PLEASURE – Review by Diane Carson

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Pleasure offers confrontational hard-to-watch fare.

Immensely controversial upon its belated release, Swedish writer/director Ninja Thyberg’s bold narrative feature will continue to invite debate for its explicit portrayal and implicit indictment of the adult entertainment (porn, to be exact) business.

Arriving in L.A. from Sweden, twenty-year-old Linnéa, who goes by the screen name Bella Cherry, aspires to become the most celebrated porn star, though she’s inexperienced and clueless concerning the production of this product. Chasing her dream, determined to succeed, Cherry accepts hard core, eventually degrading and violent, pornographic scenes for several directors. Presented without restraint or a judgmental approach, it is left to viewers to decide how they feel about the increasingly brutal sexual action.

In interviews, director Thyberg says she wanted the presentation to be authentic, to begin discussion acknowledging that “porn is a huge part of our culture and it’s not going to disappear because we keep it in the shadows and pretend it doesn’t exist.” She adds that we should bring this industry into the daylight and see that these workers are human beings.

But be aware that Pleasure presents a no-holds barred dramatization of the pornographic sex included therein. There are also scenes with the actresses that allow them to laugh, bond, express their professional reactions and personal concerns, and fight with each other, demonstrating that they are, indeed, individuals.

However, given the explicit and crude sexual scenes, the film Pleasure offers anything but that for actors in the trade, especially for Bella Cherry, in a fine performance by Sofia Kappel, as she struggles to excel at her chosen profession.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.