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  • After watching a dozen Kendo videos (actually just scratching the surface -he's a prolific pornographer), I'd like to be fair and give his pros vs. my cons regarding the self-appointed XXX visionary, to use the film industry's ill-conceived term. Many "Behind the Scenes" short subjects comprised of Kendo lecturing us gives me a strong view of where he's coming from, taken at face value.

    He cites STILETTOS in both the BTS accompanying it on DVD and the BTS of a subsequent film CHIC aka CHIC SEX, as his major departure in style. Noting that he moved on from gonzo porn to an abstract, sensual approach back in 2004, Kendo calls his current STILETTOS approach a "splintering" where the film is created in the editing room, after elaborate storyboarding and planning of shots in the first place, to integrate the distinct sex scenes into a kaleidoscopic whole, with visual themes and motifs woven throughout.

    This is in contradistinction to the lion's share of 21st Century porn production, as Kendo rejects both the gonzo camp (from which he hailed and got bored to death) and the linear storyline school (he rejects the corniness of "then he said this, then she did that" which us old fogies call a narrative. You know, "one damn thing after another" with the key word being "after").

    It is that rejection of narrative outright that leaves me cold about all of Kendo's work. I guess I'll have to sit through 100 videos to prove that point, but thus far, whether watching his British output for daring! Media or Harmony Films, vs. his big-budget productions for Marc Dorcel, the disdain for story and characters is a dead-end, especially when he's assigned to actually tell a story - as in MADEMOISELLE'S STALLIONS and LOLA REVE THE VIRGIN, both for Dorcel.

    So at his best, Kendo is working in a vague field dubbed Art Porn, of which Andrew Blake (or his successors) are the chief practitioners in bringing fetish porn out of its closet into the open. Kendo does not do fetish per se, but his videos are loaded to the brim with various fetishes, as far afield as panty fixation, smoking and in this case, good old foot fetish.

    Striking compositions are his stock in trade, but even here I have more than a quibble - Kendo uses the old CinemaScope ratio (2.35 to 1 or even more exaggerated) as his starting point, and then crops (likely in-camera) to give just fragments of the shots. Then he further fragments the shots via editing, and uses frequent repetition of favored shots to develop a motif, not unlike the methods of underground or experimental filmmakers dating back to Maya Deren.

    Would that this procedure yielded interesting results. For me all the potchking around the director does is self-defeating. Breaking up sex scenes into brief or unresolved fragments is certainly artsy but defeats the intrinsic arousal potential of the footage, demonstrated by over 40 years of widely disseminated porn that takes the opposite approach. Even K's artful repetition evokes an undesired reaction in the viewer of being cheated (I recall in the '80s how disappointed I was when watching porn where parts of scenes, especially once video production took over, were repeated endlessly to pad the running time).

    Now perhaps Kendo should be the artist who adapts J.G. Ballard to the screen - not the Spielberg Ballard (Empire of the Sun) nor the Cronenberg Ballard (Crash) but the avant garde '60s and '70s Ballard of concentrated novels (his brilliant less-than- a-page complete novels) or his abstract mood pieces of "Vermilion Sands" or the concept books like "Concrete Island" and "High Rise". They require pure style and mood, not narrative -in a way Ballard became anti-narrative which is why I can relate his work, however far-fetched, to Kendo's porn.

    In STILETTOS, the title shoes appear very briefly and rarely on screen -their omnipresence would certainly seem "corny" to Kendo. But what we do see is intense and often distorted imagery of primary sexual characteristics: the dick and the vagina, often so stylized that one assumes an artist is at work. But to come back to my initial premise, for me Kendo once again has wasted or at least frittered away via his splintering the abilities of top talent like Loz Lorrimar and Valentina Cruz to arouse the viewer with their (in other contexts) stimulating sexuality.

    Henry Jaglom, the high priest of the banal, started his career splintering with his film A SAFE PLACE (after cutting his cinematic teeth as editor on Dennis Hopper's EASY RIDER), before making a U-turn and rejecting narrative in favor of a crypto-Cassavetes situations (without the comedy) cinema. Perhaps the next phase of Kendo's evolution will be more satisfying than getting a splinter in one's eye.