn stars
Loves: Documentaries, art photography
Likes: Adult-themed documentaries
Dislikes: Feminist politics
Hates: Cliched porn stars
Getting to really know a porn star seems like a popular activity, with many movies and TV shows dedicated to the pastime. Apparently, watching a person intimately intertwine their bodies with other humans isn't personal enough, so we get movies like Thinking XXX, which combine the opportunity to hear people better known for moaning talk about their lives and careers, while still getting plenty of chance to ogle their well-known and oft-exposed bodies. It's the best of both worlds for the perverted and curious.
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.
A one-disc release, this film is packaged in a standard keepcase, and features an aniated anamorphic menu with an option to play the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the trailer. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. There are no subtitles, but closed captioning is available.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on this film looks gorgeous in both black and white and color. The black-and-white footage has a nice deep contrast and a very clean image, while the color segments feature an appropriate saturation that gets the job done. There are no issues with compression artifacts or any other distractions, and the level of fine detail is very high (occasionally to regretful effect for some of the women) at least when the frequently-soft shooting style allows.
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.
The only extra included is a trailer for the film.
The Bottom Line
Aroused is an unusual film. If you're a fan of these actresses or you've seen other similar documentaries, much of this is a bit repetitive. But the feminist quotes peppered throughout make it seem like it's aimed at female newcomers, who may be turned off by the second half's frequent nudity and brief glimpses of hardcore action. Either way it's a beautifully-shot film for fans of the female form. The disc offers a high level of quality, but nothing much in terms of extras. It's certainly worth a look if a bit of nudity doesn't bother you.
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.Follow him on Twitter
*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.