Monday, May 01, 2006

CAN YOU DO ONE MORE THING FOR ME?

Big imigration rally in New York today. Gay rights and anti-war protestors angry that Mexicans are stealing their jobs.

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Congrats to Jog for getting a regular Comics Journal gig (actually, congrats to Dirk Deppey for finally getting Jog).

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Well, Friday night turned out a lot better than expected. Evelyn and I pounded drinks for two hours at Revival before watching onlt about 10 minutes of the Daytime Emmys. Her friend's roomate was a line producer on "A Baby Story," which won the award for Best Special-Interest Series or something (they were up against Animal Rescue, Fix You Up Some and... oh, I don't know).

Then we headed over to Detour for Double Down, the "swing" band. I would've called it lounge (as swing makes me think there'll be overly complex dancing involved), but the band calls it swing, and I'm sure they know better. Anyway, lounge would have given me a better idea of what to expect (lots of Sinatra stylings) than swing (there was some swing), especially with the rearrangements (Motorhead's Ace of Spades! Usher, Ludacris and Lil' Jon's Yeah!) which were pretty great. Band was good, drinks were short pours, but I had had enough already. Good times, afterall. Oh, and Evelyn's friend dates the bandleader/vocalist—who sang the wedding song (Ain't That a Kick in the Head on the Sopranos last week (I need to remember this when the dvds come out).

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Somebody got drunk and ordered many things online from a "personal massage" emporium. One of those things was the Jenna Jameson-starring remake of 1990 AVN award-winning film The Masseuse. Included with the remake was the original movie on dvd for the first time.

The original starred Randy Spears as Jim in a pretty fantastic performance as Jim, a 28-year-old virgin looking to finally fulfill his fetishes at a local massage parlour. He meets Barbara, played pretty well by the splendidly pneumatic Hyapatia Lee. Against the backdrop of some somewhat pitful set design, the two enbark on a voyage of manipulation, self-discovery and constantly reversing positions of power within their relationship. The script, by writer Mark Haggard, is a stripped-down psychological examination of obsession and the diminished returns of falling for someone playing a role, even when the line between prostitution and romance starts to blur for the person just pretending.

The battle for dominance is waged between the two characters whenever they're onscreen together, as Jim tries to push Barbara's boundaries back futher at each (and within each) session. At first, Barbara is able to maintain control by asserting issues of money and her schedule, but only really gains an upper hand when she manipulates Jim's emotions, even though her own emotional state suffers in the process.

The key scene in the movie takes place at Jim's apartment, where he at first, unsuccessfully, tries to tie Barbara down with rope until she acquiesces to just remaining immobile while he tries to approximate the massage sessions with himself as the Masseuse. He orders her not to move and rubs cooking oil into her skin in an attempt to reverse the rules and actions of the massage parlour. Things break down when his fixation on her personal articles manifests itself and Barbara is forced to witness a replaying of what Jim must have previously done with the items he stole from her in previous meetings. This is the moment when Barbara is able to assert her emotional control over Jim by retreating just as he's fallen madly in love with her performance.

Barbara tries to distance herself even further from Jim, and his mental state starts to fray completely apart until she gives him the normal (well, pornnormal) physical encounter he needed to break with his fetishes. Unfortunately, it's now that she has found an emotional attachment (probably) and runs away, leaving Jim a lot less healed than she must have thought.

There's a lot of resonance between this film and another from the same time Sex, Lies and Videotape, and the daring psychological subject matter combined with the emptiness at the film's end really sets it apart from any adult movie I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, director Paul Thomas decided to remake his ground-breaking film with 2004's The Masseuse starring "The World's Most Popular Pornstar" as Barbara and Justin Sterling as Jim. To say that Sterling is no Spears would be a bit unfair, as his performance isn't all that bad (even if his penis and 'miss-it-if-you-blink' moneyshots are a lot less attractive), but what WOULDN'T be unfair is to say that Jenna is no Hypatia Lee. Her nose job, 24/7 pornstar appearance and male/female chemistry as flat as her artificial breasts aren't make Jenna about as wrong a choice for Barbara as you can get. Hypatia is mousey, trying to seem jaded in the face of the strange new world she enters. Jenna, on the other hand, plays the part like her busy schedule is made up of going the same rounds with a dozen other guys. Hypatia needs the money from prostitution to feed her baby, subsidize her layabout husband and scratch by on the rent. Jenna apparently needs the money for her SUV payments and unbelievably complex S&M contraptions.

It's not all Jenna's fault as the new illogic clearly comes from the pen of Dean Nash and Paul Thomas's desire to update the look of the film. In the first film, Barbara's husband is a mirror image of Jim. He's an failed writer (Jim has been published) with no source of income (Jim works at a library) who, nonetheless, is by no means a virgin, is a well-adjusted man and a 'good father'. In the remake, Barbara has an adopted kid and her girlfriend seems to be an LA stripper. The husband was a writer with no books, the girlfriend is a girl with tailored thigh-high leather boots. In the first film, Jim's co-worker, Helen, is a young, mousey mirror of Barbara who tries to appeal to Jim's intellect with plans for film-festival dates. In the remake, Helen is a middle-aged office whore who will sleep with the next thing that moves and tries to appeal to Jim's libido by masturbating for him. In the original, Barbara picks up James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men from Jim's bookcase, Jenna picks up a bondage magazine. You never know Spears' state of mind in the first, he might go from obessive to stalker to murderer at any moment and the sense of dread is palpable in his performance. We never get to worry about Sterling's mental state because Thomas ans editor Sonny Malone are insistent on using the now-common-in-porn montage/mTV -style cross-cutting to show us what he's thinking. In the original, Jim awkwardly fails at tying Barbara down with a common rope. In the remake, Jim has the ability to tie himself down and has a shed full of hooks, pulleys, separator bars, cat-o-nine-tails, dental equipment, stockades, portable stripper poles, handcuffs, etc. In the sex scenes, Hypatia Lee is a a woman who just happens to be good at sex; Jenna Jameson is, well, Jenna Jameson and is too fascile (even if her chemistry with men has never equaled what she has with women—something also on display in this movie).

Imagine Michael Bay remaking A Streetcar Named Desire and you'll start to get a sense of just how far off the mark this movie was (not that The Masseuse was ever Streetcar). What a disapointment.

What a long post about a porn film.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jog said...

Thanks! Hope you like the column!

2:16 AM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

Hey, you're welcome! I can only guess what you're saving up for the print version. Even when you say you're too tired to post on your blog, you crank'em out.

3:29 PM  

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