If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and too much of a good thing can indeed sometimes be bad, then the abundance of readily available pornographic images online is certainly going to somehow impact a sea change with respect to human sexual interaction for future generations. A bit of this uncertain, slippery new frontier gets put under the microscope in The
Price of Pleasure, an engaging short-form documentary co-directed by Chyng Sun and Miguel Picker.
Once relegated to the margins of society, pornography has become one of the most profitable — and increasingly less invisible — sectors of the cultural/entertainment industries the United States, raking in an estimated $10-13 billion annually and possessing, of course, its own governmental lobbying power brokers. At the same time, in the advent of the digital age the content of pornography has become more overtly aggressive, arguably more sexist, and undeniably of easier access to younger and younger viewers. Going beyond the same tired, stale liberal-versus-conservative debate, The Price of Pleasure features chats with industry consumers, critics, producers and performers alike, giving an impressionistic snapshot portrait of how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, and liberty and responsibility are all intertwined.
Price of Pleasure isn’t a jeremiad, which is a nice thing. But while it doesn’t approach its subject matter with a blanching sensibility (hardcore clips are interspersed throughout, but for illustrative punch rather than empty effect), neither does it really dig into any one single thesis or issue with quite enough tenacity and doggedness. If anything, the title’s 56-minute running time undercuts its effectiveness a bit; just when the movie alights on a provocative opinion, Sun and Picker (ahem) jerk the audience off in another direction, spinning tangential connections based on emotion rather than imposing the sort of more rigorous intellectual thematic divisions that seem warranted.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, The Price of Pleasure comes to DVD presented in 1.33:1 full screen, with a solid slate of deleted scenes and bonus features that extends the title’s running time by an additional hour or so. Two minutes with the female editor-in-chief of the college sex ‘zine Boink make a (somewhat dubious, or at least poorly articulated) argument that its how-to “Donkey Punch” featurette was all a funny-ha-ha joke, while punk-hardcore starlet Joanna Angel and former actress turned memoirist Sarah Katherine Lewis speak to the generational divide in the adult industry in 11 minutes of interview odds-and-ends.
There’s also nine more minutes of material on performers, with AVN Senior Editor Mark Kernes talking up the appeal of an on-screen emotional connection; eight minutes on the dominant market consumers of adult films; and a perhaps unintentionally amusing three-and-a-half-minute segment in which author Noam Chomsky talks about an infamous September 2005 Hustler interview he did, claiming not to know it was a skin rag. (He detests pornography.) Some more interview material with Sun and Picker would have been nice, but overall this is an interesting collection of bonus material that definitely extends the DVD’s collectibility. Also included are previews of three other Cinema Libre titles, including Make Me Young. To purchase the DVD, click here. Or if Amazon is irreversibly your online retailer of choice, meanwhile, click here. B- (Movie) B (Disc)