Erika LustAn Appointment with My Master (2015)

You know that feeling you get when the idea behind something is solid but the execution just isn’t up to snuff? That’s how I feel about Erika Lust.

Take her It’s Time for Porn to Change TEDx talk: a feminist/sex-positive vision of a new porn with an emphasis on characters presented in context and diversity in depicting modes of sexual expression. Awesome. A+ I’m 120% on board sign me up.

Completely discounting my opinion of TED (hint: it’s hardly rose colored), it’s an awkward, halting ramble/rant all but devoid of any dynamism.

That’s not to say I dislike her videos. The concept underlying her XConfessions series–of which the above scene is a part–invites folks to share their fantasies with the video makers. Subsequently certain fantasies become prompts for explicit enactments. (I’ve featured another XConfessions scene I Wish I Were a Lesbian previously.)

And I wanted to draw attention to the above scene. I love the way in muddles the line between mutual masturbation and frottage–both masturbating as foreplay but edging perpetually closer towards engaging sexually. Further the fact that both are using their right hands and the balance between one visible hand each in the foreground and one mostly obscured hand in the background is deftly balanced from the standpoint of composition.

The thing that bothers me–and I haven’t seen the entire scene but I’m guessing from my reaction to I Wish I Were a Lesbian, I’m almost certain my instinct is on point: it may be pretty and resonate with me but Lust demonstrates some astounding technical lapses.

Back to the above scene. It’s pretty–nice warm light. I’d like to have seen this same shot in a wide master, but I’ll grant that’s a matter of personal taste. It’s the fact that this embodies a style of lighting that I detest. A set lit with stylish practical lighting and then a super hot theatrical spot overhead which emphasizes the action.

It’s this sort of hyper stylized lighting focused on cheap and easy effect. And it’s becoming endemic. (Netflix Daredevil is an–what’s the opposite of glowing?–opaque; what the fuck were they thinking shooting some of those scenes so goddamn impenetrably dark. It’s awful.)

As a counter point–Blade Runner presents an endless stream of pitch dark vistas–but unlike most of the lighting in Hollywood fare these days–what light there was was always thoughtfully shaped/sculpted so as to be legible to folks sunk into their seats in darkened theaters.

It’s like I teach my students in lighting workshops: you know the classic quip where the petulant veteran actor demands the hotshot young directory what’s my motivation? Good lighting is–more often than not–logical motivated by the augmenting of existing, naturally available light or illumination provided by extant light sources.

To preempt the standard objections, no David Lynch isn’t a fucking excuse, shit bird. You clearly haven’t watched his films with any sort of detail oriented eye because that man is a goddamn master at selling hyper stylized lighting and the reason he’s so good at it is because it’s logically motivated by light sources you can see in the frame.

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