Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Life and Death of a Porno Gang


I've been terribly disappointed recently with the imitative state of world cinema. Few works have broken from the pack to assert their unique qualities.

A Serbian movie that has gotten more than its share of attention recently is Serbian Movie (reviewed on this blog).

However, the Serbian movie that truly deserves all the attention the other is getting is Mladen Djordjevic's The Life and Death of A Porno Gang (caught recently at a packed festival screening). This film, my friends, is a goddamn masterpiece.

The Life and Dearth of a Porno Gang does boast extreme content, but it's no mere showcase for it . On the contrary, it's a beautifully written, sharply edited, well acted, devastatingly emotional drama about a group of misfits attempting to survive in a world devoid of humanity and battered by years of war. The film's power, believe it or not, comes from its considerable restraint.

The film is not classifiable. It is what it is, and what it is is great.


The set-up is deceptively simple and does not telegraph the film's major revelations. Marko (Mihajlo Jovanovic) is an ambitious film director whose attempts to make a meangingful feature film are wearing him down. When he crosses paths with Cane (Srdjan Miletic), a shady porno producer, some work results. He gathers a crew of desperate misfits around him and creates some fairly conventional pornography. But Marko's ambitions are broader, and he yearns to create something truly groundbreaking and transgressive. His idea is a traveling porno cabaret in which sex acts are performed in front of mostly peasant audiences throughout the country. Although the gang encounters opposition to its venture from within and outside, they experience a sense of freedom and protest that fuels their passion. Unfortunately, the cabaret doesn't ultimately pay the bills, and the group begins to fracture. But when a mysterious stranger named Franc appears and offers Marko a way to make buckets of money, the group enters a world of murk from which they can't possibly recover.

In tone, The Life and Death of a Porno Gang feels like something the Vienesse Aktionists might have made had they made narrative features at their peak. The traveling cabaret of perversion is a wonderful creation. It is both a celebration of sexual freedom and a guilt-free waltz with debauchery. Performed with Fellini-esque abandon, it provides the perfect dramatic centerpiece to a tale that revolves around the choices men and women make and their hefty consequences.


In every sense of the word, this is pure cinema, and it strikes provocative chords rarely struck these days. Admirably, It does not shy away from depicting fetishes and paraphilias that are usually the domain of the hardest worldwide web sites. Snippets of hardcore bestiality appear alongside harsh depictions of intercourse and even harsher drama involving voluntary murder and consensual snuff. Emphasizing characters and relationships over brutal set pieces, it achieves greatness as dramatic cinema and greatness as truly transgressive art.

Rumor has it that Synapse may be releasing the film in 2011. I look forward to a stellar presentation of the material.

Also of interest is the director's Made in Serbia, a fascinating look at life in the marginalized Serbian porn industry.

8 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 7, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    But presumably it still didn`t depict the buggering of Heather O`Rourke lookalikes in graphic close-up and POV so it still wasn`t being absolutely truthful was it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. just finished it. you're absolutely right, it's damn good.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Watching this now and so far, your assertion is correct.

    -mAQ

    ReplyDelete
  4. Apologies for the immediate update but that wooded rape scene was one of the most powerful scenes in recent memory. Grows from malice into comedy.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Paul -- glad you appreciated it. I do endeavor (here) to shine a light on stuff that not everybody is talking about. If I can't do that, I might as well quit.

    MAQ -- it's a pretty unpredictable movie. Many fascinating transitions such as the one you talked about.

    ReplyDelete
  6. were can i watch this for free online

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous -- It has been playing several festivals.

    ReplyDelete