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In this companion DVD to Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' book XXX: 30 Porn Star Portraits, we see the making of the photographs, along with interviews with the porn stars, and other talking heads. Greenfield-Sanders does not say much about his motivations, explaining only that he wanted to take some nudes and he thought that porn stars would be comfortable being nude. The porn stars are far more eloquent and open in their feelings about their work. Nina Hartley is especially funny and thoughtful. Some are a little absurd; it is hilarious when Sean Michaels says "when individuals say that 'oh yeah males are just a prop in the adult industry' that's like American society taking school teachers and not paying them what they are worth." The talking heads are more intellectual but they don't necessarily make any more sense. Gore Vidal is a little pretentious, saying "boys were created to squirt as often as possible to fructify an egg; girls are there to take nine months to lay an egg an they have to be slightly thoughtful about what they are doing" John Waters is far more charming and funny.
The general tone of the documentary is enthusiastic about porn, yet it also acknowledges negative aspects. The porn stars talk about whether they would want their children to grow up to have sex for money, but they also talk about their families and sometimes difficult relationships with parents, and the difficulty in sustaining relationships. But for the most part they say that their lives are better for their decision to work in the industry. Some say that the sex they have on camera is part of their own sexual life, and that they have exhibitionist cravings. Others say that they don't even consider what they do on film sex at all. So we get some sense of the complexities and diversity in the reasons why people work in the porn industry.
The style of direction borrows much from music videos. Nearly all the way through there is music in the background and the editing is fast. The camera is restless and we see many different people in a quick sequence. We see people undress and pose for the camera, while they talk about their lives in voice over. It is entertaining and informative.
There are many DVD extras. We get an hour edited interviews with the talking heads and two hours of bonus footage of the porn stars. While these have been edited, they are far less in the MTV style, so we get people's comments more in context. These bonus features are more revealing than the documentary itself. We see some photographs that are not included in the book. There are also short films of the openings of the photographic exhibits in Manhattan and Los Angeles, at which see celebrities mixing with porn stars, which is amusing.
So while this is a rather glossy look at the porn industry that does not give great insight into the photographer's mind, it is nicely produced and good value for money. Other DVDs and books provide alternative perspectives for those who find the enthusiasm of Thinking XXX problematic.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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