The Pornographer (2001)
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Critic Reviews for The Pornographer
Bertrand Bonello's grimly histrionic, richly symbolic, yet somewhat on-the-nose melodrama, from 2001, which looks at the human wreckage left by the burst illusions of France's generation of May, 1968.
The Pornographer does to its theme precisely what pornography does to sex -- it isolates specific parts while ignoring the bigger picture and the larger meaning.
The scenes in which the porno films are being made stand out, but with a 108 minute sit and an awkward narrative it isn't even salvaged by calling it French cinema.
You wouldn't want to spend a mere 15 minutes with porn filmmaker Jacques Laurent ... and The Pornographer runs 106.
Audience Reviews for The Pornographer
An aged pornographer returns to the industry after a twenty-year hiatus while he attempts to reconnect with this estranged son and breaks up with his wife.
Jean-Pierre Leaud is either a good character actor or has simply not aged well. The once handsomely intense Antonin Doinel is now he-of-the-chiseled-face with a French moroseness that makes him sad to watch. Most of this is appropriate for the character, but within the film, which wanders and suffers from too much melancholy, he merely depresses us further.
The overall theme of the film may be either a condemnation of passivity or a statement about the direction of cinema over the last twenty or so years. Both themes have their problems and are inconsistently carried on. For example, Jacques does little to prevent his artistic porn film from being sullied by his producer, and his son's form of protest is silence. But both get no rewards when they break the bonds of passivity. So ... I don't get it.
If the theme then is about the movie industry, then does Bonello really think that substance was really reigning supreme in the days before Katie Morgan? And if he's not focusing on porn in particular, then does he really think that substance reigned supreme when filmmakers were shooting The Swarm? Or any of the monster films of the fifties?
You could say that this is simply a character study, but Bonello is clearly opening doors trying to get us to think about certain themes. He just fails to carry anything through with any consistency or clarity.
In "The Pornographer," Jacques Laurent(Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a legendary pornography director, who suddenly stops with one fantasy left on the table, that of a human fox hunt. However, twenty years later, he gets back into director's chair. All goes well through most of the shoot, until the end when the assistants have to step up to complete the movie. At least things are going better with Jacques' son Joseph(Jeremie Renier) who is beginning a relationship with Monika(Alice Houri).
"The Pornographer" is a dreary movie about a dreary man. Jacques' flaw is that he is thinking he is better than the movies he has made, with full pretensions of grandeur.(If this movie were actually smart and self-aware, then Joseph's story could actually be considered the movie that Jacques desperately wants to make, but that's giving it way too much credit.) In fact, he cannot think of the happiness that he has brought so many people through his work. Along these same lines, the movie, while occasionally sexually graphic, does ironically tend to be remarkably skittish towards sex in general.
A fascinating depiction of a man's regret when forced to re-enter a career that he gave up many years earlier. The pornography is merely the side story. This is a compelling personal reflection.
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