Friday, December 29, 2006

Michael Lucas' La Dolce Vita

When publicity started spewing about a gay pornographic version of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita", it made me snicker. When Michael Lucas' publicity blitz went into full speed (including 'New Yorker Magazine'?!), my skepticism and 'Fellini Freak Loyalty' went into high gear, and I began to relish the idea of ripping him a new one for fucking with Fellini!

"Michael Lucas' La Dolce Vita" (dirs. Michael Lucas, Tony Dimarco, US, 2006, 186 mins.) is not so bad. Ok, with my arms crossed, I'd have to say it actually has a couple dramatically compelling scenes! It has been an odd year for American eroticism on film and video. (I qualify that statement as most of Europe and Asia have no qualms about mixing hard core sex within their dramas.) Earlier this year, John Cameron Mitchell created a stir by beginning his dramatic sex romp "Shortbus" with 'serious actors' achieving orgasm on screen. Michael Lucas is creating a stir by having 'porn stars' achieve serious monologues between orgasms. And with only a few exceptions, Lucas is fairly successful.

(For those of you looking for a detailed comparative analysis between the Lucas and Fellini versions, I completed one for LavenderLounge.com. Here, I am only going to speak to Lucas' version and try to keep from comparisons.)

Lucas begins his epic at a fashion show.

It is a large production, as far as my experience with adult media is concerned. He jams the screen with extras: patrons, models, stylists. I can not be sure about how much coverage he actually used on the scene, however the editing suggests that he had at least 3, if not more, camera crews working the large space. While capturing the freneticism backstage of a runway show, he is still able to squeeze in the first of 12 sex scenes that are spread through out the 3 hours and 6 minutes of video. It is a rushed scene between Ben Andrews and Jack MacCarthy, and proves to be the 'amuse bouche' before some real action begins!

As the production progresses, there is a noticeable amount of dialogue. Surprisingly to me (perhaps I am TOO cynical about these things?), there are no embarrassing performances. There isn't a moment where I winced and wished that 'Joe Bob' hadn't opened his mouth and destroyed the illusion. In fact, there are performers who accomplish quite the opposite.

Spencer Quest plays 'Preston Connors', the ill-fated host of the publishing party (aka 'Steiner' in the Fellini), and gives a polished and professional performance in his dialogue and a nearly inspired performance in his sex scene with Jamie Donovan, particularly when it is placed in context of his scenes before and after. His final monologue is deftly written by Tony Dimarco and touchingly delivered by Quest.

Savanna Samson plays 'Nicole', which is the Brit Ekland doppleganger. It is a non-sexual role, yet she plays it with a leading lady's gusto. Her line delivery along with her physical presence steal the moments she is in. Mind you, she has the BIG 'Trevi Fountain Redux' moment, but it still plays as one of the most romantic moments in the project. It is purely sensual, without being necessarily sexual as the two characters agree that they are not attracted to each other.

Michael Lucas would be the other party to the 'Trevi Fountain Redux' and has in fact cast himself as the lead, 'Max'. He is a cynical, burnt out gossip columnist who has put aside the dream of writing The Novel. Lucas does an exceptional job of carrying the role, and it is a tricky one, in that the actor can not go deep enough into the psyche of the man and what he is doing and witnessing. He is the audience's surrogate, villain and victim. We should be compelled to tag along his path of shallow self deception until we see it as well, if not better than he does himself. However, Lucas plays that moment at the very beginning. He sets up 'Max' to be a bored dilettante as he picks up a 'friend' (Jason Ridge), to go seeking a third to join them, even though 'Max' has a live-in boyfriend (Cole Ryan). Lucas is quite adept at this character, though my only hesitation my seem petty: his accent. Though it sort of works in this project that 'Max' might be considered Euro-Trash, I do not think that was the intention. Lucas would be much more successful with a diction coach and perhaps phonetic line readings. As it is now, the accent seems to be in his way.

Lastly, in this cast of DOZENS, Pete Ross plays this slimey little paparazzi with a certain panache that just made me want to slap him with a velvet glove! In just a single scene of dialogue, Ross completely fills the character. He has just two other scenes. One, his sex scene with Jonathan Vargas, which I found to be extremely hot! It is the best photographed and edited sex scene of the 12. Though it is nearly gratuitous, as it has nothing to do with the rest of the plot or his character development, I can see why it was included. Simply put: The analingus was amazing and then they fucked like bunnies! BIG, horny bunnies! I don't know how Ross 'took it'.

As I said earlier, there isn't an embarrassing performance in the entire cast. These previous four just stood out to me, which is saying a lot after 3 hours and 6 minutes of video!

Michael Lucas has also up'ed the production value ante with an exceptionally sharp costume design. With the possible exception of a mid-80's Chippendale number, I don't remember seeing men strip off their tuxedos for some hot sex. The apartments and spaces also reflect the affluence of the majority of the characters, as do the smartly chosen outdoor locations, particularly during the 'Nicole and Max go shopping' montage. (It was much more tastefully and successfully accomplished than my little description gives it credit for.) The videography is sort of a mixed bag, though. There are set ups that have ample coverage and competent editing. Then there are a couple moments of hand-held single camera work that sort of jarred me out of the visual smoothness I had become accustomed to.

Overall, Lucas has done a very credible and admirable job in adapting one of Fellini's MASTERPIECES(!!) into an epic adult feature. It would have been too easy to pick "Satyricon", or even "City of Women". However, he and co-director Tony Dimarco (who also wrote the screenplay) have accomplished an inspired piece of work.


NOTE: The review copy I received is the "Director's Special Edition" including a THIRD disc of bonus features, which I did not review. Frankly, after 3+ hours of the Fellini, followed by 3+ hours of Lucas, I was "La Dolce Vita'ed" OUT! ;) However, I would LOVED to have seen his R-Rated cut which premiered in New York! I think that would have been a GREAT addition to this deluxe set!

1 comment:

Maxxxxx said...

[Maxxxxx is too young for gay porn. Also, he is at 'birdie boarding school' while I am in Atlanta for the holidays.]