2 June 2007 | Nodriesrespect
A True Original, For Better or Worse
Ted Roter (a/k/a "Peter (sometimes Pierre) Balakoff") was a peculiar man. Born in Brussels in 1930 to Jewish parents, he was orphaned during the war. He survived in a refugee camp where the acting bug bit him. As an adult, he crossed the Great Atlantic to make his name as a supporting actor on numerous B westerns and TV shows, though he had already achieved a degree in psychology with a resulting psychiatric practice in his homeland. He founded the well-regarded Santa Monica Playhouse yet simultaneously embarked on a career on both sides of the camera in pornographic film-making, wearing his ethnic heritage on his sleeve by adopting the moniker "Tovia Borodyn" or even "Tovia Israel" as a performer ! His highly idiosyncratic adult movies initially favored plot and not always well-motivated histrionics over erotic content but he would yield towards carnal convention near the end of his career with THE MASTER AND MS. JOHNSON, RING OF DESIRE and SCANDALOUS SIMONE. He passed away at the dawn of the new millennium, aged 70.
From the pretentious early stages of his creative career, PAUL, LISA AND CAROLINE (also known as FORBIDDEN or, inappropriately, CLOSET CASANOVA !) strives to be the type of torturous relationship drama that John Cassavetes was then gaining fame and, in some circles, notoriety for. Paul (Roter, a smugly handsome leading man) is a middle-aged director of TV commercials who has a longstanding on-again, off-again relationship with actress Lisa (Diane Miller) when he marries much younger fledgling writer Caroline (Gena Lee) out of the blue. Initially apprehensive of one another, the two women end up falling in love, excluding Paul from their union, with tragic results. That's the gist of the story but somehow that's not the way Roter tells it. Events occur with little regard for continuity, so much at times I thought the projectionist (yep, I saw this theatrically, screened at the good old ABC theater in Brussels Roter's place of birth a mere 2 weeks ago !) had the reels all mixed up. What scant reviews have appeared over time concerning the director's early works however seem to indicate that this seemingly random approach to narrative was in fact an entirely intentional attempt at art-house loftiness.
As usual for this filmmaker, the cast largely consists of people who never seem to have worked for anyone else (theater refugees picking up an extra paycheck perhaps, hoping few would witness their naughtier exploits ?) like the scrumptious Gena Lee (who handled the role of the mentally unstable Manon in ONE PAGE OF LOVE with more aplomb than one would expect in porn), smoldering brunette Diane Miller (also in THE PSYCHIATRIST a/k/a ALL THE DEVIL'S ANGELS) or the dependably hammy John Hollyfield. Keep an eye out for an early appearance by '80s performer Robert Bullock (star of Chuck Vincent's terrific VOYEUR) under the name "Richard Parness". Sex scenes are as chopped up as the rest of the narrative, rarely allowing for any erotic tension to build. Still, the Sapphic bit between Lisa and Caroline just prior to the flick's downbeat conclusion merits a mention. A self-made man, Roter started out making adult movies unlike anyone else. That's not necessarily a good thing