film response: There Is No Sexual Rapport

Raphaël Siboni's doc about the absence of intimacy in porn is brutal but essential viewing, reconstructing the production and reception of sexual fantasies.

There is no sexual rapport poster.
There is no sexual rapport poster.

There is no sexual rapport
Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel
Directed by  Raphaël Siboni
(France, 2011)

Commercial porn stretches the limits of my patience.

Usually there’s an overemphasis on anatomy in extreme close-ups. Those scenes and shots seem to go on forever while other, for me, more interesting scenes and shots are quick-cut in and left behind as in a music video.

These conventions are the same for both straight and gay videos and I’ve watched enough of both to know. Director Raphaël Siboni addresses my frustrations, in a fashion, in his surprising and often hilarious porn documentary, There Is No Sexual Rapport (Original French title, Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel).

Culled from footage of a second digital video camera on the sets of numerous porn productions shot by Hervé P. Gustave, or HPG as he’s known in the industry, There Is No Sexual Rapport doesn’t so much deconstruct pornography as selectively reconstruct its production through the editing together of these shots-between-shots and shots-within-shots. 

Siboni intelligently and with considerable formalist discipline readjusts the focus of the lustful gaze. Every shot is a long take, usually in medium long-shot, or what we might think of as coverage. I can’t think of another film, experimental or not, that so effectively and transparently addresses the means and method of visual production and how that production apparatus manufactures a specific way of looking at sexual fantasy.

And perhaps explains why boredom is part of porn’s effects. Subsequently, it displaces some accepted ideas and assumptions about that manufacture — that women’s desires play no role in the porn industry, for one. Two of the scenes depict the same scenario — two amateur women, both quite young and neither one typical porn-star beauties, volunteer to make an adult video that fulfills their “deepest fantasies.”

And apparently, it does.

Their responses are ecstatic and unscripted. One young woman also seems more than willing to perform for the second, diegetic camera, as HPG takes clear personal advantage of her enthusiasm. Another sequence of shots shows a young first-time, male hetereosexual porn actor engaging in a gay-for-pay scenario — he gets fucked, in other words, by the ubiquitous stud who’s in nearly every HPG production. Later, HPG assures him that this is only the beginning and that this sort of porn work will get him respect and hot women.

But he’s gotta take it up the ass now and then.

You need to suck him off a little. Can you try?
You need to suck him off a little. Can you try?
Still from There Is No Sexual Rapport

The video challenges its own title in a scene during which the two actors make out spontaneously, taking a lot of time between directed shots and after the shoot is over. One actor is the previously mentioned, sexy, hard-fuckin’ dude featured in several scenes and the other is a lean Black woman.

(She’s androgynous enough that many of the folks at the screening I attended thought she was a man in the poster.)

They’ve just finished a very comical scene in which shadows kept getting in the way of the penetration.

They’re standing outdoors, the man’s naked butt to the camera.

The camera pans left a couple times to show HPG, nude along with his actors, as always, packing up to leave.

They kiss for quite a long time, both standing up and lying down. We’re asked to contemplate that intimate but genital-less scene for as long as porn often requires us to look cock going into cunt or ass. Are you bored now? Are you turned on or out? are just two of the questions.

The video’s final two long-takes are punishers.

On the set of a gay leather-sex scene with a sling in prominent use, we experience, via slices of real-time, the stultifying down-time between takes and what that demands of porn actors.

At first, I didn’t know what had happened. One actor had just been expressing how hot he thinks his partner is and therefore how easy it was to work with him,

HPG had just said, Let’s take a break, and then there’s a quick cut to a shot of one actor with his head on his arms, acting and looking very, very high. On something.

The next shot shows the same actor and HPG in similar positions, lost to the camera and to the workplace, alienated, you might say, in their own worlds.

What we do is secret.
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