Artburn by Greta Christina
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Reviewer Greta Christina has worked in and around the sex industry for over a decade writing about it, editing books about it, and living it. She edited Paying For It, a collection of articles by all kinds of sex workers: dommes, escorts, peep show girls, T-girls. Her novella called Bending is out in Susie Bright's book Three Kinds of Asking For It (published by Simon & Schuster and can be found at amazon.com). In response to overwhelming member requests for reviews of sex toys, sexy films, and other sex whatnots, Ms. Christina brings her girl-about-sex wisdom twice monthly to ALT.com. You can check out Ms. Christina on her web site, [extern url='http://www.gretachristina.com' target='_blank' text='gretachristina.com'].
Art School Sluts
Directed by Eon McKai. Starring Keiko, Lili Anne, Katja Kassin, Felix Vicious, Brooklyn, Talon, Kyle Stone, and James Deen. 100 minutes. VCA Pictures/Old Man Hands Productions. Available at Good Vibrations, www.goodvibes.com
Dammit, dammit, dammit.
I really wanted to like this one. I mean, who could resist the title? It seemed like so much fun -- a good sexy escape from the repetitive hackwork of mainstream porn, starring girls who look funky and freaky and alternativey and not just like every other porn actress in the galaxy. I didn't expect it to be deep or anything, but I did hope that it'd be different.
It's not different. It's exactly the same.
It's true that the performers in "Art School Sluts" have a different look about them. The girls wear Converse sneakers and ratty tank tops; their hair is in braids and funny colors. There's piercings, there's tattoos. One of the guys even has a Mohawk. And there's no big hair, no bleached blondes, no fake boobs. All good things. But they're still all skinny, and young, and white, white, white. And they're still all professional porn actors. They've all (or almost all) done this before, dozens or more times.
Not that that's necessarily a problem. Experienced pros do put in good, special performances sometimes. But they're sure not doing it here. The sex in "Art School Sluts" is just tepid. The performers are disengaged; they don't look bored, exactly, but they do look mechanical, like the fucking and sucking and ass-slapping is just another day at the office. They make those horrible fake porn-grimaces that are meant to look like passion but actually look like constipation; they make those droning, repetitive moans that sound like someone off-camera is reminding them to moan. In the teacher-student scene, the look on the girl's face during the blowjob cum shot is almost frighteningly blank, like she suddenly turned into a pod person right there on camera. And I had no idea that watching a girl with dyed black hair in Japanese rope bondage getting spanked by a guy in a Mohawk could be anywhere near this boring.
So the sex is tepid... and the sex is rote as well. They go through the same damn sex acts and positions that you see in every porn movie, the ones designed to give us a good look at the penetration shot but that look totally uncomfortable and awkward and no fun at all to actually do. They're clearly going for a kinky vibe, but they don't have the guts to take the kink any further than some spanking and hair-pulling and a little rope bondage. (Yes, there's the car crash scene, which I guess is supposed to be an homage to David Cronenberg's sex-and-car-crashes movie "Crash," but it just comes off as pointless and weird.)[See "Long Live the New Flesh" in our "Sex in the News" archives for more on this and other Cronenberg films.] And it has that God-awful lesbian kissing where they keep their mouths open so you can see their tongues. I hate that. Just kiss, for fuck's sake.
Mediocre filmmaking doesn't help, either. The lighting, for one: it's that glaring, garish porno lighting that makes the fucking look like a surgery show on the Discovery Health Channel. Even the good bits get fucked up by bad filmmaking. The worst example is the scene with what looks like one of the movie's few genuine female orgasms -- which gets interrupted when the camera loses focus and swerves away from the woman's face.
And the plot is beyond bad -- it's actually incoherent. I had to read the box cover to figure out who was who, what they were doing, which scenes were supposed to be fantasies and which were supposed to be really happening. The movie is weirdly self-referential, but not in a clever way. It's self-referential in a confusing and stupid way. I mean, I'm perfectly happy to have no plot in my pornos. I don't always care about plot. But... well, that's actually kind of the point. I'd rather have no plot than a dumb, confusing plot that distracts me from the sex. If you're going to do porn with plot, do it right. Otherwise, don't bother.
And attempts to make the movie seem arty just make it seem like a bad, pretentious student art film. No, not even that good. At least a bad student art film has passion, inspiration, something resembling vision. At least a bad student art film looks like somebody cared about it. The arty stuff in "Art School Sluts" looks like nobody cared about it at all. It's really just filler in between the sex scenes. Annoying, pretentious filler.
It's as if the movie was made by people who think art students are hot, but have no idea what art students are actually like. I was particularly amused by the student's dorm room with art that looked like it came from Bed Bath & Beyond. And the music... well, at least it's not that generic video-porn thumpa-thumpa disco, entirely unrelated to the action on screen. Instead, it's generic quasi-experimental electronica, entirely unrelated to the action on screen. Big fuckin' improvement.
I suppose there's nothing really horrible about the movie. In the mainstream porno scheme of things, it's pretty average. And it does have some good bits. I liked the part where the guy is trying to get his dick inside the girl and keeps missing. That's the sort of thing that makes sex seem more real and more immediate, and it's the sort of thing mainstream porn hardly ever shows. Some of the jokes and offhand remarks are genuinely funny as well. Plus many of the girls are cute, and some of the guys are cute, and they're cute in ways you don't usually get to see in mainstream porn. (I especially liked the skinny, nerdy trust-fund boy who looks like Jonathan Richman.)
And there are a few good scenes with genuine connection and pleasure. Well, I won't go that far. There were a few good moments in a few of the scenes. There's a three-way with Mia, Trixie, and Billy (Keiko, Felix Vicious, and Talon), where at one point Trixie really seems to be losing her shit. (That's the scene where the camera swerved away at the crucial moment, damn their hides.) And the final scene with Mia and the trust-fund nerd Johnny (James Deen) wasn't half bad in parts. The intensity faded in and out, but it was there at least some of the time.
But it's not enough. Not nearly. I just keep coming back to the same fundamental problem: it doesn't seem like anybody involved in the production of this video actually cared about it. There's no vision, no imagination, nothing driving it beyond "Let's make a porno with girls who look like art students." And while that's not exactly an enormous surprise in the porno world, in this case it was a definite disappointment. Art-student alterna-girl porn obviously has huge potential -- just look at the success of the Suicide Girls. I just wish they'd done something with it other than slap some funky hair and costumes onto the same old retread porn.
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