American Porn Tales I: Meet Monica Velour

September 16, 2011 | By

Sorry for the big time gap, but the past week’s been rather nutty. I’ve several review clusters coming up this weekend, which will make up for the dearth of blather at (Intelligent and provocative blather, I might add.)

On to this week’s update, which I’ve dubbed ‘American Porn Tales’ because it’s an American filmmaker exploring issues of morality within the conservative realm of U.S. film, in terms of what the MPAA prefers gets made for general consumption (no ‘NC-17, please’), the studios (frankness & wrongness is too tough to advertise), and advertisers (although one suspects that with physical mags and papers hungry for ad revenue, the aversion towards carrying ads for NC-17 films has weakened).

Years ago, when I was reviewing a trio of classic erotic films, I wondered what it would be like if an avid fan met an idol, and came face to face with her age, her career outside of the film world, and I pondered whether he would be able to cope with those changes, after having this fantasy exist in the mind for years.

No, not me (although I’ve a different story regarding obsession & celluloid unreality in the works), but it’s a thought that could easily apply to any icon who once made a splash in TV, film, or fashion, and chose to drift into deep private life, or befell a terrible fate.

Greta Garbo shielded herself from all cameras after she stepped away from moviemaking, as did Marlena Dietrich, and Bettie Page, for that matter. They wanted to be left alone, and preferred privacy after a very public career in film, theatre, or the erotic / adult world.

In the case of porn stars, fans probably know every aspect of an adult star’s body, and because their fame relied on their actions, personality, and total physical being, there’s the question of whether fans could handle the affects of aging and illnesses, or a performer just being comfortable with whatever life has wrought, and their decision not to hide anything nor opt for cosmetic tweaking.

Billy Wilder twice explored the ‘What if’ of a big star long out of the limelight: first in the mordant black comedy-drama Sunset Boulevard (1950), where the great Nora Desmond simply went bonkers as she slipped into a delusional world; and later in Fedora (1978), where a producer attempts to lure a reclusive actress out of deep seclusion.

In Garbo Talks (1984), director Sidney Lumet played with Garbo’s myth in a story where a dying woman desperately wants to meet her idol – again following the theme of fans wanting a personal encounter and emotional connection with a celluloid idol.

Hardcore porn being taboo in mainstream Hollywood product means a story involving a real porn star was also taboo if a filmmaker wants to be graphically faithful to the subject’s world (i.e.: pickles & beavers in locomotion).

When P.T. Anderson focused on the lives of seventies adult film stars in Boogie Nights (1997), that epic (a sometimes meandering, indulgent, but brilliantly rendered) drama followed the rise and fall of John Holmes-inspired Dirk Diggler, going from a well-hung schlub to porn star, drug dealer, has-been, and pre-credit redemption.

For the lead and some supporting characters, most things turned out pretty good, whereas in the 2003 (unofficial) follow-up drama, Wonderland, the focus was the messy decline into drugs and murder trial which thoroughly destroyed the real John Holmes’ reputation prior to his death from complications due to AIDS.

The comedy The Girl Next Door (2004) contemporized pop culture’s fascination with porn by having a teen’s obsession with his pretty neighbour blossom into a pubescent fantasy of dating a porn star and getting laid by a pro, with villains trying to muck up a good thing; and in Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), the goofy decision of amateurs to make a porno allowed Kevin Smith to play with various levels of morality.

'Meet Princess Lay-Me'

Keith Bearden’s film Meet Monica Velour (originally titled Miss January 1978) kind of bridges the gap between the Wilder films, in which a character seeks out a mythical figure, and coming of age tales.

In Velour, the central character is a freshly minted high school graduate who’s compelled to take advantage of a one-time chance to see his idol in person – a classic collision of fantasy and reality.

Sort of.

Velour is an odd film with a highly unusual conceit: when Tobe attends the stripping debut of his idol, he’s enamored by her, and utterly blind to age, let alone the tragedy of a working single mom hitting a low point to get full custody of her daughter from a scumbag ex-husband.

Both the title and campaign art of Meet Monic Velour are disingenuous to Bearden’s film because they play up Kim Cattrall’s Sex & the City persona, which misleads audiences into thinking it’s a vanity piece in which the actress ‘gets serious’ for Oscar bait.

It’s a small, smartly written film that’s beautifully produced, and boasts strong performances by uber-dork Dustin Ingram, Keith David and his magical voice, and Brian Dennehy doing a half-Keitel.

Bearden’s background is as a film writer & interviewer, and it’s a fine feature debut from a mature writer who decided a career change was due, and it was time to move into long-form filmmaking after directing a pair of successful short films.


Review Link + Brian Dennehy in Toronto

The review [M] of Anchor Bay’s gorgeous Blu-ray is up, and those in Toronto can also see Dennehy (fully clothed) at the Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library Tues. September 27 in a Q&A with writer Richard Ouzounian, where he’ll discuss his return to the stage, including his recent run at Stratford. (Note: while the Appel Q&A is now sold out, the website states there will be video of Dennehy’s appearance online soon. Presumably clothed.)


Recent Compatibility Issues with Anchor Bay Titles & LG Blu-ray Players

Lastly: there have been reports of some new Anchor Bay Blu-rays that have been unplayable on some LG units, particularly the BD-370, which I have.

LG has made available a new flash update on their website, under the Drivers & Software tab (you have to download it, unzip it, and install it via USB or burned disc), but it doesn’t solve the problem of the player spitting out the BR disc after a few loud spins and a “Disc Error” warning.

My workaround is a weird one.

The 370 model will retain memory of where you left off on a disc if you turned off the machine or ejected a disc. It seems to do this for 3-4 titles before the memory is replaced with the next title.

Long story short: put in & play the first seconds of a disc before ejecting it. Do this 4 times using different BRs or DVDs, and then try the Anchor Bay disc.

I find that on average the player will eventually see the disc after a slight delay, and will load the disc without error. (It may also start the disc correctly if you turn off the player with the disc inside during a successful playback, and turn it on again when you want to continue.)

My guess is the bug has to do with an existing compatibility between Anchor Bay BR discs; it may play them fine once, but a second, third and fourth try stores memory of a ‘bad disc’ / failed reading error, instead of where you left off, which is why it can’t find the last clean point to reload a disc.

It’s not a BD live issue where you have to have a thumb in the player’s USB port when you start a disc. Tried that, and it did nothing. Hope the workaround helps others, as some have reported a similar issue with Lionsgate titles in the U.S.

* * *

Coming next: by a brilliant coincidence of release schedules, there are 3 films now out by forgotten scribe William Rose.

In the first part, I’ll have reviews of the wonderful British comedy Genevieve (VCI) and the giddy The Flim-Flam Man (Twilight Time), followed by It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (MGM) – released on Blu-ray in one of those dumb exclusive deals – and a review of La-La Land’s deluxe 2-disc soundtrack set which makes available most of the original score.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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