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'La Chatte à deux têtes' (PORN THEATER) is a somber study of a sector
of life few know, an aspect of human sexuality that didn't make it into
the Kinsey Report, a part of the underbelly of city life most would
rather not accept existed. Does that mean it should not be examined,
should not provide the impetus for an art film? Writer/director and
actor Jacques Nolot thinks otherwise. In this dark little film we are
invited into the inner sanctum of a dirty old movie house in Paris that
shows only straight pornography for a clientele of men of various
types: military men, straight men look for gay sex, married men in need
of exploration of their senses, transvestites, old men for whom such
places provide the only sexual outlet, and the regulars who spend their
evenings in the dingy darkened atmosphere for anonymous sex.
The theater is a theater of life for these people, and the 'stage manager' is the sole female Italian ticket cashier (Vittoria Scognamiglio) who has seen every aspect of sexuality, embraced it, and therefore is wholly non-judgmental. She converses with her straight projectionist (Sébastien Viala) who is attracted to her on several levels, and with one of her regulars (Jacques Nolot), a man of fifty who is living with AIDS in a responsible way, but finds his only sexual outlet to be this theater scene. During the course of the film the cashier manages to discuss her open views of sexuality with these two men and the three of them seem headed for a communal experience.
This open view of human behavior is set with the background of the various acts within the theater. We watch transsexuals ply their wares, group encounters in bathrooms, and various odd approaches and rejections for gratification that in the end represent a group of men who find connection to each other as human beings far more difficult (?impossible?) than quick satisfaction in the dark. There is considerable frank acting out of encounters that are usually not seen on film and that may be more than the regular viewer can tolerate. But at least one director has the courage of Genet and Gide and Burroughs et al to tackle this subject matter in a wholly realistic way. The result is a film of social significance, even though it may not be for everyone. It is an art film, very well made, with a brave cast and an even braver writer and director. To not see it is to miss some important messages about human sexuality and about human needs too frequently dismissed as non-existent. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp
I agree with the above comments that this movie is not for the faint of
heart. Even having visited theaters like that myself, to see it on film
is still something that'll raise your pulse.
I think what's more important here than the content or 'weakness' or 'unwatchability' of some of the characters, is the fact that we as an audience member have suddenly become voyeurs into an ordinary day in these people's lives. We see them pursuing friendships, searching for affirmation, seeking pleasure from an addiction, the joy of anonymity, etc.
I think one example we can use is when you're out in the woods and you lift an old log, or a rock and look underneath. You don't disturb, you don't change anything, you simply observe and put the rock back down. Whatever life is happening under the rock was there before your arrival, and will certainly keep moving after you put the rock back.
The characters that exist in this movie certainly exist in our daily lives; gay, bi, jocks, trannies, married men, whether you're in Paris, New York, Akron, St. Louis, Houston, wherever. I think it's an interesting glimpse into lives that we might not get to see otherwise. The subject matter may be a bit edgy, but we have semi-comparable films (not necessarily content-wise) here in the U.S that are simply glimpes into lives.
I enjoy French movies. I think the French are more willing to challenge themselves through their cinema. If you can stomach it, take a look at any of Gaspar Noe's movies, especially "Irreversible," or "I Stand Alone." Or even, "In My Skin," directed by Marina de Van. Eye-openers for our American sensitivities.
This film follows the goings on of porn theater attendees in Paris.
While the interaction between the characters is touching, and their
openness with one another seems genuine, the viewer cannot help but
feel unnerved by the lack of sexual scruples of the audience members.
Simultaneously, the director puts us in the position of voyeurs, but occasionally switches perspectives to make us think we are in the audience with the actors. This poking at the fourth wall helps make one wonder about what is going on in the theater in which we are sitting. Seeing this movie in your living room may spoil the effect.
Overall, this movie was very human, very touching, but very sad. There is a bit of male nudity/male on male sex, so this movie is not for the stodgy, prudish, repressed, or homophobic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To anyone unfamiliar with the experience of visiting a porn theater,
the likes of which have become increasingly rare, this film provides a
realistic if artistically stylized glimpse. Starting out life as a
theatrical production by respected character actor Jacques Nolot, who
was featured in François Ozon's exceptional SOUS LE SABLE, its impact
actually increases when translated into cinematic terms. Ideally, it
should be screened at one of those dilapidated dirty movie houses whose
passing it mourns, holding up a mirror to its disenfranchised patrons.
