Porn Theater (La Chatte à deux têtes)

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The daily ritual begins with buying a ticket. Today’s feature is The Two-Headed Pussy. Men — and only men — walk into the theater and ignite a cigarette lighter to inspect their seats before sitting down. It’s a gesture that at first seems strange but then practical after your eyes adjust to the goings-on in the dark. A she-male (male cross-dresser with hormone-induced breasts) approaches the cashier and greets her — “It’s a full moon. I need cock.” She joins the other she-males prowling the sticky aisles in search of explicit encounters, in between those encountering themselves.

Don’t expect any character growth or transformative epiphanies here. This is a down and dirty portrait of a day in the life of a Parisian pornographic film theater, and it is very explicit. Inside the theater a perpetual panting and moaning penetrates the dark air illustrated by multileveled coitus, on the screen, in the seats, and sometimes in the bathroom where it’s a little more comfortable.

Not only did seasoned French actor Jacques Nolot write and direct the film, he portrays an aged, poesy-prone homosexual looking for a satisfaction he knows he’ll never find. He’s the only theater participant we hear more than a handful of sentences from, putting a mind behind the crass activity. Unfortunately, Nolot tries too hard to make his character sensitive. Also difficult to swallow is the hot-and-cold cashier (Vittoria Scognamiglio), an older Italian woman who’s done it all. She takes to an impressionable, tender young man new to the big city; she adores his kindness, but as she tells him, it isn’t enough: “You need a bit of kindness and a bit of perversity, otherwise it’s boring.” Although the whiskey-laced words occasionally carry slivers of validity inside her seedy perspective, far too often the cashier’s underbelly philosophy comes off wordy and forced. Nolot’s background as a stage actor and playwright may have hurt him here; the monologues next to the extremely graphic, fly-on-the-wall perspective on the subject matter are unnatural and tiresome, taking away from the potent imagery that speaks (and grunts) for itself.

The film’s strengths come from the moviegoers’ weaknesses. When a she-male starts giving a guy head in the aisle, men cluster about the scene like hungry piranhas. After the sexual feeding frenzy, the men scatter back to their seats, leaving a lonely man, his pants slightly down, playing with himself against the wall with an expression on his face equal to a sad little boy being punished.

Whether a ritual, an addiction or a dangerous combination of the two, Porn Theater is a collective worshiping of physical contact, cloaked in the lights-out freedom of anonymous sexual encounters. If nothing else, your curiosity should be sadly satisfied.

 

Showing exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-263-2111.

Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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