A viable idea for a movie is buried inside “The Pornographer,” an intellectually pretentious meditation on art vs. commerce in American life, centering on a nasty, frustrated, unfeeling artist. The core melodrama is so maladroitly written and most of the acting so amateurish that it might be a tough challenge to place this pic in the theatrical market.
As helmer and scripter, Patrick Sheane Duncan shows little trace of the talents he evidenced in “84 Charlie MoPic,” one of the more remarkable films about Vietnam. The antihero of his new film is Greyson Robey (Jason Tomlins), a painter who seems to be commercially successful and artistically fulfilled, but this is only on the surface. In reality, he is a bitter, angry young man who’s incapable of love and whose agenda is to exploit the gifts and goodwill of those around him.
The gallery of people manipulated by Greyson include his college buddy Connie (Nicholas Cascone), a porn filmmaker who helped launch his career; Sasha (Melora Hardin), the attractive daughter of the publisher of an influential arts magazine; and even Oscar (Hector Elias), an underpaid Hispanic day laborer who’s actually creating Greyson’s sculptures and is also expected to provide “stimulating” gruesome stories.
When Connie falls in love with Angel (Alix Koromzay), a prostitute he rescues from the streets, the insanely jealous, self-loathing Greyson devises a mean scheme to destroy him. This includes an unbearable scene in which Greyson tortures Irene (Margot Kidder), Connie’s ex-lover who’s now dying of AIDS.
Regrettably, Duncan’s uninventive writing consists of too many stereotypes and cliches about the art world and its inhabitants.
Production values of this low-budgeter are serviceable. However, considering that the narrative is situated in the art/porn worlds, “The Pornographer” offers little by way of voyeuristic pleasure; in fact, one wishes the ambience were wilder, more titillating.
Duncan acquits himself better as a director than writer, but as the story unfolds, the movie falls victim to a Freudian melodrama of jealousy. Script needs dramatic streamlining.
In the lead role, Tomlins brings a convincing physical presence and some authority to his deplorable character. The rest of the cast is unimpressive, particularly Cascone as the kind and loyal Connie, and Hardin as the bystander witness, who finally summons courage and walks out on Greyson.
“The Pornographer” is a disingenuous film that suffers from too many familiar generalities about real creativity and selling out.