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‘Pornography’ and ‘Greek Pete’ at PLGFF, a comparison review

Pornography-thriller

'Pornography'

This weekend saw yours truly at two of the most boytastic movies of the weekend. Both Pornography and Greek Pete held graphic gay male sex as integral to the plot, though the message and approach was vastly different.

I also experienced a much shorter line at the ladies room than I am accustomed to.

I was highly skeptical of both films as the lights dimmed, and I was rather unsure about Pornography until the very end. But though I would not watch it for pleasure, it raises some very interesting questions about the gaze and what really excites about porn.

But while an almost Dworkin-esque mentality covertly expresses itself in Pornography (thanks for the observation Brooks), Greek Pete is much cagier about any opinions it puts forth on sex work. Director Andrew Haigh expresses it thusly:

The life of a rent-boy is often depicted as either sexy and glamorous or blighted with abuse and drugs. I wanted to try and get closer to the reality and focus on the everyday nature of things..I also decided early on that the project would be worthless unless I worked with people with knowledge of the sex industry.

Though filmmakers often claim a certain artistic form of objectivity Greek Pete is one of the few docu-dramas that really comes close to accomplishing this. And indeed, Pornography does imagine some instances of sex work as pleasurable, such as the main character’s first time, or the more visceral 70s porn that another of the story’s protagonists enjoys.

What comes across as most distinctly horrific is the consumption of the imagery. Do people watch porn to see expressions of pleasure or as a form of schadenfreude, as evidenced by porn’s connection to snuff films. This thriller/horror film style of cinematography is employed in the film itself and critics have mostly examined this David Lynchian structure, even more than the content. But it is explicitly this very structure that enhances the message. It may not have always been successful, as the acting was often poor and the construction formulaic but conceptually it makes a lot of sense.

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'Greek Pete'

This is opposite to the ideals of Greek Pete, which, although fictional, uses real “rentboys” as cast members, with their real life experiences built into the “script.”

It wasn’t until after casting that a rough narrative took shape, changing and developing as the shooting progressed, but always based on real experiences. There was never a script as such, only a story framework, on which all of the scenes were improvised. The blurring of documentary and fiction came very much out of this process, using elements of each to best suit the needs of the story. I wanted the film to be truly authentic, but that did not mean that everything had to be completely real. After all, the life of an escort is filled with variations of the truth, a mixture of reality and fantasy, and I wanted to explore this in the very nature of the film’s construction.

Exceedingly frank, Greek Pete, not only allows but encourages the viewer to laugh at funny situations even as we squirm in our seats and enjoy some graphic depictions of sex while being disgusted, or at least bored, by others. Ambivalence reigns supreme and is never reconciled but the presentations of ambition (expressed) and true love (repressed) are as genuine as the documentary that Greek Pete almost pretends to be.

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