Friday, 29 March 2013

Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look At An X Rated Industry (2009)

Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look At An X Rated Industry is a slightly deceiving title for this documentary. It's correct, in some ways, but the focus isn't so much on the industry itself as it is on Michael Grecco's attempt to make a glossy, coffee table book of photography that shows many elements of that industry in a different light.

Grecco also directed this piece and the whole thing feels very much like an art installation on film. Which is, essentially, what it is. Yet in casting his eye over everything and showing it through his camera lens he removes something from it. Everything is put under intense bright lights, posed to show things off from the best possible angles and even sometimes made to look completely different from how it normally looks. Which is all well and good when it comes to what Grecco is setting out to do. He achieves his aims and well done to him for that, but he ends up showing viewers a lot of stuff that doesn't feel as if it even belongs in the world of porn.

Set during the AVN Awards and Convention (which is like the Oscars for the adult entertainment industry), Grecco focuses on a couple of stars - namely, Joanna Angel and Sunny Lane - who have happily decided to give him a fair bit of their time. He tries to follow their story as they discuss how they got started in the business and what they hope to get from it. Those moments are fine, they may not be the most revelatory discussions, but they serve as a reminder of how the people engaged in various sex acts for entertainment are very real and have very real ambitions. It's when Grecco looks elsewhere, when he tries to cover the broad and interesting spectrum of fans and stars at the AVN, that things start to become less interesting.

If you learn one thing coming away from this documentary, which IS diverting and enjoyable enough here and there, it's not anything about the world of porn. Nope. This documentary will remind you of how important context is because that's what is missing. Women who act in porn being shown photographed while posing in a sexy manner are just attractive women being photographed while posing in a sexy manner. Sex toys set on blank white backgrounds to look like strange pieces of sculpture are just strange pieces of sculpture. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture.

There ARE a number of scenes with Grecco finding out, and allowing the viewer to find out, a little bit about the unique subject he has decided to photograph. Sadly, there aren't enough of them. The documentary becomes more watchable whenever Sunny Lane or Joanna Angel appears (no, not for the obvious reasons so stop that childish sniggering now), but they're not onscreen enough to make the whole experience feel like more than a flick through an art book that only has one or two pages to make you stop and really take it in. That's all it is. Which, ironically, is probably an end result that Grecco is very pleased with.


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