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By Phil Hall | June 25, 2003

Marielle Nitoslawa’s “Bad Girl,” a documentary on the porn industry, presents the sex trade as you’ve never seen it: boring. Focusing on the supposed influence of women filmmakers creating X-rated films, “Bad Girl” presents its subject in such an antiseptic manner that the film’s twin points of interest (proto-feminism in porn and the clips of the films they are creating) creates a double-pronged exercise in monotony.
During the 1970s and 1980s, several women’s groups began a loud but fruitless campaign to protest the alleged degradation of women being presented in pornography. Even Linda Lovelace briefly joined the campaign, though her claims of being physically and emotionally terrorized during her XXX heyday were actively disputed by those who knew her. However, during that period pornography was exclusively being presented in theaters to a predominantly male audience. In “Bad Girl,” we find a contemporary porn industry marketed almost exclusively to home video and via web sites, and the film locates several American and European women producing and directing their own porn productions.
The emphasis is on “several” since the number of porn films being created by women is still very small. Perhaps to oomph up the statistics, “Bad Girl” brings in interviews with several French filmmakers, notably Catherine Breillat and the team behind “Baise-Moi”, who are making sexually graphic features that are designed for mainstream theatrical release. One would question their inclusion here, since they are clearly not pornographers, and the films they are creating are clearly deserving of attention in a very different documentary.
The main problem with the women in this film is the sad fact that absolutely none of them are interesting. Their interviews are fairly limited in scope and lacking in humor or irony, and the endless attempts to politicize and intellectualize the process of watching people having sex on camera is just not invigorating (hey, we’re talking smut…not Satyajit Ray). One woman who tries too hard to liven things up is porn actress/director Annie Sprinkle, but her amateurishly animated persona is too puerile for laughs and too epicene for arousal.
Indeed, talking about sex is never as much as the actual process. Yet the graphic and generous clips presented here (which is a surprise, as the film was originally made for Quebec public television) seem fairly humdrum to anyone familiar with the porn orbit. Except for a self-consciously artsy scene from “Pink Prison” where a Brigitte Nielsen-lookalike is serviced by three muscular men with badly peroxided hair (shot in an annoying cobalt hue that makes everyone look like humanoid blueberries), there is absolutely nothing in any of the porn segments shown here that could give a clue that women are behind the camera. It is pretty much the same thing over and over and over: man inserts you-know-what into a woman’s you-know-where and they rock back and forth while moaning. Does it really matter who is directing such stuff?
The only thing vaguely fascinating with “Bad Girl” comes in the closing credits: the film was funded in part by the federal Canadian government and the provincial Quebec government. One could imagine the brouhaha if such a flick was the recipient of U.S. government arts grants. The Canadians may not make great films, but at least they aren’t as hypocritically uptight as the Americans when it comes to using taxpayer funds.

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