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Pornography Thrills, Disorients

By Joseph Erbentraut in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 7, 2009 9:00PM

2009_11_07_pornography.jpg With the 28th edition of Reeling, Chicago's very own Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival already gaying up movie screens all over the city, Chicagoist thought we'd take a closer look at a few of the titles being screened for you queer cinephiles out there.

First up: Pornography: A Thriller, a film directed by David Kittredge, playing tomorrow night (Sunday, Nov. 8) at 9:30 p.m. at the Landmark Theater. Its dichotomous title suggests a somewhat unlikely "2 for 1" deal, leading one to anticipate either a bloody sexfest or a cheeky satire in the vein of a zombie romantic comedy or a sci-fi puppet musical. But Pornography is (thankfully) neither of these things. The film dips deep into a number of dark themes, playing with our notions of intimacy and privacy through a lens that certainly channels names like Lynch and Hitchcock.

The film is told in three parts. We are first introduced to Mark Anton, a well-known gay porn star just on the brink of truly making it. When Anton suddenly disappears, the mystery goes unsolved until a young journalist stumbles on the story fifteen years later. His investigation of Anton's demise leads him down an equally disturbing path. In the final third, the timeline again jumps forward in time, as a contemporary porn actor looks to re-enact the Anton story for a new film.

In true Lynch fashion, the characters, timelines and plotlines blur together through these three separate worlds where reality and fantasy are also left hazily defined. Though this serves to disorient the viewer - two screenings through and I'm still not entirely sure what happened at the film's ending - the haziness feels intentional and works better than most filmmakers' attempts to use the technique. The film's messages, examining the cost of exposure, the value of sex and the meaning of intimacy, are furthered by the story's dreamlike quality and stick with you long after its conclusion.

Pornography is a work that feels challenging at the onset becomes fairly enchanting. While clearly not flawless - I found some of the characters to be somewhat interchangeable which, again, may have been intended - this is probably one of the better LGBT-themed films I've seen in some time. If you enjoy offbeat cinema featuring sexy men and mystery-laden, non-linear narrative, this is a film for you. If you'd prefer to have your gay-centric stories spelled out for you, stay at home and pop in a Will and Grace DVD.

Reeling continues through Nov. 15 with over 150 shorts, features and documentaries being screened throughout the festival. Be sure to visit the festival's full schedule and keep an eye out for more film reviews on the way next week.

Pornography: A Thriller, Sunday, November 8, 9:30 p.m. Landmark Theater, 2828 N. Clark. Tickets $10, 773.293-1447 or here.