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Kamikaze Hearts

Kino // Unrated // August 9, 2022
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted October 10, 2022 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:


Directed by Juliet Bashore after meeting adult film star Tigr on a film set in San Francisco, 1986's Kamikaze Hearts explores her relationship with fellow adult film star Sharon Mitchell. The end result is a fascinating blend of fiction and non-fiction, a film that feels very much like a documentary but which isn't quite an actual documentary. In short, it is, like its two subjects, a bit complicated.


When the movie opens, we see a close up shot of Tigr, her bleach blonde mullet clearly anchoring this movie in the era in which it was made Tigr speaks to the camera quite enthusiastically about her first impressions of Mitchell, at which point we cut to Mitchell herself in the back of a taxi cab on her way to the set of her latest adult film production. Cut back to Tigr talking about how her relationship with Mitchell changed her as a person and how she wanted to be more like her.


As the movie progresses, we see Mitchell and Tigr go about their lives. We see them prepare for work on an adult film, we see Mitchell interact with fans, we witness plenty of conversations between them and, towards the end, we see them shoot up.


As we witness all of this, unsure of what was scripted and what was improvised during the production, we learn about the struggles of a lesbian relationship in 1986, issues of class, problems with drug addiction (the scene where they shoot up is reportedly not faked) and friendships formed through various film projects. It is, at times, remarkably intense and consistently fascinating.


When Tigr and Mitchell aren't at the center of the movie, Kamikaze Hearts spends time with equally interesting sidelines as we see Jerry Abrahams directing the latest XXX opus and get to know male porn star Jon Martin. It is, however, the relationship between Tigr and Mitchell that is clearly and deliberately the most important part of the movie, and also the most interesting. Tiger, a bit shy and reserved and sometimes seemingly defeated, admits early in the movie that Mitchell's outgoingness and flamboyant tendencies are part of what attracted her to her girlfriend in the first place, but that doesn't make her any less sympathetic when we see the look on her face as she watches Mitchell have sex with someone else for money.


Little moments like this are scattered throughout the movie and while we frequently sympathize with Tigr, we are, just like she, equally intrigued and drawn to Mitchell, despite her obvious flaws that are very often laid wide open in the movie. The end result is a genuinely interesting and unique film, on that does a great job of exploring the dichotomy that exists between a porn star and her off-screen partner, the foibles of sex work in general, the power of addiction and how love often time truly knows no boundaries. There's no real narrative here, no proper beginning or end to the movie, but it's a genuinely fascinating ‘day in the life' style piece that serves as both an expose and a time capsule of the porno movie industry of the mid-eighties and of a complex and unorthodox lesbian relationship.


The Video:


Kino brings Kamikaze Hearts to region A Blu-ray on a 50GB disc with the eighty-seven minute feature taking up just under 17GBs of space and framed at 1.33.1 widescreen taken from a new 2k restoration. The picture is gritty and grainy, in keeping with its 16mm origins. Colors look decent and detail is pretty strong, but don't expect reference quality here as it seems pretty obvious that the elements just won't allow for that. What you can expect, is an authentically film-like picture that retains the low budget, DIY style in which the film was made. All in all, this looks good in its way, it suits the tone of the film pretty much perfectly, it just isn't going to offer a pristine viewing experience.


The Audio:


The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio track, which comes with with removable subtitles available in English only, sounds fine but, like the video, is limited by the source materials. The audio is a bit on the flat side in some spots but for the most part offers clean, clear dialogue and properly balanced levels.


The Extras:


Extras on the disc start off with a commentary by director Juliet Bashore and actors Sharon Mitchell, Jon Martin and Howie Gordon as well as performance artist Shelly Mars. There's lots of talk about who did what behind the scenes, how the scene where Mitchell talks to an audience during one of her sex shows is really one of the most important scenes in the movie, how the characters in the movie are established, memories of shooting certain scenes, a lot of the little cameos that happen in the movie, memories of working with Tigr and how she's apparently vanished, the very real drug use depicted in the movie, who has passed away since the movie was made, some of the locations that were used for the movie, how Mitchell dealt with being a celebrity in New York when her star was on the rise, some of the problems that arose during the shoot, storyboarding the movie but working with a very loose script, where you can tell parts of the movie that were shot out of sequence, how common Hepatitis-C was in the industry, how Tigr really felt about Mitchell's having sex after Tiger had made the shift from acting to crewing, how Bashore went out and actually got drugs for the shooting up scene and memories of shooting that sequence (Martin is very uncomfortable watching this scene for obvious reasons) and plenty more. It's a very active and interesting conversation with Mitchell and Bashore filling up most of the run time and the others chiming in with specific memories where they can.


