Last night PJ and I watched David Kittredge‘s Pornography, a 2009 thriller in the vein of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Here’s the trailer:

Pornography revolves around a 1990s gay porn star, Mark Anton, played by Jared Grey, who mysteriously disappeared a few years after his big debut. Since his disappearance, rumors have circulated that his disappearance was due to his death in a snuff film.

The movie is in three acts. Act one depicts Anton’s disappearance in 1995. Act two jumps fourteen years to follow a journalist, Michael Castigan, played by Matthew Montgomery, who is writing a history of pornography. Castigan becomes obsessed with Anton’s story and begins to investigate what happened. The third act also takes place in 2009 and focuses on another porn star, Matt Stevens, played by Pete Scherer, who dreams the details of Anton’s story and decides to make it the plot of his directorial debut. Acts two and three become increasingly suspenseful as Castigan and Stevens become increasingly unnerved by bizarre coincidences and visions that threaten their holds on reality.

Overall, PJ and I both thought that Pornography was an interesting and suspenseful thriller. Grey is excellent as Anton. An early scene establishes that Anton’s porn career was based on his boy-next-door looks, and Grey exemplifies this quality really well. As the movie progresses, I thought we were meant to see Anton as something more complicated than just innocence embodied ( I don’t want to give away any of the plot, so I’ll just leave it at that), and Grey also does a good job of subtly showing Anton’s darker side.

The main reason Pornography got on our Netflix queue was Matthew Montgomery. I tend to love his work as both an actor and a producer, so I wanted to see this movie without even knowing anything more about. Montgomery is as good as he usually is as the porn-obsessed journalist. But this role doesn’t really give him a lot to do. Of the three leads, his part is the smallest. But he is good at showing his character’s increasingly scared behavior, and his scenes with his on-screen boyfriend are often sexily sweet.

But the real star of Pornography is Scherer. Partly because his story is the last of three, his plot dominates the film (at least in my recollection of it). In many ways, his plot is the antithesis of Montgomery’s journalist. His Matt Stevens is a man of action who responds to the increasingly bizarre occurrences around him differently than Castigan does. He also gets the film’s closing scene and speech, which I thought was great.

Foregrounding the parallels between Castigan and Stevens is the fact that the same actor, Walter Delmar, plays each of their boyfriends. I also thought he was very good in his dual roles, making them similar to one another but also distinct.

Pornography is very similar to David Lynch film in style and plot, but I didn’t mind that at all. Like Lynch’s films, this movie doesn’t offer easy explanations, and the effort of trying to piece together the various overlapping parts of the movie is part of what makes it fun to watch. One of the themes PJ and I got from it is a critique of the gay porn industry. To some degree, the snuff film plot seems to be a metaphor for the ways in which the industry (and its audiences) treats porn stars as disposable commodities rather than real human beings. I especially liked this theme in the film.

This critique is even more explicit in some of the deleted scenes. As I watched the special features, I couldn’t help but wish all of the deleted scenes had been in the movie. I think they would have enriched it without making it just one note. As the director explains on a making-of documentary, however, the movie is kind of long and needed some parring down. I think I would have cut a little more from the beginning of the film and kept the subsequent deleted scenes, but this is a very small criticism and really a call of a restored director’s cut!

All in all, we both enjoyed this movie. It’s smart, interesting, and suspenseful — just what it set out to be!