Shooting Porn

An entertaining, if superficial, look at the gay video industry, "Shooting Porn" offers too little penetration on an intellectual plane --- and maybe a bit too much on the graphic-action one --- to suggest substantial theatrical exposure. Aimed squarely at the genre's fans, docu will prove popular at gay fests and as a cassette release.

An entertaining, if superficial, look at the gay video industry, “Shooting Porn” offers too little penetration on an intellectual plane — and maybe a bit too much on the graphic-action one — to suggest substantial theatrical exposure. Aimed squarely at the genre’s fans, docu will prove popular at gay fests and as a cassette release.

Helmer Ronnie Larsen came to the subject by way of his play “Making Porn,” an amusing seriocomedy that’s had successful runs around the country (including an ongoing Off Broadway production). That behind-the-scenes stage fiction relies on casting real-life gay porn stars for marquee value, which may explain the movie’s rather soft approach to an industry whose seamier aspects are hardly secret.

Focus is on two established gay sex-pic “auteurs” — Chi Chi LaRue, sometimes spotted in a Divine-like drag persona, and the intriguingly deadpan Gino Colbert, who’s directed straight porn as well — as each shoots a new vidpic. Former’s effort features buffed, boyish actors, lensed at a tony private home. Latter’s is cast with more grown-up, hunky types, shot on soundstage sets. Those surface differences aside, docu doesn’t limn notable stylistic separations betwixt helmers, or what (if anything) makes them distinct amongst the genre’s leading lights.

Instead, we get interviews — with the directors, their stars and a couple of influential porn reviewers — plus on-set glimpses. Much of this material is funny, from the news that fake sperm is used on occasion to the elaborate hygiene preparations required by a medium that demands in-depth physical perfection to fulfill viewers’ fantasies. “Gay-for-pay” performers — proclaimed heterosexual men who slide up the Kinsey Scale when the money is right — are discussed and dissed as well. (“Just how straight are they anyway?” one observer snipes, suggesting the heady paycheck might “excuse” gay sexual contact for otherwise closeted individuals.)

Late in the game, pic expands somewhat to include brief insights into drug abuse (via digression to porn superstar Joey Stefano, an O.D. at age 26), the parallel biz of porn-house personal-appearance stripping, vidcassette-box design tactics and so on. But little wider insight is offered into industry as a whole. How strictly formulaic are the films? How many are produced each year? How profitable are they? What is the relationship between the gay and hetero-porn industries? What impact did the video revolution, then AIDS, have? These questions go unaddressed. (Perhaps Nick Broomfield would like to inquire.)

Sum portrait shows a scene in which happy exhibitionists collaborate on explicit films that affirm homosexuality for those who might otherwise live in isolation. Nice idea, albeit probably a tad sugarcoated. The adult film industry (not so unlike “respectable,” higher-profile Hollywood studios) exploits as well as supports myriad individuals, depending on their vulnerability and the integrity of their handlers.

Still, the principals here are engaging — muscle-bound Brit-born “model” Blue Blake is a particularly gregarious and colorful spokesman. Editing is lively, lensing (transferred from vid to 35mm) OK, sound somewhat variable. Though we never see end-product excerpts from La Rue or Colbert’s scrutinized films (which would’ve provided interesting payoff), sexual content is nonetheless graphic enough to place “Shooting Porn” well beyond most arthouse or rep theatrical bounds.

Shooting Porn

(DOCU)

Production: A Caryn Horwitz presentation of a Ronnie Larsen film. Produced by Horwitz, Doug Lindeman. Directed by Ronnie Larsen.

Crew: Camera (video-to-35mm), Bruce McCarthy; additional camera, Eileen Schreiber; editor, James Lyons; assistant editors, Rachel Ann Younger, Craig Paull; sound, Juan Martinez; assistant director, J. Bixby Elliot. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, May 28, 1997. (In S.F. Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.) Running time: 75 MIN.

With: With: Gino Colbert, Chi Chi LaRue, Blue Blake, Bryan Kidd, Adam Rom, Hunter Scott, Rip Stone, Adam Wilde, Mickey Skee, David Widmer.

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