Reviewer: John Carpenter
Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
DVD Release date: 6/11/2013
67 Mins/Not Rated
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16×9: Yes
Porn is all about the illusion. There is the brute, hairy man with a godawful ‘O’ face that somehow gets to bang a hot little lady. That same hot little lady seems to be just as comfortable with ten inches of manhood in her ass as she is having her face slapped with the same cock afterward. Pornography inspires people to twist and turn into the strangest positions. They give hundreds of thousands of men and women an act to try and emulate in their own respective bedrooms, bathrooms or next to the pool on a warm spring afternoon. At the end of the day, when the actors and actresses are stripped from their characters (not their clothes), the illusion of wonderful, creative sex can come to a grinding halt. This is the true world of pornography. It is where all of a woman’s lustful moans on the bed turn into groans for her onscreen partner once the loud camera motor stops rolling.
There are many angles in “A Labor of Love” that are worth exploring. The cornerstone of this documentary is director Henri Char. He has distinct visions of how his film “The Last Affair” will turn out, but when some of the investors demand that 50%-60% of the film be filled with real sex, his arthouse dreams quickly dissipate. Henri is obviously uncomfortable with these demands and inexperienced with the requirements. He is passive with the crew. He doesn’t know how to get the most out of his actors. Throw in the verbose, opinionated aspiring actress Debbie (Deborah Dan), her troubled relationship with co-star Jerry Goodman (who plays an arm wrestling male prostitute) along with an extremely uncomfortable improvised daddy/daughter fetish scene and Henri has more than enough on his plate to make this production a true labor of love.
While most men will find out porn is full of trickery the first time they try and twist a partner into an unrealistic position or get turned down for attempting a kinky onscreen act, “A Labor of Love” hits a little closer to home. Comments from the cast and crew of “The Last Affair” quickly reveal that there is more to an adult film than the ol’ in and out. Feelings and attitudes are brought to the set, re-sensitizing a world that many feel is desensitized by the primal essence of pornography. Actresses try and trick themselves into believing that this porn is art. The mental conflict is all too obvious, leaving scenes with a stiff, lifeless presentation. Things that aren’t stiff and lively are the men in “The Last Affair.” A combination of Henri’s odd direction and the lack of chemistry between the actors and actresses lead to more issues than one production should ever have. It makes for horrible porn, but one hell of a documentary.
The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer for “A Labor of Love” was restored in 2K from 16mm and has all of the traces and love of a lost film print. There is a grainy look to the documentary to go with the numerous scratches and specs that pop up throughout the runtime. None of the ‘flaws’ are distracting. They add character to “A Labor of Love” and are void of the overexposed look older prints can have and doesn’t skip around due to missing frames. The rough nature of “A Labor of Love” captures all of the sounds in the room as the camera rolls. From the unsilenced camera motor to Henri’s dialogue during scenes being filmed are picked up by the microphone and presented clearly in Dolby Digital Mono track for this DVD. Dialogue levels are easy to understand regardless of where the camera is rolling.
A Theatrical Trailer (1:27) is included on this DVD along with a lengthy post-screening Q&A session with co-director Robert Flaxman. This Video Interview (36:33) is moderated by Hadrian Belove of Cinefamily. Flaxman seems humbled by the audience response before sitting down for an honest, sometimes humorous reflection on “A Labor of Love.” The combination of Belove and Flaxman really adds a lot to the documentary by filling some of the gaps viewers may have after watching the feature.
Vinegar Syndrome has cleaned up and released a raw documentary filled with uncomfortable moments, odd situations and humorous opinions. Just as an argument or simple disagreement can affect performance in the bedroom for the average couple, “A Labor of Love” shows just how shallow and uninspiring sex on film can be. This is the type of release that lingers. Don’t be surprised if the next time you watch Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection of “Expectations” and “Confessions” (Review HERE) questions about how well people got along begin to pop up. “A Labor of Love” proves that a final cut doesn’t always tell the entire story. This documentary is highly recommended and can be found over at Diabolik DVD (LINK) for less than $15.