Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Sex: The Annabel Chong Story (Gough Lewis, 1999)

While watching documentaries focused on a single person, I often have trouble differentiating my feelings toward the person from my feelings toward the actual film. This is why I didn't much like Overnight, the story of Troy Duffy, a true douchebag who wrote a terrible movie and thought he was invincible - I couldn't stand to watch the whole thing. This is where my problem with Sex: The Annabel Chong Story comes in. As a film, it's not particularly good - apparently director Gough Lewis was an ex-boyfriend of Chong, who staged several scenes (the cutting one in particular); the editing is terrible; and Gough isn't very good at getting interviewees to say interesting, enlightening things. Chong herself, though (real name: Grace), is incredibly interesting and provocative. A gender studies undergrad who started doing porn either because she had already had sex with everyone on campus (what she tells her fan club) or because she wanted to take away the stigma associated with sex work (what she tells her gender studies class), she constantly tries to defend her decision to do porn by spouting feminist theory. While I agree with Grace's decision (it is, in fact, her body and her choice) and with some of the reasons she gives for doing it, it is also obvious that she is a very damaged, emotionally fragile young woman who desperately wants attention.

Attention is the reason Grace decides to do the "world's biggest gang bang," having sex with 251 men in 10 hours (when Grace's record is beaten only months later, it's hard not to feel bad for her). Footage from the shoot is interspersed in the documentary, and it is, at times, painful to watch, both because of the physical pain Grace seems to be in at times, and because of the danger Grace puts herself in for sexually transmitted diseases (especially AIDS). The disease issue is discussed in depth in the film, and Grace says that if she did get AIDS from the gang bang, it would be worth it (because "sex is worth dying for," one of the most ridiculous things she says), but I got the definite feeling that she was just saying these things to seem in charge.

In charge, Grace is not. Although she says she's doing porn for feminist reasons, there's always a sleazy man in the background, telling her what to do or what to say. I believe porn can be an empowering thing, but not the male-dominated, patriarchial form Grace has entangled herself in. But enough about Grace's ideas! The movie is stilted and not very well paced, as in the scenes where Grace has to reveal herself to her traditional Singaporian family - what could have been moving is instead just uncomfortable. Lewis isn't a good filmmaker, but Sex deserves to be seen, as it is so thought-provoking, whether you agree with Grace or not.


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