Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Documentary December - A Life in Dirty Movies - Lilith Likes to Watch


Title: A Life in Dirty Movies
Year: 2013
Starring: Joe Sarno, John Waters, Peggy Steffans
Director: Wiktor Ericsson
Synopsis: A documentary shot at the end of pornographer Joe Sarnos's life, which reveals his attempt to make one last film, as well as his relationship with his wife, Peggy. - Via IMDB
Why it is Notable: A documentary reflecting the life and career of notable adult film creator Joe Sarno.

"The important thing is the breathing."

I am not an expert. I am not a professional, a student, or a historian. I'm just a woman who enjoys porn. I know what I like, and what I loath.

At the beginning of 2019 I reviewed a little film called Abigail Lesley is Back In Town and I despised it. It was way too soft-core and every character was a bastard. No one had chemistry and the entire movie was a big let-down. After watching it I had sworn off Sarno films. I wasn't going to waste any more time on soft-core, soap opera drudgery.

So, I don't know what possessed me to watch a documentary about the man, but it was very educational.

Joe Sarno got into pornography when the getting was good. It was the era before the cum-shot, before the camera was up the actor's asses.  His movies were basically the thinking man's skin-flick. Which is a niche that demanded to be filled.

It was around ten minutes into the documentary that it occurred to me that Sarno seemed very down to earth and not creepy or sleazy, even as he goes on to talk about how, yes, people would come into the adult theaters in raincoats to jack off. The cliche is true. He and his wife have been together for decades, and the documentary would have you believe they never even had a spat about who left the lid off the toothpaste tube. Peggy, his wife, acted in his films in bit parts, and was just as enthusiastic over the subject matter as he was. She gleefully takes the cameras on a tour of their storage bin, filled with porny costumes and accouterments of their films. Of course, Peggy's parents objected to their relationship but love  and creativity finds a way.

Peggy shows off the props and costumes and other surprises.


With the rise of the hard core porn market, Sarno found it more and more difficult to make his films. His movies were always about sex with consequence, about the aftermath, the psyche of those who were fucking.

In an act of defiance toward the hard core market, enter Abigail Lesley, the final true Sarno film. His father in law had to put up the financing for the movie. While I still dislike the film, this documentary does put it in a new perspective, and like me, the documentary highlights the two great scenes in the film.

Peggy reads Sarno's script and remarks on how his dialog had become more explicit because that's what the market demands. She doesn't agree with it, though Sarno understands he has to keep with the times. He's in his twilight years but he's not set in his ways so much.

Near the end of the film, Peggy pulls out Sarno's obituary. She's proud that it takes up the entire page, of The New York Times, no less. She carries it everywhere, just so she can show people. He was fearing fading into obscurity, but he got an entire feature remembering him in The Times.

Peggy likes how big it is.

As a marketing tool, A Life in Dirty Movies is effective. It shows the portrait of a cool elderly adult film godfather and it convinced me to give his films a second chance.

LILITH'S SCORE: 4/5

NEXT TIME: Part 3 of Documentary December continues with Kink.




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