It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Fantasy is essential to pornography - and especially to porno films, where the dispassionate camera tends to turn fiction into documentary. Actors can play characters only so long as they have their clothes on; nude actors, unless they're very good, tend to end up playing themselves. And then reality creeps in and changes the terms of the understanding. Among the pitfalls to be avoided by the successful pornographer are such aspects of reality as genuine emotion, a sense of irony and (as someone once observed in a review of Andy Warhol's "Flesh") pimples. These observations are abundantly illustrated in "A Labor Of Love," a documentary by Robert Flaxman and Daniel Goldman about the making of an X-rated movie.
The movie, titled "The Last Affair" and shot in Chicago during the winter of 1974-75, was subsequently re-edited and re-shot to quality for an R rating -- and there's the first irony, given the heroic difficulties presented by the X scenes in the first place. The premise of "The Last Affair" was to be a simple one. The movie was about a male brothel where women could go to fulfill their sexual fantasies. There were thin prostitutes and fat ones, ones in leather and others in monk's robes and one who would pretend to be Daddy. The various fantasies would provide the sex scenes, there'd be a supporting plot about one woman's reasons for going to the brothel and that would be the movie.
The filmmakers gave Flaxman and Goldman the run of their sets and permission to interview the performers and crewmembers. The result is an absorbing document that is likely to put even the dirtiest old man off porno movies for at least a month. Because what "A Labor of Love" captures is exactly what pornography cannot permit: the human reality of the sexual experience.
This is demonstrated most memorably in the failure of the leading Man to achieve what my colleague Ron Powers once called "the sine qua non of the hard-core film." In an interview before his big scene, the star, a bearded and macho type, explains that he's always been into "heavy sex -- kinky stuff" and loves it. His leading lady seems somewhat less confident: "We went out to get sort of acquainted, you know? And he drank about 20 tequilas and said he was also stoned on something else, and, wow . . .."