Tuesday, October 3, 2023


July 17, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in the 1940s and ’50s — before television entered our lives — many families purchased 16mm sound projectors and rented movies to show at home. In those days, possession of pornography was a crime, and the shops that sold and rented films generally kept their porno merchandise in the rear of the stores. Customers who wished to take one of those home, along with, say, a Jimmy Stewart of Claudette Colbert drama, would lean over the counter and ask the clerk if he had gotten in any new “art films.” Flash forward to today’s film festivals, where it often seems that at least a couple of scenes of full-frontal nudity and/or sex acts — artfully presented, of course — have become an essential condition for entry. That would appear to be especially true at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. As London Telegraph critic Robbie Collin observed: “This year’s Cannes program has been by some distance the raciest in recent memory. … Few were complaining, though, since the films often weren’t just merely raunchy, but impressively, and sometimes virtuosically so.” All that is not to suggest that an unadulterated porn movie has a chance of being considered for an award at Cannes. But the mere presence at the festival of a film about a male porn star — an award-winning porn star at that — can’t help but underscore its risible aspirations to be taken seriously. That’s Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, in which Simon Rex gives us a memorable portrait of a fast-talking, charismatic conman who has exploited virtually everyone he has come into close contact with. His good looks once served him well in that enterprise, but he is now in his forties, and his nickname — Mikey — seems incongruous when applied to a grown adult man. It’s 2016, and Mikey as a male porn star has been devastated by the death of Paul Walker, the Fast and Furious star whom he had been parodying in a string of porn flicks called Fast and Fury Ass. Mikey has returned to his hometown in Texas, expecting to be taken in by his estranged wife and to renew connections with old friends, including drug dealers. But no one wants to have anything to do with him. That he is able to win them over is the mark of his cleverness. But he clearly has no intention of remaining in Texas, and when he encounters a fresh-faced teenager working at a donut shop, played winningly by newcomer Suzanna Son,he quickly puts the make on her, blows off her boyfriend, and makes plans to take her to Hollywood where he will manage her career as a porn star. A story like this, Peter Bradshaw reminds us in his review in Britain’s Guardian, is the stuff of “vivid, real-life film-making, without the need of an epic budget.”