The Coming of Pornosophic Cinema
The pain in the face of beauty, nowhere more visceral than in the experience of nature, is as much the longing for what beauty promises but never unveils as it is suffering at the inadequacy of the appearance, which fails beauty while wanting to make itself like it. This pain reappears in the relation to artworks. Involuntarily and unconsciously, the observer enters into a contract with the work, agreeing to submit to it on condition that it speak. In the pledged receptivity of the observer, pure self-abandonment -- that moment of free exhalation in nature -- survives.I read this quote the same day I received numerous emails from colleagues across the US prodding me into thinking about Steven Soderbergh's new film, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, that just opened in select theaters across the country (that's not an ad, but a lede ...).
Of course, I was already writing this blog entry by the time the (still unnamed) pornosophic cinema meme began to spread ...
It stars Sasha Grey, the award-winning porn actress who is getting a lot of media buzz about her transition into a mainstream indie role. In a new interview just published in the SF Chronicle, she is asked
Q: I understand you're a real film head, Turner Classic Movies and all that. What are some of your favorite films?
A: Oh, geez ... let's say filmmakers, that's a little easier. I think everybody knows Godard by now. Cassavetes. Catherine Breillat. Paul Schrader. Truffaut. David Lynch, John Carpenter. I'm all across the board when it comes to films.
Geez, indeed. Like, duh. Isn't it obvious?
She claims JLG and David Bowie are her biggest influences and that her rough and at times degrading sex porno performances are her own version of "performance art" (Karen Finley eat your heart out).
She identifies with feminism, is her own agent (that is to say, represents "herself") and is now directing her own films too (she's still only 21).
Soderbergh was off shooting Che when he suggested she watch Godard's "Vivre sa vie" -- one of my favorite JLG films (the cafe scenes experiment with sound in a way that was to influence many future art-films) and one that has influenced the development of my own forthcoming feature, My Autoerotic Muse.
A random string of notes from the director's notebook for the Muse reads:
My Autoerotic MuseThat is to say, she re-presents "herself" the way we all represent ourselves when (be)coming (when making an appearance).
The web cam girl
is watching you.
She not only knows
you are there.
She has placed you there.
You are watching her now
because of her attraction.
Her coming attraction.
This is what makes her
the Autoerotic Muse.
She is playing (with)
herself, her persona.
Given that Grey's performance art practice involves a lot of writing (Soderbergh first found her not by watching her films but via an article she wrote for LA magazine), it is no surprise to read that she "created and wrote and wrote and wrote this character's back story. Once I was happy with that, I condensed it and gave it to Steven. And I think he said 'yes' to everything."
The character she plays is Chelsea, an escort "guided by personology books who writes in her journal after every date, things Grey picked up from the escorts she met and thought would flesh out her character nicely." As one rag put it: "Hire Chelsea for the night and, yes, she will have sex with you, but she'll also pretend to enjoy it, as if she were your girlfriend. She'll even sit and listen to you drone on about your job or, you know, your wife. For this, you'll pay her $2,000 an hour."
Grey's persona is that of the precocious undergraduate art student who does what she does not to impress her professors or even her peers but to make visible her continual (be)comings. Is it dangerous? Sure. Naive? Hardly. Besides, she has other things to focus on besides these (un)intentional (mis)readings:
I'm shooting my directorial debut in two weeks - it's called "The F@%k Junkie." I'm working on a sex philosophy book, which will be kind of like a coffee table book. I have an adult novelty line coming out in July. I'm working on a novel; I have an independent film coming up in August, which is amazing because it's a lead role again, and I'm playing against type, and it's a very challenging character; and I have two other offers right now for films that are in pre-production. My other movie, Smash Cut, is coming out later this year.Gertrude Stein once wrote:
No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who also are creating their own time refuse to accept.Is Sasha Grey just another young adult film actress who has somehow convinced herself that what she is doing is an expanded form of interdisciplinary art practice, and will one day soon live to regret it all; or is she that rare, precocious spirit that is forever waiting for time to catch up with her?
Metadata: Adorno, beauty, Sasha Grey, film, philosophy, porn, pornosophy