The Pornographer

(Patrick Sheane Duncan, USA, 1994)


"Since when was being sick a handicap for being a true artist?" Certainly never in the movies.

Greyson (Jason Tomlins) is a contemporary artist whose "masterpiece is success". He is presented as a thoroughly demonic figure, a conceptualist who merely signs the junk-strewn collages he entices others to do, and then smirks all the way to the bank. Greyson knows he lacks talent, so he turns his career into one big black joke.

Unsubtly contrasted to Greyson is his old buddy, Connie (Nicholas Cascone). Despite devoting his life to the production of cheap sex films, Connie is a veritable saint. He cares for an ex-lover (Margot Kidder) dying of AIDS, and dreams of filming porno versions of Shakespeare so as to win mass popularity for literary classics.

There is no prize for guessing the answer to the film's great question: which of these two men is truly the pornographer?

It is hard to imagine any new director wishing to emulate the parched, listless style of Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan at his worst (The Adjuster, 1991), but this indeed seems the aspiration of Patrick Sheane Duncan (84 Charlie Mopic [1989] and the script of Nick of Time [1995]).

The array of emblematic secondary characters – art critic, freedom fighter, street kid, entrepreneur – is straight out of an Egoyan film, as is the banal critique of modern life as perverted by money and fame.

The Pornographer is unquestionably one of the worst attempts at a serious art film ever to end up on video.

© Adrian Martin August 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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