Jean-François Davy, 1978
Runtime: 66 min.
Format: French DVD
succeeds in being worthwhile and interesting for one main reason: Sylvia Bourdon. While most remembrance she inspires today involves her pornographic career, particularly her turn in Claude Mulot's delirious Pussy Talk
, Sylvia's life itself is far more interesting than any of the pornographic films she ever made.
This short documentary, which clocks in at just over an hour (apparently scenes that were shot featuring insertion, which would have helped to sell the film on the pornographic circuit and pad out the run-time, had their soundtracks unknowingly destroyed), followings a short period in Sylvia's life. A trip to Greece, an evening out to dinner, a partouze she has organized with the centerpiece being her slave Jan, and a more intimate session with Jan, much to the dismay of one of Sylvia's less extreme friends. I'm tempted to say that what's depicted on screen would be just as interesting even if there had just been a camera in the room, running, filming everything going on, but there are certain decisions made throughout the film where the camera pans to reveal an expression, whether on Sylvia or one of her friends faces, and it's these moments that help one to realize that the film is just as much Davy's as Sylvia's.
As a "documentary" it remains fairly objective, allowing Sylvia to passionately explain her actions and still keeping in comments from others that attempt to persuade otherwise. It's built up mostly of fascinating conversations, instead of sexual action, and it's for this reason that it remains so interesting. Sylvia is a very intelligent and passionate woman, fully aware and conscious of everything she does, and fully capable of dealing with any affect that her actions have on her. While many porn documentaries are somewhat exploitive in their depictions of porn stars as fairly naive and, in some cases, dumb, neither of these adjectives can be applied to Sylvia.
However, the one short coming of the film itself is it's fragmentation. I had just finished reading Bourdon's brilliant autobiography, translated into English as Love is a Feast, and the film served as a perfect compendium; visually depicting events and conversations that Bourdon mentions in her book. It serves to elevate the events of the book; as is it not in a book where our imagination has to create the visuals that we are reading? The film serves to illustrate, and it more than likely lives up to any personally realized visualization. The film let me put names to faces, and allowed the attitudes and ideologies of the book to transcend simple ideas; they became (closer) to reality.
For those of you unfamiliar with the great Ms. Bourdon, allow me to quote a somewhat lengthy excerpt from her autobiography:
"I don't need anyone on a Harley-Davidson. That's one of Serge Gainsbourg's songs. I remember a warm, rainy night in the Champs-Elysees. We had been to the cinema, then to a restaurant, and afterwards we had gone to pick up Eric's motor-bike. Seized by a sudden inspiration he sat me in front, facing him, skirt hitched up, and started off. I never wear panties, it's against my principles. So there we were zooming up to the Etoile. With rain in our eyes, the crazy night, my lips in Eric's neck, we were laughing like anything, we were happy, the sky was seesawing, the apartment blocks were playing meccan with the stars, and the Arc de Triomphe was rolling because it was drunk. It was an evening when modern men and women change their faces because they have finally recognised each other, when little children dream of sailing ships they'll go off in one day, when the fish in the Tuileries ponds think, with melancholy, about arctic whales. A magical evening, in which tenderness flows in waves over the cafe terraces, in which the rediscovery of the sea and of fossils is the order of the day, when everyone knows that everything is possible without waiting for tomorrow. I undid Eric's zip, I like Montherlant when he talks about rigour, I like Eric's rigorous prick, we're going to drink a cool Sauvignon straight from the spring, I raised myself and got impaled on my friend, who kept his machine roaring up the Avenue de la Grande-Armee. I kept coming and going on him, lighted windows were listening to Guy Lux, a policeman's white kepi never realised what was happening to us, the bike was doing fifty miles an hour, an outraged taxi hooted virtuously, I started to come at the Neuilly bridge, the rain was never, never going to stop. The roars, the acceleration, the dipped headlights, the tide was rising, it was so good to keep going quicker and quicker, more and more vigorously. We were tightrope walkers, we were on a wire five hundred metres up, I was swallowing the wind and Eric's leather jacket, Eric was beginning to zigzag with emotion. We exploded at the same instant, near the Aurore tower. Screwing becomes Electra. You who have never been fucked on a motor-bike, you will never know the colour of the stars."
I have chosen this quote to demonstrate many things: first of all, her utter exhibitionism, which is obviously well suited for a film entitled Exhibition II
. Secondly, her enthusiasm for, well, as she would put it, fucking
. And finally, how utterly happy she really is with her life. The film ends in a candid moment in which Jean-Francois Davy asks her if she is happy. She replies that she is always happy, and by watching her and reading her words, we can understand that this is the truth.
Another thing that warrants mentioning is a bit more about the aforementioned scenes of sadomasochism. They create the most sensational elements of spectacle within the film; Davy's camera remaining unflinching as she whips, knifes, and belittles her slave. It is obvious that Bourdon is no professional Sadist; S/M is not her life, rather it's just one of the many components that make up her intense sexually. But despite the fact she is (comparatively) an amateur, she is utterly enthusiastic, which is revealing. Following the scenes of the spectacle Davy's camera lingers on heated debates between Sylvia, Jan, and Sylvia's acquaintances who have just witnessed the event. It is refreshing to allow the players in the psycho-sexual game to justify and discuss their actions/preferences, instead of just being presented to an exploitative end.
So while the film isn't so much innovative or special in itself, it exists, in addition to Sylvia Bourdon's autobiography, as a refreshing and fully entertaining document of one of history's most joyful, hedonistic women.
It is worth nothing that while the English translation of Love is a Feast is currently out of print, it can be obtained easily enough through a library or for not too expensive at OOP Book outlets
Mike Kitchell, 2007