The Pornographer

by | Sep 12, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Pornographer

Starring: Jéan-Pierre Léaud, Dominique Blanc
Directed by: Bertand Bonello
Studio: Haut & Court/Koch Lorber Films
Video: 1.66:1 enhanced for 16:9, color
Audio: DD stereo, French
Subtitles: English
Extras: Original French trailer; The Adventures of James and Davis (short film by Bonello)
Length: 106 minutes
Rating: ***

Warning: Film fans may be used to European films being more explicit
than Hollywood product, but this one takes explicitness to a whole new
level. After all,  the main character is the pornographer, and it
would be difficult to avoid showing him at work.  The staid BBC
observed that this was a “thoughtful character study in which
pornography can be read as a metaphor for the practice of
filmmaking.”  Jacques had been a popular director of porno films
in the 70s;  his only son had left home when he found out what his
father did. It is unexplained what Jacques did in the interim — perhaps
he was questioning his career — but he returns to the industry and
finds that things have changed greatly. He is unable to recreate the
passion he had for his work back then, and in one scene his assistant
has to take over directing when Jacques is running the production over
budget with his inconsistencies and too-poetic ideas. Slowly Jacques
begins to look at his life and become depressed with what he finds. He
gets back together with his son but strangely decides to leave his wife.

Not only is the one lengthy sex scene being filmed (and its setup)
disturbing, but I was personally disturbed to see Jean-Pierre Leaud, so
familiar to me as a young man in the many wonderful Truffaut and
Goddard films, now looking old, tired, out of shape and washed out. The
classical selections heard on the film’s soundtrack at several points
were gloriously appropriate to many of the scenes — recalling Kubrick’s
skills in matching existing classical works to on-screen images. One of
Leaud in a rowboat on a pond in a park-like setting sticks in my mind.
The transfer is entirely successful and the sound excellent. The short
film by the director is not worth watching; I would think Bonello would
be embarrassed by it. One wonders how he got to direct this major and
controversial feature with that as his calling card.

— John Sunier

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