Film Reviews

The June 24 to 26 weekend, Webster University’s film series offers two unconventional, confrontational selections: “Pleasure” and “Lux Æterna.” Screening first, immensely controversial upon its belated release, Swedish writer/director Ninja Thyberg’s “Pleasure” will continue to invite debate for its explicit portrayal and indictment of the porn business.

Arriving in L.A. from Sweden, twenty-year-old Linnéa, who goes by the screen name Bella Cherry, aspires to become the most celebrated porn star, though she’s inexperienced and clueless concerning the production of this product. Chasing her dream, determined to succeed, Cherry accepts hard core, eventually degrading and violent, pornographic scenes for several directors. Presented without restraint or a judgmental approach, it is left to viewers to decide how they feel about the increasingly brutal sexual action.

In interviews, director Thyberg says she wanted the presentation to be authentic, to begin discussion acknowledging that “porn is a huge part of our culture and it’s not going to disappear because we keep it in the shadows and pretend it doesn’t exist.” She adds we should bring this industry into the daylight and see that these workers are human beings. But be aware that “Pleasure” presents a no-holds barred dramatization of the pornographic sex included herein. There are also scenes with the actresses that allow them to laugh, bond, express their reactions, and fight with each other, demonstrating that they are, indeed, individuals. However, given the crude sexual scenes, the film “Pleasure” offers anything but that for actors in the trade, especially for Bella Cherry, in a fine performance by Sofia Kappel, as she struggles to excel at her chosen profession.

In the later film, “Lux Æterna,” two actresses sit in split screen conversing about less than pleasant production experiences. Soon these two, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Béatrice Dalle, move to the set of “God’s Craft” for a witch burning scene. Director Max and producer Judas clash with the crew as chaos ensues. Be warned that the last ten minutes of this 52-minute film relies entirely on strobe effects, quite unpleasantly so.   

“Pleasure” screens at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium June 24 to 26 at 7:30 each of those evenings. “Lux Æterna” screens at 10:00 those nights. For more information, you may visit the Webster University film series website.

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