Contortions of a mind in perpetual decline – Portraits of Andrea Palmer (2018)





“Portraits of Andrea Palmer”, the first feature film for both and directed in conjunction by a certain “C. Huston” and film preservationist collective Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin (billed under his film board nom de guerre “J[ohn]. Lyons”), is in many ways an unusual venture – when measured against its date of production, even a deeply anachronistic one. For it is not merely a superficial hommage to the long-gone Golden Age of Porn that raged in American cinemas for some approximately 15 years from the very late 60’s to the mid-80’s, elicits it’s filmic (as in analogue filmmaking, granularity and a color cast unique to employed – 16mm here – stock) as well as organisitional (as in centered around, not working with unsimulated renditions of intercourse) structure, shares it’s curious interest in gloomy subject matter coupled with precise gaugings of female suffering, but actually possesses a profound understanding of it’s highly specific employment of filmed sex like few, if any, modern efforts. Essentially a contemporary update on journeys into slow decay at the hands of the self- as well as other-directed exploitation of one’s own body for male consumerism like “Her Name Was Lisa” (Roger Watkins, 1979) or “Cry for Cindy” (Sam “Anthony Spinelli” Weston, 1976), one should not make the mistake of detaching their film from its roots for temporal reasons, changed attitudes in mainstream cinema or the insistence of favoring the dark corners of the soul over simple bodily excitation. A film like “Portraits of Andrea Palmer” should not be read as a so called art house drama featuring explicit sex as an occasional device of highlighting or mere provocation, but as classic pornography using the same as narrational force of its very own.

Fitting in with its title, this is a condensed portrait in 6 chapters further divided into one or two bigger encounters each. The plural is an important hint, these portraits of Andrea Palmer are not a single stream, a portrait in running text, more separate vignettes accelerating decline in fast motion, sometimes played straight then once or even twice removed from the source, external perceptions and reflections on a woman in turmoil. Not by the act of the directors’ filmmaking itself alone but also by the fact that all of Andrea Palmer’s (Katrina Zova) jobs are deliberate acts, personas she succeeds to fill out in varying degrees and puts in the service of a another, predominantly male gaze, a product and complete fabrication. Webcam model, pornographic actress, call girl – these are the stations of her via dolorosa. Like Watkins’ aforementioned film “Portraits of Andrea Palmer” is always, inevitably, by default also a work about industries of exploitation and they don’t need plot points or didactic methods for this – rather it openly partakes in the same, reflects more honestly by offering a direct translation between service centered pornography and art as means of self-awareness.

Further feeding on this ever-present foundation is the expressive camerawork by Rubin himself – shaky, unstable while creeping up on people’s faces, it intrudes straight into their private space time and time again, knows and accepts no boundaries. More part and product of this dog’s world as well rather than outward measuring device – the primum mobile of total identification that makes the not overtly show-offy film feel so downright unpleasant. Once more the ambiguous title springs to mind – getting close for a portrait photography, you can’t avoid a certain degree of intimacy. Here this intimacy transforms into an inverted mirror of audience interaction, we are to read emotions in an almost bodily fashion. Zova, who turns in a remarkably corporal peformance that far exceeds the connotation this term usually carries when applied to adult film acting, is equal parts personified lungs bursting with explosive anger and carnal mosaic. Thrusting and humping motions, mouth or tongue in action are emphasised by Rubin and Louis C. Justin’s editing. Sex is less of a holistic experience and more movement of different body parts here, some sort of partial escape route obscured by your timid mind. And it affects the fidgety camerawork into keeping up – as even during these exchanges our heroine is constantly preoccupied. Carnal activity directly converts itself into shaky insecurity, before, during and especially after the act.

Spiritual excitement though grants calming easyness to limps and life alike – a rare commodity in Huston’s and Rubin’s hands that treat and shoot even conversation as a carnal operation. The heart and pulse of their film revolves around a long, entirely sapiosexual encounter between Zova and veteran performer (as well as noted porn advocate) Bill Margold. Margold, who must have passed away not too long after wrapping his scenes (the print bares a 2017 copyright stamp and he died in mid-January of the same year), already emits an odd heavenly tranquility in his final role. Eternally one of the more underrated thespians of the Golden Age, he’s all presence here, perhaps not even acting, a decidedly external implantation of his caring papa bear personality into the context of the narrative. A glimmer of hope dressed as outright fabrication and falsehood. They might talk but it’s more important how they move. Careful, deliberate, less interrupted by cuts than the action, first during a joyride with his van, then while strolling through a serene public garden. More and more velocity is taken out of the mise-en-scène until it grinds to a complete halt on a park bench. Suddenly stationary the camera’s modus operandi transforms – in rare moments like this it grows more traditionally “beautiful”, less rough and rickety, ever so slightly dreamy.

There is another scene that mirrors these sentiments: Having passed her initiation into sex on film somewhat involuntarily, convinced by the heat of the moment, Andrea questions the sleazy producer that had taken her along to observe and learn about her pay and is flat out refused. The following argument has them come to blows soon and she finds herself locked out, aggressively drumming against the warehouse gate. Almost all rapid movement in this scene is generated by Zova herself – letting it all out momentarily pacifies the inside, an act wisely reflected by a camera reinterpreting the portents of in and out. In can never last though, substituting the montage something entirely different invades the image space and it’s the same for both scenes: Be it violent shouting or an inspired discussion, at a given point all dialogue is proactively drowned out by tonal superimpositions, just as if to show what fades first from a depressed mind beyond any and all recovery. That point is monetary matter, the question of pay or no pay. Margold’s conversational needs are the sole paid intercourse, something that Andrea Palmer considers her job or at the very least a part of it after all, in all 74 minutes. Overlaid she seems to deny his money at first, it is impossible to make out, before finally accepting it. Employing this harsh tactic “Portraits of Andrea Palmer” degrades even scant real connections into empty exchange deals, converts them into bodily interaction too and both emotional highpoints to points on the sliding scales dividing rape and consensual porn scene categories. A remarkably intelligent twist, a joke on our perceptions – ultimately, we get left out in the cold of a bleak, bleak world.


Portraits of Andrea Palmer – USA 2018 – 74 minutes – Direction: “C. Huston” & Joe Rubin (as “J. Lyons”) – Production: “C. Huston” & Joe Rubin, Richard Wright – Screenplay: “C. Huston” & Joe Rubin – Cinematography: Joe Rubin – Editing: Louis C. Justin – Music: Michael Parsons – Cast: Katrina Zova, Chad Alva, William “Bill” Margold, Sheena Rose, Richard Wright and many more

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Sonntag, April 12th, 2020 in den Kategorien Aktuelles Kino, André Malberg, Blog, Blogautoren, English, Essays, Filmbesprechungen, Midnight Confessions, other languages veröffentlicht. Sie können alle Kommentare zu diesem Beitrag über den RSS 2.0 Feed verfolgen. Sie können diesen Beitrag kommentieren, oder einen Trackback von ihrer eigenen Seite setzen.

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