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August 2010

Porn Diaries

featuring: Otto Bauer, Belladonna, Sasha Grey, Audrey Hollander, and Katja Kassin

director: Jens Hoffmann

94 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
TLA DVD Region 2 retail
[released 16 August]

RATING: 6/10
review by Gary Couzens

Porn Diaries

Porn Diaries (originally entitled 9to5: Days In Porn) is a documentary on the American (heterosexual) adult film industry. Director Jens Hoffmann uses a mixture of interviews with participants from either side of the camera. We hear from performers (both male and female), directors and producers, as well as a former porn star (Sharon Mitchell) who has set up the Adult Industry Medical (AIM) Healthcare Foundation which provides STD testing, drug and psychological counselling for porn actors. One of the actresses here, Sasha Grey, has since gone on to star in Steven Soderbergh's film The Girlfriend Experience.

Hoffmann maintains a strictly non-judgmental tone, but he doesn't go far enough in this. Compare this with, say, Inside Deep Throat, the recent documentary on the epochal porn film from the early 1970s. While that film had a pro-freedom, anti-censorship agenda, it did allow opponents (on religious or other moral grounds) to have their say. There's none of that here: everyone we see here is an insider: a maker, not even a consumer of what is one of the biggest entertainment industries. There are valid questions to be asked as to how we view the products of this industry - are they demeaning (and not just to the female participants but the male ones too), and even to the viewer, or just harmless arousing fun? - But those questions aren't asked here.

Porn Diaries is mostly discreet in showing the filmmaking process, generally keeping his distance and sometimes having someone from the crew block the view. At least in the version viewed, extracts from actual films are mostly quite discreet. However, there is material shown which is disturbing and will no doubt be offensive to some viewers.

This film has been shown in a 113-minute version, but the one submitted to the BBFC ran 96 minutes. Viewers should note that there have been a number of cuts made: some of it too violent and potentially harmful sexual activities. Explicit details have been removed from the scenes showing the films being shot, and from the extracts from completed works included. (These could have been included if the DVD had been given the commercially restrictive R18 rating, meaning that as a 'sex work' - which it isn't, as it's a documentary about the 'sex work' industry and its primary purpose is not sexual arousal - it would only have been available from licensed sex shops and not by mail order.) Altogether, five minutes and three seconds has been removed, though some of that has been replaced by substitute footage, to give a final running time of 94:10.

The DVD is encoded for all regions. It was reviewed from a DVD-R screener, so the following may not necessarily reflect the final disc. The transfer is non-anamorphic in a ratio of 1.78:1, and is clear enough given the video source. The soundtrack is plain Dolby surround, with no hard-of-hearing subtitles available. (Katja Kassin speaks in German, which is subtitled.) There are no extras.



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