Theatrical Review: PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER
Writer: David Kittredge
Director: David Kittredge
Cast: Matthew Montgomery, Pete Scherer, Jared Grey, Walter Delmar
Studio: Triple Fire Productions
Writer and director David Kittredge’s feature film debut, PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER may strike audiences with its bold title, but the film works more off of attempting to flummox its audience than titillating them with taunt flesh or genuine thrills. It’s most certainly an ambitious project, one that seems to draw comparisons to David Lynch left and right, but the film tackles so many different styles and stories that it’s hard for it to hold up over time.
The film opens with the story of porn star Mark Anton (Jared Grey). Mark is trying to break out of the industry and live an honest life, despite the insidious attempts of his manager, Billy (Nick Salamone, like a poor man’s mix of Enrico Colantoni and Chazz Palminteri) to get him back into the game. An unlikely offer pushes Mark to one last gig, which takes a massive turn for the worst. But before we get a chance to properly explore what is surely the “thriller” aspect of the film, Kittredge jumps into a new act with new characters; it’s part of PORNOGRAPHY’s gimmick – the film is chopped up into three different acts with new players, all apparently tying together through the story of Mark Anton.
Of course, as is often the problem with films that attempt to break their acts into mini-stories, it’s easy to feel disconnected from our main characters. Instead of a fully developing the plots (and, conversely, an emotional connectivity with our characters), Kittredge’s leads get just enough time to lure us in before we are on to the next subplot. As the supposed lynchpin of all the film’s stories, Grey just begins to develop Mark into a watchable and interesting character until he is (temporarily, in a way) pushed aside to move us into the film’s next act. We are clearly supposed to care most about Mark and what has happened to him, as that is the driving force behind all the film’s plots, but he spends over half of his first act screen time coming across as almost entirely intolerable and boring. Just as Mark blossoms into a fuller character, Kittredge twists the film into its darker, pseudo-psychological, faux-Lynchian plot points, and our main character is tossed into the ether.
The second act of PORNOGRAPHY is much tighter and miles more tense. Set fourteen years after the Mark Anton-based first act, it follows Matthew Montgomery as writer Michael Castigan, who has just moved into an apartment that may have a shady past (and direct ties to Mark). Michael is writing a book about the previous decade’s porno industry, and all sorts of stories and creepy mailed-in photos teem to point him back to Mark Anton. And then, just as before, just as Michael’s stories pulls us in, we suddenly jump plots (and coasts) to end up practically in Matt Stevens’ lap.
Whereas the set-up of Michael’s book-writing allows a somewhat clever way to present evidence, the third act goes right for shark-jumping waters. Pete Scherer’s Matt taps into the Mark Anton story via automatic writing. Porn star Matt awakes one night, filled with the story of Mark, and begins penning a script based on what’s coming to him – the twisted world of whatever may have happened to Mark. Oh, and then other characters from previous plots shows up, except they are portraying other people. Oh, and then there’s an angel. And shades of MULHOLLAND DRIVE mixed with the SAW films. Over-inflated and too ambitious? Certainly. A bold first feature? Absolutely.
The title and subject matter should tip you off that there is an influx of amorous homosexual sex, as captured expressly for the porn cameras or between lovers (new and old). But while the film continually discusses the nature and necessity of pornography and how actual romance and love play a part within it, the sex scenes are all remarkably cold and distant. Instead of making us feel as we if know the characters better, all that sex diminishes what we think we know and how we perceive connections between them.
At nearly two hours, the film would benefit immensely from some judicious pruning (slice out some of that unnecessary sex, a term I never thought I’d use) and a closer adherence to the tension that runs through its second act.