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To The Daily Beast: No, it’s Not Art. It’s Just Very Pretentious Porn

by
Posted on September 13 2010 10:00 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here

Just stop and think for a moment and the stupidity of the question will stare you in the face. “Is it art or is it porn?” The Daily Beast asks about a 5-year-old film showing at the Los Angeles Downtown Film Festival.

It’s a bit like asking “Is it a ham sandwich or a tricycle?”

The movie in question is “Destricted,” a collection of seven, sexually-explicit, short films by various arthouse filmmakers.

I’ve not only seen the film but I own it. I got it cheap years ago as an import DVD. (Cinematic obsessive that I used to be — what seems like a lifetime ago — I acquired an import DVD player that would allow me to play titles from all over the world.) Why’d I pick up “Destricted”? Because two of the directors are favorites of mine. First, there’s  Larry Clark — director of “Kids,” “Another Day in Paradise,” “Bully,” and “Ken Park.” Second, there’s Gaspar Noe — French filmmaker behind “I Stand Alone” and “Irreversible.” The six films of theirs that I named are all fantastic, transgressive works and emotionally-engaging dramas which seriously explore human evil and self-destruction.

Artistic work of that level of seriousness is not what Clark and Noe — or the other filmmakers — brought to “Destricted.”

I can say with some confidence that the film is porn. Many of the shorts are made up of re-spliced clips of actual, self-confessed pornographic movies. Others are no different than porn movies except they’re more professionally shot. Clark literally could have shot his film for a pornographic website. All his short — the pretentiously-titled “Impaled” — features is several 20-something males being interviewed about their porn habits before one of them is filmed actually having sex with a porn star. And it says a lot about “Destricted” that this is the most meaningful, intellectually interesting of the shorts. There is meaning in the non-pornographic interviews with the young men where they reveal how their porn addictions have warped their ability to have normal, functioning relationships and sexual experiences.

But that’s about all the value of “Destricted.” None of the other films actually say or inspire anything of substance.

What the filmmakers didn’t really address — and what the Daily Beast reporter who lauds this trite picture as “unique and visionary” miss — is that porn and art serve two different purposes. Art stimulates the viewer on intellectual and emotional levels. Porn stimulates the viewer on a sexual level. It’s not possible to really combine these. Why? Because the sexual experience — specifically the porn sexual experience — is about turning off the mental and emotional levels. (The sexual experience between two people who love each other is a totally different subject.) It ruins porn to think about it intellectually or emotionally. It destroys the lie.

Art rises us up, making us explore and reflect upon who we are. Porn brings us down to our most base animal level causing us to revert to seeing one another as little more than objects for our own self-fulfillment.

The quest to combine the two is inherently doomed to failure. Make a Ham Sandwich Tricycle instead. That makes about as much sense and would at least be tastier than the boring, depressing “Destricted.”

Update: The American distributor of “Destricted” contacted me to inform me that the version now being released is different from the one that I’ve seen. Apparently new short films have been added and some have been removed. I look forward to seeing if the new film is more effective.

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