Monday, November 29, 2010

DVD Spotlight | "The Price of Pleasure"

There is an annoying self-righteousness about Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun strangely prudish documentary, The Price of Pleasure, that set me on edge right from the start. Billed as an exploration of America's growing adult entertainment industry, the film feels more like a hit-job, hiding behind a facade of fairness.

The filmmakers interview people who are both for and against pornography, but there is a clear negative slant against the porn industry. Picker and Sun have an obvious agenda, playing dark, menacing music while showing people watching pornography and willfully leaving huge gaps in their central argument that pornography is degrading to women.

The film completely ignores gay pornography, and that is its fatal flaw. By portraying pornography as an industry run by and for heterosexual men, the filmmakers seem to be suggesting that women are the only ones willing to be "degraded" on camera, while in fact there are plenty of men, both gay and straight, who willingly do so on a daily basis. Straight women are not the only ones portrayed in submissive bondage situations - gay men are too, and there are even porn subgenres where women dominate men. By focusing on straight porn, The Price of Pleasure misses an entire segment of the adult entertainment industry, and stands on very shaky ground.

Picker and Sun miss a golden chance for a balanced and objective exploration of why pornography has become such a mainstream part of our culture while still remaining such a taboo, but instead they sacrifice that for what seems like a moral crusade. Who are these people they are interviewing? Who cares what these random college students have to say? The fact that a few people feel cheapened by it is not a solid argument on which to build a film, and The Price of Pleasure never feels like anything more than a wasted opportunity.

GRADE - ★½ (out of four)

THE PRICE OF PLEASURE | Directed by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun | Debuts on DVD tomorrow, November 30, from Cinema Libre.

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