Entertainment

Pleasure, a sad tale of butt 2.0 and miseries of Hollywood porn


CRITICAL – Director Ninja Thyberg signs a first pseudo-documentary, voyeuristic and complacent about the sex industry dominated by the omnipresence of social networks.

Since a few months, Pleasure, the debut film by Swedish Ninja Thyberg, 37, (short film turned feature film) takes its sulphurous fragrances from festival to festival, from Sundance to Cannes via Deauville. It tells how a 19-year-old Swedish girl comes to Los Angeles to become a porn star. She immediately declares to the customs officer who registers her passport that she is coming for the “pleasure” and not for the “Business”… The tone is set. The American dream of celebrity no longer passes through Hollywood but through the porn video industry, installed at the heart of an enveloping internet web, deployed on social networks.

In 1996, Paul Verhoeven had shown the way with Showgirls, where Elizabeth Berkley played a heroine, without family or friends, popping up in Las Vegas with the firm intention of becoming a dancer … before ending up spinning lasciviously around a pole dance bar at the Sheetah bar under Kyle’s orders MacLachlan. If Verhoeven filmed with the ferocity that we know him the world of striptease, where bad taste disputes it with squeaky satire, here none of that.

In Pleasure, the heroine (Sofia Kappel, only actress not belonging to the middle of the cinema X) begins by being called Bella Cherry. With a touch of cynicism and unwavering determination, she’s putting the odds in her favor. This is also reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Boogie Nights (1998) where Mark Wahlberg played a young man terribly well endowed by nature, and who changed his name to Dirk Diggler to start a career in porn at the end of the 1970s. Full of humor, tragicomic, the film wanted to be a painting of the VHS porn scene in these last days of glory, a sort of rise and fall of a porn star (in this case John Holmes), but filmed without the slightest eroticism or voyeurism.

With Pleasure on the other hand, the heroine voluntarily throws herself into the mire, as she would dive into the “King size” swimming pool of a Californian villa. Bella Cherry is anything but an innocent victim. She learns quickly and navigates boldly within this environment whose perversity is natural. We will not know anything about her Swedish past, except when she phones her mother who asks her to return home.

The provocative photoshoots, the grueling chain shoots, the obsessive hygiene of pornstars, drugs, “pajama parties” at crooked producers, nothing is spared the spectator. The minimalist staging, with almost documentary coldness, disconcerting, allows to unintentionally reveal the ugliness of this small macho universe, patriarchal and self-satisfied.

Voyeuristic, even complacent, Ninja Thyberg’s camera follows the resistible rise of her heroine without any critical hindsight. This bikini-clad Rocky takes on her role head-to-head, suffers more and more, but returns to the ring and triumphs by sinking into the abject. This fairy tale 2.0. gradually turns into a series of more violent and humiliating events each time, and it becomes obvious: without even being aware of it, Pleasure is actually a horror movie that doesn’t say its name. All in a world of garish colors, blood red, electric blue, candy pink …

Domination, torture, humiliation are the daily life of this “success story”. Bella Cherry is assaulted by two actors who believe her to be consenting. Is she complaining? No, she simply changes agent … At the end of her takes, she posts on Instagram or the equivalent of pictures of her smeared, defeated, while making mines and the “V” for victory. She thus wins “Followers”, “Blue thumb” and other “Like”.

We remember that in Neon Demon (2016), the Dane Nicolas Winding Refn plunged Elle Fanning into an ultra-classic story, that of a young girl fresh from her province attracted by modeling and who was drowning in the vapors of celebrity. But at least the director of Drive added his sulphurous, vampiric and nightmarish vision. In Pleasure, even under the guise of sociological study of a specific environment, no vision crosses the hallucinating trajectory of this young Swedish girl who dreams of being a porn star. That’s the drama …

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