Premise is simple, constructed on two simultaneous narrative planes to accommodate theatrical convention. A Paris porno palace near Place Clichy provides the setting for rich human interaction where the exclusively male clientèle circles one another in a mostly wordless ritual of attraction and rejection, neither of which usually surpasses the stretch of a brief carnal congregation. An assortment of lonely, nominally "straight" men, out of work Arab youths and voracious drag queens come here to seek refuge from the world outside. Sex occurs frequently, surreptitiously or brazenly out in the open, some of it certifiably hardcore. The openly homosexual Nolot recruited his all too credible cast among the customary cinema dwellers he befriended on his own regular tours of duty through the grind houses of the French capital. Ironically, the only professional porn performer, Mark Duran from Zentropa/Puzzy Power's CONSTANCE and PINK PRISON, appears briefly and fully clothed albeit in the iconic to gay culture guise of a patrolling policeman.
Commenting on the action in the basement theater, proudly pan-sexual cashier Vittoria Scognamiglio (who had a bit part in Jean-Pierre Darroussin's feature-length directorial debut LE PRESSENTIMENT) tries to impress much younger projectionist Sébastien Viala with feats from her amorous past in an attempt to set up a three-way situation with the elderly homosexual, played by the director, she really covets. Betraying its stage origins, this section ironically loses out in eloquence to its predominantly silent counterpart, belaboring points already made.
The arena of the adult cinema allows each visitor to become whoever he secretly longs to be, proudly displaying his "freaky" nature. Not surprisingly, this trait is explored most effectively with the transvestite characters whose transformation is both the most obvious and radical. Thus, a dumpy middle-aged man changes into frilly finery and subsequently turns into the unlikely object of desire for men of various ethnicities. Feisty female impersonators animatedly compare notes on their catch of the day. A pudgy patron (memorably portrayed by Frédéric Longbois, most recently spotted in Diane Kurys' rather lifeless biopic SAGAN) fancies himself an opera-crooning diva, liberally commenting on his perceived desirability to a disinterested audience.
Histrionics aside, the picture painted rarely strays too far from the truth. Of at least equal importance is the film's remarkably upbeat tone. Commenting on an area of experience he was personally very familiar with, Nolot never passes judgment on his protagonists. While some of them may strike one as pitiful, they are mostly there by choice rather than necessity. Sadness seeps in at the edges for the passing of an era and the loss of an experience that was somehow integral to gay culture. As the house lights come on and the theater clears, DoP Germain Desmoulins' remarkably agile camera considering the circumstances moves outside for the first time as the cashier, projectionist and paramour walk home together, their senses tickled by the crisp evening air, a catchy pop tune endlessly looping "Amor Amor" the first real music we've heard throughout. Life goes on and tomorrow is another day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*May contain spoilers* *May contain spoilers*
Unlike what is written in the plot story, this is not a love story. The film concentrate around 1 day in a cinema which show porno films(the title of the film is actually the title of the porno film) in Paris. It follows the visitors of this cinema and their activities. From now and than the films go out of the cinema and focus on a philosophical talking between the cashier(the only women in the film), the projector & one of the visitors. In these conversations these characters talk about sex, love, AIDS, what make a man a gay man and more.
The film belongs to the current trend in French Cinema which ask itself what are you allowed to show in a film. What make a film pornographic and what make it an art. That's why you see some explicit sex scenes(and since the all male cast, it only between men). So be prepare that you may see some unexpected things.
The film is very somber in its atmosphere and there is no sensation in it. It tries and succeeds to be very realistic and for that it deserves a full credit. The problem arise from the fact that given the location and the given characters are far too limited and to weak to keep our interests to more than 20 minutes. The rest is simply a repeat.
This film runs on for much too long and is not for the faint of heart. I'm not referring to some of the sexual acts between the men but the half naked or fully naked transvestites who caused my skin to creep. The goings on at this theatre become repetitive and despite some touches about contemporary French society, it remains a movie that doesn't really have a point. "Weird things can happen in a porno theatre"; I think we already knew that. This was hardly an expose of "Peyton Place" type proportions. The lives of the three people talking outside the theatre was interesting but even those characters really weren't developed enough and basically boiled down to an older man lusting after a young straight guy. If you overlook this film, trust me, you'll lead a long and happy life and not feel you've missed anything.
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