Monday, January 21, 2013

Sex & Sundance: What Films Are Watched vs. What Films Are Made

James Franco, 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
James Franco is at Sundance, and not promoting his role in the Oz: The Great and Powerful due out later this year.

No, James Franco has a lot of reasons to be busy at the Sundance Film Festival, and his films all deal with sex, specifically pornography.

  • James Franco plays a supporting role as Hugh Hefner in Lovelace, a historical biopic about 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace.
  • James Franco is the producer of the documentary Kink about S&M.
  • James Franco co-directs with Travis Matthews a short film called Interior. Leather Bar. which reimagines lost scenes from a 1980s sexually explicit film called Cruising.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 2013 Sundance Film Festival
And it's this type of trend, that seems to be the trend of the independent film scene in every story and film story I've ready this year about Sundance.

One of the most popular and discussed films of Sundance so far seems to be Don Jon's Addiction, the feature film directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Don Jon's Addiction's high caliber cast featuring Gordon-Levitt in the lead role alongside Scarlett Johannson and Julianne Moore.  Don Jon's Addiction also deals with porn, this time the premise being that of a porn addict (played by Gordon-Levitt) who likes porn more than his real (and frequent) sexual encounters.

And other than the fact people are also commenting on the high number of female independent film makers, this trend continues.

I see this trend for 2013 independent film as disappointing. There is a part of me that wants to write "just because these films are being made, doesn't mean people will watch them." As a whole, this may be true, but that is probably true of most of the normal Sundance line up for any given year, but that doesn't mean these films are unseen and it doesn't mean that what happens in "Independent Film Land" doesn't influence "Mainstream Film Land." Further, it's clear that people are watching these types of films.

I can promise you this, my wife and I will not be watching any of James Franco's trio of porn-related films or Gordon-Levitt's film. I find nothing edifying about these types of film, regardless of how others might perceive their relevance or artistic nature.

In addition to these porn themed stories, I've also read about other sex-themed films. The Los Angeles Times sites a handful which seem to include many dealing with inappropriate relationships between older women and teenagers (Hannah Fidell's A Teacher, Liz W. Garcia's The Lifeguard, and Anne Fontaine's Two Mothers).

Are these themes a statement of the films being made or the Sundance film selection committee?

That said, it seems that the Sundance selection committee and the artists represented are interested in the topic of pornography and deviant sex. It seems that the gates have flung open and these films are all testing the waters to see just what will offend and be acceptable in modern story telling. 

I'm not minimizing the value of the discussion, but if I was going to chose the mouth pieces for a productive conversation about pornography and it's role in society I can't say I would chose James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Sages of Porn. I would expect Franco and Gordon-Levitt to have a moral relativistic perspective that I'd expect doesn't jive with my own. 

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