SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Imagine a world where coitus alone isn’t enough to satisfy your sexual needs. Imagine that, in order to be sexually fulfilled, dancing charismatically and with great purpose is the key. Well, in a futuristic world, where nothing, except for the desire to be intimate with another human being, is comparable to ours, this combination of sex and salacious dance is a reality. Progressive Touch depicts, in the strangest way possible, the journey from point A to point B — point A being sexual arousal and point B being the erotic act itself. Strap on and hold on tight, things are about to get weird.
First and foremost, Progressive Touch, in the simplest of terms, is pornography. What in the world must writer-director Michael Portnoy have been thinking when he came up with the idea of this short comedic romance? I imagine that the conversation with himself must have gone something like this:
“What’s the most f**ked up version of porn we could write and direct?”
“Well, we could have a series of futuristic couples having sex to music.”
“Nope, not weird enough.”
“We could have the gentlemen flail their appendages about as if they don’t have a care in the world.”
“Make the women appear as if they have just arrived on Death’s door, and sex is their final wish.”
“We’re right on the cusp of something great.”
“Let’s make nothing about their sexual motions realistic and, as a result, make the audience feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible.”
“…in order to be sexually fulfilled, dancing charismatically and with great purpose is the key.”
While I can’t be certain that this was Portnoy’s thought process as he planned out how to attack Progressive Touch, it’s difficult to imagine how much weirder that conversation could have gone. However, we are talking about the person that thought presenting the world with a man violently shoving his phallic devices down another’s throat and a woman, looking as if she is seconds away from death, going to town on another.
There seems to be no reasonable explanation as to why Portnoy, or any cast member of Progressive Touch, would think that this film would be successful. It’s uncomfortable, erratic, and far more progressive than I think the world is ready for. However, in the end, there is a moment when viewers have a moment of clarity after they have weathered the treacherous storm that is this movie. In this moment, viewers are able to look back with some sense of understanding for what Portnoy had in mind, and while it’s not something that they are entirely on board with, some semblance of appreciation for Portnoy’s goal rises to the surface.
Laughter, regardless of the fact that it’s uncomfortable in nature, plays a role in the viewing experience of anyone bold enough to watch Progressive Touch. Again, while that laughter is somewhat painful in nature, viewers have to appreciate the fact that laughter is something to be cherished, and those moments of discomfort are beautiful in their own right.
In general, cinema is a tricky business to get involved in, at least to any significant extent. Furthermore, being able to accurately express yourself through the medium can be time-consuming and gut-wrenching. Portnoy must be commended for his ambition and ability to take huge risks. Nothing about the film is normal, and viewers who may find the movie enjoyable aren’t either (and to be abnormal is, in a sense, to be free). Progressive Touch will certainly appeal to a particular group of people, and Portnoy’s complete disregard for what the world has told him is acceptable makes that possible. No two people will understand Progressive Touch in the same fashion, and while I’m not entirely sure that the world is ready for a film like this, kudos to Portnoy for not giving a s**t.
Progressive Touch screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…kudos to Portnoy for not giving a s**t."