The disc also includes separate interviews with quite a few people who were involved with the movie, or at least have something interesting to say about it, starting with Juliet Bashore who speaks for seventeen minutes about she got into film and what her first experience on a set was like, how she learned that this movie was actually a porno movie starring Annette Haven and how this put the idea of Kamikaze Hearts in her head. She then talks about meeting Tigr and her idea to make an 'homage to Sharon Mitchell' and then how she went about making that happen. She then talks about how and why she used two different film stocks deliberately to get specific looks for the porno movie within a movie and the 'documentary' material, how much of the movie was actually scripted, the improvisational nature of the shoot, how the two leads wanted to film an epic and real lesbian love scene, some of the problems that they ran into the shoot and how the lesbian community reacted to the movie when it was first released. She finishes up by talking about how many people who involved with the movie are no longer with us.


Sharon Mitchell speaks for twenty-two minutes about how she started her life as a commodity when the Catholic Church sold her to her adoptive parents for ten thousand dollars, what her childhood was like and the impact that frequent visits from nuns had on her as a kid, moving from parochial school to public school, getting into modelling as a teenager, moving to New York City as a seventeen years old and getting married to get out of the house, getting divorced six months later, doing theater and dance work and then hooking up with an agent to cast porno movies on the side. From here, she talks about getting into adult film with That Lady From Rio. She shares memories from her time in the industry and some of the more memorable movies she worked on, meeting Tigr on the set of Sulka's Wedding and her involvement in the transgender community of the day, how her relationship with Tigr turned into a crazy love affair and drug addiction. She talks about the ups and downs of this relationship, how Kamikaze Hearts was born, how the porn industry changed when video came alone, her struggles with addiction, why she decided to get out of the adult film industry, narrowly surviving an assault and how she turned her life around and went to medical school and started a clinc for the porn industry.


Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens speak for thirty-four minutes about how much they love Kamikaze Hearts, their thoughts on what makes the movie work and how it raises a lot of questions, Sprinkle's friendship and working relationship with Mitchell, how the movie captures what it's like to be on a porno movie set, why people get into porn, how shocking the movie was when it came out and how common drug use was at the time and how Hep-C was spreading because of it. They also cover how the movie portrays a lesbian relationship in a heterosexual world, the movie's importance in the pantheon of lesbian and queer cinema, how it was very divisive among feminists, thoughts on the performances in the movie and the direction, how Sprinkle feels that the movie falls into the 'post-porn' category (which she admits she made up) and what the category means (basically sexually explicit material that deconstructs pornography) and the concept of eco-sexuality and taking the Earth as a lover.


Author/critic Susie Bright speaks for sixty-seven minutes about the movie that she was behind the scenes of for most of its production. She goes on to deliver a fairly chronological look at how she came to be involved in the production, her involvement in the queer art scene and feminist scene of the era, how she came to be one of the first women to write film criticism of adult movies, how she got to know Tigr and Sharon Mitchell and her thoughts on what their relationship was really like, some of the lines in the movie that still really resonate, what it was like on set, some of the locations that were used and plenty more.


Howie Gordon (better known under his adult alias of Richard Pacheco) speaks for twenty-eight minutes about the dangers of shooting pornography in Los Angeles versus San Francisco in the eighties, three freedom that San Francisco allowed, how he wound up getting into the adult film industry in the first place while studying acting with his wife, memories of shooting specific movies and working with specific actresses like Georgina Spelvin and Samantha Fox, meeting Tigr for the first time and his impression of her, what she was like to work with in Nothing To Hide, how Tigr moved from acting to working behind the scenes and how she changed, how he almost wound up in Kamikaze Hearts but opted out to take a better paying job, his thoughts on Mitchell despite never having worked with her and finally, how and why he got out of the business. One minor complaint? When Gordon talks about his relationship with porn star Samantha Fox, the piece uses images of the famous British songstress/page 3 girl instead of the dark haired beauty who starred in movies like Her Name Was Lisa.


Jon Martin speaks for just under four minutes, side by side with Mitchell, about just doing the work, not needing a script, memories of shooting his first scene in the movie and being uncomfortable with the violence in it, how he wound up in the movie to begin with, and whole a lot of the people they collaborated with who have passed on and, finally, how Sharon Mitchell doesn't get enough credit for her work in the industry.


Up next is Crash, a short film that Bashore made in 1994. It's a twelve minute selection of excerpts from her attempt at creating a "fictional" Hollywood version of Kamikaze Hearts made in conjunction with the AFI and Shelly Mars. It was shot in a day and meant to be a sketch more than a finished product. The feature version was never made but it's interesting to see the footage here and how very different it is from the original version that inspired it.


Aside from that, we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, a 2022 re-release trailer, menus and chapter selection options.


Overall:

Kamikaze Hearts is a unique and challenging movie that does an excellent job of exploring the relationship of its two leads and how the porno movie industry it's centered around sometimes wreaks havoc with it. Kino's Blu-ray release looks and sounds about as good as it probably can and probably should and is stacked with interesting extras. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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