I love porn. I hate opera. I like this film.
“Rated X” is a shot-on-digital video documentary about the Berberian family (one of the coolest last names on the planet or what?) and the opera house that they transformed into a porn theater. In the early ’60s, Jon and Elizabeth Berberian were singers in an opera company. In 1962, Jon’s father built them an opera house in Providence, Rhode Island so that they may live out their dreams of putting on their own productions. But the opera business wasn’t panning out for the Berberians and they were about to lose the building until Jon made the decision to transform the would-be opera house into a movie theater that would show risqué films. The films turned a great profit as they started out showing weird, sexy foreign films, then Russ Meyer-type sexploitation and then finally the video age rolled around and they had to start showing hardcore features. Now, Jon and Elizabeth continue to run the theater with their sons John and Karl, despite pressure from the city council to shut it down.
Sure, we’re talkin’ about porn here, but this documentary is very tastefully done. Rather than dwell on the sleaziness of the pictures being shown, John Lavall documents the fight that the Berberians have had to go through for the past 40 years and still continue to go through in order to keep their theater open. Stories of the family’s struggle make up the last half of this short and they’re fascinating. It’s a shame though that the first half of the film grants equal time to Jon’s glory days stories, when he and Elizabeth were doing opera. It was a bit too much for me and I would rather have had more time spent on the movie theater business.
This may be the only film out there about family and porn. Catch it at a festival near you.