Saturday, November 27, 2010

DVDebut: Sun/Picker's THE PRICE OF PLEASURE explores the porn explosion

Cinema Libre Studio's current release to DVD -- the hour-long documentary
Sexuality and Relationships-- brings up a subject that has vast ramifications for our society at large. Though its sub-title seems to want to explore what pornography is doing to our sex lives and our significant-other relationships -- and does so, briefly, via a combination of anecdotal evidence and talking heads that belong to both experts (including Robert Jensen) and men/women on (if not of) the street -- the importance of the film, TrustMovies thinks, lies in what it uncovers about our world and the rise in (and "normalizing" of) pornography, not to mention the increasing commodification of sex and women.

The movie but scratches the surface of all that could be said, including what is beginning to seem like a return, where women are concerned, to the virgin-and-whore syndrome (Choose your poison, ladies. Or let the guys do it for you). Yet that surface is replete with so many important notions about what pornography is doing to our minds, souls and wallets that this film from Chyng Sun (pictured at right)
and Miguel Picker (shown at left) is consisently engaging. The most important facts and figures offered by the film arrive early on: Pornography is a business that brings in between ten and fourteen billion dollars annually. According to the documentary, media giants such as Time Warner, CBS and News Corp collectively earn one billion dollars each year from porn -- though they hide this fact as well as they can -- by either directly distributing it, producing it or cross-promoting it via their holdings. There was a time when pornography was considered at least seedy, if not illegal (I would prefer not to go back to those days), but now it is simply the unspoken part of our cultural and economic mainstream.

In The Price of Pleasure, we visit a "SEXPO" (shown above: that's a Sex Expo to you uninitiated) and watch as a fellow photographs the nether regions of a young blond. We see the porn industry's official "Academy Awards" ceremony and hear porn magnets (men, of course) tell us that their industry gives young women a real choice about where they work and what they do. "When your best choice," snaps back an academic who has investigated the scene, "is shoving sex toys inside of yourself, then we'd better look more carefully at the available 'work' choices."

The film looks into porn as a "rite of passage" for young women -- yikes -- together with the constantly upped violence quotient along for the ride. One pornographer notes that, try as one might, you can't get away from the "power" thing, and the way that gender factors into this. The future of American porn, opts another, is violence. When we see examples of this, the images look like nothing so much as the shots we saw a few years back of the torture of imprisoned civilians in Iraq -- with hot-looking women standing in for Muslim men.

Which brings us to the wider connections this short movie may make in our already befouled and befuddled brains. To watch The Price of Pleasure is to be reminded yet again of what's happening in our country at large: Lies, from the swift-boating a couple of elections past to just about anything out of the mouths and minds of the Republican Party, in which, if necessary, black becomes white and day night to prove the "truth" of some new lie. Hypocrisy and denial are staples of how we human beings live, Democrats included, second only to our need for food, water and shelter. But raised to the higher power that they they currently hold, how long before pornography becomes the recommended replacement for love and affection?

TrustMovies freely admits, by the way, that, while he does not seek it out, hardcore stuff -- gay or straight -- does indeed turn him on. For a time. But a little goes a long way, and any connection to violence turns him off quicker than a punch in the scrotum. Some hardcore images arise in The Price of Pleasure, but linked as they are to the accompanying condemnation, I think few will find a turn-on here. The film -- from Cinema Libre Studios and unrated -- is for adults, all right. But thinking adults only. It will be available this coming Tuesday, November 30, for sale rather than rental, it seems, as I cannot locate it on either Netflix or Blockbuster.

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