Smut screening in Melbourne

Posted at 23:41 on 1 Feb 2016 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: Australia, ethical porn, fairtrade porn, feminist porn, fetish porn, Gala Vanting, Goodyn Green, Inside Flesh, Manuela Kay, Maria Beatty, Melbourne, Miss Alyx, Mollena Williams, porn screenings

I was very lucky to be invited to attend a sexy film screening in Melbourne the weekend after I arrived, organised by Gala Vanting and others. I was impressed: it was a central, friendly setting with two screens, comfy seating, food and drink, and good vibes. No embarrassed jeers and nervous laughter from this audience; here was a collection of smut fans who were open to being stimulated and confronted by filth of all flavours.

By a happy coincidence, this event focussed on kink and fetish (my favourites!), although I can’t exactly imagine Gala curating a vanilla programme. Since I was going to be there, she included a film of mine and a Q&A, which was good fun - plus I got to raise awareness of porn censorship, which was very relevant since almost all the films screened that night would now be illegal to distribute in the UK.

It was an incredible programme. Some of the films I’d seen before; Action Painting and Expiatory were both in the short film competition in Berlin last year. They had struck me then - to the extent that I was enthusiastically describing the latter to some Melbourne friends a couple of nights before the screening, and then when we got there I was delighted to learn I'd be able to share it with them after all.

I’d already seen Impact (2012), dir. Mollena Williams and Aeric Meredith-Goujon, but not on the big screen before. In fact I think I watched it online, so I should be able to find a link; here you go. It was a great opener to the programme: funny, warm, human, and showing an incredible diversity of emotional responses to impact and pain in six short minutes - from serenity to sobbing, and groans to giggles. It’s beautifully concise and Mollena’s face is just mesmerising. I particularly love the behind the scenes snippets at the end.

The films I hadn’t seen before caught my attention too. Slap Peace (2010), Slava Mogutin's tribute to Marina Abramovic, is a minimal and strangely soothing study of faceslapping, with two cute boys (Gio Black Peter and Neil Young) engaging in rhythmic reciprocity. And Ritual (2011) by Jörg Fockele is a beautiful and moving documentary about a young man who seeks catharsis and healing after a HIV diagnosis, by undertaking an annual flesh-hook ritual in front of his friends and family.

From ritual to sacrilege; Miss Alyx and the Rubber Sluts From Hell (2012) was grindhouse latex fetish perfection, complete with watersports, strap-on pounding and (my personal favourite moment) someone wanking with the pages of the Bible. Mm, crumply. At the other end of the BDSM spectrum, we also watched an excerpt from Shutter (2014) by Goodyn Green, showing two queer performers engaging in beautifully intimate dominance, submission, hand fucking and outdoor rope suspension, all gorgeously shot in natural light and with an almost too serene birdsong soundtrack.

I hadn’t seen any porn by Manuela Kay before, despite seeing her speak many times at the Porn Film Festival Berlin, of which she’s a curator. We watched her film Blumchensex (2011), which featured in the Fucking Different XXX collection produced by Kiki Petersen, a queer film project based around gay directors shooting lesbian porn, lesbian directors shooting gay porn, and other mixing-and-matching. Blumchensex is a hilarious satire on “porn for women” tropes, complete with romantic shots of men lying in the grass reading literary paperbacks, eyes meeting across a garden hedge, languorous snogging, adoring gazes, and best of all, random squares of astroturf sporting obviously fake flowers, which pop up in ever-increasing numbers around the couple as they get down to business. And business, in this case, means anal fisting. Lots of anal fisting. The giver doesn’t use gloves, which perhaps dates it a bit, but he does manage to insert two fists at once, which is pretty impressive. At one point you think the receiver is going to swallow him whole. Fists, wrists, elbows, shoulders - and poof, no more poof. It’s laugh out loud funny, feel-good, and a brilliant antidote to anyone who thinks that fisting is inherently dark and aggressive.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with dark, aggressive porn, particularly when it’s well made with an eye for gothic beauty and paranormal creepiness. Both of my favourite two films in the programme evinced these cinematic qualities to perfection.

The first was Possession 6 (2011), part of a series by Inside Flesh. Dialogue-less, it’s shot in grainy high-contrast with a limited colour palette, blood reds the only tone that isn’t muted to gray. The pacing is glitchy and tightly controlled to skip and jar in time with the heavy industrial soundtrack; so many frames removed in the edit that I wondered if the starting point was stop-motion photo animation rather than video. The effect is chilling and eerie as we sit with a man alone in a cell, gaunt, suffering, his face a mask of fear. Soon the source of his terror comes into view: a spirit, head completely wrapped in white bandages, that slinks around him seductively and slowly takes control of his mind and body.

It’s a vivid, affecting depiction of a succubus possession, and unlike a lot of heavily stylised porn, I found the sex acts very arousing in context. The contrast of the erect, straining penis with the man’s obvious horror at what’s happening definitely pressed my buttons. I am also a fan of full head bandages parted only enough to reveal red, glistening lips as a blowjob look. Very flattering. I particularly loved the closing shot: the succubus winding her victim’s head in black bandages as she claimed him as one of her own. Chilling, horrible, erotic perfection.

My favourite film of all was one from a director I’d been recommended many times, but had never watched one of her films in full before: French director Maria Beatty. I’ve seen some free previews, enough to glean an impression of artistic BDSM films with a magic realist flavour. That perfectly describes Belle in Nature, a beautifully produced 2009 film that still feels very fresh. It’s high quality, as evidenced by the enviably long list of credits, but it’s not empty gloss; the concept and art direction are what make this film so memorable.

A woman walks in the woods. The outdoors, nature, are so beautiful they make her heart race. She wants to get closer to the earth, the plants; scent and textures aren’t enough, she wants to feel a stronger touch. She seizes nettles and rubs them on her breasts until the skin blisters in red and white weals. In the forest, vines reach down and wrap her wrists. She is lifted, helpless, and the wind rises as the trees themselves whip her with their branches, leaving bloody stripes all over her body. It’s a masterful piece of filmmaking. One shot in particular has stayed in my mind; a view from the tree that is binding Clara, looking down on her arms outstretched, pale skin luminous in the leaflight, and the camera spiralling upwards as she struggles in vain. Glorious.

All of that would be satisfying enough - especially with the whipping that leaves fresh, bleeding stripes on Clara’s bare buttocks - but Beatty has more for us. High definition close-ups of slugs suspended under the trees sliding slowly together up a single thread that sparkles with dew. Clara collapses at the roots of an ancient, moss-grown tree. She finds solace there; particularly in the way her fingers burrow into the soft, thick moss. Boldly, the insect inhabitants of the tree begin to explore her body. Caterpillars hesitantly approach the darkening beads of blood. Beetles mount her, and each other. Snails find their way down to her moistest parts, leaving their own trails of moistness on her skin. The visual storytelling is tremendous, and it reaches a perfect crescendo when the rain starts to fall on Clara’s upturned face: the most emotionally and sexually satisfying non-genital orgasm I have ever seen depicted on film.

I would definitely describe myself as an ecosexual - I’ve been known to get aroused by the sensation of grass or the sun’s rays on my skin - but this was the first time I’ve seen this form of sexual expression so vividly portrayed in film. The symbolism, the textures, the emotional significance of every image was perfectly pitched. It left me breathless, and made me want to watch a lot more of Maria Beatty’s films.

Gala and her friends have excellent taste in smut, and I think it's awesome that events like this are demystifying kinky porn and showing people some of the incredible range of material that's out there. It made me wish there were film screenings like this in London!

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