3 August 2010 | lor_
Pretentious porn tries way too hard
Wall-to-wall sex in a porn film or video gets no respect: people may like to watch it for stimulation but nobody has anything nice to say about it. ALL-American HUSTLER disastrously goes to the opposite extreme, being a pretentious piece of junk "with a message", whose director seems to have thought he was the next John Cassavetes rather than a XXX hack.
I found it interesting only as a throwback. In the mid-'60s much of the best softcore porn, typified by the Findlays and other NYC maestros, was underground, independent filmmaking following in Andy Warhol's footsteps. The line between porn and "experimental" had yet to be drawn. Later on porn became codified and regimented in format, and only a few risk takers, notably Joe Sarno and Chuck Vincent, tried to make real films.
But one "Huck Walker" turns the clock back ten years in HUSTLER, giving us a film that at times could almost be mistaken for an indie Spirit Award aspirant (both Sundance and the IFP had yet to be founded, however). Replete with countdown "day & time" cards superimposed scene by scene, the film limns the downward spiral of a prostitute, with a serious tone that would do Agnes Varda for CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 proud.
Mickie Lynn as anti-heroine Carol is effective in portraying existential despair, but even post DEVIL IN MISS JONES, this film's most obvious forebear, her act is hard to swallow (pun intended). Carol and the script simply protest too much; the viewer is fed up long before the predictable finale.
Carol's various tricks over a couple of days aren't very interesting -a bunch of ugly guys pawing her. I guess I made the Cassavetes connection (unwarranted) because they collectively reminded me of Val Avery in FACES, or his even more unseemly appearance mistreating Yoko Ono in SATAN'S BED. None dare call this entertainment, or significantly, stimulating porn.
No, pseudo-Huck is out to impress with his verbose (but very poorly recorded) dialog, studied to be seedy atmosphere, and inane digressions, notably several songs sung on camera to break up or perhaps comment on the action. An abstract extreme closeup of the forearm of Carol's best buddy, addict Candy (played by Candy Kay), shooting up heroin and bleeding for the camera, outdoes even Abel Ferrara/Zoe Lund's harrowing similar sequence in BAD LIEUTENANT.
Perhaps suicide is preferable to living "the life", as Carol argues in the final reel to Candy. Maybe self-important pornographers like "Huck" should take this lesson to heart, and do us all a favor.